THUNDERING BLURB » Matthew Stafford http://thunderingblurb.com ANDREW GARDA'S ENDLESS TAKES ON NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL Fri, 22 Oct 2010 12:30:31 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.1 en hourly 1 Fantasy Rookies 2009: The Quarterbacks http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/05/fantasy-rookies-2009-the-quarterbacks/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/05/fantasy-rookies-2009-the-quarterbacks/#comments Wed, 06 May 2009 03:28:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=433

Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to digest the draft and overcome our shocks, hangovers, or disappointments, it’s time to start breaking down the players from the most important direction possible—their impact on your fantasy football squad.

Priorities, right?

This is the first in a series of articles which will cover various positions for both Dynasty and Redraft leagues.

I’ll start by saying something I have said multiple times already prior to and after the draft, and will say pretty much at the top of all of these articles—do not be fooled by last year’s numbers. We will—in all likelihood—not see the success that we did last year.

So for Dynasty, keep thinking about long term ramifications as much as (if not more than) short term. In redraft, do not over-value a rookie and leap on one too early, as it is unlikely most of them will pay off this season.

There will be precious few studs with immediate impact this season—and I would hazard a guess that none of them will reside in today’s category, the quarterbacks.

If this class was a weak one from a pure football standpoint, it isn’t much better from a fantasy one. There are a few who might play this season, a few with long term upside, and many who will be sitting on a waiver wire for a very long time.

With that, here are my thoughts on the 2009 rookie quarterbacks, ranked in order of their draft position, with a rank at the end of how effective I think they will be long and short term.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Stafford has the arm to take advantage of Calvin Johnson’s vertical game and, yes, he’s a guy who can either buy time in the pocket or throw on the run, which he will need unless that offensive line pulls a miracle.

Stafford looks like he might have the tools to succeed down the road, but that’s my biggest concern—will he be allowed to develop or will he be rushed out this season?

The Lions are saying all the right things; that Daunte Culpepper is the guy this year, that Stafford needs time to learn and get used to the NFL.

But six or seven games in, will he be on the bench if the Lions stay lousy?

I know I have been in the midst of arguments that the Lions’ offensive line isn’t that bad off, but I have my doubts about that. And on top of that, I prefer a quarterback to sit for a season before being thrown in to the fire. A QB’s psyche is sometimes a fragile thing.

Yes, Peyton Manning survived and got better in spite of that initial hellish season one. Many, many quarterbacks did not and they far outnumber the survivors.

If he gets most of the season to adjust to the NFL, I like Stafford quite a bit. His arm, his feet, all the little things he does well. But I like him less if he gets thrown to the wolves in the NFC North too soon.

That offense would live and die by his arm and I don’t think it has the tools for him to bring that off. If he goes in, and they double cover Johnson or stack the box against Kevin Smith, what then?

He can’t win it all and behind that offensive line, I worry about the pounding he might get and its results.

Dynasty Rank

First round rookie, with the hopes he gets the time to work up to starter. If you own Culpepper, you almost have to have him unless you have better.

Redraft Rank

A late addition—probably near QB 28-30. He could bump up if he wins the job outright, though not much and I’m hoping sense prevails and he sits.

Mark Sanchez, NY Jets

Sanchez’s situation is at once similar to Stafford’s and also wildly different.

Let me explain. I love the upside of Sanchez, he can make all the throws you need, is a natural leader, a hard worker, and a very smart player.

That said, like Stafford, he’d benefit from a little time to develop.

Unlike Stafford, though, he has a better chance of survival if he is thrown in the mix early.

Whereas the Lions would need Stafford to do a ton of heavy lifting, the Jets built their offensive line to be a power run blocking line.

Yes, they utterly got away from that when Favre showed up. That’s reason number 4,546 why Eric Mangini is a Brown.

But ultimately, that’s what they are. And in that case, the quarterback’s burden is much easier.

Sanchez is a guy who has already impressed the team with his hard work and overall play and while they—like the Lions—say all the right things about it being a competition, it isn’t looking like that.

Sanchez has a better chance of being stuck in a No. 1 spot at the beginning of the season and he also has a better chance of survival if he is thrown directly into the fire.

