The Eagles loaded up in the offseason and it is clear that the team is making a run at the Super Bowl before quarterback Donovan McNabb begins to show signs of age. Since 2004, running back Brian Westbrook has been a key cog in the team’s offense, accounting for a high percentage of the team’s overall offensive production. However, he’s coming off an inconsistent 2008 campaign, approaching 30 years of age and likely looking at a reduced role due to the emergence of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek as well as Kevin Curtis‘ return from injury. In addition, the team used their first two picks in the draft on skill position players in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, 1st round, and running back LeSean McCoy, 2nd round.
As with most things these days, many owners of fantasy football teams like shiny and new rather than old and reliable. These owners have, somewhat justifiably, bought into the theory that RB production declines sharply once they hit the 30 year mark. Westbrook will turn 30 prior to the start of the season, so he’s now in the crosshairs of those owners who believe in this theory, but the question is, should you?
Looking at Westbrook’s production last year, it’s clear that it was a mixed bag of results. He ranked 10th amongst RB in total fantasy points and an impressive 5th in points per game. However, of his 218 points, 152 came during five games and he missed two full games and part of another game. His injuries have been a constant cause of concern but this issue is more myth than reality. In seven seasons, Westbrook has missed 13 games and just four in the last three seasons.
Heading into 2009, Westbrook’s outlook is clouded because in early June he underwent what his agent described as minor surgery to clean up bone spurs in his right ankle. On the plus side, the Eagles offense added Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, right guard Stacy Andrews as well as Maclin and McCoy in the draft, so the offense is much improved and figures to finish in the top five in 2009. Playing behind perhaps the best offensive line in the league in a top offense, there is little reason not to target Westbrook in fantasy leagues. As noted, when healthy, he’s productive. However, he clearly isn’t a top five selection anymore due to the risk and, if selected, acquiring rookie McCoy as a handcuff is imperative. ~ Dave
This is an interesting question because Westbrook’s health concerns are front and center. No one will argue that if he gets 300 touches, he will have a phenomenal year. His peak performances during the 2008 campaign show that there is no lack of speed or explosiveness and approaching 30, Westbrook might have a couple more seasons before he falls into Warrick Dunn territory.
What you really need to consider in your draft is whether you can bet a very high pick on a healthy Westbrook contributing throughout the season. It says here that the Eagles will manage Westbrook to effectively make him a statistical and fantasy bust. I have a feeling there will be a few missed games and a general leaching of touches to the talented young receiving corps. Andy Reid and Co. will also be more conservative in putting miles on Westbrook’s knees, with McCoy likely to play a more significant role than his predecessors in the backup role. I wouldn’t bet against Westbrook making a major contribution to an Eagles Super Bowl campaign but from a fantasy perspective you just can’t risk a 1st round selection on a player who will likely miss 4-6 games and be limited in a few more. ~ Andy