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Kirk Cousins Goes to Washington


When Robert Griffin III was injured in yesterday’s game against Jacksonville, Kirk Cousins came on in relief and threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. With Griffin on the shelf for an extended period, what can we expect of Cousins?

Who is Kirk Cousins?

In his brief career, Cousins has been relatively underwhelming. A 1-3 record, 57.6 percent completion percentage, under seven yards/attempt, and a quarterback rating of just 74.3. Nothing special. The QB Sim App gives him a median per game projection of just 10.6 points/game. That’s probably on the low side, since not all of his previous appearances saw a full starter’s complement of attempts.1 But it’s not encouraging. His comparable players are a scatter shot group as well. Some nice names, and then some truly horrifying ones.



On the other hand, his numbers aren’t entirely without hope. Some brief comparisons:2

Completion Percentage Touchdown Rate Yards/Attempt Adjusted Net Yards/Attempt
Kirk Cousins – 57.6 Kirk Cousins – 4.2 Kirk Cousins – 6.7 Kirk Cousins – 5.0
Jake Locker – 58.1 Carson Palmer – 4.1 Sam Bradford – 6.6 EJ Manuel – 5.2
Andrew Luck – 57.4 Robert Griffin III – 4.0 Ryan Tannehill – 6.6 Joe Flacco – 5.4
Michael Vick – 57.0 Andrew Luck – 3.8 Joe Flacco – 6.7 Mike Glennon – 5.0

Yes, these numbers are cherry-picked. And yes, these numbers still aren’t great. But they help illustrate the idea that Cousins has some promise.

What Can Cousins Do

I’m not a Kirk Cousins Truther. I don’t think he’s a long-term answer at quarterback. But I’m not that worried about the transition from Griffin to Cousins for fantasy football purposes.

Perhaps the best endorsement for Cousins comes from this Rotoworld blurb that says Washington coordinator Jay Gruden liked Cousins better than Griffin from the get-go:

Gruden had no interest in trying to develop a scheme to suit Griffin’s strengths. Instead, he tried to shoehorn him into a pocket passer role and the early results were troubling. The Washington Post says the silver lining of RG3’s dislocated ankle is that Gruden now gets to insert Cousins without any political backlash. “Kirk is a special guy. … obviously has a skill set that I feel like is very much suited for what we do,” Gruden said.

In other words, Cousins probably has the confidence of the coaching staff. He’s also had three games with over 250 yards passing and two TDs in just 10 appearances. Here’s a look at QBs who entered the league since 2009, judged by 250-yard/two-TD performances.

Player 250 Yard / 2 TD Games Total Games Pct
Kirk Cousins 3 10 30.0%
Nick Foles 6 21 28.6%
Andrew Luck 9 33 27.3%
Robert Griffin 8 30 26.7%
Andy Dalton 12 50 24.0%
Brandon Weeden 5 23 21.7%
Matthew Stafford 10 63 15.9%
Mike Glennon 2 13 15.4%
John Skelton 3 20 15.0%
Curtis Painter 2 14 14.3%
Cam Newton 6 49 12.2%
Colin Kaepernick 4 34 11.8%
Russell Wilson 4 34 11.8%
Sam Bradford 5 49 10.2%
Josh Freeman 6 61 9.8%
Mark Sanchez 6 62 9.7%
Christian Ponder 3 36 8.3%
Joe Flacco 8 98 8.2%
Jake Locker 2 25 8.0%
Chad Henne 4 63 6.3%
Ryan Tannehill 2 34 5.9%

Yes, 250 yards and two TDs is an arbitrary benchmark. But it serves, I think, to make the point that Cousins has enough talent to be a viable fantasy QB. Or, at the very least, to support viable fantasy players at other positions.

But what about the drop off from Griffin to Cousins? Well, that depends on whether you’re talking about 2012 Griffin or 2013 Griffin. In the latter case, the dropoff may not be so extreme.

Year Player G GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD rate Int Int rate Y/A AY/A ANY/A Y/G (Starts)
Career Kirk Cousins 9 4 136 236 57.63% 1570 10 4.2% 10 4.2% 6.65 5.59 5.04 269
2013 Robert Griffin 13 13 274 456 60.1% 3203 16 3.5% 12 2.6% 7.00 6.50 5.48 246

Is the gap really that big? I know, Griffin is a better athlete and runner–or at least he used to be. But if Jay Gruden could coax a top-5 fantasy finish out of Andy Dalton, it seems like he can get some good performances from Cousins. And insofar as you liked Washington’s skill players with Griffin as QB, not much has changed.

If we look at Washington’s two main weapons that have had significant playing time with both Cousins and Griffin, you’ll see what I mean.



Cousins’ body of work is limited, so any extrapolations should be tentative. But his performance doesn’t appear to be significantly worse than Griffin’s recent work. There are some signals that he has some upside, and the coaching staff seems invested. He’s probably a decent QB streaming play, depending on matchups, until we get some more evidence. As far as his main fantasy weapons go, I see no change in value.


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  1. Removing his two sub-20 attempt games bumps his projection to 13.7  (back)
  2. Since 2012.  (back)

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