One of the first things they teach you at Fantasy Expert Preparatory Academy is to never delay the taking of a victory lap. The longer you wait to tell the people you are right about a guy, the greater the odds that you will eventually be proven demonstrably and emphatically wrong.
With this lesson very much in mind, today we are pleased to bring you another typically mild, thoughtful, not-at-all-hyperbolic take:
IT'S ALL HAPPENING FOR SAM HOWELL, YOU GUYS, AND WE TOTALLY CALLED IT! JUST TRY TO NAME A BETTER NFC EAST QB — PAST OR PRESENT. NAME A BETTER SAM. YOU SIMPLY CAN'T. HOWELL MVP MODE HAS BEEN ACTIVATED. *ROCKET EMOJI*
But seriously, Howell really did play an excellent half of preseason football on Monday night, validating at least some small slice of the summer hype. He also helped end the greatest and weirdest streak in NFL history, handing the Baltimore Ravens their first exhibition loss since 2015.
Howell went 19-for-25 on the night, passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns, leading three scoring drives and delivering a few impressive third-down conversions, such as this one right here:
— NFL (@NFL) August 22, 2023
All things considered, Howell's first game since being named Washington's starter could not have gone better — well, except for the part where Terry McLaurin got injured. That was not ideal. But McLaurin's toe issue is reportedly not considered severe, which is great news for everyone attached to this offense. He's one of the league's most effective and underrated elite receivers, a player with the skills necessary to make a massive leap if Howell continues to thrive in Eric Bieniemy's offense — think Stefon Diggs in 2020. McLaurin is an every-route winner, Reception Perception approved, a player who's been limited only by team context and never by individual talent.
Here's hoping we get a full season of a healthy McLaurin and Jahan Dotson because that pairing has a chance to be among the league's best. They finished with a combined eight catches for 115 yards against the Ravens on Monday, despite the early exit by McLaurin. Dotson has been a high-buzz player throughout camp, coming off a seven-TD rookie season loaded with highlights and contested-catch wins.
It's also worth mentioning that the dream of Antonio Gibson as a volume receiver is very much alive under Bieniemy:
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 22, 2023
One of the keys to a serious Howell breakout is going to be the presence of some source for cheap-and-easy yardage, a role Gibson was born to play. He's caught 88 balls over the past two seasons and he has a 1,000-yard rushing campaign on his NFL résumé as well (achieved during a year when he reportedly played with a slightly broken leg). It's not difficult to imagine Gibson developing into his young QB's best on-field friend.
There's going to be some helium in Howell's draft price in the days and weeks ahead, but, as of this writing, he's rostered in only 14% of Yahoo leagues and he's buried in terms of ADP (129.5, QB20). He's an ideal deep-league stash and a Superflex priority. Howell has the rushing upside that should elevate him above the rest of the fourth- and fifth-tier fantasy options at his position. He ran for 828 yards and 11 scores in his final collegiate season, so he's a fully accredited member of the dual-threat club.
Howell may not be a necessary add for everyone, of course. Most of you are playing in 10-team, one-quarterback leagues in which he doesn't yet belong in the fantasy conversation. But if you find yourself involved in a league of unusual depth — let's say, 14 teams or larger — then he deserves a spot on someone's bench.
Washington's offense has a chance to be a party, one of the shortcuts to 2023 fantasy success.