Flea Clicker: The tale of Tuel time

jeff tuel2

If Jeff Tuel starts against the Patriots in 12 days, he’ll surely be able to mentally grapple with the enormity of the situation he’s been plugged into. But it’s probably better if he doesn’t think about it.

In fact, Jeff, I’d just stay away from all television, radio, and any media communication whatsoever between now and September 8th.

Maybe our boy Jeff is preparing to make history, and be surprisingly confident even after he wasn’t deemed worthy of being Mr. Irrelevant last spring, and he was passed over 254 times. Kevin Kolb is out until maybe forever, and although there’s still at least faint hope that rookie E.J. Manuel will be ready, rushing the recovery of a rookie first-round pick who needs his working limbs to be effective would be just so Bills.

Enter Tuel, who will be the first undrafted rookie quarterback to start his first NFL game since the AFL-NFL merger. You’ve likely heard that piece of archived history a few times since word of Tuel’s promotion surfaced yesterday, but really absorb it. Tuel’s opponent won’t just be the Patriots. He’ll also be facing over six decades of NFL history.

Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar reviewed those dusty digital archives yesterday, reminding us that when we speak of Tuel making his first start, we mean his first professional football adventure. Ever.

A few undrafted rookies have started in their first NFL game, but they still fell short of doing exactly what Tuel is about to attempt, and doing it immediately without any other professional quarterbacking experience whatsoever. Warren Moon is among them and was pretty good, but he also had a few years of being pretty good under his QB belt in the CFL before coming south. Jim Zorn came even closer while starting in the Seahawks’ inaugural game in 1976, but at least he still had the experience of being in training camp with the Cowboys the previous season. This will be the first time a player went undrafted in late April, and then just over four months later he’s starting an NFL game.

So, who is this Tuel? Well, his record at Washington State was 4-22, for those who care about such things. But what’s important/nightmare inducing for Bills fans is his deep injury history, which is partly why he went undrafted. Tuel had a fine start to his collegiate career in 2009 when he started five games as a true freshman, completing 59 percent of his passes. But then he dislocated his kneecap, and then after an encouraging 2010 season (completing 59.8 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 133.3), he broke his collarbone in 2011.

For a visual reference, here’s how Tuel looked during happier times in that 2009 season…

That guy in the moving pictures above didn’t even having a Wikipedia page 24 hours ago (there’s a Wikipedia page for, I dunno, the Bogeyman), and according to the astute fact finding by Yahoo’s Eric Edholm, the Patriots worked out Tuel prior to last spring’s draft. That’s great, right? No, not when Bill Belichick then passed on Tuel when looking for quarterback depth, favoring Tim Tebow instead.

In his scouting report, leading draftnik Rob Rang highlighted Tuel’s aforementioned durability concerns, but also raised an equally troubling criticism: arm strength.

STRENGTHS: When healthy, Tuel has demonstrated the combination of intelligence, mobility, and accuracy that every scout is looking for in a developmental quarterback. He possesses good size and enough athleticism to buy time in the pocket and scramble for yardage when the defense is caught napping. Tuel’s best asset might be his touch, as he’s consistently shown the ability to drop passes over the top of his receivers, leading them beautifully for long gainers.

WEAKNESSES: Tuel appears to have just average arm strength, overall. He wasn’t often asked to make “stick” throws in Paul Wulff’s spread scheme and likewise didn’t do much of it in Mike Leach’s offense. Perhaps the biggest concern scouts will have with Tuel, frankly, is his struggles with durability. He missed time with injury in three of his four seasons at WSU, though it’s remarkable that he didn’t miss more time than he did considering the lack of support he had in Pullman.

As we keep marching through the heart of fantasy draft season, Tuel’s hopefully short-term presence doesn’t change any strategy regarding the Bills’ primary fantasy options. It does, however, effect your Week 1 starting lineup.

You’re clearly never benching C.J. Spiller, but expectations should be realigned for at least one week. He’s already set to face a tough run defense, but now the focus will rest solely and squarely on him. Sure, he’ll get an abundance of touches, but for one game a running back drafted as an RB1 will have an RB2 ceiling.

Beyond him…well, there isn’t anything beyond him. You likely drafted or are about to drafted Stevie Johnson as a fine WR2, and you were a real jerk while bragging about that Robert Woods sleeper pick, or maybe even Marquise Goodwin in a deeper league. If possible, though, they all belong on your bench in Week 1.

Tuel time won’t be pleasant, and it’ll maybe be just as goofy and intolerable as the Tim Allen kind.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

DeSean Jackson’s preseason has been pretty alright

As we’ve observed the methodical unveiling of Chip Kelly’s offense, DeSean Jackon’s role has been the subject of consistent questions. How will a mostly vertical receiver be used in an offense that relies on a strong running game, and short, quick throws? Answer: he’ll be used as a vertical receiver.

The Gronk surfaces

Optimistically, mid-to-late September was always a possible return time for Rob Gronkowski following his back surgery. As I’ve written repeatedly, don’t shy away from him in fantasy drafts. Risk needs to be managed, but it can’t completely be dodged.

Acknowledge Gronk will be lost for a minimum of three games and maybe more, and treat it as the cost of doing business, taking the steep discount on a tight end who had 790 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year despite missing five games. Seriously, he still led his position in touchdowns despite that missed time (Jimmy Graham finished second with nine, and he had 30 fewer receptions…again, seriously).

Knowing all that, you can still usually get a stupid cheap fourth round price on Gronkowski. Oh, and there’s also this…

The people vs. Arian Foster

It seems we discuss Arian Foster every day, which is appropriate because he’s led to the most soiled pants among all the universal first-round picks.

Yes, despite his various injuries he’s accumulated 3,482 total yards over the past two seasons, with 29 touchdowns. But yes, because of those injuries (back and calf), he only recently started practicing, he won’t see any preaseason game action, and there’s considerable talk about a reduced workload at least to begin the season after 414 touches last year (including the playoffs), and therefore an increased role for Ben Tate.

The performance history of running backs after such significant abuse over a short period always favors a drop in production, although as I’ve outlined in depth previously, the length of that fall is inconsistent at best. But we’re concerned with the here and now regarding Foster, and if he’s worth your mouse click when he’s still available at say, sixth overall, and other running backs who come with less worry and higher or equal upside are still on the board. We’re talking about Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, and Marshawn Lynch, all of whom come with considerably less risk.

There’s another often overlooked concern: the inflated cost to handcuff Tate, which is an essential move for the Foster owner. Alex Hampl from NumberFire is kindly here to remind you.

Now that Foster has been identified as a riskier play than previously thought, he comes with some higher costs as well. Sure, he was pricey as a top-five pick anyway, but now many owners view a Ben Tate handcuff as a must. Tate has shot up draft boards with the latest Foster news. Per fantasyfootballcalulator.com, Tate has gone from the end of the 8th round to the middle of the 7th since Sunday. If Foster doesn’t make quick progress, that ADP will keep creeping up, maybe even into the 6th round. That’s an awfully pricey handcuff. Is it really something you want out of your first-rounder?

The correct answer is no.

The Jaguars want to run like 2,000 plays per game, or something

For the most obvious reason ever in the history of thinking, the amount of plays an offense runs matters a lot for fantasy purposes. More plays = more touches and opportunities, and last year the Patriots averaged an exhausting and league leading 72 plays per game, while the Jaguars were near the bottom at 58.

Due to his own recent record of being broken, Maurice Jones-Drew has been rather scary as a second-round pick. But when he told Denny Carter that the Jags’ new offense under Jedd Fisch plans to go all lightening mode and average 80-85 plays per game, MJD became a little more inviting, even at that price.