That said, even if he’s wildly successful, he’s not likely to have to throw often (assuming the Jets’ defense and run offense work out) and so he won’t be a guy who blows up this season.

Longer term, until they get him a legit No. 1 wide receiver, he will lag behind Stafford assuming he (Stafford) survives.

Dynasty Rank

Like Stafford, he’s a first round rookie, and in his case is probably safer to start in a bye week. But long term right now, I put him behind Stafford. Until the Jets get him some vertical weapons, he is unlikely to match Stafford’s potential long term production.

Redraft Rank

Again, a guy who you probably look at after most of the veteran starters are gone. I think the same things that might limit his long term potential—the offensive schemes, the defense—make him a safer bet than Stafford to put consistent points up. Those points still won’t make him reliable as much more than a bye week or emergency filler.



Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After leaping over non-existent teams desperate to grab Freeman and all the “I know this kid, he’s AWESOME” talk from the head coach, I don’t know I believe Freeman doesn’t start at some point.

Still, there is a good chance we see Byron Leftwich as the starter come week one, despite Freeman’s really ill-advised (and perhaps flat out incorrect) statement that Leftwich was just “smokescreen” to throw people off the scent.

Riiiiiiight.

Freeman is a big, tough, quarterback with a strong arm who has lots of experience and pretty good mobility.

Two things don’t work for me about him.

First, stuff like that statement about Leftwich really tell me he’s not much of a leader, no matter what many sites have said otherwise. How is that the way you want to enter a locker-room? How do you win that place over?

Not smart. Worse, it smacks (in my mind) of Ryan Leaf. He expects to be “the man.” I wonder if that work ethic, which was a plus in college, will exist at the Pro level.

More importantly is that he was incredibly streaky in college and, as much as he would succeed, he would go a game throwing picks and bad passes. For example, his November 1 game against Kansas. Freeman threw no touchdown passes in the 52-21 loss, while tossing three interceptions and getting sacked three times.

The fact that the Bucs were at that game disturbs me. So does the fact that he didn’t throw any touchdown passes in four games against Texas A&M, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri.

Yes, he lacked big time players. I still say some of the best—most successful—quarterbacks had success at the college level despite a dearth of top talent.

And who does he have in Tampa? Antonio Bryant, who finally lived up to expectations last year but who isn’t a sure bet to repeat, and a decent run game. And some real questions on the defensive side of the ball.

Does it really sound all that much better?

That doesn’t mean he won’t succeed. I just don’t like his chances.

Dynasty Rank

A distant third behind Stafford and Sanchez and even then I don’t like him. To me, he’s a project (which really all these guys are to some extent) and I’d rather grab another skill position and pick up another quarterback later or trade out for a QB in next year’s draft.

Redraft Rank

I wouldn’t even draft him unless he was sure to start and even then, I don’t know if I would go for him when he might get drafted. I would rather pick up a backup earlier and then value at another position while someone risks a pick on Freeman.

Pat White, Miami Dolphins

Is he a quarterback or is he a wide receiver? Is he an every down player or is he a gadget guy like Brad Smith of the NY Jets?

These questions make him a risky pick in any draft.

Still, taking him in the second is a sign they expect something of him and reports are that he will challenge Chad Henne for backup duties.

Henne had the locker room and skills last season, and might have started if Pennington hadn’t arrived. Until the draft, many were predicting Henne would start sometime in 2010.

On top of the extreme athleticism and trick play skills, White is actually a decent quarterback and many scouts stopped looking at him as a hybrid or wide receiver conversion. He’s smart and looked very accurate in every workout the past few months.

Still, it’s one thing to throw balls in shorts and perfect weather (or no weather like at the Combine) and another with Bart Scott bearing down on you.

It’s a little soon to guess which way this is going to go and how White will adjust to the NFL. Many players like him have failed as QBs and either transitioned to another position or dropped out of the league.

But he has the upside and potential to be a dynamic player at this level too. It’s a coin flip.

Do keep in mind—if he is categorized as a quarterback by the league, most league sites will do the same and then he may not be available to you as a flex player, which might be his best value if he gets used in the Wildcat formation a ton.

