Fantasy Clicks: An Eagle Has Landed
BY DAVID KOMER
Donovan McNabb: Bill Frakes/SI
In one fell swoop not only did coach Mike Shanahan get his quarterback, the Washington Redskins suddenly became relevant on the fantasy football landscape again. The Donovan McNabb trade to Washington provides one of the best offensive minds a centerpiece to build around in his first year at the helm. Not to mention it also jolts the Redskins back to life and puts a team back on the radar that last year was downright painful to watch.
In actuality the trade might be a rare scenario where everyone wins, including fantasy owners who can finally sleep easy when starting a Redskin quarterback in their lineup for the first time since Brad Johnson. Meanwhile Kevin Kolb's three-year wait on the bench is over in Philadelphia and the former Houston product leads a youth movement with an exciting batch of young playmakers, shaking up an Eagles team that had grown a little stale.
Well, everyone's happy except those who might own Jason Campbell in dynasty or legacy leagues. But even Campbell might see his fantasy stock go up (just a tick) should he get moved to a team with an opening under center.
Last season McNabb's draft value usually kicked in around the late fifth round of most 8 to 12 team leagues and dropped as low as the eighth round. McNabb usually was viewed as a middle class QB1 or a luxury-level QB2. His solid but unspectacular numbers in 14 games bore that out with 3,553 yards, 22 touchdown passes and two scoring runs, with a couple starts missed to injury.
It's still hard to think of him as anything other an Eagle. My top three-fantasy football memories of McNabb in green: 3. His 2008 week one performance, where he pumped out 361 yards and three touchdown passes; 2. His 2004 season-long explosion for almost 3,900 yards and 31 touchdowns; 1. His gallant four-touchdown pass performance against Arizona on a broken ankle in 2002 (which helped a certain fantasy owner score a huge win).
In looking at McNabb's prospects in D.C., let's first start with the negatives ...
The health issue -- One can argue McNabb is on the downside after missing a total of 17 games over the span of four of the last five seasons. The exception being 2006, the last time he started all 16 games.
Washington's line -- And then there's the case of the Redskins' offensive line, which has fallen on hard times since the halcyon days of bookend hog tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen. McNabb's medical history could make this a lethal mix.
Statistical evidence -- It may be hard to believe, but McNabb has thrown only 20 touchdowns or more five times in his 11-year career.
The running game -- With Clinton Portis coming off his worst year ever, 550-some total yards and two touchdowns wrecked by injury, the Redskins have become a home for wayward running backs this offseason with question marks like Willie Parker and Larry Johnson entering the mix.
A Beautiful Mind -- With the exception of his playing musical running backs during his stay in Denver, Shanahan's offensive touch has been golden over the years for fantasy owners whether as a head coach, or even farther back as an offensive coordinator with the 49ers.
The fourth pick -- The Redskins are primed to take a blue chip offensive tackle at pick No. 4 of the first round to shore up the line and protect their new QB. Monday the Washington Post reported the Redskins hosted Oklahoma State's Russell Okung for a visit.
Catch this -- For most of his tenure in Philadelphia, McNabb was saddled with a mismatched collection of fringe or Nos. 3 and 4 receivers cast in starring roles (Todd Pinkston much?) and still produced with statistical bumps like in 2004 when he got help like Terrell Owens. Now he'll have Santana Moss and fantasy sleeper Devin Thomas at the receiver spots and tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.
The running game -- Brian Westbrook was brilliant at times as a multi-threat offensive weapon by land and through the air, though he was never a traditional 20-carry a game traditional back. He also had an injury history that at times left McNabb to drive the offense alone, which he pulled off more times than not.
McNabb's draft day value probably drops a little, but in my opinion he's got more upside than he would have had, staying an Eagle. He's probably a sixth to eighth round pick, but remember he'll be highly motivated after getting kicked to the curb by a franchise he carried through the years and to top it off, he'll be in the same division and playing for a championship caliber coach who runs a similar version of the West Coast offense. I love McNabb's value as a middle to low-end QB1 again. If you do take the plunge, be sure to grab a solid backup, with the injury specter always looming.
In addition, do whatever you have to, to take Thomas in your fantasy draft this summer, the third-year receiver is primed for a breakout now that he has an elite QB and should come at a reasonable price later in the draft.
In the span of one year, the Eagles are going from the McNabb-Westbrook duo, to the Kolb-LeSean McCoy era. Philadelphia isn't just taking the younger, cheaper route however.
Kolb's two starts last year were dynamite waiver-wire fantasy performances as he became the first quarterback to ever have back-to-back 300-yard passing games in his first two starts. Sure he put up some empty numbers in a 48-22 blowout by the Saints (31 completions, 391 yards), but he also followed it up with a 327-yard, two-touchdown pass outing in a win over the Chiefs.
Kolb's value as a fantasy starter should fall about the same area as McNabb but starting a little higher. I can see Kolb going in the fifth round and dropping to the eighth, but his development in the preseason will factor in as well. A talented surrounding cast including emerging standout McCoy in the backfield, fantasy superstar in the making DeSean Jackson, last year's first round pick Jeremy Maclin and breakout tight end Brent Celek, means Kolb will have plenty to work with.
When it comes to Jackson, don't worry too much for his stock. He'll still be a probable third to fifth round pick and should produce comparable numbers in his third season. Rotoworld.com made a great point on Kolb's targeting of Jackson in his two starts last year, stating that in the two games combined last year, Kolb targeted him 18 times resulting in 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Vick is too big a name to ignore, but his on-field, spot duty showed little last year. Vick is still relevant, but barely. He provides insurance to an extent for the Eagles at quarterback, but at this point is it more like a Mike McMahon-type insurance rather than Jeff Garcia-type insurance? As a fantasy option, Vick should be considered only in the last couple rounds as a long-shot novelty only.
Different schools of thought have Jason Campbell staying put as a backup and just as many theorize that he will be moved. Either way, Campbell is a non-starter both in fantasy conversations as well as in lineups. It's true that in his fifth season he hit career highs in attempts, completions, yards (3,618), interceptions (15) and touchdowns (20). An OK real football starter he may be, but in fantasy football he's been strictly pedestrian in terms of stat production, averaging just over 3100 yards and 15 touchdown passes in his last three years starting. Even if he gets moved, just avoid and let someone else think this draft day sleeper might arise. If he does stay in Washington as a backup, is it just me or do you see the possibility for Campbell in a new and possibly great chunky soup commercial alongside McNabb?