Fantasy Football's Compelling Questions - QBs
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 7th, 2010

This is the time of year where there seem to be more questions than answers. It is just now getting into the season for summer camps so the teams will be looking to find the answers to the same questions fantasy footballers are asking. This will be a three-part series looking at the most compelling questions for the different skill positions. I know we think this every year, but there seems to be less certainty this season than in recent history. This series will be from a fantasy viewpoint and will look to help fantasy football owners get an edge on the competition. The first position we will look at is the quarterbacks. Last year gave us few answers for the future. With so much in doubt, we will attempt to wade through the muck and mire for answers.

12. Can Matt Hasselbeck hold off Charlie Whitehurst and be fantasy worthy again? Hasselbeck will begin the season as the unquestioned starter. Coach Pete Carroll and company will look to groom Whitehurst for the future. But, as long as Hasselbeck remains healthy and the Seahawks are competitive, he will be the starter. Seattle has upgraded the offensive line with the selection of Russell Okung, replacing the ineffective Walter Jones. This should help in pass protection. Also, the Seattle offense added the play-making Golden Tate via the draft. Hasselbeck will have better weapons to work with this season. He should not be relied upon as a fantasy starter, but could be very capable as a QB2 behind a starter with an early bye week. With the nagging injuries last season, it should not be expected that Hasselbeck can remain upright through the entire season. Whitehurst lacks the experience and the knowledge of the game to challenge Hasselbeck for the starting job. While Whitehurst is a decent dynasty prospect, this will be a season of learning more than playing as long as the less than durable Hasselbeck remains healthy.

11. Can Josh Freeman make a fantasy impact? Freeman showed moxie after taking over for Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson last year following the Buccaneer's week eight bye. With few weapons, he was able to have some big fantasy games. Most will remember the bad games, like against Carolina in week thirteen where the rookie tossed five picks. The coaches made the decision to let Freeman learn on the job and take his knocks. Tampa Bay only had wide receiver Antonio Bryant and tight end Kellen Winslow as options in the passing game. This year will put the rookie to the test with the team letting Bryant walk in free agency. The Buccaneers did address the position in the draft with the selection of Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. Both are big, physical, and talented. Tampa Bay expects the two rookies to start right away. Considering Freeman topped 16 fantasy fantasy points in four of his nine starts, he should vastly improve in year two. The youngster will get all of the reps in training camp and should take a huge step forward. Freeman just turned 22 years old in January and will get better as he ages. The big key for him, and fantasy owners, will be the ability to make good decisions and avoid interceptions.

10. What should we make of the mess in Buffalo? The Bills have no viable fantasy passer on the team. Chan Gailey has performed his magic in the past transforming Tyler Thigpen and Jay Fiedler into Top 10 fantasy passers. Doing the same with Trent (sometimes known to fantasy football players as TrINT) Edwards will stretch the ability of Gailey. Buffalo only has Edwards, a couple journeymen (Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick) and athletic, but raw, rookie Levi Brown. At this point, it is Edwards' job to lose. The problem is that he does not possess a strong arm and makes poor decisions. Edwards is a quarterback to avoid in fantasy leagues. Even if he starts playing well, the former Stanford Cardinal has a difficult time remaining healthy. The lack of a decent offensive line will only hurt Edwards' chances. The quarterback to watch is Brown. If he can work his way up to the top of the depth chart, Gailey could put him in situations to succeed. Also, do not rule out a possible Thigpen trade if the situation gets too bad.

9. What to make of Jason Campbell now in Oakland? People talk about Campbell as though he is a chump. While he was far from accurate in Washington, Campbell was still a high-end fantasy QB2 the last two seasons. Last year, he outproduced several "bigger" names like Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco. Few give Campbell much of a chance to be productive now in Oakland. But, let's remember that Bruce Gradkowski had a great three-game stretch toward the end of last year. In those games, Gradkowski tallied 691 passing yards, six scoring tosses, and one interception. He also added 58 yards on the ground. Campbell has a chance to be a Top 15 fantasy passer once again. He has up and coming young receivers in Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. But, the best receivers on the team may be running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush along with tight end Zach Miller. Campbell arguably has better weapons in Oakland than in Washington. Also, the schedule gets remarkably easier playing in the AFC West compared to the NFC East. Fantasy football owners can depend on Campbell as a strong backup passer once again.

