Fantasy Spin: Jeremy Shockey traded to New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints jumped into the 2008 season with both feet on Monday, when they traded second- and fifth-round draft picks to the New York Giants for Jeremy Shockey. If he can stay healthy and relatively happy (I said relatively), Shockey can be a third top-flight pass-catching option in the Saints' high-octane offense alongside Marques Colston and Reggie Bush. But if he's injured, whiny or otherwise underwhelming, the Saints will have paid too high a price (and not-so-incidentally approximately the same price as the Redskins paid for Hall of Famer-to-be Jason Taylor).
Fantasy-wise, you would have to say this partially lifts the cloud that's been settled over Shockey's value since he broke his fibula last season, and watched his teammates roll to a Super Bowl win without him. He also goes to a somewhat friendlier passing offense (the Saints averaged about 60 more pass yards per game than the Giants last season) with a more accurate and efficient quarterback. He gets out from under what might have been a somewhat confusing tandem situation with Kevin Boss. Although Eric Johnson and Billy Miller are in New Orleans, it seems highly unlikely that the Saints would trade a nice bounty of picks for Shockey only to stick him behind either of those journeymen (who are officially without fantasy value). Indeed, with the Giants, Shockey had been good for six or seven touchdowns per season (except for 2007), 60-some-odd catches and somewhere between 550 and 900 yards. He needs to prove he can stay healthy (he's never played 16 games in a season and has been regularly hobbled by injury even when he has played), but he was going to have to prove that no matter what team he was on.
The trade also benefits Drew Brees a bit, pushing him more securely into the No. 4 fantasy quarterback spot, behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo, but now more definitively ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer. The Saints struggled to find another receiver last season, eventually settling on David Patten not because of his excellence, but because he wasn't a sloppy route-runner and didn't have dreadfully inconsistent hands (I'm looking at you, Devery Henderson). Shockey might not have retained his perch among the truly elite tight ends in the NFL in '06 or '07, but he'll be a more consistent safety valve than Brees has had since he's been in the Big Easy, and we know Brees has taken advantage of elite tight end talent before (see also: Antonio Gates). Robert Meachem, by contrast, loses some of his second-year-sleeper luster; he still looks like a nice bet to bounce back from his lost rookie season, and he might even wind up starting, but it seems less likely that he's a candidate to jump all the way up to, say, 50 catches.
Finally, there's the team and position Shockey leaves behind. Boss is the new boss, and the question is: Will he perform the same as the old boss? Shockey has been drafted as a top-five tight end for years, but the truth is: he hasn't always panned out that way, at least not recently. Whereas in his rookie year of 2002, Shockey was the third-rated tight end in fantasy, and in '04 and '05 he was fifth and second, respectively. Injuries caused him to finish seventh among tight ends in '06 and 11th in '07. Given that the Giants have thrown 108 and 129 times to their top two tight ends during the past two seasons, I'd say we're talking about an offense that continues to value this position. This makes Boss a borderline fantasy starter with some unknowns and on the same fantasy tier as, say, Vernon Davis, Alge Crumpler, Greg Olsen and Ben Utecht. Will Boss live up to Shockey's top moments? Probably not, but then again, Shockey hadn't lived up to Shockey's top moment the past couple seasons. Can Boss be the 11th-best tight end in '08, as Shockey was in '07? I'd say yes.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.