With new head coach Mike Shanahan at the controls, the Washington Redskins and their flamboyant owner Daniel Snyder promised the team’s fans that the days of wild free agent spending and veteran acquisitions were over.
The new vision died a quick death with the team’s decision yesterday to trade for the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb. In order to acquire, the 33 year old quarterback, the Redskins shipped their 2010 second round pick (37th overall) and a conditional pick in 2011 that will be either their third or fourth round pick.
While the price is reasonable, the vision of the Redskins turning to the draft to reverse the team’s sagging fortunes over the past few years seems over. In that regard, the new administration is following the same philosophy as previous regimes did in Washington under Snyder – eschewing developing young players in favour of playing aging veterans in the hopes of a quick fix.
The Redskins have a solid defense, one that is perhaps worthy of contending for a championship. However, the offense is not yet ready to lead the team to a division title and it’s difficult to envision McNabb as the final piece of the puzzle that pushes them over the top in 2010. In fact, they will need to push the right buttons in free agency and the draft just to have a chance to make the playoffs in 2011.
The trade increases the likelihood of the team using the fourth overall selection in the draft to plug the hole that was created at left tackle with Chris Samuels’ retirement. It also increases the chances of incumbent starting quarterback Jason Campbell being moved before the draft, possibly to the quarterback needy Buffalo Bills.
The move is a bold one for an Eagles front office known for its conservative player personnel moves.
McNabb has been to the Super Bowl, five NFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and holds almost all of the franchise’s career records. In trading him to a division rival, the team is signalling that they are confident that Kevin Kolb is ready to lead the franchise and that McNabb’s presence in Washington won’t push the Redskins into Super Bowl contender status.
The Eagles brain trust has a history of solid personnel moves so the odds of them being right on Kolb seem likely. However, that doesn’t lessen the shock that they were willing to trade a player of McNabb’s stature in order to clear a spot for him in the starting line-up.
While McNabb was my fifth ranked fantasy quarterback a month ago, his fantasy stock plummets with a move to Washington. In Philadelphia, he would have been surrounded by outstanding young talent at the skill positions in wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant as well as tight end Brent Celek and second-year running back LeSean McCoy, and protected by a solid offensive line.
While Redskins tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis are arguably only a notch below Celek, their wide receivers are no match for the Eagles threesome. In addition, their offensive line is in shambles and they have an aging group of running backs in Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker that are well past their best before date.
McNabb becomes my 15th ranked fantasy quarterback and barring a breakout campaign from either Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly, it’s difficult to conclude that he has much upside from here. His risk factor also increases considering he is an aging quarterback playing behind a leaky offensive line and he has managed to stay healthy for a full season only four times in his 11 year career.
Of the Redskins wide receivers, Santana Moss figures to benefit the most but he will be 31 on opening day and has topped 1,000 yards once in the last four seasons. Plus, his small stature reduces his usefulness in the red zone.
He moves from WR5 status to being a WR4 in 10 team leagues and a marginal starter in 12 team leagues. I have him ranked 35th overall at wide receiver.
The odds of Thomas and Kelly breaking out in their third year in the league increases but predicting that is a stretch. They move from being waiver wire candidates in most leagues to potentially being worth a spot at the end of your fantasy bench depending on their play in the preseason. Keep your eye on this position battle during training camp.
Given Celek’s production over the past couple of years and Shanahan’s frequent use of the tight end position, Cooley and Davis figure to benefit from McNabb’s arrival but splitting the production is never a recipe for fantasy success at tight end.
As for the Redskins running backs, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
With the Eagles, Kolb obviously benefits the most from this move. He played reasonably well in a pair of starts last year against New Orleans and Kansas City, topping 300 yards in each game and throwing four touchdowns and three interceptions. He completed almost 65% of his passes in those games, displaying solid accuracy. Of course, the Saints were playing soft coverage because they had a big lead for most of the game and the Chiefs secondary was amongst the worst in the league.
Nonetheless, Kolb hasn’t played enough in the league to provide an accurate gauge of his fantasy prospects for the 2010 season. Fantasy owners are left to decide whether or not they trust the Eagles front office in installing him as the team’s starting quarterback on a roster that has the ability to challenge for the division title next season.
He will benefit from a solid supporting cast but young quarterbacks can be expected to throw more interceptions than veterans so expect a few more picks from Kolb than McNabb has thrown in recent seasons. Kolb figures to pass for between 3,500 and 3,800 yards with 20 plus touchdowns.
He becomes my 12th ranked fantasy quarterback but with upside and is an excellent option in dynasty leagues. Move him a couple of notches lower in leagues that penalize interceptions.
At wide receiver, Jackson, Maclin and Avant figure to move down slightly but not significantly. Jackson moves from sixth to eighth in the wide receiver rankings while Maclin moves from 25th to 30th. Avant remains worthy of owning in deep leagues and is a solid waiver wire candidate in shallower leagues if Jackson or Maclin is injured.
It’s worth noting that Celek caught 16 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in Kolb’s two starts last season so there is plenty of reason for optimism with regards to his fantasy prospects.
However, in moving him from my second ranked tight end to fourth, I’m choosing to ignore that rather important statistic in putting Celek behind Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Dallas Clark. He remains an excellent player to own in dynasty leagues and could benefit from this move but he slides as his projected number of touchdowns is reduced with Kolb at the controls.
The Eagles running back tandem of McCoy and Mike Bell doesn’t see a material change in their fantasy prospects as a result of this trade.