In most NFL seasons, we would have been preparing for our fantasy football drafts for months. That's really difficult though when you don't know where all the stars will land in the 2011 NFL free agency carousel.
Things are starting to become just a bit clearer now though. Santonio Holmes is still a Jet, and now Plaxico Burress is too. Sidney Rice is now in Seattle, where he'll be the main target for a familiar quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson. Everyone else signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
How about our Washington Redskins? They've made plenty of moves, and plenty of those moves affect the fantasy football potential of new and existing players both in D.C. and elsewhere in the league. The only entirely unresolved position on the team just happens to be the most important one. The Redskins are entering training camp with only John Beck and Kellen Clemens on the roster, although many still expect Rex Grossman to win the starting job once he signs. So which of them should you draft on your fantasy football team? D. None of the above. Without having a full preseason to acclimate with the team's new receivers, and reportedly without professional quality arm strength, Beck and Grossman should go undrafted in every league.
Meanwhile, Washington's outgoing quarterback Donovan McNabb has landed with the Minnesota Vikings, and shouldn't be expected to pitch in big fantasy numbers with Rice no longer on the team.
The Redskins player who entered training camp with the best fantasy prospects just saw those prospects get a little worse. Ryan Torain rushed for over 100 yards three times in 2010 and looked promising in his nine starts, but has yet to show an ability to remain healthy over a full season and enters the year ranked 36th among running backs by Yahoo! His potential to rack up big fantasy numbers this season took a big hit with the Redskins' acquisition of Tim Hightower earlier this week. Hightower has made a career out of stealing goal-line carries from other running backs. He did it with Edgerrin James in 2008, he did it with Beanie Wells in 2010 and he'll probably do it again with Torain in 2011. Torain would make a quality third running back, but probably shouldn't be counted on to start every game for you until the Redskins prove that they can get their running game going. The Redskins also have rookie draft pick Roy Helu on the bench, a promising young talent who could be a fantasy sleeper to grab in the late rounds.
The Hightower trade also leaves a big impact on the Arizona Cardinals' organization, and I'm not talking about Vonnie Holliday. Former Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams should now move up your draft board with Hightower out of the picture.
Returning Redskins Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong could each see their fantasy numbers decline this season with the addition of new blood to Washington's receiving corps. Moss finished 2010 as the 19th ranked wide receiver (we use Yahoo! Public League fantasy scoring around these parts) but is probably not worth higher than a sixth-round pick. Armstrong is the player most hurt by the departure of McNabb, as the team seems content to move away the long passing game that worked in Armstrong's favor last year. Armstrong averaged 19.8 yards per catch, but won't be any higher than third on the Redskins' depth chart in 2011.
Armstrong may be behind newly acquired wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who set career highs in both receptions (65) and receiving yard (875) with the Denver Broncos last year in an offensive that strongly discouraged scoring touchdowns (he had only two). While playing in a similar possession-oriented role in D.C., the 30-year old veteran could have similar reception numbers if he can develop a chemistry with Beck, and could be decent roster filler as your fourth or fifth fantasy receiver.
The Redskins' defense has improved as well, adding Ryan Kerrigan to help bolster the team's sack numbers, but is still not worth drafting in most leagues.
So, we're left with the conclusion that the Redskins have very few reliable fantasy options awaiting your selection. For a rebuilding year, that should be expected. The NFL free agency carousel may not yet have stopped turning, but the Redskins already seem ready to get off.