Let’s start our journey together into the world of fake teams that can win real money with some of the aforementioned news-ish-y coverage in which we explore the item in question and how it effects your fantasy team, and more importantly your ability to beat your neighbor who once sprayed you with a garden hose unprovoked.
Specifically, let’s consider Jake Locker, and his new-found employment as the Titans’ starting quarterback.
Tennessee will soon announce that Locker has won their quarterback competition, beating out Matt Hasselbeck. That’s according to a report from Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, who also notes that Locker will start the team’s third preseason game — which is the meaningless game in which starters typically get the most time — Thursday against the Cardinals. The selection of Locker was prompted mostly by his performance, and partly by his age.
Throughout the offseason and training camp Locker has impressed, although his two preseason performances were something less than exceptional. Friday he made his first NFL start against the Bucs, and it was especially poor as Locker completed just four of his 11 pass attempts for only 1.9 yards per attempt (not a typo). His lone redeeming quality was his ability to scramble and improvise, which was showcased with his 24 rushing yards on two carries.
Overall through his two preseason appearances Locker’s completion percentage has been oh so Tebow. He’s connected on just 46.8 percent of his 24 attempts and has a passer rating of 40.5. And all of those numbers matter, but only in the sense that they confirm exactly what we know to be true about Locker.
He’s quite clearly inexperienced, since he still hasn’t started a game that matters yet, and he’s inaccurate. The latter point is particularly yawn-inducing, because the knock on Locker throughout the pre-draft process in those times of hearsay and conjecture leading up to late April of 2011 was that his completion percentage was less than satisfactory. Through four years at the University of Washington he completed only 53.9 percent of his passes. So please, suspend any fake shock you may be experiencing over his sometimes wayward forward passes.
But if we look at those college stats again because they represent the last time Locker was a consistent starter, we see a potential bonus that could be rather lucrative in fantasy. As a freshman he rushed for 986 yards, and although that number dropped by his senior year as he stayed in the pocket more often, he still had six TDs on the ground. Most leagues give more points for rushing yards (usually one point for every 10 yards, as opposed to one point for every 20-25 passing yards). So the opportunity to have even 30 rushing yards on any given week from Locker as a flex play is a nice little addition to your point total when combined with his passing yards. Consider him Tebow-lite in terms of his running ability, with a far stronger arm and a better sense of what’s required to, you know, be a quarterback.
That’s Locker’s ceiling right now as we sit here in late August in the heart of draft season. He’s a flex play, and optimistically a late-round flier in standard 10 or 12 team leagues. More realistically, if you’re drafting any time over the next few days prior to Tennessee’s Thursday game, let him fall to the waiver wire, and if he’s more Andy Dalton than Blaine Gabbert early in what’s essentially Locker’s rookie season, he could be waiver wire gold as either an injury fill-in, or a spot starter.
In deeper leagues where that’s not an option, consider who you’d rather have in the late rounds when you’re set to take a flier, and are picking between Locker, Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, Kevin Kolb/John Skelton, Ryan Tannehill/Matt Moore, and Mark Sanchez.
Of that group, Sanchez will go first simply because he’s more experienced, but then what? Gabbert has shown promise during the preaseason, but he may enter the season without the support of Maurice Jones-Drew. Sanchez will be replaced by Tim Tebow once he throws two interceptions, Weeden and Tannehill are clearly raw, and starting an Arizona QB is a whole different breed of desperation.
Locker will be propped up by a hopefully rejuvenated Chris Johnson, he’ll have Kenny Britt if he’s mercifully able to stay healthy for more than two snaps, and he’ll have breakout candidate Jared Cook and first-round pick Kendall Wright, who matches his QB’s upside and potential.
We’re always in favor of managing and mitigating risk, and there’s little of it with Locker as a high upside QB2 in deep leagues, or a waiver wire sleeper in standard formats. So take the dice roll if you have the opportunity, and cash in on his potential to provide depth.