2010 Draft Prep: Kolb will outperform McNabb
Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb are both considered candidates for a mid-round pick in 2010 drafts, but our Dave Richard says Kolb will fly while McNabb will stay grounded now that he's in Washington.
There's at least one of these situations every year: A young quarterback waiting patiently gets his turn to come off the bench and enter the season as the starter. There's understandable anxiety about drafting these brand new first stringers in Fantasy, and for good reason. They've done very little over their careers to show that they can be good for your team.
But in the case of Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb , you knew this was coming. Three years ago the team spent a high second-round pick on the gunslinger from Houston, and it was only a matter of time before he'd either replace Donovan McNabb or get traded to a new club as their shiny quarterback of the future. Philadelphia decided this offseason that it would let their prized pick get in the game, so McNabb was traded -- to division-rival Washington of all places.
Now you might think that it would be either a brazen Eagles fan or a devout University of Houston alum to blindly grab Kolb before a decorated NFL vet like McNabb in Fantasy drafts this summer. But you don't have to be either -- all you have to be is a smart owner who can read between the lines to realize that Kolb will outperform McNabb in 2010.
For years, when you drafted McNabb, you thought you were drafting a smart, crafty quarterback with a big arm. That's true, you were, but you were also drafting Andy Reid, the Eagles' head coach and maestro of their offense. It's no secret that Reid prefers to be aggressive with the football and throw a ton; in six of his last eight years overseeing the Eagles his offense has averaged over 350 yards per game in six seasons and finished with at least 21 passing touchdowns in seven. As such, McNabb compiled some gaudy totals, including 45 passing touchdowns over the last two seasons, at least 16 passing touchdowns every season after 1999 (including the years he got hurt) and at least 3,200 passing yards in every complete season he had with Reid.
But those days are over for McNabb -- they're now handed to Kolb on a silver platter. Because Kolb will be asked to command an offense that annually racks up tons of yardage and points, he should inherit the numbers McNabb's been posting for years. That's enough to make Fantasy owners drool on their keyboards.
Better yet, we've seen Kolb in action beyond the preseason. In two starts last season against the Saints (who went on to win the Super Bowl) and the Chiefs (a bad defense, but an NFL defense nonetheless) Kolb totaled 718 passing yards and four touchdowns, getting over 325 yards and two touchdowns in each contest. That's not to say that Fantasy owners should expect him to routinely mow down defenses for 20-plus Fantasy points per week, but at least owners have something to judge him by, and it's enough to develop some optimism. Clearly he couldn't have produced such numbers without a good grasp of the offense and some ability.
Let's also not lose sight of the fact of who Kolb has around him -- Kolb himself hasn't judging by those two '09 starts. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek had amazing games with Kolb: Jackson scored, topped 100 yards, averaged over 24 yards per catch and hauled in at least one pass for over 40 yards in each contest while Celek had identical eight-catch, 104-yard efforts. Again, nothing that can be considered reliable on a weekly basis, but it's information that cannot be ignored. And those two are just the primary options for Kolb -- he'll also have improved second-year players in LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin as well as Jason Avant , Hank Baskett and Leonard Weaver . Simply put, there's enough talent surrounding Kolb to add to his appeal.
Reid's offense and Philly's playmakers don't belong to McNabb anymore, and that's just the beginning of why a statistical decline seems to be in order for the new Redskins quarterback. There's not much of a change in going from Reid's West Coast offense to Mike Shanahan's West Coast offense -- Shanahan has developed his fair share of big-play passers. Heck, you could include Matt Schaub among them if you count what his son Kyle did with him in Houston (Kyle is his father's offensive coordinator in Washington). But the one position Fantasy owners often tie their wagons to when it comes to Shanahan is running back, not quarterback. That is to suggest that Shanahan will run the ball a fair amount, certainly more than Reid will in Philadelphia. Historical data suggests that will happen as Reid has averaged 550 pass attempts per season in Philadelphia vs. Shanahan's 526 attempts per season in Denver. So unless you get points for handoffs, McNabb's pass attempts total will fall, limiting his upside.
McNabb also finds himself with suspect receiving options in Washington. Tight end Chris Cooley is as good as it gets for him in the short-area passing game and Santana Moss is his most established wide receiver on the outside. Only Cooley can be counted on as Moss has been one of the most inconsistent receivers in the league. Furthermore, the Redskins' inability to develop third-year wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly has hindered their receiving corps, and the additions of declining veterans in Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade might help McNabb's completion percentage but little else. The only other notable among the Redskins' receiving corps is tight end Fred Davis , who is talented but won't play as much as he did late last season when Cooley was hurt. Additionally, the Redskins' running backs aren't expected to be asked to take on as many as eight receptions per game like McNabb's running backs did year-in and year-out in Philly. The likes of Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson are capable receivers out of the backfield but they shouldn't be high-reception players, curbing another source of production for McNabb.
There are things to like about McNabb landing in Washington: His offensive line has been re-tooled and should be better than the Redskins' patchwork unit that allowed 46 sacks last season. And there's something to be said about McNabb playing with a chip on his shoulder after being traded to a division rival -- playing the Eagles twice this year, not to mention seeing familiar foes in the Giants and Cowboys twice each, should keep his motivation from flaming out. Playing for a new contract doesn't hurt things, either.
But at 34 years old and between his new supporting cast and his omnipresent accuracy issues (only once in his career has McNabb completed more than 61.5 percent of his passes), it's hard to consider McNabb a solid Fantasy starter -- especially knowing that Reid won't be on the other end of the one-way headset in the quarterback's helmet. McNabb and Kolb might be drafted within 20 picks of each other on Draft Day, likely between Rounds 7 and 9, but Kolb has the upside, offensive scheme and teammates you want to roll the dice on. He's the better selection.
And he's got one last thing: Talent. He's not one of these average quarterbacks surrounded by above-average talent. He's got a strong arm -- not quite as strong as McNabb's, but close -- and he displayed pretty good accuracy and defense-reading skills in his two starts (especially his second start).
But don't take my word for it. Take Reid's -- he's the one who picked Kolb over McNabb, after all. You should do the same.
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