Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the Experts

2006 Fantasy Football Player Rankings: Quarterbacks -- By Russ Bliss

In 2005, I provided the fantasy football advice to not buy into a new era of QB’s who score a ton of fantasy points, and therefore not to place too high in your overall fantasy football player rankings. If you remember, the 2004 season saw a dramatic rise in QB scoring, with several QB’s putting up much higher than standard numbers. As predicted, in 2005, QB scoring went back down to the norm. Only 2 QB’s with over 4,000 passing yards. Only 1 QB with over 30 TD passes. Only 3 with 25 or more TD passes. Only 1 with more than 3 rushing TD’s, and only 1 with more than 309 rushing yards. 2005 was very much a more normal year for QB’s and it will bring back the adage of not taking a QB in your fantasy drafts in the 1st round. There’s only 1 QB (Peyton Manning) who should ever go in the top 2 rounds in my opinion, unless you start more than one each week, and the reason he should be the first taken is his consistency from year to year in putting up top fantasy numbers. After Manning, there are 3 QB’s who all are very solid starters, and probably 2 of them will last until rounds 4 or 5 of your fantasy football draft. QB’s ranked 5-7 are each injury risk types with very high upsides. 8 and 9 are two guys who are still quality fantasy football starters, but have a degree of risk associated with them. It’s at #10 that we start to see the borderline starters and guys you wouldn’t want to consider as every week “must starts” and that list goes on through #16. From 17-27 there are a lot of good names, and a lot of high upside guys, but none I would consider to be drafted as more than a fantasy backup. Too risky otherwise. At 28, we start seeing unstable QB situations, rookies, and backups to starters with injury concerns.

1) Peyton Manning: Manning has adorned the top spot in my fantasy football rankings at QB for 5 years now because of his consistency. Simply put, Manning is the closest thing to a sure bet there is in fantasy football at the QB position. Rarely does he finish a season as the top fantasy point producing QB, but with the exception of his rookie year, Manning always finishes in the top 5. Manning’s never missed a game in his 8 year career. No season with fewer than 3,739 passing yards. No season with fewer than 26 TD passes. Only 10 INT’s in each of the last 3 seasons. In 2005, Manning had career lows in attempts (453), completions (305), but posted his second best yards per attempt average and second best completion percentage for a season. His career (not 3 year as that number is even higher) average is an eye popping 4,148 passing yards, 30 TD’s, and 16 INT’s. Figuring that the loss of Edgerrin James should mean more pass attempts for Manning in 2006, and it looks like another banner fantasy season for Manning.

2) Tom Brady: Brady is turning into Peyton Manning Jr. in terms of consistency for your fantasy football predictions each year. In the last 4 seasons, Brady has had no fewer than 3,620 passing yards, no fewer than 23 passing TD’s, and no more than 14 INT’s in any of them. 2005 saw him eclipse the 4,000 yards passing mark for the first time in his career. Considering that his average in the last 4 seasons is 3,794 passing yards, 26 TD’s, and 14 INT’s and you see that Brady is a solid, steady, and reliable option as a #1 fantasy QB and should be in everyone’s top 5 in 2006.

3) Matt Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck has been consistently solid the past 3 seasons. If you take his averages in 2004 and apply them to the 2 games he missed that year (the only 2 games he’s missed in the last 3 seasons), and then factor in 2003 and 2005, you’ll see Hass has averaged 3,722 passing yards, 25 passing TD’s, and 13 INT’s. In 2005, despite Shaun Alexander re-writing a rushing TD record, Hasselbeck had 7 games where he threw for multiple TD’s. Adding to Hasselbeck’s fantasy appeal is that it appears to drive Mike Holmgren nuts that because of Alexander, he can’t get Hasselbeck to eclipse 4,000 yards or 30 TD’s. If Holmgren can figure out how to do it, Hasselbeck makes the step into elite fantasy QB territory.

4) Eli Manning: Oh yeah, Peyton’s younger brother has arrived. Despite only completing 52.8% of his passes in ’05 and his struggles towards the end of the ’05 season, it can’t erase the fact that only 4 QB’s threw for more yards, or that only 3 had more passing TD’s. Some focus on the negatives from last year, but Eli was only in his second season in the NFL. Why is it so inconceivable that he may actually get better in his 3rd year? And when the starting point is 3,762 passing yards, 24 passing TD’s, and 17 INT’s, there’s a lot to like about him getting a little “better.”

5) Daunte Culpepper: Yes, I know Culpepper was having a brutal 2005 before it was cut short by a devastating knee injury on October 30th. Yes, there is a slight chance that Culp may not be ready for the 1st game of the regular season. But his rehab has gone extremely well and he’s been participating (and looking great) in all team activities. Culpepper was traded to the Miami Dolphins and although there will be a learning curve for him, his numbers from ’02-’04 can’t be ignored. For the sake of argument, let’s throw out his insane numbers from 2004, and look at ’02 and ’03. In those two seasons, Culpepper averaged 3,666 passing yards, 22 passing TD’s, and 17 INT’s. Hardly top 5 fantasy QB numbers until you add in his rushing totals. We’ll include the ’04 totals as they represented a career low for him in any season where he started 11 games or more (and he started all 16 in ’04). We’ll even go back and include 2001 since that was his second lowest rushing total. From ’01-’04, Culpepper averaged 461 rushing yards and 5 rushing TD’s. Now the knee injury probably means he’ll be taking off running fewer times, but not to the point where he is just a pocket QB. That’s simply not his game. Culpepper is a high risk, high reward type of fantasy QB that requires you to get a quality backup because of his risk factor. But his reward factor is outstanding.

6) Carson Palmer: Palmer was incredible in 2005 (3,836 passing yards, 32 passing TD’s, only 12 INT’s) and the only reason I don’t have him higher on this list is that Palmer tore up his knee January 8th during the playoff game against Pittsburgh. That’s more than 2 months later than the knee injury to Culpepper, and both involved torn ACL’s and MCL’s. Palmer’s had an outstanding rehab from all reports, but it’s just being incredibly (and in my opinion unrealistically) optimistic to think he’ll be ready for the 1st game of the regular season. A great rehab from this injury would have Palmer playing in early October. I’ll temper my expectations by saying I expect Palmer to miss the first 3 games of the season and will start week 4. By waiting until week 4, the Bengals are still getting him back ahead of the usual schedule, and since they have the bye in week 5, it will give them an extra week to watch how the knee reacted to playing a full game. It just makes sense. My best fantasy football advice with Palmer is that if you draft him early, draft a quality backup in the middle rounds to at least cover the early part of the season, and possibly the rest of it as well as players who rush back from these types of injuries are more prone to suffer setbacks in their recovery.

7) Marc Bulger: The knock on Bulger is that he can’t seem to stay healthy for an entire 16 games. He missed 1 game in ’03, 2 in ’04, and 8 last season. To be fair though, when it became apparent the Rams stood no chance of making the playoffs, the team did the smart thing and shut him down instead of having him come back (which he could have done) in what was a lost season and risk further injury to him. In the 37 games he’s started the last 3 seasons, Bulger’s averaged 273 passing yards, 1.5 passing TD’s, and 1.2 INT’s per game. Averaged out for an entire 16 games and that would be 4,368 yards, 24 TD’s, and 19 INT’s. Given that new coach Scott Linehan will put a greater emphasis on protecting Bulger than the previous coaching staff did, as well as give him something he’s never been allowed to do before: audible out of a play, and the fact that Linehan has a track record of running a QB friendly offense (Daunte Culpepper’s best seasons came with Linehan as his offensive coordinator), and it’s not a stretch to imagine Bulger may actually have his best season yet, and maybe even stay healthy for the season. Regardless, do yourself a huge favor if you draft Bulger: be the one guy who remembers that Gus Frerotte is now the backup in St. Louis, and that Frerotte has been successful executing Linehan’s offense both in Minnesota and in Miami. If Bulger gets injured, you’ll thank me for telling you to snag Frerotte in the last round.

8) Trent Green: Everyone seems concerned about the conservative approach of new Coach Herm Edwards. Everyone seems to be sure Edwards will run the ball a lot more, like he did in New York, but in New York, Edwards never had a QB like Green. Sure, Green’s run of 3 consecutive years of throwing over 500 passes for over 4,000 yards is likely to end in 2006, but it’s not like Green was threw a ton in 2002 when he threw an average of fewer than 30 attempts per game, but still posted 3,690 passing yards, 26 TD’s, and 13 INT’s. In fact, In fact, Green threw 470 passes in 2002, which is exactly the same amount of passes Jets QB’s averaged each season the 5 years Edwards was their coach. The best thing about Green in 2006 is that everyone’s passing him up, meaning you can get a proven solid starting fantasy QB in round 7 or later.

9) Drew Bledsoe: I can’t believe I’m listing Bledsoe in the top 10, but when you add a weapon like Terrell Owens to your offense, even a mediocre QB (and Bledsoe’s better than that) gets a big bump in value. In 2000 and 2001, Jeff Garcia threw for 7,816 yards and 63 TD’s. TO had 2,863 yards and 29 TD’s those two years. If we simply take the average Bledsoe has had the past 4 seasons (3 of which were in Buffalo, and two of those very forgettable) we get 3,447 passing yards, 19-20 TD’s, and 15 INT’s. Those stats are right in line with what Garcia has done on avg in his 7 seasons, 5 of which he had Owens to throw the ball to. Bledsoe is inconsistent. Bledsoe is streaky. But Bledsoe has the opportunity to take advantage of having possibly the most dominant WR in the NFL on his team, and a big chip on his shoulder wanting to prove something. Owens will do for Bledsoe in 2006 what he did for Donovan McNabb in 2004: raise his stats to a new level. Likely to be a good starting fantasy QB in 2006 with the potential to be a great one.

10) Jake Delhomme: Delhomme is a guy I’d like better if the Panthers offense would throw the ball more often. In three seasons as the starter in Carolina, he’s thrown fewer than 450 pass attempts twice. And while Steve Smith had an outrageous 2005, Delhomme had only 3,421 passing yards. His 3 year average is 3,508 passing yards, 24 TD’s, and 16 INT’s. And while he had 8 games with multiple TD passes in 2005, he also had 6 games where he threw for less than 200 yards. Delhomme is a decent starting fantasy QB, but represents the first name on the list where you have to consider playing matchups each week instead of playing him as your starter all the time. Adding Keyshawn Johnson helps. The probable emergence of Drew Carter helps. But the more often than not conservative nature of the Panthers isn’t likely to change. And that doesn’t help.

11) Kurt Warner: Now here’s a guy who would be #2 in a heartbeat if only we could trust him to stay healthy. Warner showed last year that he could still be a fantasy machine when in the right offense and with the right weapons. And Arizona has the right weapons. Warner averaged 271 passing yards per game in the 10 games he was healthy enough to play in last year. He only threw 11 TD’s, but with no threat of a running game, opponents knew to defend the pass in the red zone. The addition of Edgerrin James should mean the Cardinals run more often and more effectively and while that may bring Warner’s yards per game down some, his TD’s should go up. But most importantly, he needs to stay healthy. Even if he doesn’t, in those games he is healthy for, he’s a solid starting fantasy QB in 2006. If he stays healthy, you’ve got a bargain in round 8 or later. Just be sure to take Matt Leinart later on as insurance. If Leinart learns this offense, he could be a good viable fantasy option, even as a rookie.

12) Aaron Brooks: Throw out 2005 when looking at Brooks. Injuries to Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn, plus the writing on the wall that Brooks was on his way out of New Orleans no matter what all contributed to him having his worst year as a starting QB. Now, in a new environment (Oakland), on a team that is likely to be playing from behind in a lot of games (Oakland, again), Brooks has a chance to put up some big numbers in 2006. He’ll have Randy Moss, Lamont Jordan, and even if Jerry Porter leaves, there’s still some high quality talent at WR. In the 4 years of 2001-2004, Brooks averaged 3,690 passing yards, 24 passing TD’s, and 15 INT’s. Brooks is also very undervalued as running threat as the Saints tried hard to keep him in the pocket. Despite that, he’s still averaged 250 rushing yards and 2 rushing TD’s per season. By no means is Brooks a sure thing though as he is wildly inconsistent from game to game. But when he’s on, he’s on big, and will be on big for Oakland in at least a few games in 2006.

13) Donovan McNabb: I can hear the clamor now: “WHAT?! McNabb at 13??!!!” My reply is: “Yes, McNabb at 13, and it could have been lower”. Until he proves it was him developing, and not just finally having a real offensive weapon at WR to throw to, I don’t take much stock in McNabb’s numbers while Terrell Owens was in Philly. His 2006 WR corps (Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, Jabar Gaffney, Greg Lewis) looks a lot more comparable to those he had from 2000-2003. Using his per game stats for those years and averaging them out for a full 16 games (as he was having an excellent 2002 before getting injured and missing 6 games and I want to make sure I include what was sure to be his BEST season in those 4 years) and McNabb throws for 3,338 yards, 22 passing TD’s, and 12 INT’s on average. He also doesn’t take off and run like he used to as his rushing attempts have decreased each season since 2000. McNabb isn’t as guy I want to start every week. Is he a high quality backup that can be part of a rotation as a fantasy starter? Yes. But he needs someone to assert himself at the WR position.

14) Jake Plummer: To steal from and paraphrase Forrest Gump: “Plummer is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get”. Throwing out week 17 last year when Denver had nothing to play for and Plummer had 5 games with fewer than 200 passing yards, and only 5 games with multiple TD’s (and that includes rushing TD’s). In 2004, Plummer had 4,089 passing yards, 27 TD’s and 20 INT’s. In 2005 it was 3,366 passing yards, 18 TD’s, and 7 INT’s. The Broncos added Javon Walker and it is hoped that he provides Plummer with a viable threat opposite Rod Smith, but that’s just hope. The reality of it will be believed when it’s seen. Plummer is a boom or bust type of fantasy starter you don’t want to rely on every week.

15) David Carr: I think Carr is a prime sleeper candidate in 2006. After posting a career best 3,531 passing yards and 16 TD’s in 2004, and appearing to be ready for a breakout season last year, Carr nosedived instead. He continued to get beat up and sacked at a freakish rate. In the process though, we can now say that Carr is a tough guy who can take punishment. A new, offensive-minded coach will help. Eric Moulds and Jeb Putzier will help. Carr’s a mobile QB and new coach Gary Kubiak is experienced enough with mobile QB’s to let them take off and run. The Texans did little to upgrade their OL to provide immediate help for Carr, but perhaps the new blocking schemes will be enough to let Carr have what he needs to be a decent fantasy QB: time.

16) Michael Vick: Another ranking that I’m sure will have some up in arms is placing Vick this low. Look, no one disputes his athleticism, arm strength, or his highlight reel running ability. But you can’t tell me he’s a good passer. In the past 2 seasons under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, Vick has thrown for a combined 4,725 yards, 29 TD’s, and 25 INT’s. The lack of great weapons at WR have hurt him, but when you complete only 55.8% of your passes, and have never had a season better than 56.4% in any season, after 5 years, some of the blame has to be on Vick. The Falcons had the #1 rushing offense in the NFL in 2005 and Vick certainly contributes to that, but his yards dropped from 902 in 2004 to 597 in 2005 as the Falcons tried to get him to stay in the pocket more. He had 6 rushing TD’s in 2005, so that helps his value, but when you’re looking for a fantasy QB, you aren’t looking for the best runner. Vick’s shortcomings as a passer make him a poor choice for a starting fantasy QB, but he can be a good filler for bye weeks and injuries. If he shows marked improvement in his accuracy, he may eventually be a starting fantasy QB, but I’m not expecting that to be in 2006.

17) Mark Brunell: Brunell had his best season in a long time in 2005. 3,050 passing yards, 23 TD’s, and 10 INT’s are pretty good when you consider he had Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and basically no one else to throw the ball to. The Redskins added some weapons at WR in Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El, while neither is a superstar, both are significant upgrades to the position compared to last year. Brunell had a 5 game stretch last season that was money for fantasy owners. In games 2-6 for Washington, Brunell put up 1,422 yards, 12 TD’s and only 2 INT’s. But considering that’s almost half his yards and more than half his TD’s, and you get a good idea of what he was like the other 11 games. 5 games with no TD’s. 9 games with fewer than 200 passing yards (7 of those with 156 passing yards or fewer!). Now, in 2006, it’s a safe bet he’ll be a little more consistent game to game, and may put up slightly better numbers than last year, but not by a lot. Brunell is a spot starter who doesn’t throw many interceptions, but neither does he throw for a lot of yards usually or a lot of TD’s. He will kill you if you rely on him too much, but as backup? He is a safe choice.

