Barring injury or some sort of earth-shattering developments this season, most of the quarterbacks of the Class of 2005 draft will be riding some serious pine. There are, however, a few scenarios where the new guys could be thrown to the wolves right off the bat. But of course, if that’s the case, that means more than likely the team he’s on sucks and will offer little in terms of fantasy value.
Here’s a breakdown of this year’s group of rookie quarterbacks, and we think each will fare in the upcoming season.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
The only way Smith won’t be the starting quarterback in Week 1 is if he’s hurt or proves to be as dumb as a stump, because San Francisco is paying the No. 1 overall draft pick way too much money for him to be on the bench.
Since most observers regard Smith as extremely intelligent, we’re betting he’ll be taking snaps on Sept. 11 against the Rams. He has been called the most cerebral quarterback in this year’s draft class, with an outstanding feel for the game. He’s tall, his delivery is quick and he holds the ball high, which means few linemen will be able to deflect his passes. Smith is also surprisingly fast for his size and will be a consistent threat to run. Knocks on him include a perceived lack of arm strength for quick sideline throws and deep balls, and concerns that he’ll have a hard time adjusting to playing under center (he played exclusively in the shotgun while at Utah).
It seems a no-brainer that Smith will be No. 1 on the depth chart, but who will he throw to? Other than maybe Brandon Lloyd, as of this writing the 49ers had no receivers who have proven themselves as NFL-caliber talents. Add to that a shaky running game and it looks like Smith will be of little help to most fantasy lineups.
Charlie Frye, Cleveland Browns
Frye is the sleeper of this year’s draft. He has good arm strength, but even more importantly, is excellent at surveying the field and checking down to receivers in the flat when necessary. Frye doesn’t “lock” his eyes on a target, which is a huge attribute for a rookie. He played through a hip pointer at Akron, so you know he’s tough. He also has quick feet and is adept at throwing on the run. Ball velocity is somewhat of a problem on outs and deep throws, and holds the ball too low. Overall, though, Frye projects as a starter eventually – one thing he has going for him is his MAC background, following in the footsteps of Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger.
Let’s see … who do the Browns have penciled in at No. 1? Trent Dilfer? Yeah, it looks like the Cleveland QB gig is wide open. There’s absolutely no reason Frye won’t have a serious chance at cracking the starting lineup at some point this season. With decent receiving options like Andre Davis, Antonio Bryant and potential stud Braylon Edwards, Frye could be worth picking up as a mid-season free agent. Keep close tabs on the Cleveland situation in training camp.
Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins
Campbell exploded in 2004 after three subpar seasons at Auburn, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards while leading the Tigers to a 13-0 record. He possesses above-average arm strength and is excellent on the short and intermediate passes. Campbell is also quick and elusive in the pocket, although he doesn’t have the explosive down field speed of a Michael Vick. But then again, who does? His decision-making improved significantly in 2004, when he threw 19 touchdowns versus only six interceptions. Campbell’s downsides include a lack of accuracy on deep throws and his tendency to focus on one side of the field.
Campbell is one part of the more intriguing quarterback situations in the league. Patrick Ramsey is a tenuous No. 1 at best, but Mark Brunell is largely a forgotten man at the No. 2 spot. It’s doubtful that Campbell can crack the starting lineup, but the soap opera is at least a reason to keep an eye on the Redskins in training camp.
Derek Anderson, Baltimore Ravens
The 6-6, 239-pound Anderson caught little attention at Oregon State, but he can make all the throws. His excellent arm strength allows him to excel at downfield passes and deep outs. Anderson is said to have great intangibles, including leadership and work ethic. So apparently he’s got the size of a Ryan Leaf but not the mental baggage. He threw for 3,615 yards, 29 TD 's and 17 interceptions, improving significantly from his 24 TD, 24 INT season in 2003. Criticisms include a belief that he forces too many throws because of his cannon arm and takes too many hits. However, he didn’t miss a start in college from 2002-04, answering the bell 38 consecutive times.
Kyle Boller isn’t a shoo-in to be the Ravens’ starting quarterback in Week 1. Even if he is under center, he’ll be on an incredibly short leash. If Anderson can make enough of an impression in training camp, he should be able to unseat Anthony Wright as the No. 2. The signing of receiver Derrick Mason and the drafting of wideout Mark Clayton have considerably ramped the pressure up on Boller. Anderson may benefit from an in-season QB change, and could be worth a look as a No. 3 on a fantasy roster.
Aaron Rogers, Green Bay Packers
Andrew Walter, Oakland Raiders
David Greene, Seattle Seahawks
Stefan LeFors, Carolina Panthers
Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions
Adrian McPherson, New Orleans Saints
James Kilian, Kansas City Chiefs
Ryan Fitzpatrick, St. Louis Rams
Matt Cassel, New England Patriots
Rogers will ultimately be an excellent NFL starter, but he’ll have no 2005 fantasy impact unless Brett Favre either suffers a catastrophic injury or drops a retirement bombshell. Don’t look for either to happen this season. Walter, Greene and LeFors all have potential, but they are up against firmly established incumbents. McPherson has some impressive athleticism but will have to battle career backup Todd Bouman and Kliff Kingsbury to just make a roster spot. Kilian, Fitzpatrick and Cassel will be lucky to survive training camp.