Fantasy notebook: McNabb won't be 100 percent

Fantasy football drafts are loaded with questions. Should I take Steven Jackson or Larry Johnson? Is Peyton Manning worth a first-round choice? Will Clinton Portis be OK for the regular season?

Should I even attempt to pronounce the name T.J. Houshmandzadeh?

Well, another question owners will ask surrounds the health of Donovan McNabb and his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last season. While he doesn't like to talk about percentages, McNabb did discuss how his knee is feeling nine months after surgery to repair the damage.

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"I probably won't be at 100 percent for about a year. But it's steadily improving," McNabb said. "I'm excited about my progression to where I'm at right now. I think the way that we've been attacking this deal, of warming it up and being able to do different things before practice has helped in so many ways, and we're going to continue to do that. Hopefully, maybe by midseason, I can say I'm fully healthy and ready to roll."

This sort of statement should not be a shock to fantasy owners. Even with all the medical advances we have today, it still takes at least a year for an ACL to return to somewhere around 100 percent. With that said, McNabb's assessment that he hopes to be healthier at the midseason point makes a lot of sense.

"He has things to work on," head coach Andy Reid told the Philadelphia Daily News. "But I think he's coming out of the preseason feeling confident in his leg and the strength in his leg, and knowing that he can go out there and play. And when you're coming off a serious injury, I think that's very important. So he'll go into Green Bay and be ready to go."

McNabb has practiced all this week, but he was held out of the Eagles' preseason finale against the New York Jets. The move is a precaution and will allow him a additional rest before the Eagles' regular-season opener at Green Bay. While his preseason action was a bit limited, there were enough flashes of greatness for owners to take a chance on him in fantasy drafts.

In his first exhibition start, McNabb completed 6 of 9 passes for 138 yards against Carolina. He led the offense on two scoring drives and looked a lot like the quarterback who had more fantasy points than even the great Peyton Manning at the midseason point of 2006. He completed 5 of 11 passes for 60 yards in his second start, this time against the aggressive Pittsburgh Steelers, before being lifted before halftime.

Much like Portis, McNabb is the epitome of the risk-reward fantasy player. He can produce monster numbers on a consistent basis, but his proneness to injuries in recent seasons has hurt his value. In fact, McNabb would be right there with Manning among quarterbacks if he had avoided serious ailments.

But based on his talent, the offense he leads, the depth at the quarterback position in the NFL and the fact he has one of the easier pass schedules makes McNabb worth the risk in the fourth to fifth rounds.

COLSTON, HENDERSON TO SEE WORK

Starters don't normally see much work (if any) in the final week of the preseason, but there are two players that fantasy owners should watch with interest -- the SaintsMarques Colston and Devery Henderson. This duo has missed time due to injuries, but each was expected to play about a quarter on Thursday night against Miami.

"I think it's important that Devery and Marques get some work," head coach Sean Payton told the Biloxi Sun Herald. "And then as we go through the depth, we just take a look at the guys who have been getting the reps with the (first-stringers), and generally those are the guys who aren't going to play much this game."

The true definition of a fantasy sleeper, Colston came out of nowhere to record 70 receptions, 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games as a rookie. An injured knee has limited him in training camp, but the seventh-round selection out of Hofstra returned to practice earlier in the week. With Joe Horn now in Atlanta, Colston is the No. 1 wideout in a Saints offense that will be one of the league's most electric units.

While a sophomore slide could be on the minds of some owners, it's still hard not to rank Colston as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy receiver. He's well worth a third- or fourth-round selection in most formats.

Henderson, who has missed the past few weeks with an injured hamstring, also returned to work earlier in the week. While his status as a starter has been a point of contention at times with veterans David Patten, Terence Copper and rookie Robert Meachem all in the mix, Henderson remains the favorite to open the regular season opposite Colston.

A true speedster with the skills to stretch defenses, Henderson showed his potential last November with three 100-yard performances. Those included a nine-reception, 169-yard game vs. Cincinnati, a 158-yard game vs. Atlanta and a 111-yard, two-touchdown game vs. Tampa Bay.

A viable sleeper candidate, Henderson is well worth a middle- to late-round selection. However, the fact that he has mediocre hands and will have to contend with Patten, Copper and Meachem in the pass attack could mean some inconsistent stat lines. As a result, owners should not draft him as anything more than a borderline No. 3 or 4 fantasy receiver.

While Patten and Copper also warrant consideration in larger formats, neither is worth more than a late-round flier. Meachem, who has improved as training camp has progressed, appears to be buried on the depth chart and has little value outside of keeper leagues.

With all of this talent, not to mention Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister and Eric Johnson, the Saints should be explosive on offense again this season. That's tremendous for Drew Brees, who has been on fire in the preseason. He has completed 35 of 39 passes (89.7 percent) of his passes, and he's done it without Colston and Henderson. With both of his top wideout weapons now back at full strength, Brees is even that much more valuable.

He's still behind Manning at the quarterback position, but Brees should be ranked ahead of fellow studs like Carson Palmer, Tom Brady and Marc Bulger as the No. 2 signal-caller in fantasy football.

NEWS & NOTES

-- Reports out of Detroit indicate that injured runner Kevin Jones will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which will force him to miss the first six weeks. He will only miss five games, however, as the Lions have a bye in Week 6. Jones's foot is almost 100 percent healed, but the team will err on the side of caution. He is still worth a late-round pick, but the former Hokie won't help owners until late October. Until then, Tatum Bell should be considered a viable No. 3 fantasy back or flex starter in all formats.

-- Terry Glenn, who continues to have issues after arthroscopic knee surgery, isn't confident that he'll be available for the Cowboys' regular-season opener against the New York Giants. What was supposed to be a two-or-three week ailment has now cost Glenn all of the preseason, so his stock in drafts has fallen. He's still worth a middle to late rounder, but Glenn is now more of a borderline No. 3 or 4 fantasy wideout. Patrick Crayton, who would start in Glenn's absence, is worth a late-round flier in most formats.

-- In one of the weirdest developments of the preseason, Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron will name either Ronnie Brown or Jesse Chatman as his top running back on Sept. 3. It would be an absolute shocker is Brown doesn't win the role, and he's still a viable No. 2 fantasy runner. However, the fact that Chatman, who hasn't seen a regular-season snap since 2004, is even in the mix could be cause for concern. At this point, owners who want to handcuff Brown in larger leagues should take Chatman, not Lorenzo Booker.

-- Reports out of Seattle indicate that D.J. Hackett could share time at split end with Nate Burleson this season. That sort of scenario would hurt the value of Hackett, who is one of the top sleepers at his position. Burleson has had a solid camp, but Hackett should still be considered the more attractive option for owners. Hackett finished last season well -- he posted 304 yards and two touchdowns in December -- and he should be more prominent than Burleson in a Seahawks offense that will have its full compliment of starters.

-- The Tampa Tribune reports that Maurice Stovall is now the leading candidate to open the regular season at flanker. Furthermore, whoever performs the best from Stovall, David Boston, Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard in Thursday's preseason finale against the Houston Texans could put himself into a position to see more action Week 1 in Seattle. This number of options in the pass attack could breed inconsistent stat lines, so no Tampa wideout other than Joey Galloway will warrant more than a late rounder.

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