- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
So much for Randy Moss returning to elite wide receiver status with the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Brad Childress said Monday the future Hall of Famer is no longer with the team. This came one day after yet another loss, another underachieving Moss performance and more off-field issues that just didn't seem worth it commensurate with the player's production.
Fantasy owners couldn't have been pleased with how the second Moss era in Minnesota worked out. It concluded with Sunday's goose egg for fantasy points. Moss caught one pass for 8 yards, and was targeted on two passes. Of course, since this is a player owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, there's a lot to discuss. What better place to do so than here in Four Downs.
First of all, don't release Moss in fantasy football yet (remember, the Vikings haven't yet as of Monday evening, either). I think he remains talented enough to produce valuable statistics for some team, and even while he was loafing his way through a pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Brett Favre, Moss wasn't invisible. He can play. Whether another NFL team wants to deal with the immaturity and occasional lapses in effort is another thing, not to mention the hefty price tag. If a team claims Moss this week, it's on the hook for more than $3 million in salary. Can't imagine the Buffalo Bills would be interested, for example. It might take a week or more, but if/when Moss shows up on another team, we'll discuss, but it seems premature to guess the teams that would have interest. Just don't call him a top-10 wide receiver anymore.
As for the Vikings, while Moss managed a paltry 13 receptions in four games (with two touchdowns), his value in deflecting attention from Percy Harvin was immeasurable. Want more proof? Check out what Wes Welker has done, or make that hasn't done, since Moss was dealt to the Vikings. Moss wasn't delivering big stats, but opposing defenses had something to do with that. It's not a coincidence Harvin averaged 15 points in the four games he played with Moss. I'm not overly confident Harvin can do this with Bernard Berrian being pulled out of the doghouse to start. Then again, Harvin is talented and he's capable of producing like a WR3 no matter his teammates. I wasn't ranking Harvin in the top 20 with Moss. I won't be ranking him there without him, but certainly his value takes some hit.
Favre actually played well Sunday, completing 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards and an interception that can hardly be blamed on him. Moss ran around somewhat aimlessly against a team, and more critically, a struggling secondary, he should have been motivated to skewer. Favre wasn't producing much for fantasy owners before Moss got there, or after. He's not a top-10 quarterback, but he wasn't when Moss was one of his targets anyway.
An obvious angle to take on the Moss release for the Vikings is that last year's hero, Sidney Rice, must be close to returning to the team after hip surgery. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Yes, Rice is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list for the Week 9 game, but there haven't been indications that his health will allow it. I don't expect to see Rice playing a role on active fantasy rosters before Thanksgiving, but like Vincent Jackson and now Randy Moss, all are worth owning.
Second down: For a while we've described erratic Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker as infuriating for fantasy purposes, as he seems to fail in nice matchups, but then puts up big numbers when one least expects it. His quarterback, David Garrard, is no less frustrating to own. I could have signed Garrard over Ryan Fitzpatrick in one league (I had Eli Manning on a bye) but of course I went with the guy with three consecutive 20-point performances. Fitzpatrick wasn't bad, but he wasn't good enough.
In general, Garrard is more productive in home games. He's been erratic for two seasons and didn't play in Week 7. Then he skewers the Dallas Cowboys for 30 fantasy points. For perspective, no quarterback had reached 30 standard fantasy points this season since Michael Vick in Week 3. Nobody else had done it prior or since. Garrard did it. I'd blame the awful Cowboys and start to look at that sinking ship like we do the Buffalo Bills if you want fantasy numbers from opponents. As for Garrard, I'd expect him to be very much in demand in Week 10 against the Houston Texans ... and disappoint.
Third down: Speaking of the Cowboys, Jon Kitna was charged with four interceptions, but only one of them was his fault. In baseball we've got unearned runs; in football we need unearned interceptions. Eli Manning, for example, entered this week playing strong football, but leading the league in picks. Kitna isn't going to star, but his 12 fantasy points Sunday could have easily been 16 or 18, so don't regard his outing as a poor one. His receivers betrayed him. I'll probably rank Kitna in the 13-17 range again in Week 9. There's no way Felix Jones will be in the same region again for me at running back, though.
Fourth down: Nice job out of Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart against the St. Louis Rams. DeAngelo Williams didn't dress, creating opportunity for Stewart to finally do something ... and he rushed for 30 yards on 14 carries. Clearly the Carolina offensive line is underachieving, and the quarterback situation doesn't help, but I'm at the point where I just can't rely on a Panther after wide receiver Steve Smith.
Eric Karabell analyzes the impact of Randy Moss reportedly being let go by the Minnesota Vikings and also looks at the performances of David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker, Jon Kitna and Jonathan Stewart.