August 01, 2008
The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on
personal biases hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.
Also, you'll notice that we've now reached the upper half of the Index. Every team remaining offers several useful fantasy pieces. Or they at least offer one dominant fantasy piece, and a few familiar names. There is no shame in a top 16 ranking.
If you were asked to list Jason Campbell's strengths as a quarterback, you probably wouldn't say, "Precision passer, quick release, great anticipation."
Those are necessary traits in a West Coast offense, though. The switch to coach Jim Zorn's system shouldn't unnerve Campbell, exactly, since learning a new offense has become an annual event for the Redskins' QB. He's certainly adaptable, he's clearly talented, and he did the West Coast thing at Auburn for a little while. Campbell simply hasn't been an accurate passer in 624 career NFL attempts (57.7 completion percentage).
Still, Zorn sounds like a believer:
"Jason Campbell today was lights out," Zorn said after the morning practice. "He pushed through a lot of decisions."
We've ranked Campbell 20th among quarterbacks for fantasy purposes, and his Mock Draft Central ADP is 162.9. He's not a starting fantasy QB in Week 1, but he did improve from '06 to '07 -- both in completion percentage and yards per attempt -- and he'll have some dangerous weapons at his disposal.
The most significant of those weapons is the
delightfully insane versatile and high-mileage battle-tested Clinton Portis. He was sixth in the NFL in rushing yards last season (1262), fourth in rushing touchdowns (11), and he finished as the 19th highest fantasy scorer in public leagues (210 points). It's worth noting that of all the running backs in the overall top 30, Portis was the only one who averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry.
Yet Portis is still only 26 years old and he projects as one of the league's few 300-carry backs. He's No. 9 in the composite running back rankings, and his ADP is 10.7. Portis reportedly had an unusually productive off-season, at least by his standards. There's little doubt that the Redskins intend to give him all the work he can handle...and possibly more:
Zorn already has said Portis won't have the freedom to take himself out of games, which means No. 26 will have to be a workhorse and the offense will run based on how he performs.
If you're drafting Portis, then you're also drafting Ladell Betts (ADP 182.0). And if some weasel snags Betts before your pick, then you should just go ahead and play their diabolical little game and trade for him.
Like Chester Taylor, Betts is an important handcuff. Brad Evans discussed all this in great detail in the Handcuff Hierarchy. Betts was an elite fantasy RB during the second half of 2006 while Portis was shelved due to injury. He rushed for triple-digit yardage in five straight games, from Weeks 12 to 16, and scored three touchdowns during that stretch. Betts also caught 53 passes in '06. He's an injury away from being a must-start fantasy back.
Washington's receiving corps is a blend of familiar names and interesting rookies. You know about Santana Moss, our No. 29 wide receiver. He's a home run threat, but also a guy who seemed to specialize in devastating drops last season. If Moss carried you to a title with his glorious Week 16 effort in 2005 (160 yards, 3 TDs), however, the drops are easily forgiven. Antwaan Randle El set career highs in receptions (51) and receiving yards (728) last year, but had arthroscopic knee surgery in May. You can't reasonably expect him to top last year's numbers, and that makes him a bye-week play at best.
Rookie receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly were both second round picks, and both are of interest in dynasty drafts. Rivals said that Thomas "may be the best athlete of all the receivers in this draft class," but it actually sounds like Kelly should see more action, at least early in the year:
Kelly (6-4, 219), who is playing the X receiver, or split end position, does not possess the speed of Thomas, who has started out at the Z receiver, or flanker. He has, however, made a good impression in camp because of his receiving and blocking skills. Kelly has made several acrobatic catches on deep balls thrown by Campbell and has been physical on running plays in 11-on-11 drills.
"We're all impressed with what he's doing because he's been very mellow, if you will," Zorn said. "Not a big voice, but he makes a statement when he's on the field."
Both rookies are dealing with hamstring issues at the moment, so they'll have some catching up to do during the pre-season.
Tight end Chris Cooley, of course, is one of the safest possible mid-round fantasy picks. He has excellent hands and remarkable blogging skills for a man his size. Cooley is No. 5 in our tight end rankings, and he's a primary red zone option for the Redskins (27 TDs in 64 career games). Rookie tight end Fred Davis is an excellent receiver, but he certainly won't get work at Cooley's expense.
LB London Fletcher (129 tackles in '07), DB Laron Landry (95 tackles), and DE Jason Taylor (11.0 sacks) are the most interesting IDP options, but the team defense wasn't roster-worthy last season (130), and they're facing a schedule loaded with tough offenses. They open at New York, then face the Saints, Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Rams and Browns. You're not starting the Redskins D in a public league in any of those match-ups.
2007 Washington team stats
Rushing: 116.9 Y/G
Passing: 216.4 Y/G
Points per game: 20.9
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 55, 27
'08 Schedule strength: .523
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington