by Russ Bliss (3/9/11)

In the second installment of the FFTrader Roundtable discussion, the question of who would we rather have: St. Louis' Sam Bradford or Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman. We could tackle the issue from either a redraft, or dynasty league perspective. In my fantasy football blog I have posted my thoughts and why in redraft leagues I prefer Josh Freeman, while in dynasty I give the edge to Bradford (and coincidentally, both made my early 2011 fantasy football sleeper QB's list) but again, mine is not the only opinion out there. Our panel this week consisted of:

Rick Perkins, FantasyFootballTrader

Ryan Lester, Lester's Legends

Derek Lofland, FantasyFootballManiax

James Piatt, FanaticFantasyFootball

Jeff Pasquino, DynastyGuys

RC Rizza, JunkyardJake

Like last week when I commented on our 2011 bounceback fantasy players, I again offer up some thoughts on what these other distinguished minds had to say on the Freeman vs. Bradford topic. It was a consensus that we all liked both QB's a lot and choosing just one was tough.

Rick Perkins

" pick in first year dynasty drafts would be Sam Bradford. It's nothing I can put a finger on with sheer numbers - but I had the opportunity to watch both Bradford and Freeman extensively last year.   Simply put, it's been a long time since I've seen a rookie look so capable and confident behind such a questionable offensive line and lack of speed at receiver.  What I was most impressed with was Bradford's consistency at putting the ball where he wanted, almost regardless of situation.  The old adage, "You can't teach that" comes to mind." 

Great analysis here as Rick's right: you can't teach the type of confidence and ability. You either have it, develop it in time, or you never get it. Bradford came out of the gates with it right away.

Ryan Lester

"...Bradford had a stretch between Week 7 and 11 where he averaged two touchdown passes. He ended on a sour note though throwing just one touchdown pass in the final three games. He threw six interceptions over that stretch. Bradford could have been better had he had some weapons on offense. That's where Josh Freeman has the advantage. He formed a great rapport with Mike Williams, one that should be great for years to come. He tossed 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions. While Bradford struggled down the stretch, Freeman got better. He averaged 252.3 yards with nine touchdowns in Tampa's final four games...I favor Freeman because of his weapons and his ability to (score) fantasy points on the ground."

Ryan's choice of Freeman is hard to argue. Bradford did struggle down the stretch while Freeman excelled. Freeman's performance the last few weeks of the season was against soft pass defenses though (as noted in our fantasy strength of schedule posting last year at the half way point of the season). Not to take anything away from Freeman as he showed what we needed to see: dominate the teams you should. Bradford couldn't keep up his mid-season success and appeared to hit the rookie wall.

Derek Lofland

"...The big difference between the two offenses is the ability to stretch the field. Bradford had a very good season in terms of passing yards, but where he really struggled in comparison to Freeman was yards per attempt. Bradford's yards gained per attempt was a horrific 6.0, which ranked 30th in the NFL. Freeman, on the other hand, averaged 7.3 yards per attempt, which ranked 12th...To put into perspective how lacking Bradford's numbers were compared to his attempts, consider that San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers led the league in passing yards (4,710) and also had 30 touchdown passes despite completing only three more passes and attempting 49 fewer passes than Bradford. Bradford has a long way to go in becoming an elite fantasy quarterback, much further than Freeman does given what he showed in 2010...Freeman sets up to do better in seasonal drafting leagues, and until the Rams add some dangerous young prospects to the roster, I think Freeman projects better in dynasty formats as well."

Derek nails a key stat here: yards per attempt. Bradford wasn't successful pushing it downfield, and the comparison to Phillip Rivers and his stats with more completions and fewer attempts is something Bradford needs to work on. Bradford needs weapons if he's to become an elite QB.

James Piatt

"...The only way to choose one over the other is to consider the offensive line protecting them, the teams they play two times each in their conference, the wide receivers they throw to, and the possibility of injury. After weighing the four factors, I would take Josh Freeman by the slimmest of margins. If I had Sam Bradford as my quarterback I would always worry about his shoulder. I see Freeman as a more physical quarterback and I believe he will stay healthier throughout his years in the NFL..."

James did some digging back into their college and high school careers as he had the two so close together. And I agree that it's by the slimmest of margins you prefer one over the other in dynasty formats.

Jeff Pasquino

"...I thought about splitting my vote between both Bradford and Freeman, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give both checkmarks to Josh Freeman. There's several reasons to like Freeman for 2011 and beyond. Let's start with the supporting cast. There's an old saying that if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have any. Well, I'd like to expand that sentiment to wide receivers - the Rams have 5 or 6 starters, yet really don't have any to hang their hat on as a true top wideout...Tampa Bay has to contend with Atlanta and New Orleans four times a year, so Freeman will have lots of fourth quarter comeback attempts over the next several seasons...Lastly, and a very important "tiebreaker", if it is still close - Josh Freeman can run. Freeman averaged over five yards a carry last year...rushing for over 360 yards...and the bonus fantasy points you get from him (rushing) tip the scales towards Freeman..."

Playing in a division with teams like New Orleans and Atlanta who can put up points, forcing you to match them, has always been a big plus for a QB's potential to up big fantasy points. Jeff correctly identifies that. I also really like his analysis of the Rams WR's: they have 5, but none of them has established himself as the top guy the way Mike Williams has in Tampa Bay.

RC Rizza

"...I would have to give a small edge to Sam Bradford by virtue of his impressively precocious and surprisingly competent performance as a rookie this past season. Not only did the 2010 Rookie of the Year manage to complete 60 percent of his passes in 2010, he also accomplished the feat of throwing more TDs (18) than interceptions (15), an absolute rarity for any first-year quarterback. When you also consider that Bradford played this well while helping to transform a 1-15 St. Louis Rams team into a 7-9 squad that was one victory away from securing a playoff berth, it's hard to deny that Bradford could be on his way to a distinctive NFL career...This is not to diminish Josh Freeman's viability as a fantasy player in 2011. I would have absolutely no reservations drafting him in a redraft context...(but) it just seems that Bradford's ability to read defenses and make quick decisions so early in his career makes him a slightly better redraft fantasy option for 2011..."

RC appears to be the lone expert to go out on the limb saying he prefers Bradford in the redraft format. The Rams weren't that much different in 2010 than they were in 2009 and that the biggest change was Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford taking over as the QB. Such improvement from the Rams is a credit to Bradford and displays the elite upside he has for the future. RC's sentiments about having no reservations about drafting Freeman in 2011 are pretty much echoed by every analyst on both QB's no matter which one they gave the edge to.  

Next week I'll look back at our picks for Sleeper RB's not placing in the first 25 RB's selected in average draft position in current mock drafts for 2011. And yes, I chose one from my 2011 fantasy football sleeper RB's article recently posted. Which one? Check back next week!

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