Early Looks at the Rooks - QBs
May 29, 2007 5:44 PM
Craig Davis, President, Fantasy Planet L.P.
The NFL Draft is now in our rear view mirror and it's time to start thinking about where some of these youngsters are going to fit, not only in their team's system but in the fantasy football world. Last year there was so much hype surrounding Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart that we forgot about guys like Maurice Jones-Drew and Marques Colston. It happens every year, but we continually make the same mistakes we did previously because no one has enough guts to predict which first-rounder will flop and which late-round pick will flourish. Call it a lack of knowledge; call it simply being too afraid to step out on a limb. Whatever it is, it's gone on long enough and I'm going to be one of the first guys to step up to the plate.
Maybe I'm an idiot, but I'm quite sure you don't want to read 10 paragraphs on how Adrian Peterson is going to be a good RB someday and how JaMarcus Russell will probably struggle in Oakland this year, but could be the QB of the future if he gets some blocking up front. You can read that anywhere – and it's about time things started to change around here. What you're going to read below is the first in a three-part series entitled: "Early Looks at the Rooks" --- a list of rookies and how I believe they will impact fantasy football. Today, I'm looking at the quarterbacks. Keep in mind, I still have to discuss guys like Russell and Quinn, but hopefully I'll give you a fresh look at what we expect of these youngsters in 2007. So sit back, relax and take in a little knowledge as we get set for the upcoming fantasy football season.
JaMarcus Russell, Oakland – There have been numerous reports from the Bay Area that have Russell not starting until late in the 2007 season --- if not the beginning of next season. I'm sorry… I just don't see it. They drafted this guy for a reason and there's no way he should be waiting to get his chance. Are you telling me Josh McCown and/or Andrew Walter have that much more talent? Am I supposed to believe Russell can learn from watching either of these two guys? I don't buy it. Russell needs to get thrown to the wolves before that defense starts to become "average". I'm not sure if you saw what that defense was capable of last year, but they're going to be even better in 2007.
The great thing about Russell is he's a quick learner, and with a new regime taking over in Oakland, the sky's the limit. Russell improved in each of his last three seasons at LSU… getting bigger, stronger and quicker than the year before. After a 23-10 loss at Florida, Russell's Tigers averaged 34 points per game over the final seven, including an impressive 41-point display in the Sugar Bowl vs. Brady Quinn and Notre Dame. He completed over 65% of his passes in four of those seven games and eclipsed 78% in three of those games. In Oakland, he won't have to worry as much about completing passes as he will staying upright. The Raiders' offensive line is one of the worst in the league and doesn't show a lot of promise for 2007. If this team can't find a running game, Russell's misfortunes might be worse than originally anticipated.
Bottom Line: Russell will start in '07. However, unless you're playing in a dynasty league, this writer's opinion is to stay away. At this point, I'd much rather have someone like Charlie Frye or J.P. Losman. I have little doubt Russell will succeed in this league but it's going to have to happen after 2007.
Projected 2007 Finish: 31st. Russell will soon learn the differences of playing at the collegiate level with a solid offensive line and the professional level with a "below average" front five. If it's a good year, Russell will finish with 1800 yards, 10 TDs and 17 INTs. Though he won't running on a designed play, I expect to see Russell finish with around 150-200 rushing yards (scrambling for his life).
Brady Quinn, Cleveland – The former Notre Dame Golden Boy will now play in the nasty confines of the "Dawg Pound" for at least the next few years. At the beginning of the 2006 NCAA season, most draft experts had Quinn being drafted in the top 2 and rated as the top QB coming out of college. He really didn't do anything to lose that status, but watched Russell flourish in the SEC to the point he overtook Quinn as the highest-rated quarterback in college football. Quinn broke 36 school records including career pass attempts (1,602) completions (929), yards (11,742), yards per game (239.6), touchdown passes (95) and lowest interception percentage (2.43).
Quinn has the advantage of working with a former NFL offensive coordinator when Charlie Weis took over as head coach at Notre Dame in 2005. Weis helped mold Tom Brady into the star he is today and was in the process of doing the same with Quinn. Now it's up to another Bill Belichick protégé (Romeo Crennel) to keep Quinn from falling behind. The Browns currently have Charlie Frye listed ahead of him on the depth chart, but it's going to be harder than that for Quinn. Derek Anderson showed signs of life at the end of the 2006 season and won't be easy to unseat as the primary backup.
