Duke football players in the NFL aren’t unheard of, but it’s been awhile since the Blue Devils produced a good player. The last Duke alumni to make the NFL Pro Bowl was Miami Dolphins offensive guard Ed Newman. The last Blue Devils’ skill player to make the Pro Bowl was quarterback Sonny Jurgensen in 1969.
For that reason, it’s completely understandable for fantasy owners to be a little bit hesitant in claiming a former Duke player. But if there ever was a time to roll the dice on a player from the basketball school, now would be it. Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder, a three-time 1,000-yard receiver from 2012-14 for the Blue Devils, is the real deal.
No matter what college a player went to, sometimes all it takes is just one dynamic move at the NFL to get onto the fantasy radar. For Crowder, that actually came in the form of a punt return in Week 3 against the Giants.
NFC East fans are used to see Dwayne Harris break ankles on special teams, but after Crowder’s first half return Sunday, Harris might have needed a new jock strap.
— BeforeFamePics/Vines (@BeforeFamePics2) September 25, 2016
The end result was a 50-yard punt return and not a touchdown, so it didn’t amount to anything fantasy wise except in leagues that count return yardage. However, it should have raised eyebrows across the country.
Who is this Crowder fellow?
Well, he’s far more than just a pretty dynamic punt returner. The 23-year-old leads Washington in targets, receptions and receiving touchdowns three weeks into the season.
A couple years ago, that probably wasn’t saying much, but remember, we’re now talking about an offense that has DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed. And yet after the first three games, Crowder’s 25 targets and 16 receptions is most among Washington wide receivers and tied with Reed for the team-lead.
Sure, three games is a small sample size, but to owners who studied the playmakers in the nation’s capital over the summer already know this isn’t a flash in the pan. Crowder caught 59 passes for 604 yards as a rookie last season, largely taking advantage of the opportunity to play with Jackson sidelined for six games.
But even after Jackson returned from his injury in Week 9, Crowder still led all Washington receivers in snaps. His 59 receptions broke the franchise’s rookie record for catches in a season, which was set by former All-Pro Art Monk in 1980.
Still don’t believe Crowder can make a fantasy impact? Well, he finished 37th among receivers in receptions last season, and through three weeks this year, he’s in the top 30 in targets and receptions. Other wideouts tied with him in receptions in 2016 include fantasy stalwarts DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson.
More than likely, those stars will pull away from Crowder as the season moves along, but the second-year Washington receiver doesn’t have to post Hopkins-like numbers to be fantasy relevant. He’s not going to average a ton of yards per catch, but that punt return showed how shifty Crowder can be in the open field, and the numbers dating back to last season clearly indicate he is a major part of the Washington offense.
Crowder is owned in just 11.2 percent of ESPN leagues heading into Week 4. He should be atop the possible waiver wire adds for owners looking to add bench depth to their wide receiver core, especially in PPR leagues.