Matt Leinart, Ari (150.07)
Matt Leinart, Ari (150.07)
Behind the dimpled-chin, the Stetson cologne and Super Bowl bling is a misinterpreted rebel.
An individual whose leadership qualities and unflinching competitiveness echo those of Patriots past Washington, Paine and Franklin.
The name of this revolutionary is Tom Brady, fantasy football's most misperceived man.
Last year, the decorated quarterback cemented his spot in the lexicon of legends. His 12 games of three or more touchdowns and eight 300-yard performances turned the once dependable tier-two pillar into an opponent-crushing monster the likes no mortal has ever seen. In total, Brady's absurd 50:8 TD:INT split, 300.4 yards per game and 28.9 fantasy points per game was arguably the greatest statistical output in the history of virtual pigskin.
More amazing, Brady outscored Tony Romo by 5.2 fantasy points per week. Astonishing when you consider Romo's 38 total touchdowns, 263.2 passing yards and 23.7 fantasy points per game was the fifth-greatest fantasy season by a quarterback since 2003 in standard scoring formats (4 pts/passing TD).
Those who rode his coattails each week were in a constant state of euphoria. Those who didn't lived in perpetual fear. But, despite Brady's mind-boggling efforts, re-teaming with Randy Moss and Bill Belichick's genius, he's bound to underwhelm. At least, that's what the historical record suggests.
As the Noise first discussed last November, 2004 was the "Year of the Quarterback." Led by epic performances from Daunte Culpepper (27.8 FPPG), Peyton Manning (26.7 FPPG) and, to a lesser extent, Donovan McNabb (23.9 FPPG), nine signal callers averaged 20-plus fantasy points per week, the highest single-season total this century.
Because football followers typically snap tendons for bullish players, a surge of quarterbacks were selected much earlier in drafts the following summer. Unfortunately, owners who invested heavily in signal barkers hoping they could replicate the successes of '04 were generally disappointed. To illustrate this point, look at the year-to-year fantasy scoring QB leaders and how they faired the following season:
FPPG1=Fantasy points per game in leading season
ADP=Average draft position post-leading season
FPPG2=Fantasy points per game post-leading season
RNK=Overall rank among QBs in post-leading season
*Based on standard yardage league scoring (4 pts/pass TD, 1 pt/20 passing yds)
With Culpepper's back-to-back stellar seasons in '03 and '04 the lone exception, no other quarterback who has led the position in fantasy scoring in a season since 2000 finished the following fall in the position's top three.
Of course, this doesn't mean Brady's TD total will regress toward his pre-'07 mean (24.5 TD/year), but the past implies that 50 or even 40 scores isn't likely. With backfield committees all the rage, drafting him in the top seven over say a Marion Barber, Larry Johnson or Frank Gore in standard-scoring leagues is somewhat foolish. As we saw in Manning's post-record season, defensive coordinators league-wide will make adjustments to combat New England's spread attack. Plus, whispers from Pats insiders this summer note that Belichick may turn to Laurence Maroney more this season, relegating Brady to a more managerial role. The reigning MVP supported those rumors June 8 commenting to the Boston Globe:
"Every year has been a different year. This is a new team and there are new challenges. You come out here the first day, and it's not like this is the 2007 team revisited. There are new players and there's a new element to what we're going to face. We don't pick up where we left off last year. We're starting where everybody else is starting … We're always trying to find ways to evolve as a team and evolve as an offense. You realize that a lot of the things we did last year probably won't work this year."
Sure, Brady's odds of catastrophic injury are significantly lower when compared to any running back and he's undeniably a consistency king, but there will be minimal differences between him and Tony Romo, who's going some 15-20 picks later in drafts, when the dust settles in January. Remember, rarely are consecutive seasons in the NFL statistically identical. Count on Brady for 30-35, not 40-plus, TDs.
As seasoned fantasy freaks are well aware, the quarterback position historically is always the deepest. Instead of investing coin in the early-round elites, focus on selecting those primed for breakout/resurgent seasons later on (e.g. Aaron Rodgers, Marc Bulger and Jay Cutler).
