The quarterbacks this week to discuss are somewhat interesting in different ways. I wanted to make sure that we hit on the news coming out of Seattle over the weekend and revisited that situation. But there is also a quarterback down in Tampa that has missed out from discussion to this point. Lastly, though he may not impact your roster directly, the new guy in Cleveland may need to be looked at for what he could (or could not) do for those surrounding him.
Let’s dive in.
Russell Wilson, revisiting Seattle
The biggest piece of news exiting the weekend seemed to be that Wilson would be getting the starting job in Seattle. After handing Matt Flynn a ton of money and abandoning the Tarvaris Jackson experiment, Wilson emerged to take the reins and lead Seattle into the season. His play over the first three exhibition games has been exciting. In three games, he combined to run for more than 100 yards and led the NFL in pre-season passer rating. Not to say we should put a ton of stock into pre-season numbers, but at least these are positive signs. It just does not make Wilson a starting fantasy quarterback.
Forget his height. The idea that shorter quarterbacks cannot succeed is not entirely accurate. There just have not been many of them. Wilson is an interesting blend at the position, showing off a strong deep arm while providing mobility outside of the pocket. From a fantasy standpoint, it is hard to argue that the Seattle receivers could be worse with Wilson than Jackson. They should, in fact, be better. Wilson has shown he has greater accuracy and will keep defenses honest with his running ability. A healthy Sidney Rice will certainly help and Doug Baldwin showed strong potential in the slot last season. If Braylon Edwards is not yet dead this is a decent trio of receivers that will help accentuate Wilson’s ability and Wilson will be able to get the football into their hands to make plays.
All that said, Wilson is a backup and maybe a keeper selection in the right league during the late rounds. While he has been impressive, there should be concern that any struggles will open the door for Matt Flynn to step on the field. Flynn was paid to be there and there will be plenty that say he should get a chance if a bad game or two comes across. He should help the value of those surrounding him but asking Wilson to lead your fantasy team is a high-risk proposition that would only yield moderate reward.
He is another case where just because a player is a starter for his team does not mean he should start on a fantasy roster. Unless you are in a two-quarterback league with 12 or 14 teams, Weeden has not inspired the confidence to be put on a roster. Weeden’s case is different than that of Wilson. Here we have a player that has the physical skills. No one doubts his arm strength and he “looks the part.” Even if there are doubts about age, Weeden can leverage that into a discussion on maturity. While his college offense was more shotgun style, he is the type of pocket passer that could adapt to a change in system.
Everything surrounding the situation though is a problem, and that is where most of the material effects would be felt for a fantasy owner. Cleveland is filled with youth. The offensive line is incredibly young and, while Joe Thomas is solid, has plenty of inexperience protecting the rookie quarterback. There is a lack of a defined number-one receiver. The Browns spent a supplemental draft pick on Josh Gordon, but he has shown nothing to this point. Trent Richardson is being billed as a top-tier running back, but is dealing with a knee issue that could at least limit him from being fully productive even if he is in the lineup. Add to this that most defenses will look to force Weeden to beat them through the air. That will add to the number of seven-man fronts Richardson sees. Overall, the situation is not set up for success for anyone involved.
If you owned Colt McCoy at any point last year, the argument can be made to own Weeden. Those leagues should be few and far between. Even impacting a roster as a keeper could be hard for Weeden. The ownership situation coupled with the roster structure means this could be a long road for the Browns and their young quarterback.
Freeman burned me and many others last season. Watching Tampa Bay games this preseason has me convinced that he is not as bad as he was last season…but the question remains if he is as good as he was in 2010. There is no defense for what happened last season. Freeman came in with plenty of expectations and a similar supporting case. He just failed to deliver. Entering 2012, there were changes not just at head coach but in some of his surrounding personnel that should help Freeman back to greater respectability in the fantasy world.
The addition of Vincent Jackson should greatly help the quarterback. Though Mike Williams was a strong target in 2010, his numbers fell off dramatically in 2011 and some suspected that he simply was not able to keep himself in shape. Jackson though has proven that he can be a number one target and produce regularly when the lights are bright. That should take enough pressure off Williams and allow him to slide into the number two role. The addition of Jordan Shipley to the slot adds another option, provided he can rebound from the knee injury that ended his season last year. Better for Freeman is the addition of Dallas Clark. We can argue what might be left in the tank, but no one will argue that he will bring stability to the spot. Clark is not as explosive as his predecessor, but he is far more reliable and will be a valuable safety net for Freeman in the new offense.
With help in the running game from Doug Martin, the Buccaneers offense should be better than it was last season. Jackson should make Freeman better and Freeman should be better in and of himself. Though not a player to rely on to impact your roster as a starter, Freeman has strong backup potential and could find himself to be a valuable selection later in drafts.