8. What will happen with Matt Moore after the strong finish to 2009 and the drafting of two rookie passers? Moore finished the season on fire, leading the Panthers to consecutive victories over the Vikings, Giants, and Saints to end the year on a high note. Moore's strong play helped push Jake Delhomme out the door. In those games, Moore averaged 22.2 fantasy points. What more can fantasy owners want from their quarterback? Carolina let Muhsin Muhammad depart with no effort to re-sign him, leaving only the speedy Steve Smith and rookie Brandon LaFell to catch the passes. Moore was able to perform with similar weapons last year. LaFell is a possession receiver just like Muhammad. Should there be concern about the drafting of rookies Jimmy Clausen or Tony Pike? The answer is a resounding "no". Coach John Fox gives his veterans every benefit of the doubt. Those needing an example should look to the long leash given to Delhomme with such a poor season in 2009. He ended the season with a horrible TD:Int ratio of eight touchdowns opposed to 18 picks. Moore will be given every chance to keep the job. This is his team now. He and coach Fox are on the last year of their respective contracts, so the coach will want to ride his veteran over the rookie in a chase for wins.

7. What impact will Donovan McNabb have in Washington? As mentioned above, Campbell was able to be a good QB2 while playing in the Nation's Capitol. In 2009, McNabb outscored Campbell by less than a point per game. Fantasy owners should expect similar production now with the Redskins. McNabb's biggest impact will be as a leader on the field and in the locker room. He could help Washington to another win or two from last season. When we look at the move from a fantasy football viewpoint, Washington has a much worse offensive line, less effective running game, and fewer explosive weapons at McNabb's disposal. A reasonable projection for McNabb would be a high-end fantasy QB2 ... and that is if he can remain healthy.

6. Will Matt Leinart take a step forward and emerge as fantasy starter? Leinart replaces Kurt Warner as the starting quarterback in Arizona. Talk about big shoes to fill. Warner had enjoyed three consecutive strong fantasy seasons before hanging up his cleats after the 2009 season. There are high expectations for Leinart. This is not a good thing. In his four seasons in the NFL, the former USC Trojan has yet to throw more touchdowns than interceptions in any year. He struggles with decision making and does not work on his craft in order to be a top quarterback. This is the part of the game that makes the great ones. Few work as hard on their mechanics, or spend as much time in the film room, as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning ... and it shows. Fantasy owners should not expect the light to magically come on for Leinart and him suddenly become a viable fantasy option, even with the great weapons at his disposal. The Cardinals are expected to run the ball more often with the powerful Beanie Wells and versatile Tom Hightower. It will not be a surprise to see Leinart replaced by Derek Anderson by midseason. There is also the chance that Arizona signs veteran Marc Bulger. The Cardinals have a legitimate chance at going deep into the playoffs with strong quarterback play. This only adds to the pressure on Leinart. I doubt he can meet, or exceed, the expectations.

5. How will the Denver quarterback situation shake out? Kyle Orton finished as a good fantasy QB2 in his first season under the tutelage of coach Josh McDaniels. It might be difficult for him to repeat those numbers without the services of superstar receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins this offseason. His departure leaves a huge void in the Denver passing game. The ex-Bronco was on the other end of nearly one-third of Orton's passing yards. Putting more pressure on Orton, Denver traded for Brady Quinn and spent a fortune to move up and select Tim Tebow in April's NFL Draft. There is now competition on Orton's starting gig and Marshall is playing elsewhere. Fantasy footballers would be wise to avoid the Bronco quarterbacks for 2009. While Demaryius Thomas was drafted to be Marshall's successor, he has an injured foot and is not polished. There are not enough weapons for the Bronco quarterback to be a fantasy asset. Let someone else rely on that fluid situation. There was even some talk a month or two ago that Orton could be traded. He is in the last year of his contract and is a lame duck. Even if Orton starts all season, expect a QB20, or worse, finish.

4. Can Kevin Kolb successfully replace McNabb? Such high expectations for the youngster. He has a total of 130 pass attempts in three years as a professional. The Eagles have done a great job building a young nucleus of skill position players. The team has Kolb, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek; none older than 25 years old. Transitioning to Kolb from McNabb was the final step in the youth transformation. Kolb orchestrated the wide open passing attack for the Houston Cougars. He has a quick release and will be a great fit for Andy Reid's offense. Fantasy players should expect a Top 12-15 fantasy quarterback. It will be difficult for him to crack the Top 10 in his first year under center. Kolb is a great dynasty prospect, but may take a year or two to find his groove.