When drafting a gunslinger this season follow a "penny saved, penny earned" approach.
That strategy may be far from revolutionary, but it's unmistakably elementary.
Here are the risers, fallers and backup ballers at quarterback this year.
*Mock Draft Central ADPs (ADP) are courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com
*Y!RNK=final 2007 ranking among quarterbacks
*12TMRD= round equivalent based on ADP in 12-team leagues
On the Rise
71.4 CMP%, 218 PYDs, 1:0 TD:INT, 29 RSYDs, 0 RSHTDs
Nicknamed the "Human Jugs Machine" by teammate Greg Jennings, Rodgers' cannon-arm and ultra-cool personality will help Packers and fantasy fans get over their unhealthy Brett Favre obsessions. Remembered more for his bewildered facial expressions while waiting in the green room during the '05 NFL Draft, the 24-year-old is primed to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Physically, Rodgers has the tools to be an All-Pro. As Jennings told John Clayton June 18, "He can make every throw on the football field, and his deep ball is one of the prettiest. Brett had a great deep ball, but Aaron has a beautiful one." People will be turned off by his inexperience, but learning from arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history over the past three years certainly gives Rodgers a stark advantage. Mike McCarthy's dink-and-dunk spread offense was a juggernaut last season, averaging 278.8 passing yards and 36.1 attempts per game. Improvements to the Green Machine's offensive line and a full season of Ryan Grant will only enhance the passing game's already lethal potency. Rodgers' brilliant relief effort Week 13 at Dallas (18-26, 201 YDs, TD, 30 RSYDs) lends insight into his enormous fantasy potential. Now the unquestioned starter and with the NFC's top receiving corps at his disposal, he is this year's Tony Romo.
56.5 CMP%, 236.7 PYPG, 29:19 TD:INT, 70 RSHYDs, 3 RSHTDs
The D.A. was the "Law and Order" of the fantasy landscape last season. Anderson, who emerged from the obscure corners of the waiver wire, averaged 236.6 passing yards and 1.75 touchdowns per game, good for a 20.7 fantasy points per game mark in standard-scoring leagues, the fourth-highest weekly tally at his position. His pair of tens in multi-TD games and 240-plus passing yard performances tagged him one of the steadiest signal callers in fantasy. Although Golden Domer Brady Quinn is firmly in the rearview mirror, many Browns fans still question Anderson's legitimacy. His gunslinger mentality will lead to occasional mistakes, but his quick release and skyscraper 6-foot-6 frame makes him one of the NFL's deadliest deep-ball passers. Sacked a mere 13 times last season, the 25-year-old will again be a very dependable No. 1 with downfield burners Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth primary targets. After Carson Palmer flies off the board, Anderson is the next logical choice.
64.0 CMP%, 209.1 PYPG, 18:3 TD:INT, 185 RSHYDs, 1 RSHTD
The "Beer Truck" was the purveyor of the fantasy High Life last year. Amid controversy, Jack Del Rio stacked his chips behind Garrard at the end of training camp in what turned out to be a sage move. The multi-dimensional 30-year-old was an architect of efficiency. In 12 starts he netted 209 passing yards, 1.5 passing touchdowns and 15.2 rushing yards per contest. His 18:3 TD:INT split was nothing short of spectacular. This offseason, the Jags beefed up their battery of receivers, acquiring speed demon Troy Williamson and infamous whiner Jerry Porter. Toss in a supposedly improved Marcedes Lewis and Reggie Williams, who is coming off a 10-score season, and the teal and black passing attack is the strongest it's been since the days of Mark Brunell. Del Rio's play-action centered offense is historically conservative, but offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter plans to incorporate more vertical strikes to take advantage of the Jags' wideout speed. Given Garrard's unmatched intelligence, instincts and willingness to run, he's primed to take another step forward. Going just shy of pick 100 in standard leagues, he's a mid-round bargain.
