When the Washington Football Team parted ways with both Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice before the season, it seemed liked rookie Antonio Gibson would benefit the most. Sophomore Bryce Love had some appeal behind him as a complementary piece, as did Peyton Barber, and everyone forgot about J.D. McKissic.
Of Washington’s four running backs, McKissic ranked the lowest in FantasyPros’ preseason expert consensus rankings (ECR). But through the first half of Washington’s season, McKissic (RB33) outranks Barber (RB81) and Love (IR) in PPR scoring.
But perhaps the most surprising development is the extent of McKissic’s role. The fifth-year pro leads the backfield in average snap share per game — McKissic (50%) usually sees more playing time than Gibson (45%) and Barber (16%). He ranks second on the team in targets (47) and third in carries (35).
Gibson and McKissic have combined for 989 of Washington’s 2,649 total rushing and receiving yards, or 37% of them. Before the season started, Gibson made a prediction about himself and McKissic that feels awfully prescient.
Antonio Gibson said J.D. McKissic has been a great mentor to him, having gone through a similar transition from wide receiver to running back. He believes their skill sets mesh well, too: "I feel like we could be a problem."
— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) August 30, 2020
Like Gibson, J.D. McKissic played primarily as a wide receiver in college. He received Sun Belt All-Conference honors as a receiver and return specialist, but he’s played at running back through his time in the NFL.
McKissic profiles as a quick player who can turn short-yardage targets into much-needed gains. With a season-long average depth of target (aDOT) of 1.7 yards, McKissic is often targeted near the line of scrimmage — sometimes beyond it, and sometimes behind it, demonstrating his versatility as a receiver.
McKissic’s highlights also put his versatility on display. All the way back in 2017, McKissic posted a pair of touchdowns on the Colts. One came on a sweet run that showcases his quickness (he has 77th-percentile burst); the other came on a pass downfield that exemplifies what he can do as a receiver.
McKissic is a quicker, smaller Antonio Gibson, but I’m not the first person to say that. Gibson himself made the comparison back in August.
State of the Offense
Washington’s offense is in flux. Head coach and general manager Ron Rivera said that the team is still figuring out if “our franchise quarterback [is] on the roster,” a thinly veiled shot at Dwayne Haskins, and after Kyle Allen’s nasty ankle injury, Alex Smith should see starting reps moving forward.
Fortunately for McKissic, this offense has already been through quarterback changes, and we know that Rivera doesn’t intend to modify his scheme based on who’s under center. Last week, McKissic led Washington’s backfield in touches (12) with Smith playing most of the day; he also led the backfield in touches (14) with Kyle Allen under center when Washington played the Giants back in Week 6.
So if quarterbacks don’t affect McKissic’s production, what does? The game script. When they’re ahead, Washington will give Gibson and Barber the most touches, and when they’re behind, McKissic is a safe bet to lead the backfield.
The Washington Football Team has an interesting schedule over the next few weeks — they’ll play the Lions (Week 10), the Bengals (Week 11), and the Cowboys (Week 12).
I would target McKissic in his game against Detroit. They give up the most fantasy points to running backs, so unless the Football Team gets out to a big lead early, he should take advantage of their vulnerabilities and pop off.
That said, the Bengals and Cowboys have been better at limiting opposing running backs (they rank 16th and 20th, respectively). Worse, the Cowboys give up the second-fewest receptions per game to opposing running backs, and McKissic caught just two passes against them in Washington’s Week 7 blowout win.
McKissic isn’t a bad spot starter in PPR leagues over the next two weeks. If you’re without guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ezekiel Elliott, or Todd Gurley in Week 10, he should be a capable replacement. He doesn’t have much upside, however, and he’s yet to score a touchdown on the year, so I would avoid him in standard-scoring leagues.
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