Free Agency Fantasy Impact: Quarterbacks

John Tuvey, @jtuvey

MORE FREE AGENCY FANTASY IMPACT:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

Teams get their quarterbacks through the draft; among the last 11 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, only Drew Brees was not drafted by the team he quarterbacked to victory. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a little bit of fantasy gold in the handful of quarterbacks who switched teams this offseason. Here’s a look at the old faces in new places who have a shot at generating fantasy value with their new club.

JOSH McCOWN, BUCCANEERS

Lovie Smith has declared Mike Glennon the Bucs’ quarterback of the future, but he’s also indicated that free-agent signee Josh McCown is expected to be Tampa Bay’s starter when the 2014 season opens in September. It’s that uncertainty that’s keeping McCown’s fantasy value down, because as the Bucs’ starter he’s poised to pick up where he left off in Chicago. And if you recall, that was a pretty impressive place; in the six games in which he saw more action than Jay Cutler McCown averaged two TDs, 291 passing yards, and a robust 24.7 fantasy points per game—a number bested by only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees last year.

And while it’s a different uniform, McCown will have about as similar an approximation of his Chicago targets as he could get. In Vincent Jackson and rookies Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, McCown actually gains a total of two inches over the skyscraper trio of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett he tossed to in Chicago. McCown also has Doug Martin, who’s at least in the ballpark with Matt Forte when it comes to pass-catching running backs.

Yes, Bucs quarterbacks were dead-dog last in the NFL in fantasy production last year. But Jeff Tedford’s offense and a pair of rookie targets give McCown the ammunition to turn that frown upside down in a big hurry. Glennon might be the Tampa QB to have in dynasty leagues, but for a low-risk, high-reward immediate fantasy bang McCown is your man.

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MICHAEL VICK, JETS

It’s a tantalizing thought: Michael Vick running a Marty Mornhinweg offense. That combo produced Vick’s near-30 fantasy points per game campaign of 2010, and the duo is reunited in New York. The caveat, of course, is that Geno Smith is still expected to be the starter.

So unless the depth chart flip-flops prior to your fantasy draft day, it’s difficult to bank on much of anything from Vick. That said, playing second banana to start the season might not be all bad. Vick hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since 2006 and is a high-mileage 33 years old with 825 career rushing attempts and a penchant for getting banged up. Coming off the bench, should Smith perform as inconsistently as he did during his rookie campaign, would save Vick from a few extra hits. He should transition seamlessly into an offense he knows, and it’s worth noting that as a group Jets quarterbacks have ranked in the top three in rushing touchdowns four of the past five seasons.

Bottom line: at present, Vick is undraftable unless you have an extremely large bench. But he’s a guy with immediate impact potential should he get the call for the Jets, so fantasy owners should keep him on speed dial.

MATT SCHAUB, RAIDERS

Matt Schaub was never a fantasy stud in Houston, but at least he was consistently solid… until last season, when the bottom dropped out and he became the guy you wanted to start a team defense against as he threw pick-sixes in four consecutive games. Now Schaub will get to start over in Oakland, which—given some of their other offseason acquisitions—isn’t as bad a place to be as you might think.

For starters, Schaub has spoke openly about the newfound freedom he has at the line of scrimmage to change plays. Gary Kubiak’s system in Houston was successful, but it was also restrictive—especially for Schaub, who spent a great deal of time handing off and for most of his tenure had only Andre Johnson and the tight end du jour to throw to. In addition, Oakland’s underrated receiving corps added a centerpiece in former Packer James Jones; nudging talents like Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, and Andre Holmes into supporting roles as opposed to asking them to carry the passing game could be just what the doctor ordered.

Schaub isn’t going to be a fantasy savior, but assuming the pick-sixes are (mostly) behind him he could be a decent plug-in play during bye weeks or if injury claims your starter. He’s a low-cost bench player with a little bit of upside, which is all you can ask from your backup fantasy quarterback.

RYAN FITZPATRICK, TEXANS

If the NFL season started today, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be your starter in Houston. Currently Fitzpatrick sits atop a depth chart that also includes Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and rookie Tom Savage.  Keenum flashed two games of three-TD magic in relief of the deposed Matt Schaub last season before fading down the stretch and throwing two TDs in his final five games, leaving Fitzpatrick as the guy most likely to benefit from Bill O’Brien’s offense and tutelage this season.

Fitzpatrick isn’t exactly sexy, and he’s nowhere near a reliable fantasy starter. But he managed to throw for multiple touchdowns three times and top 300 yards twice in Tennessee last season. Given Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins as targets, and with O’Brien running the show, Fitzpatrick might sneak onto the radar as a bye-week fantasy replacement in Houston.

MORE FREE AGENCY FANTASY IMPACT:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

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