An early look at the fantasy football quarterback situation
Fantasy football's dizzying quarterback carousel may have finally slowed, with the Bills and Jaguars now the only teams left with a lacking-a-quarterback headache. That is, of course, if you view football as one-dimensional and ignore the erratic, persnickety tendencies of Carson Palmer.
At the very least, those who own Larry Fitzgerald in keeper leagues should feel less woozy. Say what you will about Palmer, but he can still get the ball to Fitzgerald, one of the game's elite receivers, better than the Cardinals' recent quarterback scrubs.
Fitzgerald finally has his new Kurt Warner. The Cardinals have fielded a new Week 1 quarterback every season since Warner retired, and Fitzgerald hasn't been a threat for 100 catches, 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns since then. But with Palmer, he will be again.
"Kurt was a phenomenal player, came here and just lit people up," Palmer said. "I'd love to be compared to some of the things that he did here when it's my time to leave."
Laugh if you will at the comparison, but Warner looked washed up before Ken Whisenhunt showed up to turn the Cardinals around. Current head coach Bruce Arians, a professed lover of the vertical passing attack, is trying to do the same with Palmer.
Palmer is prone to interceptions and hasn't been a winner in the NFL, making it is all too easy to forget that he threw for more than 4,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns with his rag-tag receiving corps in Oakland. Third-year tight end Rob Housler might be this year's Brandon Myers breakthrough, while Fitzgerald, slot man Andre Roberts and talented sophomore Michael Floyd have the potential to be one of the elite receiving trios in fantasy. Seriously.
"I think he is a bright young star," Arians said of Floyd earlier this offseason. "He has to get better fundamentally. But he's physical, he's big, he's active. I loved him coming out. To see he and Larry across from each other, and Andre Roberts, that's a nice group. That's one position we don't have to worry about too much."
The offensive production will all boil down to whether or not Palmer can just play at the level he managed a year ago; if so, the Cardinals' passing game will have new life -- even against those rugged defenses of the NFC West (Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers).
Here is how the other new projected starting quarterbacks will impact the fantasy landscape:
New head coach Andy Reid prefers a rhythm short-passing offense that's perfect for the accurate but toy-armed Smith. The Chiefs already have the receivers in place to be a pretty decent passing team -- at least as good as the group Smith previously worked with in San Francisco.
Dwyane Bowe has delivered some big seasons with lesser quarterbacks, and Dexter McCluster should be more comfortable as a slot receiver role in his second year in that role. Opposite Bowe, offseason acquisition Donnie Avery will compete with disappointing former first-round pick Jon Baldwin, who will be entering his crucial third season. The tight end position is actually in good hands with Tony Moeaki, a second year removed from knee surgery, and free-agent signee Anthony Fasano.
Reid can make this a solid offensive group for fantasy owners, especially if he turns Jamaal Charles loose like he did Bryant Westbrook and LeSean McCoy.
The Raiders rejected Palmer and turn to Flynn, who couldn't beat out a rookie for the starting position in Seattle -- albeit a darn good rookie in Russell Wilson.
Flynn easily has the worst collection of talent around him among the new quarterbacks changing teams. Assuming the Raiders don't turn to Terrelle Pryor, or draft a Geno Smith or Matt Barkley to start, Flynn projects to be one of the worst starting quarterbacks in fantasy.
Darren McFadden is guaranteed to not stay healthy, while receivers Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Juron Crinor would be no better than third or fourth wide receiver options on a good offense. The tight end position is a different kind of Raiders Black Hole with David Ausberry and Richard Gordon currently atop the depth chart.
Kolb is a cheaper alternative to Ryan Fitzpatrick, making it clear the Bills will be actively scouting the quarterback draft prospects (see below).
New head coach Doug Marrone, a noted offensive mind, has his work cut out for him this season. However, he has a legit No. 1 wideout in Stevie Johnson and arguably the NFL's best 1-2 punch at running back (C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson), making this a decent offense to lead. The Bills figure to address the secondary options in the draft -- particularly with TE Scott Chandler (ACL surgery) not expected to be ready for the start of the season -- but second-year wide receiver T.J. Graham can be a field stretcher.
Considering Kolb's time in Arizona, you have to give him a very slim chance of actually being the Bills' starter.
• Jacksonville Jaguars: "Blame," er Blaine Gabbert might get a third season to show something, and the receiving corps is ready to rock with Justin Blackmon and 2012 breakout Cecil Shorts. West Virgina's Geno Smith might be the best fit here.
• Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker is another third-year quarterback with a question mark. The Titans have the receivers in Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Damian Williams, so now it's just up to the quarterback to get the ball in their hands. The Titans will likely give Locker one last go, particularly with so many people down on this quarterback draft class.
• New York Jets: The Jets might draft a quarterback, but Mark Sanchez will still be the starter, Tim Tebow be damned. To be fair, Sanchez's 2012 disaster was just as much a function of his awful supporting cast as his own deficiencies as a passer.
• Cleveland Browns: A new year, a new regime -- it's like clockwork in Cleveland. When you change the general manager and head coach, the quarterback usually changes, too. The Browns are not sold on Brandon Weeden, 29, so they vow to have a quarterback competition in camp. There are plenty of great young weapons to work with here, including running back Trent Richardson and receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little.
• Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder has looked like the question and answer at varying times, but ultimately he's not the problem -- the receivers are. Signing Greg Jennings just barely covers up for the loss of Percy Harvin, so the Vikings are more likely to draft a No. 2 wide receiver than a new quarterback.
• Houston Texans: It's rare that a team goes from the potential No. 1 seed in its conference to having a quarterback issue, but it happened to Houston. The Texans are built to win now, so whomever they draft won't have much of a chance to start right away.
• Philadelphia Eagles: Up-tempo offensive mastermind Chip Kelly brings his spread-offense scheme to the NFL, and it looks like Michael Vick or sophomore Nick Foles will be the guy running it, for now. This will be a three-year plan, so this might not be the draft to pick a quarterback early.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers: On the surface, it looks like Josh Freeman's 2012 season (4,065 yards and 27 TDs) cemented him as the long-term answer. To those who paid attention this winter, though, it's clear the Bucs are just as skeptical about their quarterback now as they were last year. Still, Freeman was statistically capable enough to allow this potential contender to use its draft picks elsewhere.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia: Ignore the recent hyperbole that made Smith look like the next Akili Smith. Smith was a game-changer in college and he has the best chance to carry on the recent legacy of breakthrough rookie quarterbacks. If there is a potential fantasy gem in this draft class, it is Smith -- no matter where he winds up.
2. Matt Barkley, Southern California: Barkley seemingly cost himself millions and draft positions by going back to school for his senior season, but he is the most polished of the collegiate passers. The shaky history of the USC quarterbacks in the NFL -- Palmer, Sanchez and Matt Leinart -- doesn't bode well for Barkley, though.
3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: Some say he's the best prospect of the trio, but he was also the least productive in college. Because his college coach Doug Marrone landed with the quarterback-needy Bills, we can see what kind of pro Nassib will be. If Marrone passes on him -- like Dolphins coach Joe Philbin did with Flynn in Miami -- it could be a sign that Nassib is a farce.
Best of the rest: E.J. Manuel, Florida State; Mike Glennon, North Carolina State; Landry Jones, Oklahoma; Tyler Bray, Tennessee; and Tyler Wilson, Arkansas.
|The New Wave|
|Starting Pocket Passers|
|Quarterback Position Battles|