18) Brett Favre: After deciding to not retire after a horrible 2005, Favre is looking to rebound in 2006. He’ll have to do it with no clear cut RB (the best ones are injured and injury prone), a shaky offensive line (I don’t care what one publication tried to sell me), and no proven WR opposite Donald Driver. Sounds amazingly like last year, huh? If you’re expecting the results to be any better than last year’s 3,881 yards, 20 TD’s, and league high 29 INT’s, you’re likely dreaming. He went 2 games without throwing an INT, while having 6 games without throwing a TD. The only reason Favre ranks this high on my list is based off respect for so many years of incredible service to fantasy football owners, and the fact that in at least 1 experts league I’m in, we get points for every 20 yards passing and don’t get penalized anything for INT’s. Take away those minuses for INT’s and Favre actually ranks as a top backup fantasy QB.

19) Steve McNair: I am so rooting for McNair to succeed in Baltimore. And there’s reason to think he will: reunited with his favorite WR Derrick Mason; the best running game he’s had since Eddie George was in his prime; a team starved to have a QB who can actually put a fear of the passing game into an opponent. But the simple fact is that it’s a new system, McNair is a QB who hasn’t stayed healthy for 16 games since 2002, has never thrown for more than 3,387 yards in any season(that 2002 season), has only had more than 20 TD passes in a single season 3 times in 9 years of being a starter, and clearly is not the rushing threat he used to be. McNair will play through injuries, and inspire the Baltimore Ravens offense to greater heights than they’ve seen in years, but that inspiration won’t translate much into fantasy football leagues.

20) Ben Roethlisberger: Another case of some wondering: “How does a Super Bowl winning QB, a guy with the arm, and legs of Ben Roethlisberger not rank higher than 20th?!” A step in the right direction to proving that he is not only a good NFL QB, but a good fantasy QB would be for him to develop some consistency. He averages less than 200 passing yards per game, and last year had 6 of 12 games where threw for 177 or less. Only one game over 300 passing yards, and only one other when he threw for 250 or more. Now, is this Roethlisberger’s fault? No. I am very confident that if you put Roethlisberger in a pass happy offense, he’d thrive and put up great numbers. But he’s not in that offense in Pittsburgh. They aren’t going to start throwing the ball more 25-30 times per game (Pittsburgh had 8 games in 2005 where they threw ball fewer than 25 times; 6 games with 20 pass attempts or fewer) as that simply isn’t their style. Unless it becomes their style (which is kind of doubtful), Big Ben doesn’t rate as much more than a bye week filler.

21) Drew Brees: Been saying it all off-season: no QB got more blame that he didn’t deserve when his team was losing 3 years ago, and no QB has gotten more credit than he deserved for how his team has won the last 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, Brees is a capable NFL QB, but he’s not a great one. And although it sounds like his shoulder injury has healed up nicely, I’ll withhold taking the leap of faith until I see it in action. I believe his yardage total from last season (3,576, which was a career high) is about as high as it will ever be in any season the rest of his career. I think the 27 TD’s he threw in 2004 is a number he’ll never match again. The only 7 INT’s in 2004 came back up to his usual amount of 15 in 2005. When you add everything up: new team, new offensive system (not just for Brees, but for everyone else in New Orleans as well), new WR’s to get in synch with, and recovering from a shoulder injury (on an arm that wasn’t blessed with tremendous strength in the first place), and I see a guy who should be lucky to get more than 3,300 yards, 22 TD’s, and 15 INT’s.

22) Byron Leftwich: Leftwich deserves better than this based on skills, but facts are facts. He’s yet to start 16 games in a season. He’s yet to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. He’s yet to throw more than 15 TD’s in a season. He missed 6 games last year (technically only 5, but I don’t count a 2-2 for 18 yards outing before getting injured) and 2 in 2004. He lost his best WR (Jimmy Smith) to a sudden retirement during the off-season. And the offensive philosophy is balanced more in favor of running the ball. Now, all that said, if Leftwich had stayed healthy last season, he was on his way to having a stat line that would have looked like 277-480-8 3,368 yards, and 24 TD’s. That would have been impressive enough to think he could break out in 2006 if Smith hadn’t retired. But Smith did. And Leftwich wasn’t able to stay healthy for the entire season. It all points to Leftwich being a guy with capability, but is a risk. An unnecessary risk considering the other options.

