Jason Campbell is winning football games for his Washington Redskins. He's fifth in the NFL in passer rating, tied with Peyton Manning for seventh in passing yards, and of the 39 players to have thrown two or more touchdown passes this season, he is the only one without an interception.
And yet, Jason Campbell isn't being treated in fantasy circles as a true top-10 quarterback, which so far, he has been. He's not even owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues!
It's all about the touchdowns, baby, and fantasy owners are more interested in those than a quarterback who avoids mistakes. Peyton Manning has two more touchdown passes than Campbell, a lot more interceptions, and he's suffering through the worst season of his career, but he remains a weekly fantasy play. The 49ers' J.T. O'Sullivan has the same number of touchdown passes as Campbell, but his propensity for turnovers got him benched. Even Tom Brady's replacement Matt Cassel, by most accounts not putting up very good numbers, is just one touchdown short of Campbell. Therein lies a major difference between fantasy and reality: avoiding turnovers is a wonderful thing for both, but if you can't put real points on the board with touchdown passes, you can't really put fantasy points on the board, either. If Campbell had a few more touchdowns, maybe he'd be recognized as the emerging signal-caller he appears to be.
Campbell isn't doing anything wrong, but if he keeps up with his touchdown-per-week pace, he's not going to be coveted in our game, and he's not likely to hold his place in the top 10 for points at his position. For example, I fully expect Manning and Kyle Orton, maybe even Brett Favre and the streaking Chad Pennington, to breeze by him soon. Again, there's really nothing wrong with Campbell. Redskins fans can't complain with a 6-2 record at the midpoint, and Campbell does have the league's leading rusher (by far) in Clinton Portis at his disposal, plus fantasy's top wide receiver (Santana Moss) and an opportunistic defense to aid him. But will he ever become a truly valuable fantasy quarterback if he doesn't get to 20 touchdown passes?
Campbell is likely to encounter a poor statistical game against the Steelers, a team stingy against both the run and the pass. After Week 9, he'll face some matchups that will make him an intriguing fantasy play (Seahawks, Bengals, 49ers) and a few others that will not (Giants, Ravens, Eagles). He should be popular in the better matchups. With the Steelers this week and a bye next week, it's likely Campbell will drop out of the top 10 for fantasy points at his position, and thus be an overlooked choice in the Week 11 game against the Cowboys, so this might be the last time Campbell can be viewed this way. I mean, you know what the big story will be for that Week 11 game, don't you? That's the week Tony Romo is slated to return to the lineup. Who will be paying attention to the other starting quarterback in that NFC East tilt, for fantasy or not?
Jason Campbell is producing decent, but not terrific, fantasy numbers, despite lasting half a season without throwing an interception. Let's applaud him for this bit of perfection, and for leading the Redskins to what seems a sure playoff berth. Fantasy owners, however, aren't quite buying in yet, and it remains problematic whether they should.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.