Dynasty Rank

A guy you take later in your rookie draft as a pure upside pick. If you don’t have a ton of holes, he’s worth a look. But if you have other needs, don’t burn the roster spot. When he takes a year or two to develop, owners may get frustrated and you could find him on the waiver wire to pick up at your leisure.

Redraft Rank

You’ll have to wait, but if you can hold on until the last quarter of your draft, he could be a really interesting upside pick.

If he is integrated as a new wrinkle on the Wildcat, he might prove a useful flex player assuming your league is set up to accommodate. But the trick will be waiting long enough to where you won’t be angry when you drop him for more consistent injury or bye week help.

Nate Davis, San Francisco

You have to keep an eye on the guy who has only Shaun Hill, Damon Huard, and Alex Smith ahead of him on the depth chart.

Davis has a strong arm, is a good team leader, and has great touch and timing. He’s a hard worker and exceedingly competitive, which strikes me as a very Singletary trait.

He does have a learning disability but that hasn’t fazed the 49ers, and he definitely needs some work both in mechanics and the fact that he rarely worked under center.

Still, there isn’t a lot of incredibly impressive talent in front of him and with Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, and the newly drafted Michael Crabtree, whoever the starter is has some fantasy potential.

Davis is likely a longer term project but you never know and he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Dynasty Rank

More attractive if you happen to have Alex Smith on your roster already but Davis is likely to slip out of a rookie draft in all but the deepest leagues with a long rookie draft. Watch the QB battle in San Fran over the summer closely and be ready to hit the waiver wire. Just in case.

Redraft Rank

Not someone you’ll be drafting in a redraft league unless you draft late and he’s won the job. But like in a Dynasty league, you’ll want to keep an eye on the QB battle and a finger on the waiver wire trigger. The weapons in that offense could be very productive, and in that case, Davis could be as well.

The following two QBs are worth noting in Dynasty leagues but not worth looking at really at all in a redraft.

Stephen McGee, Dallas Cowboys

McGee is a very underrated quarterback who could take over down the road if he develops well and Romo keeps losing games late in the season. Very raw though and will burn a roster spot unless you have a taxi squad in your league.

Tom Brandstater, Denver Broncos

While it’s unlikely he’ll see the field anytime soon, Brandstater has a nice touch, timing, and is very smart. Is this McDaniels’ attempt to replicate Cassel? Probably not due to a lack of arm strength but there is enough confusion at the Denver QB position to keep an eye on him in Dynasty leagues.

This will be worth revisiting during the summer and we will, here as well as on The Thundering Blurb Football Show every Wednesday. Some street free agents may end up being worth a Dynasty look and some of these players may find themselves firmly in possession of a clipboard.

But for now, here’s hoping this helps you start to get ready for your Fantasy Football drafts.

I’ll be back next week with a breakdown of running backs.

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Build the Castle, then Find a King to Defend It or Why the Lions Need Jason Smith http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/build-the-castle-then-find-a-king-to-defend-it-or-why-the-lions-need-jason-smith/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/build-the-castle-then-find-a-king-to-defend-it-or-why-the-lions-need-jason-smith/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2009 20:23:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=426
I recently finished my first (and at this late date, likely only) two round mock draft over at Draftguys.com and a funny thing happened on the way to the internet.

I didn’t have the Lions taking Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Crazy, I know.

Maybe it’s a reaction to the group think I keep seeing in mock after mock where Stafford has to go to the Lions. I have to admit when the herd runs one way, I tend to take a long look at alternative routes.

But more likely it’s a number of other mitigating factors – hang with me a moment, put the pitchforks down and hear me out.

1) Protection is a must
To paraphrase myself in my mock (how narcissistic is THAT?), you could clone a Serpentor-like mix of the best quarterbacks ever to grace the field, with the biggest arms, most accurate passes and Churchill-like leadership skills and it won’t matter a bit if all the QB does is lay on his back counting clouds and planes.

The Lions offensive line is – if you will excuse the pun – offensive. They flat out don’t protect the quarterback. They allowed 52 sacks last season – thank goodness for the 49ers, since they kept the Lions from being the worst in that category.

How can you utilize Calvin Johnson’s speed and vertical game when you can’t get the ball off? Sure Daunte Culpepper is past his prime as a quarterback. But when you are pressured that often and that consistently? Who can be successful?