Bottom Line: Quinn doesn't see much action in '07. Frye is just starting to figure out the offense in Cleveland, and with Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards working out with Frye this off-season, the offense should click much better.
Projected 2007 Finish: 35-40. Quinn's value comes after the 2007 season. He'll be lucky to sniff the 500-yard plateau this year and is not worth drafting in any sort of re-drafter. You might see Quinn near the end of the year, should the Browns be out of the playoffs.
Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia – Eagles' fans are still singing a chorus of "booooos" as Philly not only traded out of the first round to arch-rival Dallas, but used their second round draft pick on a QB they didn’t really need. The message sent to Donovan McNabb is pretty basic: "stay healthy or find yourself in danger of losing your job." There aren't many better than McNabb when he's healthy, but he hasn't finished a season in a while and isn't getting any younger. Even more surprising than the fact Philly took a QB with their first pick was seeing Kolb's name as the one chosen.
Though many draft experts had Kolb being selected no sooner than the third round, he found his way up Philly's draft board and eventually their roster. Kolb set nearly every passing record in University of Houston history, including starting in all 50 games he played in. Many experts call him a pocket passer because of his gaudy passing statistics, but in all honesty, he's very swift on his feet and throws just as well on the run. Kolb was credited with 472 carries during his tenure in Houston, scoring 21 times and fumbling only once… telling me the guy knows how to take care of the ball.
Bottom Line: Kolb has never suffered a serious injury and I'm sure the Eagles took that into account when drafting the senior. He's good… and could eventually be a decent NFL QB, but it's not happening this year. Honestly, I don't see him setting foot on the field other than pre-season games. Don't waste a draft pick on this guy. In dynasty leagues, I'd wait and see how well he performs in training camp before spending a pick here.
Projected 2007 Finish: 45-50? He might not throw a pass in 2007. Don't waste your time.
John Beck, Miami – To be quite honest, this guy (to me) is the most intriguing player taken in the seven rounds of the draft. Team GMs and player personnel often think they know more about prospects than the experts (the guys who study this year 'round). They make decisions based more on "ego" than need or talent. The Miami Dolphins opted to skip QB Brady Quinn in the first round to select speedster Ted Ginn Jr. and then followed that up with their quarterback in the second round. The way the Dolphins were figuring it --- no one was going to take Beck before the middle of the second round, therefore they could steal some special teams speed, not to mention another receiver, in the first round.
So, what did the Dolphins see in Beck that the rest of us missed? Why the combo of Beck and Ginn over Brady Quinn? For starters, Beck is more mature than the rest of the QB candidates in that he'll be 26 when the season starts, not to mention the fact he's already married. On the field, Beck is one of the most patient QBs to play college football in quite some time. He's been compared to Marc Bulger in that he'll wait for his receivers to come out of their break before getting them the ball --- meaning he's not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit. Beck is super-intelligent and rarely makes mental mistakes. His biggest downfalls are physical attributes… but he's working on those in the off-season and should be come into training camp bigger and stronger than he's ever been.
Bottom Line: I'm in the minority. I love this pick. I think you'll see more out of Beck in 2007 than you'll see from Quinn. The Dolphins, in my opinion, got a fantastic deal (basically two-for-one) when they opted for the Ginn/Beck combo. If Beck doesn't pan out, they still have a guy who will provide help in several areas. Mark my words… the gamble will pay off for Miami.
Projected 2007 Finish: 30-34. This depends largely on the health of Daunte Culpepper. If Culpepper proves his critics wrong and shows signs of his old self, Beck's numbers will be seriously limited. I don't believe Culpepper is healthy enough yet, giving Beck ample opportunity to perform and compete with Cleo Lemon for the starting job. Advantage Beck.
Drew Stanton, Detroit – Quick --- name the last QB in a Lions' uniform to be considered a solid mainstay under center? No, I don't mean signal-callers with a lot of hype, I mean certified "producers" at the QB position. Rodney Peete? Eric Hipple? Chuck Long or Gary Danielson? Scott Mitchell? Do you see where I'm going with this? The Lions have been desperate for someone to give this franchise a face (at QB) for a long, long time. Since Barry Sanders retired, the Lions haven't given their fans much to get excited about – especially at the QB position. There was one year of hype when the team drafted Joey Harrington, but he's since proven just how average he really is. Enter Drew Stanton, from just up the road.