23) Brad Johnson: Johnson will be 38 in September, making him the oldest starting QB in the NFL. He came on last year when Daunte Culpepper got injured and posted impressive numbers. The last time he was a starting QB for an entire season was 2003 and he had a solid fantasy season with 3,811 yards, 26 TD’s, and 21 INT’s. The weapons he has in Minnesota are unproven, but loaded with potential. Hindering them though is that everyone’s learning a new system, and there’s likely to be both highs and lows for Johnson and the Vikings offensively in 2006. A capable, yet unstable backup fantasy QB with upside.

24) Phillip Rivers: If you’ve paid any attention to my off-season blogs and replies to forum posts, you know I like Rivers and think the Chargers made the right decision in handing the reigns over to him. Sure, there’s going to be some struggles as this will be Rivers first year as the starter, but he’s had the chance to sit on the sidelines for two seasons now and observe. A big plus for him is that San Diego’s offense hasn’t changed in his time in the NFL so he should be ready to execute it. He’d rank higher on the list if he had a top WR to go along with Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson, but for now, Rivers a high risk fantasy player with limited upside as the Chargers aren’t exactly a throwing offense in nature.

25) Jon Kitna: Kitna is the biggest boom or bust type of player at QB this year. He gets a chance to start in an offensive system that has proven to produce a lot of fantasy points from the position. The question is whether he’s able to execute it, and whether the weapons around him will develop. The last time Kitna started 16 games was with Cincinnati in 2003, and he posted a solid 3,591 yards, 26 TD’s and 15 INT’s. He has capability, but something to note is that he’s thrown almost as many INT’s in his career (104) as TD’s (108). And one thing about the offense Mike Martz brings to Detroit is that QB’s tend to throw picks. The upside is high for Kitna, but so is the risk. A couple of bad games and he’ll get benched.

26) Charlie Frye: Frye has been handed the starting QB job in Cleveland after a rookie season that saw him start the last 5 games in 2005. Taking the average of those 5 games and projecting out for a full 16 and his numbers, while not awe-inspiring would look really good for a rookie: 3,020 passing yards, 13 TD’s, and 10 INT’s. He did have his struggles though as he was 22 times in those 5 games, showing that he holds onto the ball too long. Frye has good weapons In Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Joe Jurevicius, as long as they can stay healthy. While the future for Frye looks good, the 2006 season will be another matter. Frye’s a backup fantasy player this season who should only start when necessary.

27) Chris Simms: Another QB handed a starting job in 2006 is Simms. Simms started the last 10 games of 2005 for Tampa Bay and showed enough for the Bucs to entrust him as their starter in 2006. His numbers in those 10 games pro-rate out to 3,146 passing yards, 16 TD’s, and 11 INT’s for 16. Problem with Simms was consistency. He had 4 games with 250 or more passing yards, and 5 games with 155 passing yards or less. Until he shows some consistency, Simms is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows best suited on your bench and played in spots.

28) Billy Volek: Volek is in a “good news/bad news” situation. The good news is that he will be the starter in 2006 for Tennessee. The bad news is that he’ll likely have the shortest leash of any starting QB in the NFL. The Titans drafted Vince Young (hand picked by owner Bud Adams) and if Volek struggles, or fails to get some wins early in the season, it won’t take long for Young to see the field. In the last 2 seasons, Volek has started 9 games for Tennessee, but only won two of them despite posting a whopping 2,493 passing yards, 19 TD’s, and only 8 INT’s in those 9 contests. Those numbers are insane when pro-rated out for 16. But when you consider that over 900 of the yards and 8 of the TD’s came in two games back in 2004, and they come back down to being very pedestrian. There’s a chance that Volek becomes the 2006 version of Drew Brees from a few years ago, but it’s really unlikely.

29) Chad Pennington: Pennington attempts to return from a second shoulder injury that cut short the last two seasons and lead the Jets in 2006. When healthy, Pennington has been a functional fantasy QB, but the way some people think of him, you’d think he invented the wheel or something. His best season was in 2002 when he had 22 TD’s and only 6 INT’s. But even his yards that year (3,120) weren’t great. Throw in that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since that year and Pennington is barely worth being a fantasy backup. The Jets added former Redskin Patrick Ramsey, and drafted Kellen Clemens. While Pennington appears to have the job now, you can’t help but wonder how long until he suffers another injury (besides the two shoulder injuries each of the past 2 seasons there was the wrist injury that caused him to miss 6 games in 2003), leaving those who take a chance on him wondering if he is jinxed.

