The thing that sticks in my mind about the 2006 Redskins is that they went into New Orleans last December and held the mighty Saints' offense to a season-low 10 points.
As a fantasy owner of both Drew Brees and Reggie Bush last season, I seethed over what the Redskins did on that first weekend of my fantasy playoffs. But that performance also made me think that these Redskins are not too far away from being a good football team. The pieces are in place, especially now that Mark Brunell has gone down like the Titanic. Jason Campbell appears to have escaped serious injury in Week 2 of the preseason, so we all can look ahead to further progress from this offense -- and not just from the running game.
Defensively, there is much work to be done, considering the team was last in sacks and turnovers forced last season, and second to last in total defense. Despite being somewhat uninspiring among the front four, the back seven will be good, especially with the additions of free agent LB London Fletcher and super stud rookie SS LaRon Landry. This will be a fun team to watch get better each week. It could make for some fantasy surprises down the stretch.
Projected draft round Player Round Jason Campbell, QB 10-11 Clinton Portis, RB 2 Ladell Betts, RB 7-8 Santana Moss, WR 5-6 Antwaan Randle El, WR DND Chris Cooley, TE 6-7 Shaun Suisham, K DND Defense/special teams DND Draft position based on a standard 12-team combined scoring and yardage league with a 17-round draft. DND: Do not draft.
Key additions: LB London Fletcher, CB Fred Smoot. Key losses: WR David Patten, CB Kenny Wright.
Chris Cooley, TE. Cooley is a little goofy, so you have to like the guy. He plays fantasy football, and he even has been spotted wearing shorts that essentially amount to Daisy Dukes during practice. If you can get past that potentially disturbing image, you'll see that Cooley is an upper echelon tight end who worked well with Jason Campbell in the seven games Campbell was the starter, catching 30 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns. Double those numbers, and we're looking at Cooley's best season as a pro. Embrace this goofball even if he dyes his hair purple this season.
London Fletcher, LB. Fletcher was a terrific and consistent IDP performer in each of his five seasons with Buffalo, and we don't expect that to change despite his change in uniform. Fletcher is good for about 145 tackles, three sacks and maybe even an interception or two. He will continue to be very active in Gregg Williams' defense.
Clinton Portis, RB. It used to be fun to talk about Portis -- and even hear him speak during his press conferences. He'd come dressed as colorful but contrived characters such as Southeast Jerome and Coach Janky Spanky during the 2005 season, but the 2006 campaign was one ravaged with injuries. First there was a dislocated left shoulder in preseason, and then a broken right hand cut short his 2006 campaign halfway through the regular season. Now he is dealing with tendinitis in his right knee and the reality of Ladell Betts taking carries away from him. Portis should be ready to go for the regular season, which is great news. Backs who share carries can be starters, but they end up producing like No. 2 fantasy backs at best. Don't mistake Portis for a No. 1.
Santana Moss, WR. Moss was a huge bust in 2006, as he missed two games because of a hamstring injury and was held to nearly 700 fewer yards than his outstanding 2005 campaign. While some owners will dismiss Moss' abilities and rue the fact that he was so inconsistent last year, let's look at some stats. Moss had two of his three 100-yard games last year when Jason Campbell was the Redskins' quarterback, and he had three of his six touchdowns in a six-game span with Campbell. Everything about Moss screams "value pick," especially when so little has been said about him this preseason. He is flying under the radar, so use that to your advantage. His history of leg injuries is a concern, but his upside is too great to pass up.
Sean Taylor, FS. Taylor is switching to free safety, which is essentially the center field position of a team's defense. That means he should be more involved in the pass defense than he will be in stopping the run. If it's picks you need, Taylor is a better bet for those than he is for a second 100-tackle season.
Ladell Betts, RB. Betts was fabulous when Clinton Portis went down with his injury, as he amassed five 100-yard performances in the Redskins' last six games and had at least 20 carries in seven of the last eight. Betts has proven that he is a capable running back, and coach Joe Gibbs has said he will use both backs this season. Portis is the better of the two, but if should something happen to Portis, owners have a legit No. 2 back in Betts.
Jason Campbell, QB. Campbell sustained just a bruised knee in last Saturday's preseason game against the Ravens, and that's a lot better news than hearing he has torn ligaments and needs season-ending surgery. We expect the Redskins to be very careful with Campbell in these final two weeks leading up to the regular season because going back to Mark Brunell would be a major step back. Add Campbell as a No. 3 fantasy QB. He could be worth using against some of the bottom feeders Washington will play this year.
LaRon Landry, SS. Landry is already in the Redskins' starting lineup, which says a lot about what the Redskins are expecting of him this season. Landry is in position to produce in IDP leagues because strong safeties typically make plays against the run and the pass. Landry is a big IDP sleeper, and should be targeted in keeper leagues.
Brandon Lloyd, WR. Lloyd is the Redskins' third receiver and should be ignored because of it.
Antwaan Randle El, WR. Even though he started all 16 games last season, Randle El amassed just 32 catches for 351 yards and three touchdowns. There will be better options than this guy on your waiver wire to start the year.
Redskins defense/special teams. The additions of London Fletcher and LaRon Landry should make the team a lot better agaisnt stopping the run. But because the front four is a bit unimpressive in rushing the passer, this unit might be exposed in the secondary. If you can't get heat on quarterbacks, they will eventually pick you apart. Leave this defense on the wire. It is a year (and a player or two) away from being great.
Shaun Suisham, K. If you think this guy's name would be perfect for a horrible cigar, then you think like me. If you think this guy is a real find as a fantasy kicker, then you don't think like me. Though Suisham did well down the stretch for Washington, there are plenty of other more established options to choose from than him. Don't use Suisham unless he goes all Neil Rackers on us.
Ultimate Fantasy Football Tip: There are no undervalued Redskins in our Ultimate game. In fact, you could argue that some -- Santana Moss at $6.25 million and Clinton Portis at $7.35 million -- are overvalued. It's best to let these players' values fall before ever considering adding them during the season.
TO KNOW LIST
Coaching: With the strength in the running game, look for the Redskins to be a run-first unit. However, Jason Campbell should get more opportunities to attempt more than just safe passes this year. It will be fun to see what defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can do with two new weapons in London Fletcher and LaRon Landry.
Offensive line: These guys aren't the Hogs, but the line still is a major strength of this team. Just look at how well Ladell Betts did in Clinton Portis' place a year ago. Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels are the best players on this unit, and Todd Wade is the only one who isn't deemed above average. Not only does this unit run-block well, it also protects the QB, allowing the third-fewest sacks last year.
Schedule analysis: Playing two games against each of the other three NFC East opponents is extremely tough, and matchups against the Patriots, Jets, Bears and even Packers also will pose problems. The Redskins become most interesting when they play last year's fellow bottom-dwelling scrubs such as the Lions, Cardinals, Bills and Vikings. The Redskins' defense might even be an option during those weeks. The fantasy playoffs include that matchup with the Bears, as well as road games against the Giants and Vikings. Fantasy Strength of Schedule: 23rd easiest (or 10th toughest).