Stanton played his college ball in East Lansing, Michigan under head coach John L. Smith. It was first thought Stanton was a bit of a head-case and would not equate into a good NFL-level quarterback. He had some temper issues and some other things going on in his life not worth mentioning. Now it's looking more and more like his college coach (Smith) was the one who had a few screws loose and could have contributed to some of Stanton's emotional problems. If we look purely at Stanton's physical tools, there's a lot to like. He has good size (6'3"/ 235 lbs.) and a very accurate arm, setting the team record in career completion percentage (64.2%), including two of the school's three best season completion percentage marks (64.1 in 2004 and 66.7 in 2005). If Mike Martz has a year to really work with this kid, Jon Kitna's days in Detroit are numbered.
Bottom Line: I believe the Lions are good enough this year to make a run at the Playoffs, so Stanton probably wont' see much action. However, if Detroit starts to tank early and Kitna is struggling, there's absolutely no doubt Stanton will see playing time as the starting QB.
Projected 2007 Finish: 45-50. The Lions are really, really high on this kid, but won't sacrifice a run at the post-season just to get the kid some work. I believe the Lions will compete with the Bears (and the rest of the NFC North) for the division title, meaning Stanton won't see action until 2008 and beyond. In a dynasty league, there's no way I'm not taking this kid. And with the talent he's going to have around him, I'd take him late in the first round of any rookie draft.
Trent Edwards, Buffalo – The jury is still out on this kid from Stanford. I remember hearing Mel Kiper continually offer up praise for this guy as we got closer and closer to draft day, but seeing him fall so far behind the other QBs taken makes me wonder if Kiper wasn't hitting the peace pipe with Ricky Williams a little too often. I have neither seen nor read anything that leads me to believe Edwards is going to be anything more than a career backup QB. There was very little written about Edwards before the 2006 season began, and for good reason. There's not a whole bunch to get excited about.
This guy is a bit of a rebel, a loner, who does things his own way. He takes way too many chances and would rather take a sack than throw the ball away, but it is too early to tell whether or not a professional coach can change his mindset. Since he has good size and does certain things very well, a little tweaking could go a long way. Edwards was well-known for locking on to his primary receiver and forcing the ball into double coverage, which drew the ire of head coach Walt Harris.
Bottom Line: J.P. Losman is starting to come into his own and won't be unseated anytime soon. Edwards is an insurance policy, should Losman suffer injury, and will compete with Craig Nall for the primary backup job. Nall learned under future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay for several years, so the task ahead of Edwards is a tall one.
Projected Finish: 50+. I believe Nall is going to eventually be named the backup to Losman, pushing Edwards to the emergency QB role most weeks. If he's lucky, he'll finish the season with 100 yards. In dynasty leagues, I'd be very cautious here. Don't reach. If you have QB depth, there's nothing wrong with taking a chance but, again, be careful.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Isaiah Stanback, Dallas – Huh? As a Cowboys fan, this pick had me a bit baffled. Then I remembered he was converted from a WR to a QB after his freshman year, and it hit me… the Cowboys have been talking about WR help and Stanback might be just that guy. However, I'm going to list him as a QB until they tell us he's splitting out wide.
Jeff Rowe, Cincinnati – Strictly an insurance policy. Decent QB who has tremendous upside, but will become very accustomed to carrying a clipboard around the sidelines for many years to come.
Troy Smith, Baltimore – The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner has had nothing go "his way" after winning that coveted award. Not only did his team get embarrassed in the National Title game, he also watched his stock drop so far he was lucky to be drafted on the second day. The Ravens, knowing Steve McNair isn't getting any younger and Kyle Boller is too erratic, elected to take a chance on the kid with a rocket arm. His value comes strictly in dynasty leagues where I'd draft him in the final two rounds.
Jordan Palmer, Washington – I haven't seen him enough to give you an honest opinion. All I can go off of is what I've read and I gotta tell you… I'm impressed. He has great blood lines (Carson's little brother); he has a great arm; he even has good size (6'5"/235 lbs.). In Washington, his competition consists of Jason Campbell and Mark Brunell? That's right. If this kid is even half of what he's cracked up to be --- we could be talking about him before season's end. Watch closely.
Tyler Thigpen, Minnesota – No one will argue the guy's physical tools and athletic ability, but there's no way he's stepping foot on the field this year. The job belongs to Tarvaris Jackson for the time being and Thigpen has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to keep a roster spot.
A good read. Looks like the author is really high on the Lions' Drew Stanton.