Rookies: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defensive Linemen | Linebackers | Defensive Backs
With the inexperience in this year's rookie quarterback class and the rarity of rookie quarterbacks having the type of season that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had last year, it’d be hard to expect anywhere near the type of impact that we saw from the two rookies last year. Among all of the signal callers this year, there isn't a single one who is ready to step in and play right away. Because of that, I'd be extremely cautious when considering drafting a quarterback in 2009. I'm a big fan of Stafford and Sanchez, but both have certain things that worry me. There isn't a safe pick at the quarterback position this year.
When considering drafting a rookie quarterback for fantasy football, this applies for more with keeper and dynasty league players than it does with re-draft players. For re-draft fantasy players, there isn’t much of a need to select a quarterback who most likely won’t start for half of the season, and even when he does start, he’s going to be developing and won’t put up the stats that most of the regular starters do. However, with the keeper and dynasty league players, this is very important. As juniors coming out of college, the top prospects this year are going to have to buck the trend of recent underclassmen being busts in the NFL.
Here are my thoughts and opinions on the current rookie quarterback class.
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
When the Lions selected Matthew Stafford with the first pick in the draft, they envisioned that he would eventually develop into being their franchise quarterback and would be the key player in their re-building process after having been the worst team in NFL history last season. The Lions as a team are a work in progress, as is Stafford. A junior last season, there are still things that Matthew could improve on. However, with one of the strongest arms to come through the draft in the past decade, Stafford has a gunslinger mentality and he isn't afraid to try to make a play with his arm. He is the type of quarterback that likes to open up the passing game and launch the ball down the field. He is capable of making an accurate throw to any part of the field and he can make all of the throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make. Stafford has excellent mechanics with great footwork, and he does a very good job of going through his progressions. As of now, it appears that Stafford will battle with veteran Daunte Culpepper as the two players compete for the chance to begin the season as the starter. In my opinion, it’d be a far smarter move to let Stafford sit on the bench and learn the game at the pro level. Detroit already screwed up one top quarterback’s career in Joey Harrington, how about not doing it a second time. Letting Culpepper take the reins for the first half of the year before handing the starting job over to Stafford would be the best option for Detroit. While he likely won’t offer much the first year or two, Stafford could begin to shine in his third year as he becomes fully acclimated to the NFL level.
Mark Sanchez – New York Jets
The player who many people are already proclaiming as “the next Joe Namath”, Mark Sanchez sure has his work cut out for him already. Despite only starting 19 games at USC, the Jets made Sanchez the fifth pick in the draft and expect for him to develop into the leader of their team. While he may lack experience, Mark Sanchez has the physical tools and outstanding intangibles that would suggest that he's capable of being a franchise quarterback in the NFL. A very smart and knowledgeable player who is a proven leader on the field, Sanchez also has an exceptional football IQ, having come played in USC's pro-style offense. With great mechanics, excellent accuracy, and very good arm strength, Sanchez is capable of making all of the throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make. I also really like his quick drop back and his footwork is some of the best that I've seen in a few years. Last season, as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, Rex Ryan watched as Joe Flacco turned Baltimore around and lead them through the playoffs. After seeing the success of Flacco last year, some now feel that Ryan, the new head coach of the Jets, may choose to let Sanchez start over Kellen Clemens and see how the rookie does. While this would worry me, by throwing a rookie into the fire so early, I feel more comfortable with the situation because of the type of intangibles and leadership that Sanchez has. He’s a true leader who should earn the respect of his teammates right away. His rookie season may be a bit rocky, however, for keeper and dynasty leagues, I think that Sanchez could end up being the better quarterback right away than Stafford is. It may not take Sanchez as long to develop and he could be given the starting job right off the bat. It wouldn’t be a reach to take Sanchez ahead of Stafford in rookie drafts.
Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the Buccaneers have already said that Josh Freeman won’t start as a rookie, there is still some potential here. A player who reminds me of a poor man's combination of Daunte Culpepper and JaMarcus Russell, Josh Freeman has elite size and bulk at the quarterback position. He had one of the strongest arms in this past year’s draft and he is capable of making all of the throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make, especially the deeper ones where he gets to launch the ball down the field. As we head towards the 2009 season, Freeman is behind Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown, as well as potentially Josh Johnson. He has a long way to go as he works his way up the depth chart. Although he won’t see time at the beginning of the year, there has been talk that Freeman could be inserted into the starting lineup at the end of the season if Tampa Bay struggles during the year. The team used its first-round pick on him, so he’s going to see time. It’s just a matter of how much time they’re going to give in and how long he takes to develop. Freeman is a long shot to be a starter anytime soon and he’s the most likely to be a bust among the top three quarterbacks.
Pat White – Miami Dolphins
Pat White was drafted in the second round by the Dolphins for one sole reason, and that is to run their wildcat offense. The only problem for fantasy football players is that the chances of White putting up stats worthy of starting on a fantasy team aren’t that good. It’s also had to project how many snaps Miami will give him in his rookie season. Are they going to go with the wildcat more often this season since they’ve added more pieces to make it work? Or will they decide to just use it in different situations like they did last season. The most realistic option that I thought of for fantasy players is that in leagues that start two quarterbacks, White could potentially be your second quarterback thanks to the high rushing totals that he could put up. He also has the ability to throw the ball, unlike most specialty players, so it makes him even that more dangerous. With at least a few years of development I could see him eventually working his way into being a good quarterback in the NFL.
Nate Davis – San Francisco 49ers
Nate Davis’ situation in San Francisco is an intriguing one simply because he was drafted to a team that doesn’t have a true quarterback of the future. Nate is a unique quarterback who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich as former MAC quarterbacks who went on to have success in the NFL. His greatest strength is his accuracy and he throws the ball with a natural feel. Nate has very good arm strength with good pocket presence and he has mobility needed to escape from a collapsed pocket. He puts good touch and timing on his throws, he has excellent anticipation and awareness in the pocket, and he's capable of throwing the ball on the run. With the uncertainty of the future of the team’s quarterback position, Davis could bring hope to the team’s coaching staff if he is able to develop quickly and show the team that his upside is high. However, one large concern that scouts had regarding Nate is that he has a learning disability and some scouts questioned whether he'll be able to pickup and learn a complicated playbook in the NFL. Only time will tell, but keep an eye on this situation.
Tom Brandstater – Denver Broncos
While this is a rather large long shot, I figured that I’d still bring it up. Denver just traded their franchise quarterback Jay Cutler and received an average quarterback in return in Kyle Orton. While Brandstater is a project, so was Matt Cassell, and the coach that turned Cassell into the great quarterback that he was last year, Josh McDaniels, is now the head coach in Denver. If the experiment with Orton goes wrong, and backup Chris Simms somehow falters, then Brandstater would be the next man up and would surely develop quickly under the tutelage of McDaniels.
Other rookie quarterbacks to keep an eye on: Rhett Bomar – New York Giants, Stephen McGee – Dallas Cowboys, Mike Teel – Seattle Seahawks, Keith Null – St. Louis Rams, Curtis Painter – Indianapolis Colts, Julian Edelman – New England Patriots.