2) If You Can’t Block, Then You Can’t Run and You Can’t Pass
Not enough for you? Ok, they’re also barely capable of holding holes open for the running back. Ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards, with a near-tragic 1,332 yards total and a futile 3.8 yards per carry.

If you have no run game, you have no pass game. What about the Cardinals you ask? Well, they have an offensive line that jelled late and have two of the best wide receivers in the game today and a #3 who is better than half the #2s (and a few #1 guys) in the league. In the desert, the line held. The proof? Just 28 sacks against (tied with the Giants) and 4,674 yards through the air. Oh, and the third most TDs through the air.

The Lions should be so lucky. And in the end, a lack of run game was one of the flaws in this Arizona team. They didn’t need to run because they threw the ball so well, but they finally got caught against a team who could stop the air attack (as they were several times last year) and it cost them the Super Bowl.

It’s a glaring hole for the Lions. If they cannot protect the ball carrier, the defense will not respect the run and will just tee off on whoever is the unlucky soul hucking the ball.

3) And Many Miles to go Before I Sleep
Let’s be honest. This team is not the Miami Dolphins – a team with no one superstar or stud piece, but a lot of solid players who could get the job done. The Lions have a superstar in Calvin Johnson, a solid running back in Kevin Smith and… um….. some other guys.

Adding Stafford or Sanchez is not instantly turning this team around. It’s not even the first step. Or third. It might not even be half a step. This team is riddled with holes all over the place.

The Dolphins succeeded last year in part because the pieces they added in the Draft and elsewhere were just enough to get an average team over the hump. Any Miami fan who is honest with themselves know that the team played over its head last year. And any AFC East fan worth his salt knows they were never as bad as the 2007 season made them look. They just didn’t have that far to go to begin with.

The Lions, on the other hand, have much more to do before they can become ‘good’.

And if they draft a QB here – well see points 1 & 2. He may not be around long enough to pay off, or could see his confidence shattered before the team really comes together.

There will be plenty of very good quarterbacks next year – more than there are this year in my opinion. And I’m sorry Lionsfan, but you are primed to be at the top of the heap again next year in the Draft.

Like the title says – build the castle first, then prop up a king to lead you.

And while I do like Stafford and Sanchez, I don’t know if they will survive the beating they would get behind this line, nor be a capable quarterback long term if they have to live through that many sacks and that much pressure. Many good quarterbacks have been chewed up by a porous line.

What about Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco you say? Totally different situations. Ryan was plopped into a rebuilt oline, one that was built to be carried by Michael Turner. Defenses could not just tee off on Ryan, as they were too busy worrying about Turner. And in turn, they couldn’t shut Turner down because Ryan would torch them.

Plop Sanchez and Stafford in a situation like that and I would be much happier with the pick. The Falcons did tons to fix their team before they got Ryan. They had the castle built, had a kick ass moat and a fierce, ball-carrying dragon thrown in for good measure.

Flacco is a weirder situation because he wasn’t brought in to start ASAP. He only played because Troy Smith got tonsillitis and missed the preseason. He also stepped into a decent oline situation and while his receivers weren’t stunning and the run game a bit lackluster, he wasn’t asked to win a bunch of games.

Oh and the Ravens’ D? A little better than the Lions’. He didn’t need to have big games because the team wasn’t allowing many points – just 15.2 a game, third best in the league.

Think Stafford/Sanchez will have the luxury or easing through a season without having to face enormous deficits?

Before you answer, the Lions gave up 32.3 points a game. That would be dead last in the NFL, if you were wondering.

So that’s an awful risk you’re taking, plugging even those two behind a line that’s filled with turnstiles and with a defense that tends to get scored on early and often.

4) Money, Money, Money, MONEY!
I hate to say it, but signability will factor in this pick. How much are you going to spend on Stafford or Sanchez? Ryan had $34.75 million in guaranteed money. They won’t settle for less and will ask for a ton more, since they would be the first pick, not the third like Ryan.

The Dolphins’ first pick, OT Jake Long, cost a mere $30 million in guaranteed money.

Ryan also signed for six years at $72 million while Long is signed for five years at $57.75 million.

