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Spin Doctors: Kevin Kolb vs. Joe Flacco

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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Everyone should know the Spin Doctors ground rules by now: Two crackpot fantasy analysts debate the relative worth of two players, then blog readers settle the issue via Web poll, the cornerstone of American democracy. Today we're discussing Kevin Kolb(notes) and Joe Flacco(notes), a pair of 25-year-old quarterbacks who play for teams with avian mascots. The similarities are eerie. After voting, please sign up for Yahoo! Fantasy Football 2010.

Noise says: Every year it seems a mislabeled mid-round quarterback emerges from perceived mediocrity to become a dependable weekly starter in 12-team leagues. Two seasons ago it was Aaron Rodgers(notes). Last year, Matt Schaub(notes) turned heads. This year, Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb is undoubtedly that mantastic marvel.

Donovan McNabb’s(notes) dismissal to Washington may have spawned a new fantasy monster. Though plenty of uncertainties exist in Philadelphia (e.g. state of the offensive line, questionable running game), Kolb isn’t one of them. The former Houston standout is a natural for Andy Reid’s pass-first West Coast brand. Despite possessing average arm strength, his terrific short-to-midfield accuracy will shred the opposition.

Recall last season when McNabb was on the sidelines nursing a rib injury, Double-K took flight averaging a ridiculous 359 yards and accounted for five TDs (one rushing). The matchups may have been against two air generous defenses — New Orleans and Kansas City — but the fourth-year QB proved his mettle.

Because Marty Morninweg is allergic to running, even near the goal-line, Kolb will thrive. A season ago, the Eagles threw 60.6 percent of the time. McNabb netted 31.6 pass attempts per game. By sheer opportunities, his replacement should be very productive, especially with reliable playmakers DeSean Jackson(notes), Brent Celek(notes), Jeremy Maclin(notes) and LeSean McCoy(notes) on roster. Not to mention, several come-from-behind scenarios could unfold given the Eagles’ presumed sketchy defense. Fantasy playoff matchups against the pass vulnerable Giants (fourth-most points to QBs in ’09) and Vikings (13th-most) only heighten expectation. A top-10 season (4,000 yards, 25 TDs) is very attainable.

And don’t force-feed the Noise any useless Michael Vick(notes) propaganda. Reid, who’s been impressed with Kolb’s transition from backup to starter, is very committed to him.

Flacco is a tremendously gifted talent whose numbers should continue to follow the upward trend. However, unlike his comparison, he won’t make a quantum leap. Still defensively stout, the Ravens will again emphasize the run when pressed into clock-eating situations. Keep in mind Baltimore’s pass-run percentage split was 52-to-48 in ‘09. Anquan Boldin’s(notes) presence will help widen the gap, but not by much.

In early 12-team drafts, Flacco is going roughly a round later. However, this year’s undisputed QB profit-turner, Kolb, is the asset worth reaching for.

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Behrens responds: The argument on behalf of Flacco is easily made, because we've all actually seen him play — not in cameo appearances, but over full NFL seasons. We have tape, we have data. We've all witnessed his development over 32 regular season games, plus five playoff contests. There's no need for hypotheticals here. Instead, we can discuss facts. Flacco is entering his third year as Baltimore's starting quarterback, and he's coming off an excellent season: 3,613 yards, 21 TDs, 12 INTs, 63.1 completion percentage.

There are several reasons why the Ravens are among the preseason favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and Flacco is one of them. He's an accurate passer with ideal arm strength, and he hasn't missed a game due to injury in college or the pros. This year, for the first time in his NFL career, Flacco has an elite receiver at his disposal (Boldin) in addition to Ray Rice(notes) and Derrick Mason(notes). These are not exactly the Dilfer Era Ravens. Baltimore's offense is loaded, and Flacco has both the skills and experience to direct it successfully. If you can't imagine a 4,000-yard season, then … well, then you must be a Steelers fan. Flacco made a nice statistical leap from his first year to his second, and there's another jump upcoming.

It's really a testament to the quality of Philadelphia's skill players that we've even discussing Kolb. Within the fantasy community, he's perhaps the buzziest untested quarterback I've ever seen. A certain level of optimism is understandable, but unrestrained optimism is not. I can't endorse Kolb's current ADP. We're drafting him as if he's a sure thing. Kolb is the tenth quarterback off the board in early mocks at MDC (80.8 ADP), well ahead of Brett Favre(notes) (92.5), Eli Manning(notes) (93.0) and Flacco (94.0).

From what I can tell, the industry has based its Kolb bullishness on one legitimately great game — last season in Week 3 vs. the Chiefs, the NFL's 30th ranked defense — and the nice fantasy total he posted in a three-INT loss to the Saints. We've chosen to ignore other details, like the horrid pick-six against New Orleans and the laughably bad stat line against Baltimore in '08 (10-for-23, 73 yards, two INTs, no TDs). You won't read a fantasy profile of Kolb that fails to mention his accuracy — it's almost mythic at this point — and everyone likes to make the Aaron Rodgers comparison, even if the skill sets aren't the same.

You can have Kolb if you like, but it requires a leap of faith. He won't be cheap at the draft table. His ceiling is clearly high, and he may reach it (assuming D-Jax can repeat his season, Maclin improves, McCoy improves, Kolb himself improves, the line holds up, and Vick doesn't poach many stats). But Kolb's floor troubles me.

With Flacco, I have few doubts.



Photos via US Presswire

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