3. When will we know about Favre? If the question was more of an "if" than a "when", then this would be the top question for the offseason. He has given every indication of a return to the Vikings. Favre is known for his aversion to training camp and this should hold true once again. Expect the situation to heat up with three or four weeks before the first preseason game. The graybeard knows the offense and his receivers. To him, there is little reason to endure a grueling training camp. As long as the Vikings are willing to let him wait it out, Favre will take advantage. Minnesota does not want to press the issue with only Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels on the depth chart. They need Favre ... and he knows it. This will once again be a hot topic in the dog days of summer.

2. Can offensive genius Mike Martz propel Jay Cutler to the fantasy elite? After a successful tenure in Denver, Cutler was traded to Chicago. The expectations were sky high, leading to disappointment. Interestingly, the fantasy hopes were so high that a QB13 finish last season was viewed negatively. While in Denver, Cutler finished as QB11 and QB5 respectively, in 2007 and 2008. There is good news for Cutler owners. The Bears brought in Mike Martz to run the offense. The pass-happy Martz should help Cutler crack the Top 10 once again. Even Jon Kitna was able to be QB10 under Martz. Chicago has a good group of young receivers for Martz (and Cutler) to utilize. Early ADP (Average Draft Position) shows that fantasy owners expect more of the same from Cutler, with little improvement. He is being drafted as QB11 in the sixth round. Under the direction of Martz, Cutler has a chance at the Top 5 if he can remain healthy. Cutler is a great fantasy quarterback option if you are waiting to select a QB1.

1. Will Ben Roethlisberger be as effective in a shortened season and no Santonio Holmes? Roethlisberger will be suspended either four or six games for his off the field transgressions. He has two Top 10 finishes in the last three seasons. There is virtually no way to add a third in 2010 with the missed games. But, the question will be whether Roethlisberger can lead his fantasy owners to the title after coming off the shelf. He will be rusty at a time when the Steelers, and fantasy owners, need him most. Also impacting the Pittsburgh passing game will be the loss of the speedy Holmes. He was traded for a low pick before the NFL Draft. So, when Roethlisberger comes back from his suspension, he will only have an aging Hines Ward and fleet-footed youngster, Mike Wallace, at the wide receiver position. This may not be enough to jumpstart Roethlisberger in 2010. While the Steelers did add veteran receiving options in Antwaan Randle-El and Arnaz Battle, neither is expected to make an impact. Rookie Emmanuel Sanders might have the best shot, but that is only if there is an injury. With the potpourri at wideout, the Pittsburgh passing game could struggle at times. Roethlisberger should be effective, but the time away and the loss of Holmes will hurt. He is best paired with a passer in the QB10-QB14 range like Eli Manning or Jay Cutler. This way, an owner has two good options in order to play the matchups down the stretch.

Other Random Quarterback Questions

  • a. Can Matt Schaub stay healthy and repeat his strong 2009 season? The answer is "no". He played in all 16 games for the first time last season. Expecting another, after previous consecutive 11-game seasons, is asking too much.
  • b. What should we expect from Sam Bradford? Rookie passers struggle. They are drafted by bad teams and are forced into playing too early. Bradford is a great prospect who should be very good in a couple of seasons. Just do not expect it in 2010.
  • c. Should fantasy owners even bother with the Cleveland quarterbacks? The answer is an emphatic "no". Jake Delhomme struggled last year in Carolina, as noted above. A change in scenery will not help enough. Seneca Wallace will not be a fantasy force. Also, the use of the "Wildcat" formation, with Josh Cribbs and Wallace on he field, will further reduce the upside for the Brown passers. This is a situation to avoid.
  • d. Will Joe Flacco be worth the increased hype? After the addition of Anquan Boldin, Flacco now has an ADP of QB10. This is way too high for the Ravens' passer. Flacco does have great options to target, but Baltimore will look to ride Ray Rice and Willis McGahee on the ground. Flacco has a chance to equal his ADP, but there appears to be little upside in 2010.
  • e. What impact will Brandon Marshall have on Chad Henne? The addition of Marshall in Miami should do wonders for Henne. He finally has a receiver who can make a play after the catch. Henne finished as QB23 last season and should improve tremendously in year two as a starter. But, there is a ceiling to his upside. The Dolphins are a run-first team that relies on Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to control the game. This should be the case again as long as Brown can recover from his nasty foot injury. Henne should be able to eclipse his QB19 ADP, but expect a middle of the road QB2 at best.
  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com.