It’s going to be expensive, that’s why they are trying to trade out of the pick. It’s also why they won’t be able to. So while it’s sexier to pick the QB, it’s a far safer – and likely cheaper – to go offensive lineman.

Even if the Lions are unmoved by the preceding 1,241 words, they may be moved by the money. Don’t just look at the difference between what Long got and what Ryan got. Remember two other things – we’re talking about a quarterback in the first slot, not the third and a quarterback always gets far more money than a lineman.

In 2007, Jamarcus Russell got a six-year contract worth up to $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed. Last year, Ryan – just one year and two slots later – got six years at $72 million with $34.75 million in guaranteed money.

You have to figure if push comes to shove, getting their player at a reasonable price in this economy, may play a huge factor. And Smith will flat out come cheaper.

The one thing I haven’t touched on is Jason Smith (who I think will go ahead of Eugene Monroe out of Virginia). It’s not as if the offensive tackle out of Baylor isn’t very, very good. He is. He’s great in pass protection, is very light on his feet and agile, plays with a flat-out nasty streak and probably hasn’t even fulfilled his potential. I love the guy.

If the Lions take him, he will be a cornerstone for the offensive line – and therefore, that offense – for years to come.

They will have made a good start at building that castle, perhaps adding to it as the Draft progresses.

Then, and only then, should they go find the king to lead them forward.

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Monday NFL Draft News and Notes http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/03/monday-nfl-draft-news-and-notes/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/03/monday-nfl-draft-news-and-notes/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2009 22:27:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=415 Week three of the Pro Day Meat Market has commenced and there are a ton of schools over the next six days who will be hosting NFL Scouts and Staff to their home campus to give their guys a look and maybe a shot at being grabbed by a team in April.

I mentioned many schools to look for in this week’s Pro Day Rewind as well as my impromtu Pro Day episode of All Access Football show, but honestly there is no way to cover every school and even the players who aren’t having their expos are news in some cases.

Here are some of the big pieces today and my thoughts on them:

DE Michael Johnson ran an official 40 time of 4.59 at the Georgia Tech Pro Day on Monday, although the Lions had him at 4.49. Which is odd and totally opposite my personal experiences at USC and UCLA’s Pro Days last year. Sometimes a school will put an athlete’s time much faster than the Scouts do but I don’t think I’ve seen a discrepancy flipped like this. And .10 of a second in a 40 time is an eternity. How does that happen? My thoughts on Johnson really are simple. He measures up really well, but gets pushed around and lacks consistent effort from play to play. However, Johnson is looking to be a late second, early third pick right now and could still move up depending upon what times other teams got today.

Beat writers and mockers have the Jets grabbing the best available wide receiver at #17. All sorts of guys – Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jeremy Maclin most often – get mentioned so far and the only thing that really might not be accounted for could be that Rex Ryan is a defense guy. So given how good I think the defensive class is (article forthcoming), it wouldn’t shock me, even with the cash they’ve spent over two years, if Ryan went with a great defensive player.

Georgia QB Matt Stafford (sorry, Matthew) apparently kicked some serious tail in personal interviews at the Scouting Combine. While it comes as a shock to nobody that he’s still in the conversation to be Detroit’s pick, it’s something interesting to hear. This is not a fantastic quarterback class. Stafford testing well may bump up it’s overall grade. Now we’ll see what we hear of Sanchez as well. He’s a guy I am very interested to see when I head to USC’s Pro Day on April 1st.

Mike Mayock was on the NFL Network and is talking up University of Connecticut running back Donald Brown pretty hard. He was already looking at him as his second best back in the draft, an opinion I didn’t particularly share. I’ve been watching tape I can get ahold of and have been gradually getting on board. I haven’t gotten to the point where I have him as high as Mayock but he’s starting to get there.

I was supposed to interview Utah QB Brian Johnson, but he had to postpone (hence the impromptu Pro Day show on all Access) and so was paying close attention to Utah’s Pro Day this afternoon. Johnson was very productive in an offense that led a team on an undefeated run last season – so you kind of need to look and see what’s there. Some injury issues and an offense which worked largely out of the spread are question marks. He moved all right in the 40 (4.88/4.89) and the three-cone in 4.41. Johnson is a long shot, but is just intriguing enough to maybe catch on as a Rookie Street Free agent.

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