As if the Terrell Owens saga were not enough to send fantasy owners into a lather, the news of Priest Holmes being finished for the season has made this week among the most turbulent in recent fantasy football memory.
First, the Eagles suspended Owens without pay for four games, beginning with Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Redskins, and said they will deactivate him for the final five games of the season. Some fantasy owners scrambled to add Reggie Brown to their rosters. That turned out to be a prescient move, at least for one week, with the Eagles rookie wide receiver catching one touchdown and amassing 94 yards receiving.
Then yesterday, the Chiefs placed Holmes on injured reserve because of the lingering effects of a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Chargers Oct. 30. Holmes was held out of last week's game against Oakland, and Larry Johnson filled in with two touchdowns and 107 yards rushing.
Holmes and Owens have been among the most productive fantasy players at their positions over the past four seasons. Holmes's 66 touchdowns from 2002 to 2004 are a record for any three-year span. Since 2002, Owens has 43 total touchdowns and 4,365 receiving yards in 50 games. Owens also had three seasons of at least 13 touchdowns before 2002.
The concern with Holmes has been durability. He has played one full season since 2002 and has undergone three knee surgeries in his career. That's why prudent fantasy owners who drafted Holmes made sure to select Johnson as insurance.
The Chiefs won't lose much if any production with Johnson as the featured back. The duo had been rotating this season anyway, and Johnson, with younger, fresher legs, may be slightly more of a big-play threat than Holmes. In 24 career games, Johnson has 18 total touchdowns, and he has the potential to be a keeper in such leagues depending on Holmes's future.
As for Owens, it's all but guaranteed he will not play this season, meaning the fantasy values of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook take a hit as well. It's no coincidence both players had career seasons last year with Owens in the mix for the first time. Owens changes how defenses prepare for the Eagles, and areas of the field that were open for short passes in the West Coast offense may not be there now.
Count on Owens playing somewhere next season. His fantasy value should remain high because he probably won't elect to join a team without a proven quarterback, and unlike other players who seem to be vilified far less than Owens for actions far worse than mouthing off, Owens will be on the field if humanly possible.
Fantasy owners don't need to fret about Owens being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a la Ricky Williams or Travis Henry or Charles Rogers, getting involved in bar fights or dawdling on the field. That's what separates Owens from Randy Moss. Fantasy owners instead need to concern themselves with whether Owens's team next season will be silly enough to bench the player that gives those around him the best chance at winning.