- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
What should we make of the Donovan McNabb situation in fantasy football? On one hand, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made quite a statement Sunday when he yanked his quarterback in the closing minutes of a loss to the Detroit Lions, deciding backup Rex Grossman was the best man for the two-minute drill. Casting aside how laughable that seems -- Rex Grossman? -- or the explanations Shanahan grasped at Sunday and then adjusted Monday, McNabb's stock certainly has to take some hit until the next game.
On the other hand, McNabb has either the same amount of fantasy points (Tom Brady) or more (Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and, of course, that Brett Favre fellow) than some notable quarterbacks. Yes, it's a tad misleading because all those players have already served their bye weeks, and McNabb's is Week 9 (this coming Sunday). But the point is, McNabb might be the No. 25-rated quarterback in the NFL and frustrating to watch play, but he has been a top-10 performer at his position in fantasy. Hard to do when you have more interceptions than touchdowns, but McNabb has found a way.
Shanahan's odd move will be a topic of discussion for the next two weeks in our nation's capital -- unless of course the team signs Randy Moss -- but fantasy owners should realize the McNabb era in Washington isn't likely to improve as the season continues. In other words, it's unlikely he ends up as a top-10 quarterback, so act accordingly. McNabb has been statistically consistent, with precisely one touchdown pass in seven consecutive weeks, and there's certainly value in that, but there's little reason for fantasy owners to expect deviation from the norm. McNabb is an injury risk, and clearly he's at risk of being benched for the likes of Grossman. Seeing how his confidence level tends to fluctuate and how it has affected previous performance, I'm guessing he's already wondering which team he'll call home in 2011.
I'd say Shanahan did fantasy owners a favor here. Sure, we would have liked to see if McNabb could have added to his 14 fantasy points in the Week 8 loss to the Lions -- I'm guessing the likely interception would have cut the potential yards gained on the final drive in half -- but this raises the larger point about his play: He has been average, at best. It's not likely he can sustain his fantasy rank playing average football, and while he's tied for ninth in quarterback scoring today, next week at this time, because of the week off, he could be 17th or 18th. You've been forewarned!
While McNabb probably isn't going to enjoy the media attention this week, and he's starting to get cut in fantasy (down a percentage point to 93.2 percent owned), here are some other names on the move.
Danny Woodhead, RB/WR, Patriots: He's not a star, but double digits in fantasy scoring four of the past five games does make a statement. I think with the running back position being weak, he's more valuable there, but for you, he's probably a flex option. Don't be ashamed to enjoy those 10 or 11 points each week. He's fun to root for, too.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: What would worry me is the fact that Bowe has a mere 21 receptions this season, and it's tough to continue expecting touchdowns at this rate when the team is clearly more interested in running the ball. But we can't argue that Bowe is playing well, with five touchdowns in three weeks.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers: It's surprising that McNabb has been a top-10 quarterback, but perhaps just as surprising that Freeman is actually ahead of him, and he has served his bye week. Freeman has averaged 15 fantasy points in the past four games, but the most impressive thing is that this second-year passer has tossed a mere three interceptions this season (in seven games). A season ago, Freeman had three touchdowns and 13 interceptions in the final five contests. I don't expect a 20-touchdown season, but if he takes care of the football, he could absolutely mirror the 2009 version of Chad Pennington, who finished in the top-10 quarterbacks with only 19 touchdown passes because of a mere seven picks.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: The consecutive 22-point fantasy games in Weeks 2 and 3 seem like a long time ago, and the sophomore quarterback didn't do himself any fantasy favors with his failure to lead his team to any points Sunday. Yes, the Packers play decent defense, but no points? Sanchez has three consecutive single-digit fantasy outings, with one passing touchdown and four interceptions in that span. I'd rather own Freeman, even with the Jets facing the Lions this week.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: This is why season numbers are misleading. Best does rank 15th in running back standard scoring. But since Week 3, he's not even in the top 30. Best has done his best to allow backup Kevin Smith back in the picture, and now this looks like a time-share, which is clearly not in the, um, "best" interests for fantasy.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals: Terrell Owens ranks fifth in wide receiver scoring this season, leaving scraps for his fellow media magnet. Ochocinco ranks behind Lee Evans and Nate Washington with 36 fewer points than Owens, and only once since Week 1 has he reached double digits in fantasy. Is he an automatic play for you? He shouldn't be. Owens, on the other hand, should be.
Eric Karabell takes a look at whose fantasy stock is rising (Josh Freeman, Danny Woodhead) and whose is falling (Donovan McNabb, Chad Ochocinco) heading into Week 9.