Maybe we should just eliminate quarterback as a position in fantasy football for one week. We’d all be far more mentally stable, and we wouldn’t be forced to do things like trot out a rookie quarterback during his first start.
Just invite the hurt in, and let it seep deep into your soul. Many will have little choice but to embrace a middle-tier quarterback this week due to the all-consuming dark perfect QB storm that’s about to descend. Firstly, by now you’re well aware of the fantastic four of quarterbacks who went down with injuries over the weekend and Monday night between Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, and Michael Vick. The scrambling has already begun for Roethlisberger owners as what was widely expected has been confirmed — or at least it has according to The Glazer — and we’ll get another Byron Leftwich sighting Sunday night.
Cutler is doubtful, and as much as the Internet quite rightfully enjoys hating him, he’s retained fantasy value due to his sporadic outbursts with the help of Brandon Marshall’s wingspan this year. He’s had three games with over 20 fantasy points, which is solid single-week production for a quarterback who was selected far later in drafts, and beyond the 10th round. If you’re in a position where you were starting Cutler, you’re likely not in a playoff position. But he’s one of the best fantasy backups.
And that’s the problem. The dent in the Week 11 QB depth chart starts with the aforementioned injuries — and of those four, only Smith seems to have a chance to play — and it extends into the four QBs sitting out during the final week of byes. The latter group is led by Eli Manning, and it includes Christian Ponder, Russell Wilson, and Jake Locker.
Wilson, Locker, and Ponder would have been fine depth options for the Vick or Roethlisberger owner, just like Cutler. So what’s next in a week with such severe depletion at the position, and up to eight regular starters unavailable? One of the emergency, reaching options is Nick Foles, the Eagles backup who will replace Vick and make his first career regular-season start. For this week’s Five Questions I talked to Mike Clay, the managing editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy, and a contributor at Rotoworld and philadelphiaeagles.com, and I started by asking him about Foles’ outlook this week, and his fantasy value for Vick, Roethlisberger, or Manning owners during these trying times.
We also discussed the impact of Foles’ presence on the Eagles’ other primary offensive contributors before moving on to some Carson Palmer/Josh Freeman debate, an assessment of Danario Alexander, and a look at the decline of Vernon Davis.
1. Nick Foles has a soft landing spot in his first career regular-season start as he draws the Redskins. Is Foles a good option for the deep league Manning owner who’s dealing with his bye, or Vick and Roethlisberger owners filling injury holes?
Unknowns are often scary, but, especially when it comes to fantasy football, they’re equally exciting. We can analyze and speculate all we want, but no one really knows if Foles is going to be a complete bust, an average NFL quarterback, or maybe even an eventual Hall of Famer. That being said, I’ve watched all of Foles’ tape from the preseason and Week 10 vs. Dallas and I like what I see. There are definitely signs that this is a guy who can guide the Eagles’ offense for years to come. That’s the excitement. That’s what makes him worth owning right now. On the other hand, he made a lot of poor decisions (aka ‘rookie mistakes’), which inevitably cost the Eagles the game. That’s the scary part. Foles is going to show flashes over the next few weeks, but he’s also going to make a bunch of mistakes. It comes with the territory. Also, unlike Michael Vick, he’s going not going produce many fantasy points with his legs. That’s why Vick was still a back-end QB1, while Foles is more like a mid-to-back-end QB2. If your league is deep and there’s nothing great available on waivers, Foles isn’t the worst bet, but players like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, and Jay Cutler are a bit safer…for now.
2. We saw some good throws from Foles this past Sunday, and we saw him look like, well, a rookie quarterback. How will his presence affect the fantasy production of the Eagles’ other primary offensive contributors?
Without reiterating what I laid out in the first question, it’s fair to expect quite a bit of inconsistency from Foles, and thus the offense, going forward. We did see that Foles is able to see the play developing faster than Vick, which led to a lot of quick throws and completions. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson combined for 20 targets in the game, which is excellent production. The idea is to get the ball to your playmakers and that was clearly Foles’ mindset immediately upon entering the game. Brent Celek didn’t see much work in the passing game, but only pass blocked a handful of times and will find his normal share of the load as the season progresses. Foles wasn’t afraid to go the tight end’s way in the preseason. LeSean McCoy seems to benefit from the move, if only because the team will need to lean on him more inside the five-yard line. There were occasions where a designed run was drawn up for Vick inside the redzone, but that won’t be the case for Foles, who’s more of a pocket quarterback. Those carries will go to McCoy and, to a lesser extent, Bryce Brown. The way I see it, the fantasy appeal of the Eagles offense is higher than it has been over the last month, but the ceiling is also lower than it would be with Vick under center.
3. Which rising second-tier QB would you rather have as an option on your bench as we head into the stretch drive: Carson Palmer, or Josh Freeman?
It’s a close call, but I’d prefer Freeman. I liked him as a prime bounce-back candidate prior to the season, and he’s delivered. Only Tom Brady’s Patriots and Drew Brees’ Saints are currently averaging more offensive touchdowns per game than Freeman’s Buccaneers right now. Freeman doesn’t turn the ball over a ton, has a strong rushing attack behind him, and he also adds a handful of fantasy points with his legs. Palmer, meanwhile, has seen his fantasy stock soar mainly because Oakland has dumped its rushing game while Darren McFadden is out of action. Oakland is the league’s No. 3 pass-heaviest team and has called 112 passes, compared to 35 runs over its last two games. Although that puts Palmer on the QB1 radar, the Raiders rank only 20th in offensive touchdowns, and the recent string of pass-happy offense is sure to subside, at least to a more reasonable rate. Go with the youth and higher upside presented by Freeman.
4. Danario Alexander exploded for 134 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. What’s his value going forward? Could he become the Vincent Jackson replacement for the Chargers, a role Robert Meachem has failed in miserably?
Alexander has a ton of talent, so his explosive play in San Diego isn’t a total shocker. Coming into the season, I was one of the fools who felt that Meachem had the talent to pick up where Jackson left off – albeit to a lesser extent. Meachem, obviously, failed miserably and Alexander has seemingly taken his place in the starting lineup going forward. Although the San Diego offense has been much worse than anticipated — reaching the three-touchdown mark only twice this season — there will still be a good six-to-seven targets available for Alexander each game. If he can avoid a relapse of his chronic injury problems, Alexander will be on the fantasy radar as a borderline WR3 from here on in.
5. Vernon Davis now has four straight games with less than 40 receiving yards, and a Week 7 game against the Seahawks during that stretch when he wasn’t even targeted is particularly glaring. Should his owners be concerned, or are you confident he’ll produce in the final weeks with some appealing matchups (@NO, vs. MIA, @NE)?
I’ve actually been concerned with Davis’ upside since the offseason. Everyone and their mother knows that the 49ers are and will remain a run-heavy team. Last season, Davis maintained fantasy relevance because he saw such a massive chunk of the targets (22 percent) and receiving scores (45 percent). This season, however, the 49ers added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the mix, which has taken away the need to rely on Davis so heavily. Through 10 weeks, he’s seen only 16 percent of the targets and scored 31 percent of the receiving touchdowns. That may not seem like much of a drop, but it most certainly is for a guy who was already a middle-of-the-pack TE1. Add to the pot the fact that he hasn’t scored since Week 3, and there are serious red flags. Davis isn’t going to completely fall off the fantasy radar and he’s sure to score at least another touchdown or two the rest of the way, but he’s no longer a top-five option at tight end. Try to use his big name to land an upgrade at another position.