63.6 CMP%, 218.6 PYPG, 20:14 TD:INT, 205 RSHYDs, 1 RSHTD
Cutler fought through fatigue, massive weight loss (35 pounds) and insatiable thirst associated with Type 1 diabetes, an affliction he wasn't diagnosed with until two months ago, to become a borderline No. 1 fantasy quarterback. Cutler described his tumultuous '07 to the New York Times earlier this summer, "I remember just being absolutely exhausted. I just didn't feel right going into it. There were a few deep throws that came up short. It just wasn't getting there." Clearly, his nine games of 230-plus yards last season were a testament to his toughness and desire to succeed. Now with his condition in check, the third-year quarterback feels reinvigorated and is on the precipice of greatness. The feared Denver running game was a mild disappointment last season, which put enormous pressure on Cutler. However, with a bulked up Selvin Young preparing to be the featured back behind a healthy offensive line, the passing game should open up for the Mile High Machete. Brandon Marshall is a monster and with Darrell Jackson now in the fold and talented tight end Tony Scheffler expected to be heavily involved, Cutler has the weapons to be a top-ten quarterback. Twenty-plus touchdowns and several 230-plus yard passing games are in the foreseeable future.
58.2 CMP%, 159.3 PYPG, 9:12 TD:INT, 260 RSHYDs, 3 RSHTDs
Last season, those who relied on Jackson in two-QB leagues were certainly purple faced. Horribly erratic, Jackson's sluggish development led to an uncountable number of boneheaded plays, indicative in his 9:12 INT:TD split and 28th-ranked 14.6 fantasy points per game. Still, the former Alabama State standout has the necessary ingredients to brew a breakout. The Vikings showcase the league's No. 1 rushing offense, an impregnable offensive line and a revamped receiving corps, highlighted by top addition Bernard Berrian. During the offseason Brad Childress told Jackson to work on three key areas: 1) Protect the football, 2) Learn to throw the ball away when under duress and 3) Make sound decisions. Based on the rave reviews the 25-year-old received in mini-camp, the homework assignment has already paid dividends. Jackson recently told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune June 28, "Compared to this time last year, I feel like a whole different quarterback, really. Running plays, poised, knowing the system and just being more confident … things are much slower. I'm seeing things a lot better." Jackson is an unrefined version of David Garrard. Given his ultra athletic gifts and fearless attitude, once he becomes more cerebral in and out of the pocket the numbers will come rolling in. Due to his tremendous upside, he's certainly worth exploring late in your draft.
61.5 CMP%, 237.4 PYPG, 19:7 TD:INT, 236 RSHYDs, 0 RSHTDs
Based on McNabb's injury-plagued history, maybe he should try Terry Bradshaw's healing remedies. Over the past three underwhelming seasons, the face of the Eagles has missed 15 total games. Already bothered by shoulder tendonitis in minicamp, one has to wonder if McNabb's competitive fire is slowly extinguishing. When in pads last season, the then 30-year-old was boringly marginal. His 237.4 passing yards and 1.36 touchdowns per game led to a 19.0 fantasy points per week, 13th-best in standard leagues. McNabb will occasionally show flashes of prior brilliance, but his knees, and subsequently his value, are not nearly as rigid as they were four years ago. Because of Brian Westbrook's presence and McNabb's brand-name label, he's unjustly going ahead of Garrard, Eli Manning and Cutler in early Y! drafts. He's unquestionably Philly's No. 1, but Andy Reid will be hard-pressed to keep rapidly advancing backup Kevin Kolb off the field if the Eagles flounder in the NFC East.
