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Burning Questions
Is Derek Anderson worthy of being your fantasy starting quarterback for 2008?
Tuvey vs. Dorey
July 17, 2008
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The first installment in an ongoing series where Huddle staffers address some of the burning questions fantasy folks will face heading into their drauctions later this summer.

YES(John Tuvey) I understand the concerns about Anderson heading into this season. He wasn’t even the Browns’ starter on Opening Day last year, and his productivity tailed off after a pretty amazing first half. Of course, when you start out averaging 260 and two over your first eight games it’s tough to keep up the pace. And truth be told Anderson didn’t tail off that dramatically in the second half of the season. Toss out the snowstorm game in which nobody was throwing the football and he averaged right around 220 yards and almost two scores per tilt.

But that’s splitting hairs. Anderson finished fifth in The Huddle’s consistency rankings, and it wasn’t just because his first eight games were so good. In fact, exactly half of his multiple touchdown games came in the second half of the season; so did four of his seven games with 250 or more passing yards. Worries about teams now “having film” on Anderson can be at least somewhat assuaged by the fact that he threw for 648 yards and five touchdowns on his second trip through the AFC North—roughly 23 yards and a touchdown per contest less than his sneak attack on them earlier in the season.

Little has changed for Anderson heading into 2008: he still has the same offensive line that kept him clean last season, and his receiving corps upgraded with the addition of Donte Stallworth.  Cleveland even drafted an insurance plan for oft-injured and frequently disgruntled tight end Kellen Winslow in Martin Rucker. Thus, there’s no reason to expect that, at minimum, Anderson will continue to churn out something in the neighborhood of 225 yards and two touchdowns per game. In my league that’s 11 points per game, which nestles Anderson comfortably among the top five producers. Plus, there’s that tangy zip of upside if he produces like he did over the first half of last season.

I’m not naïve enough to rank Anderson amongst the elite; I’d certainly rather have Peyton, Brady, Romo, Brees, and Palmer. But when you get into that next tier of quarterbacks it’s tough to find one who can match Deke’s protection, receivers, and recent production all wrapped up in one neat little package. So I’d be more than happy rolling into the 2008 fantasy season with Anderson as my starting quarterback.

NO(David Dorey) Yeah sure fine. I know, I know, Anderson threw for 29 touchdowns last year and had 3787 yards. Certainly impressive overall but therein lies the problem. As was begrudgingly pointed out, his numbers were primarily gained in the first half of the season and he reverted to average form once defenses had a bit of film on him.

There is no doubt that the improved offensive line in Cleveland was central to all the success last year. Jamal Lewis apparently reinvigorated a dormant career thanks to having actual running lanes and the Browns saw their sacks totals decrease from 54 in 2007 down to only 19 last year - that's a leap from being ranked 30th to being 3rd best in the NFL. And that protection had nothing to do with the immobile Anderson who gained less than five rushing yards per game. Good blocking means a rushing game to respect and time to throw the ball no matter who the quarterback is.

There's another problem with Anderson - he won't play the same schedule this year. Sure it was fun to be matched against the NFC West last year with game against ARI (304, 2 TD), STL (248, 3 TD) and SF (152, 1 TD). He also got to face the crumbling AFC East with MIA (245, 3 TD), NYJ (185, 2 TD) and BUF (137, 0 TD). This year the Browns will face off against PIT and BAL as always, and also play against the NFC East instead of the AFC East with DAL, NYG, @WAS and @PHI. Instead of the NFC West, the Browns will go against the AFC South with games @JAC, HOU, IND and @TEN. It won't be nearly as easy a schedule as last year and every defense can prepare for him. As Tuvey pointed out, even against the softer schedule last year, Anderson was only producing around 220 yards per game to finish the year and those are very average numbers. Don't discount the schedule or the importance of cooling down.

Lastly, Anderson was signed to a three-year deal but it's basically only a one-year deal and the Browns can release him in 2009 with little repercussions if they so opt. That is germane here because the Browns spent a first-round pick on Brady Quinn last year and that's a good bit of cash on a much heralded quarterback who is not getting a chance to play. Knowing that Anderson reverted to merely average form later in the season of 2007, and that he was signed for effectively one year in the offseason and that Quinn was the supposed Golden Boy who just wasn't ready as a rookie, doesn't it seem rather likely that the Browns will give Quinn some playing time this year? How about when the Browns are out of playoff contention - say the very weeks of your league's fantasy playoffs?

Anderson burned through his upside in the first half of 2007. At best he'll be average and at worse he'll be on the sideline when you need him the most.

What are your thoughts?

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