Philadelphia Eagles

A Deeper Look at Brian Westbook's Fantasy Football Viablility

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Running back Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the football in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Lou DiPietroAnalyst IAugust 24, 2009

Over the weekend, Colts Featured Columnist Kyle Winslow put together a fantastic fantasy article, where a few of us B/R Featured Columnists were asked various questions about the upcoming fantasy season.

If you haven’t done so, give it a read.

As one of the contributors to the piece, I was asked whether Brian Westbrook was an injury risk or a great draft value. Of course my answer was great value.

It seems as if many who read the piece—including a few Eagles fans, oddly—think I’m out of my gourd.

So let me explain quickly by saying this: Just because Brian Westbrook is now 30 and has been banged up a bit as of late (not to mention his off-season ankle surgery) doesn’t mean he’s all of a sudden a bust.

Sure, he’s not going to be Michael Turner or Adrian Peterson. Hell, he might not even be Brian Westbrook circa 2006 or so.

But he’s still Brian Westbrook, and that’s what makes him a great value.

If your friends, co-workers and other fantasy colleagues are anything like a lot of mine, they may overvalue potential and undervalue consistency. Right now, everyone who drafted LaDainian Tomlinson last year probably thinks I’m nuts.

And maybe I am, because I took him No. 3 overall in my first of many drafts this season.

But like LT, even when Westbrook is “bad,” he’s still real good.

Last season, he missed two games, didn’t play most of two others and took quite a few series off due to various maladies.

He still set a career high in touchdowns with 14.

What stat is worth the most points in fantasy football? Oh yeah, right.

What’s even funnier is many of those people will tell you that they’ll get a great value later in the draft in LenDale White, because “he scores a lot.”

White had only one more TD than Westbrook last season and barely 60 percent of the yards from scrimmage.

So yes, 2008 was a down year for Westbrook. He still racked up 1,338 yards and 14 TD. Now various leagues have various scoring policies of course, but in my three Yahoo! Leagues, Westbrook’s stats ranked him eighth, ninth and 14th overall.

But looking deeper, the latter two leagues count both receptions and return yards, which vaulted “studs” like Leon Washington, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Jerious Norwood ahead of him.  

Which means that in a standard scoring league—yards and touchdowns—he was a Top 10 running back in 2008.

Now, add in three key factors.

First, he’s “healthy.” Yes, potential for injury is always there, but he’s working with a clean slate if you will. All his previous issues are cleared up, and he says he’s 100 percent.

Second, the “running back by committee” system is becoming more and more popular. But the Eagles don’t have a LenDale White to his Chris Johnson or a Derrick Ward to his Brandon Jacobs, so to speak.

His backups are LeSean McCoy and Lorenzo Booker. The latter hasn’t shown anything at all…well, ever, and while the former is a talented back and a second-round pick, he’s also a rookie—which doesn’t always bode well in Andy Reid’s system.

Sure, DeSean Jackson’s stats last year tell a different story, but he was the top receiver by default last year so you have to remember the circumstances.

And finally, the additions of Jeremy Maclin and Michael Vick could mean a more dynamic passing offense, which means one of two things could happen.

In scenario A, Westbrook could become a more dangerous threat in that passing game, which could lead to a ton of yards and more touchdowns.

Or, in scenario B, he loses carries—but that means he’s fresher (and thus more dangerous) down the stretch…which should still bode well for his fantasy numbers.

Yes, Brian Westbrook, he’s 30 and eventually due to slow down a bit. But based his 2008 numbers and his 2009 factors, then even if everyone in your league overvalues potential and thinks WR-RB (or vice versa) is the way to go, Westbrook should be gone by the third or fourth round at the latest—so if you can get him there or later, he is a great value.

Just remember folks, for every Michael Turner there’s a LaMont Jordan, for every Matt Ryan there’s a Ryan Leaf, and for every guy who comes out of nowhere there’s six more waiting to take his job.

I’ll take consistency every time.

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