62.6 CMP%, 247.9 PYPG, 28:12 TD:INT, 89 RSHYDs, 0 RSHTDs
The Mr. Clean of the Great Northwest waxed opponents, tossing a career-best 28 touchdown passes last season. Due to the decrepit state of Shaun Alexander and the entire Hawks running game as a whole, Hasselbeck established new franchise benchmarks in passing attempts (562) and completions (352). His 11 multi-TD performances and 247.8 yards per game average helped him cross the finish line ninth among quarterbacks. Although at the zenith of his career, the 31-year-old signal caller will experience a slight statistical drop-off. Julius Jones' arrival from Dallas should spark a running attack that notched just 3.8 yards per carry, the fifth-worst average in the league. If the injury imp avoids the trenches and Jones ignites the ground game, Hasselbeck will assume a managerial role. Bobby Engram's potential contract holdout and Deion Branch's anticipated mid-season return complicate matters further. If neither is in uniform over the first two months, Nate Burleson, who floundered as a No. 1 previously in Minnesota, and a cast of unknowns (Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne) will be Hassy's unthreatening targets. He's still a fringe top-ten QB, but expect him to revert back to 20-24 TDs and 220 YPG.
58.5 CMP%, 199.3 PYPG, 11:15 TD:INT, 13 RSHYDs, 0 RSHTDs
The Bulge's battle with the unforgiving injury imp has raged on for two of the past three seasons. Last year, Bulger was a walking infirmary, limited by the foggy effects of a concussion and broken ribs. His unsavory 58.5 completion percentage marked the third straight year of decline in that category. Not surprising, his fantasy points per game average also dipped for the fourth consecutive season, bottoming out at an unsightly 13.7, the 33rd-best QB tally. When not confined to the sidelines, Bulger is an elite performer, as his 2006 season proved (268.8 YPG, 24:8 TD:INT). The return of pancake cook Orlando Pace and addition of downfield playmaker Donnie Avery should help Bulger thrive in Al Saunders' run-driven offense. However, his egg fragileness makes him an unreliable No. 1. If you do seek Bulger this drafting season, be sure to design a foolproof contingency plan.
62.3 CMP%, 169.7 PYPG, 9:17 TD:INT, 395 RSHYDs, 3 RSHTDs
Young has had a headline-grabbing offseason. First, he divulged that prior to the '07 season he considered retirement. And then, what will surely skyrocket his value among the Kordell Stewart faithful, he showed the world he's unafraid of slamming Patron in the presence of shirtless, sweaty men. Despite increasing his completion percentage from 51.7 to 62.3, Young regressed in several important categories, most notably passing yards (169.7 YPG), passing touchdowns (9) and rushing yards per game (26.3). His six games of 15-plus fantasy points and 27th overall ranking among QBs were deplorable. Blame the quad injury, but his continued troubles with solving zone coverages hindered his development. New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger plans to unshackle Young downfield, which should spark his production somewhat. But this is still a run-first offense that will lean heavily on the legs of LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson to move the chains. Anticipate another rollercoaster season.
63.3 CMP%, 254.3 PYPG, 18:20 TD:INT, 63 RSHYDs, 0 RSHTDs
After inaccurately predicting the Lions would win 10 games last season, Kitna may have a future as a fantasy football expert. In Mike Martz's pass-happy system, Detroit's Nostradomus was a fairly consistent producer in yardage leagues. Despite posting an ugly 18:20 TD:INT split his 11 games of 240-plus yards proved valuable. Unfortunately, with Martz attempting to revive a defunct passing game in San Francisco, Kitna's value is destined to head south. New offensive coordinator Jim Coletto will institute a more balanced scheme, which will make it difficult for Kitna to reach the 4,000-yard plateau. Plus, it's widely believed the Lions front office would pressure head coach Rod Marinelli to bench the 36-year-old Kitna in favor of second-year backup Drew Stanton if the Silver and Blue wallow in the NFC North. Sure, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson are sensational targets, but there are too many negatives working against Kitna to trust him as a No. 1.