30) Rex Grossman: Grossman will go into this season like he has the past 2: as the starting QB for the Bears. Question is whether he can stay healthy and make more than 3 games. In his 3 seasons, Grossman has played in exactly 8 games, The Bears think he has all the talent to be a quality NFL QB, but a broken ankle in preseason had him out until week 15 in 2005. In 2004 it was a torn ACL 3 games into the season. And the numbers Grossman has produced in his limited time (8 games, 1,303 passing yards, 4 TD’s, 6 INT’s) are not quality numbers. It’s hard to judge him based on those numbers alone, but it’s clear that as a fantasy option, Grossman likely leaves a lot to be desired. There is some upside, but he’s hardly worth the risk when he should be available on the free agent wire.

31) J.P. Losman: The Bills have an open competition between Losman and Kelly Holcomb (please forget about Craig Nall) for the starting job. And while Holcomb is the savvy veteran, you basically know he’s a mediocre QB. Losman at least has some upside as he’s young, and if allowed to play through his mistakes could eventually turn into something. It hasn’t helped that he doesn’t have a sparkling personality, but if the team would just settle on him and take their lumps while he grows, they may find they have someone capable. Problem is that they probably won’t show any patience and it looks like another season of bouncing between QB’s. I give Losman the nod because of his upside.

32) Alex Smith: Smith was so unprepared for the NFL as a rookie last year. His numbers in the 7 starts he made were beyond brutal, they were horrific (78 completions on 154 attempts, 841 yards, 1 TD, and 11 INT’s). Recognizing that they needed an experienced veteran QB who could mentor Smith, the 49ers went out and got Trent Dilfer. Dilfer is simply the better QB right now and the better hope for the team to win games, but they seem to be determined to start Smith, instead of giving him something he really needs: a chance to see how an offense is run by a decent QB. Do yourself a big favor and stay away from Smith on draft day.

33) Brian Griese: Considering how often Grossman gets injured, Griese could be in line to do what he’s always done throughout his career: capitalize on opportunity. Griese will start the season as the #2 QB in Chicago, but he probably should be the starter out right. He’s not a great fantasy starter if he either takes the job away from Grossman or gets by default, but he is a viable backup who could surprise and be a good fantasy backup. Keep a close eye on Grossman, and be ready to pull the trigger on Griese off your free agent wire if you’re hurting at QB during the season.

34) Trent Dilfer: I expect at some point the 49ers will simply HAVE to get Smith out of the starting lineup and go with Dilfer. And while Dilfer is the fantasy equivalent of a generic diet soda, he is worth keeping an eye because of the intriguing weapons the 49ers now have. Antonio Bryant is an underappreciated WR, rookie TE Vernon Davis has fantastic potential, and if Arnaz Battle can recover from his knee injury he has shown flashes of being pretty good. Unlike Smith, Dilfer won’t make many mistakes, but he also won’t put up a lot of yards or TD’s either. He’s worth noticing in case you get desperate, but while he’ll likely get his chances, he’ll also likely give the job back to Smith at some point, too.

35) Kelly Holcomb: Holcomb will battle with J.P. Losman for the Bills starting job, and while Holcomb likely starts the season, I just have a hard time seeing him finish it. Holcomb has had years to show he can be a starter, but hasn’t showed the upside necessary for a team to let him have the starting job. His numbers in 7 of his 8 starts (I throw out the game against KC when he suffered a severe concussion after only 6 attempts) were decent (1,457 yards, 10 TD’s, 8 INT’s), but not enough for him to be secure in the battle for the starting job. Considering the team has more invested in Losman, if Holcomb fails to win games, he’ll also fail to be the starter for very long.

36) Vince Young: Vince Young is hardly as polished a rookie QB as Matt Leinart in terms of technique, nor is he as fundamentally sound or accurate. But Young is a playmaker. He’s exciting and a good leader who has already garnered respect from his teammates in Tennessee. And for fantasy purposes, Young is likely to be getting his shot sooner, unless Billy Volek puts up a lot of wins (which is doubtful). Young is compared to being like Michael Vick, only bigger and stronger. But I think he’s more like Donovan McNabb or Daunte Culpepper in terms of his passing ability. Sure, there will be growing pains for Young as a rookie, and those pains probably go into next season as well. But the upside on Young is huge in dynasty leagues. For the 2006 fantasy season in standard re-draft leagues though, you wait until Young gets his chance, and providing you have a stable QB corps on your team, you trade him almost immediately and take advantage of his name value (which will likely be much higher than his production value).

