Every Friday during the NFL season we review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. When an expert breaks from the herd, they're asked to show their work. We try to focus on names near the start/sit line in public leagues, or on acts of complete lunacy. Let's play the feud…
Conceptually, Webb has a nice dual eligibility situation. I get it. Many of you are excited to have a starting quarterback slotted at wide receiver in the fantasy semifinals. It's a clever plan.
But here's the problem with the plan: In all likelihood, Webb is going to have an awful night.
First of all, his team is a mess. Minnesota will be playing its second straight "home" contest in unfamiliar surroundings, and the offense is coming off a 3-point performance in Week 14. Secondly, Webb is facing an excellent Bears defense, a unit that ranks as the third-best in the NFL in terms of points-allowed (17.5) and eighth in total yardage (313.8). Chicago also ranks in the top-third of the league in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs — and that's after games against Aaron Rodgers(notes), Tony Romo(notes), Michael Vick(notes) and Tom Brady(notes). This is a turnover-focused defense (16 INTs, 17 FFum), battling to clinch a division title. Whenever the Bears have gotten their hands on a rookie and/or third-string quarterback this season, they've owned him.
Webb, of course, is a first-year quarterback making his first NFL start. When the Vikings drafted him, the plan was to convert him to receiver. He completed less than 60 percent of his passes in college at UAB and he posted a career TD-to-INT ratio of just 37-to-25 — not exactly dazzling numbers. Here are a few scouting notes from the Rivals pre-draft report on Webb:
He isn't a natural passer and struggles to read coverages. Webb lacks the ability to go through his progressions. He doesn't display a confident throwing motion, has a tendency to short arm throws underneath and fails to keep his feet under him when asked to drive the ball downfield. He has a tendency to fall off on a lot of throws and is squeamish in the face of pressure. … He lacks ideal accuracy and touch on all levels of the field. He has a lazy delivery and will drop his elbow. Webb fails to generate much power from his lower half. He isn't a strong-armed passer and lacks the touch and anticipation skills to fit the ball into tight areas. He fails to diagnose coverages, will force the ball into traffic and isn't safe with the ball.
So that's what you're getting. Webb is a talented runner, sure, but Chicago's defense doesn't lack speed. Remember, the Bears limited Vick to 44 rushing yards, kept him out of the end zone, and sacked him four times. Is Joe Webb somehow a more dangerous ball-carrier than Mike Vick? Seems doubtful. It's also worth noting that game-time temperatures are expected to be in the single-digits on Monday night, and Webb has never played outdoors in temps below 40.
In my opinion, Webb's statistical floor in Week 15 looks a lot like the line delivered by Carolina's quarterbacks versus Chicago in Week 5: 14-for-32, 96 pass yards, 3 INTs. (Plus maybe he rushes for 30 yards and fumbles twice). I don't think his ceiling is much higher than Tyler Thigpen's(notes) performance against the Bears in Week 11: 17-for-29, 187 pass yards, INT, 27 rush yards.
Webb is definitely not a lock for double-digit points simply because he's playing quarterback. The Vikings would be wise to minimize his impact on Monday, giving Peterson and Gerhart all the work they can handle. I'd only consider giving Webb a fantasy start out of total desperation, if my team happened to be a clear underdog and my WR alternatives were tragic.
Joe Webb – Funston WR rank 29, Y! composite rank 35
I’ll admit, I know very little about Joe Webb. Sure, I’ve read some scouting reports, and there’s enough warning flags in there that you can understand why he was a sixth-round pick. But, hey, Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, and I don’t typically let the inexact science of NFL scouting get in the way of logic. And the logic here is that when you get the opportunity to play an NFL starting QB at the WR position in fantasy, you should give it strong consideration, regardless of matchup.
What we know is that Chicago has allowed QBs to score double-digit fantasy points in 12 of 14 games, and that includes Tyler Thigpen and Drew Stanton(notes). In one of the other games, the first meeting with Detroit, Matthew Stafford(notes) and Shaun Hill(notes) combined for 8 fantasy points, and in many weeks 8 points at the wide receiver position is a top 30 tally. So, that leaves us with one game that Chicago has held the QB position to under the point total that you could reasonably expect for a top 30 WR, and that was Jimmy Clausen(notes), who doesn’t have the benefit of Adrian Peterson behind him, the hulking presence of Sidney Rice(notes) split wide nor does he pose the threat of breaking loose down field on a 16-yard scramble like Webb does.