Back that thang up
62.3 CMP%, 244.1 PYPG, 27:17 TD:INT, 15 RSHYDs, 1 RSHTD
Warner is the antithesis of Matt Leinart. He could recite bible passages verbatim, Leinart lines from "Old School." He throws remarkably crisp short-to-intermediate passes, Leinart more accurate deep-balls. And he's more devoted to his craft, Leinart prefers hot-tubbing with co-eds. Despite cries from fans, the organization is committed to giving Leinart every opportunity to prove his first-round worth. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has the third-year QB atop the depth chart heading into camp, although his hold on the position is tenuous. Warner's salt-n'-pepper stubble shows his ancient 37-year-old age, but he was incredibly useful last season as the starter. From Weeks 10-17 he averaged an obscene 294.4 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game. More amazing, he outplayed Tom Brady over the final five weeks of the season compiling a 25.6 fantasy points per game mark. Given the impressive weapons the Cardinals have in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and dynamite rookie Early Doucet, and 'Zona's dedication to the pass, Warner would likely be a top-five producer if again thrust into a starting role.
68.4 CMP%, 167.0 PYPG, 5:1 TD:INT, 14 RSHYDs, 1 RSHTD
Mike Martz's arrogant genius is only good for one thing: turning suspect quarterbacks into serviceable fantasy commodities. After stringing together three mundane starts in Weeks 14-16 last year (166.7 YPG, 5:1 TD:INT) the former Amsterdam Admiral enters camp embroiled in a battle with $49 million snoozer Alex Smith and journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan for the starting job. Mike Nolan recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that Hill's minicamp was "OK" but emphasized he's always performed better on game days. At this point, it appears Smith is the clear frontrunner, but with an impressive training camp Hill could reshuffle the depth chart. He doesn't possess the arm strength of Smith, but his quick, accurate delivery gained Nolan's respect last season. With soft-handed Frank Gore, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce and Vernon Davis as targets, the 49ers have enough prospectors to strike fantasy QB gold.
3-8, 37.5 CMP%, 45 PYDs, 0:0 TD:INT, 0 RSHYDs, 0 RSHTDs
Quinn may consult a higher authority for answers but until Derek Anderson is felled by injury (possible) or ineptitude (not likely) he'll be relegated to backup duty. Although the second-year quarterback is entering camp with a starter's mindset he is clearly destined to work with the second team. Quinn's auspicious efforts against second and third-string defenses in preseason action last year created a frenzy in C-Town. Despite Anderson's stellar accomplishments, some Dawg Pounders want the Myoplex pitchman to get a fair shot at starting in camp. The youngster's leadership qualities, work ethic and physical characteristics are proficient, but even if an opportunity presented itself, his regular season inexperience would lead to fantasy inconsistency. For now, he only merits a roster spot in deep dynasty leagues.
Did not attempt a pass
Due to McNabb's injury vulnerability, the '07 second-rounder could be thrust under the scrutinizing lights of Lincoln Financial Field sometime this year. Local minicamp reports about the accurate-armed 6-foot-3 QB have been glowing. Although he's had a couple of hiccups along the way, Kolb has looked very efficient in delivering quick, precise strikes on short-to-intermediate throws. Outside the hashmarks and downfield he continues to be a work in progress but because the Eagles West Coast scheme is predicated on short passes, he could be incredibly productive if pushed into first team duty. Much like Quinn, Kolb's callowness will make him unsteady, but Brian Westbrook's sticky-fingers could pad any quarterback's numbers. He definitely has the physical tools to surprise.
'07 Stats (Boston College):
59.3 CMP%, 321.9 PYPG, 31:19 TD:INT, 2 RSHYDs, 2 RSHTDs
Yes, Ryan's ridiculous salary is disgusting, but one day he'll be worth every penny. The first quarterback selected in April's draft, Ryan is a strapping youngster (6-foot-5, 218-pounds) known for his toughness, leadership skills and intelligence. Rarely are rookie quarterbacks noteworthy in their inaugural seasons, but Ryan's natural gifts and weapons in Roddy White and Laurent Robinson are major pluses. Its apparent Chris Redman is merely a placeholder until Ryan's ready, but don't expect the youngster behind center until very late in the season. Until then, he only warrants a draft pick in dynasty leagues. Interceptions were a bugaboo for Ryan at Boston College but he unquestionably has the talent to one day develop into a frontline fantasy starter.