37) Matt Leinart: Leinart was perhaps the most NFL ready QB in the April NFL Draft. That said, he’s lucky he doesn’t have to start right away and can instead learn from Kurt Warner. Leinart’s a cerebral QB who could flourish in the Cardinals offense, but probably not right away as there are always growing pains for rookies. Given the fact that Warner hasn’t finished a 16 game season since 2001, and there’s good reason to believe Leinart will get playing time at some point this season. And while Leinart hurt himself on the depth chart by not having signed before training camp started for Arizona, if he isn’t the primary backup to Warner at the start of the season, he will be after one game with John Navarre at the helm. It’s pretty simple in the NFL, the prize 1st round draft pick QB of the future doesn’t sit for long behind the backup 7th round pick from a few years ago for very long.

38) Andrew Walter: Walter suffered a groin injury in preseason last year as a rookie and never got on the field. If not for the injury setting him back in his development, it’s a good bet we would have seen him last year at the end of the regular season. This year, Walter comes into Raiders camp as the #2 QB behind Aaron Brooks. Walter won’t beat Brooks out for the starting job, but if the season goes south for Oakland (and I anticipate it will by the last 5 games or so) the team could turn to Walter to see what they’ve got. And what they’ve got is a great downfield passer who fits nicely in the Al Davis vertical attack offense. Unless Brooks puts wins on the board, and cuts down on those mind-numbing mistakes he makes a few times every year, you will see Walter on the field some time in 2006. And he could prove to be quite the late season free agent pickup.

39) Anthony Wright: Wright may start the season for the Cincinnati Bengals if Carson Palmer isn’t healed enough from his knee injury. As I stated in Palmer’s write-up, I expect it to be 3 games or so into the season before he comes back, so Wright likely gets a few early season starts. If he performs well, there’s no need to rush Palmer back. But Wright has never been a consistent QB at any point of his career and while he makes a good last round insurance policy for those who draft Palmer, he also isn’t a guy I’d trust to be an every week starter if Palmer has a setback in his recovery.

40) Josh McCown: McCown, after failing to impress enough to keep a starting job in Arizona, finds himself likely as the backup to Jon Kitna in Detroit. It’s a nice situation for him if he gets a chance as offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a way with making QB’s look good in your fantasy box score. But McCown has never proven to be consistent. He makes mental mistakes and that won’t sit well with Martz. There’s a high upside for McCown because of the system, and his abilities to be a good QB, but he’s also a big risk. A final thought on McCown is that Detroit has a little known QB they drafted last year named Dan Orlovsky who supposedly has caught Martz’s eye.

41) Patrick Ramsey: I think I’m the only person around who thinks anything good about Patrick Ramsey anymore. And even I’m starting to think the damage done to him first by Steve Spurrier (for running that ridiculous offense that nearly got Ramsey killed) and then second by Joe Gibbs (who crushed his confidence) may cause Ramsey to ever come close to what he should have been in the NFL. Now in New York, Ramsey likely does just enough to hold off rookie Kellen Clemens in the competition to be Chad Pennington’s backup. Oh, I know that supposedly, it’s an open competition for the starting job, but barring injury, Pennington will get the nod if it’s anywhere close. I include Ramsey on the list here, and not Clemens, as Ramsey has experience in the NFL and has proven he can succeed. He already knows Laverneus Coles from their days in Washington together and Ramsey’s big time arm is an asset in the Meadowlands. Clemens doesn’t have the big arm, nor is he as ready as some think.

42) Joe Harrington: At last we get to the end, and who better to be the last name on the QB list than Harrington? He struggled in Detroit where he was given every opportunity. And from all reports, he’s struggled in Miami to the point where the team is probably secretly praying that Harrington never has to see the field. Okay, I’m being brutal with Harrington, but if a guy can’t read defenses and stop making the same mistakes over and over again after 4 seasons and 58 games, he’s clearly never going to develop into a starting NFL QB, let alone be worth anything on a fantasy roster.


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