In all likelihood, Webb will look awful on Monday. But, even if he throws 2-3 picks, they’re only worth -1 in Yahoo! Default scoring. Point is, Webb can play bad but still look oh so good at the WR spot. Consider this: 140 passing yards, 30 rushing yards, 1 TD pass, 2 INTs. That’s not a good line, but it’s likely to add up to a top 30 WR tally when the Week 15 dust settles.
During this holiday season, Hasselbeck has been a fantasy angel who’s earned his wings. Kind, generous and thoughtful, the giver has dished out a healthy portion of fantasy points, earning little to no recognition. Over the past five weeks, he’s quietly amassed 299 yards per game and six touchdowns. His resulting 20.0 fantasy points per game ranks No. 12 at his position, ahead of notable names Philip Rivers(notes), Matt Ryan(notes) and Eli Manning(notes).
Evident in his eight picks since Week 10, turnovers are a concern. But Seattle’s horrific defense and nonexistent running game virtually guarantees Hassy will sling the ‘skin at least 35 times, a number of attempts he’s met or eclipsed seven times this season. By sheer volume he deserves a ‘reliable’ designation.
It’s no secret Atlanta has struggled grounding the pass. Corners Dunta Robinson(notes) and Brett Grimes have played with a great deal of inconsistency. On the year, seven quarterbacks have registered at least 20 points in a game against the pair. Based on the individual matchups, Hasselbeck will have little resistance becoming QB No. 8. Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu(notes) are both expected to return. The former has six-inches on Robinson, a size advantage Hassy will undoubtedly exploit. After committing five turnovers last week versus San Fran, the maligned passer will be redeemed.
For worried Aaron Rodgers owners, the ‘Hawks signal caller could be a clutch crutch. A final tally in range of 280 yards with 2-3 TDs is certainly possible, making him a borderline top-10 QB. Sip the Starbucks.
Matt Hasselbeck – Pianow QB rank NR, Y! composite rank 19
I'll openly grant that the Falcons secondary is not a shutdown group. They're allowing 7.2 YPA and a 86.8 rating to opposing QBs, making them a mildly-favorable matchup. But do you really want Hasselbeck deciding your fate in the fantasy semifinals? He's gone for multiple touchdowns just twice in his last 11 starts, and both of those twofers came in blowout losses. Garbage time production is a beautiful thing when it comes, but it's hard to expect it before the game starts. And don't forget the interception tax when factoring in the price of Hasselbeck business - he's been picked off eight times in his last three starts. You can have him, I'll look elsewhere. (Kerry Collins(notes), come on down).
Giants Defense – Pianow D/ST rank NR, Y! composite rank 11
When choosing a fantasy defense, there are three things that you're looking for. One, a potential blowout; two, an inexperienced quarterback; and three, a likely turnover bonanza. The Giants don't apply in any of these cases - they're a modest three-point favorite over the Eagles (Vegas, in other words, expects a close game); Michael Vick is playing the smartest quarterback of his life; and the Eagles have only turned the ball over 15 times through 13 games (fourth-best in the league). You want to pick on a weak matchup at this position, and the Eagles offense is anything but that.
Full disclosure: we bleed Orange and Blue. Our garage is adorned with images of Red Grange, Dick Butkus and Jeff George’s grease-tastic mullet. Admittedly, we have an Illinois sports addiction.
Attempting to look at Benn’s situation objectively is difficult. Memories from his three seasons in Champaign resonate fondly. But, putting our loyalties aside, the ascending rookie is a trustworthy WR3 in deep leagues this week. Coming off a season-best 122 yards a week ago at Washington, he’s a waiver acquisition worth plugging in. Outside Suh, the Lions offer little excitement in the ‘D’ department, especially in downfield coverage. The perennial doormat has given up a hefty 7.8 yards per attempt this season.
With Mike Williams drawing plenty of extra attention, Benn should be able to exploit one-on-one matchups with Nathan Vasher(notes). The rookie, an Anquan Boldin(notes)-clone, has the size, speed and off-the-line strength to win those battles. Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who revealed Tuesday he’s finding new ways to get the youngster more involved, will feed him. This week, 60-80 yards and a long TD reception are possible.
Arrelious Benn – Pianow WR rank NR, Y! composite rank 48
He had a nifty little breakout game in DC, corralling four passes for 122 yards. Bully for him. But let's consider Benn's game-by-game reception totals for the prior ten weeks: 1, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3. Volume is not your friend here, folks. Benn is still the third option at best in this Tampa passing game, and the Bucs would prefer to throw 30 passes or less if the game situation allows for it. If you're stuck for a warm body in Week 15 and need to take a desperate stab, okay. But in most standard leagues, you should have much safer alternatives.
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