Camp Battles: Cleveland QB
When will rookie Quinn overtake Frye this season?
This spring, Brady Quinn went from college star to major question mark. His NFL draft stock plummeted, as league executives and scouts whispered about potential pitfalls in taking the high-profile prospect. Could he win big games? Could he complete touch passes? Would he be mobile enough to escape from the NFL's quickest pass rush specialists? As those questions were being raised, JaMarcus Russell was cementing his place as the undisputed No. 1 quarterback prospect on the board. And once Russell went to Oakland, no team seemed willing to take a chance on Quinn.
The Browns, already holding a cornerstone prospect in No. 3 overall pick left tackle Joe Thomas, gambled on Quinn, trading back into round one to nab him. Immediately people wondered whether Quinn could compete with Charlie Frye for the staring job, or if he was a year or two away from making a splash. Since Cleveland opened up camp on July 27 those questions still have not been answered because Quinn waited until Aug. 7 to end his holdout.
Why Frye will keep the job: This week, Browns coach Romeo Crennel filed his first depth chart, listing Frye as his No. 1 quarterback. Derek Anderson was No. 2. Quinn was off the radar screen. Frye is the returning starter and is most familiar with the offense. The Browns added Jamal Lewis to bolster the running game and invested heavily along the offensive line, both in the draft and through free agency. Those additions will present Frye with a much better chance under center, compared to last year when he was running for his life with little support. The most logical reason why the Browns will stick with Frye is because they will not want to throw their first-round quarterback into the deep end of the pool if they do not have to, especially if he misses a significant amount of camp. Frye can be a serviceable player right now, and although his arm alone cannot get the team to a winning record, he can manage games well enough for Cleveland fans to feel like the team has taken a step in the right direction.
Why Quinn will win it: Here's the short-term problem: Quinn was projected to be a top-10 prospect, but a lack for need of quarterbacks around the NFL pushed him down the draft board further than he deserved to go. And so the holdout was to be expected, and eventually resolved. Now what? When Quinn enters camp, he'll be No. 3 on the depth chart, typical for a rookie quarterback at this time of year. It's probable that he'll stay there for the first month of the season. But because neither Anderson nor Frye has won over Crennel, chances are it means the desperate coach, clinging to his job, is awaiting the arrival of his savior.
The Browns are a building team with virtually no hope of competing for the AFC North this season. It seems to make sense that by Week 4 or 5, Quinn will be given an opportunity to gain experience and bring some excitement to the organization. It's also safe to argue that Quinn gives the team the best chance to win right now. Critics can say what they want about Quinn's failure to win big games, but it's a bit unfair because in some of them (USC in 2005, for example) the Irish weren't even supposed to keep the score competitive, let alone win. Plus, Quinn has more talent than either Frye or Anderson. After all, he did throw 37 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2006 (numbers Frye and Anderson cannot claim during their college careers), and Quinn's numbers came despite facing one of the country's most demanding schedules.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Quinn
Rookie quarterbacks are almost NEVER a worthwhile option for fantasy owners. Quinn is not yet a viable fantasy prospect, at least not until he gets accustomed to the offense. But, as compared to his competition, Quinn is the more attractive pick because he has the support of the fan base (for now) and that kind of excitement rubs off on the field. Think loud boos and signs endorsing Quinn won't begin to affect Frye? Also, Quinn is a more precise passer, and that is the key to the debate. What fantasy owners are most concerned with is who will throw passes to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. Quinn's ability will help make the fantasy players with real value on this team maximize their potential, at least more than Frye or Anderson can.
Mike Beacom is the senior editor of Pro Fantasy Sports.