Impact Rookies - Quarterbacks
Posted 9/5 by Colin Dowling, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
1.01 - Alex Smith - Quarterback - San Francisco
Overview: Talk about being surprised. Very few people thought Alex Smith
was a first day prospect this past fall, much less a first rounder. As fate
would have it, Smith played his rump off at Utah and showed all the things scouts
just love: brains, poise, size, understanding of complex schemes, ability to
read a defense. Toss in that Smith is rather mobile and mistake-free almost
to a fault, and in retrospect, it's easy to see what made him the number one
Here's the weird thing though: in our opinion, if Smith had been drafted in
2004 or 2006, he probably wouldn't be any better than the third or fourth quarterback
selected. We don't know if that bodes well for the 49ers, but we think it is
interesting that Smith benefited not only from a fantastic senior year, but
also from being a man among boys at his position for this draft.
Smith's strength is located smack-dab between his ears. He is a student of
the game, spending his free time studying game film with Nick Saban off the
field and adjusting at the line of scrimmage with no sweat on it. Smith's success
will come from the fact that he'll likely never be confused about what's going
on around him, and he'll be able to steward a complex four or five wide set
with relative ease.
On the flip side, the question must be asked: Does San Francisco have the talent
at offensive line and the offensive skill positions to give Smith a chance to
succeed? So far, reviews are mixed at best. There is no game-breaking wide receiver
on the roster and the running game is, well, Kevan Barlow.
For the purposes of the long-term future, Smith has a good chance to a decent
NFL starter for quite a few years. However, the difference between being good,
and being an All-Pro capable of carrying the team is, sadly, not likely to be
up to Smith, but rather dependent on the players and coaches around him.
Redraft: Tim Rattay has been named the team's regular season starter,
but that may not mean much. The New York Giants benched Kurt Warner while they
had a winning record. Even if Rattay stays healthy, which is not a given, I
can't imagine that Alex Smith will be on the bench for long. Ken Dorsey may
be progressing, but Smith was drafted first overall for a reason. While Alex
Smith is unlikely to be a fantasy goldmine as a rookie, he could easily outperform
a handful of quarterbacks on a points-per-game basis due to his mobility and
accuracy, which could make him worth a spot as a 3rd quarterback in leagues
with large rosters.
Dynasty: Alex Smith will likely be the starting quarterback of the San
Francisco 49ers for the foreseeable future, which is valuable in itself. The
fact that on his own merits he should be successful if the team can put any
solid personnel around him should give you the confidence to spend a 1st round
choice on him in dynasty/keeper leagues. The fact that some 3rd and 4th round
receivers and 2nd day running backs are being selected ahead of the first overall
pick is ludicrous. If Smith falls past pick ten or twelve, consider a move up
to select him.
Our Comparison - A student of the game like Peyton Manning, a playmaker on
the run like Jake Plummer
1.24 - Aaron Rodgers - Quarterback - Green
Overview: Kudos to Aaron Rodgers for handling his draft day slide with
dignity. It would have been very easy to crack watching millions and millions
of dollars slip away as the picks came off the board. However, Rodgers may well
have found himself in a great situation. He has very little pressure to come
in and be the focus of the team. He can learn at the side of an all-time great.
And when Brett Favre does choose to retire, the cupboard of talent on the offensive
side of the ball will likely still be stocked.
Rodgers is a student of Jeff Tedford, who has produced first round quarterbacks
like Akili Smith and David Carr, among others. The examples listed help demonstrate
the blessing, and the curse, of being a Tedford coached player. On the one hand,
Rodgers has fantastic technique and familiarity with a prostyle offense. On
the other hand, many people are left asking if the quarterback succeeds because
of Tedford's system or on their own merits.
Rodgers has a strong arm and a good understanding of what is happening on the
field at all times. He adjusts well to defenses and makes smart decisions. As
an added bonus, Rodgers is extremely accurate and rarely gets rattled. If there
are any negatives about Aaron Rodgers, they would be that he is a bit short
and doesn't display the footwork of the best quarterbacks. While his height
can't be changed, his footwork can likely be improved. However, it is important
to at least consider that quarterbacks from Jeff Tedford's system do not have
long history of topflight fantasy production.
Redraft: As he is entrenched behind a quarterback that hasn't missed
a game in over a decade, and he will likely be the third string quarterback
in 2005, Rodgers has no redraft value.
Dynasty: Aaron Rodgers will benefit from being able to slowly take
over in Green Bay. While it won't be easy being the "quarterback that followed
number Four," I expect that by the time Rodgers takes over, he'll be well
adjusted to the Packer offense. He is worth consideration in the mid-to-late
part of the first round in all dynasty/keeper formats.
Our Comparison - Controlled like Chad Pennington, capable of making most throws
like Tim Couch.
1.25 Jason Campbell - Quarterback - Washington
Overview: One of the best parts of the predraft season was seeing how
angry everyone in the Redskins organization was when the story broke that they
wanted Jason Campbell with the 1st round pick they acquired from Denver. The
team circled the wagons and acted defiant when simply ignoring the story entirely
would have been a much better strategy. Regardless, is there anything more fun
than watching Daniel Snyder "run" his football team?
When the Redskins finally did choose Campbell, they acquired a quarterback
with a great frame and a very strong arm. In his senior year at Auburn, Campbell
showed a previously unseen poise and confidence that helped lead to an undefeated
season. On more than one occasion, when the team found itself backed in to a
bit of a corner, it was Campbell who led the way to victory. This leadership
ability is clearly one of the things that elevated him to the first round of
the draft. Furthermore, Campbell showed a high level of accuracy and a tendency
to not force passes, choosing instead to make the safe throw.
The downside in Campbell is that despite his obvious physical talents, he has
a hard time making plays outside of the pocket and he doesn't make the "out"
throw with a great deal of force. The latter can be compensated for quite a
bit, but the former could be a problem in key situations. It will be interesting
to see if Campbell can round in to form as a complete quarterback under the
coaching of Joe Gibbs.
Redraft: Even if Campbell beats out Patrick Ramsey to start this season,
he may not hold much value in redraft leagues. The Redskins offense was atrocious
last season and it will take more than a new quarterback to fix things.
Dynasty: Campbell is worth consideration alongside other quarterbacks
who will likely have to wait a year or so to make a difference. He certainly
has the physical skills to be a successful quarterback, but he still needs to
learn the finer points of the position. However, the steep price the Redskins
paid to move up and select Campbell will likely ensure that he gets more than
a fair chance to earn the starter's position.
Our Comparison - Strong armed like David Carr, calm and composed like Jake
3.3 Charlie Frye - Quarterback - Cleveland
Overview: This is a pick that was going to happen. Despite all the prognostications
that Green Bay would select Frye or Cleveland would trade up to get him or whatnot,
there was very little chance that Frye was going to slip by the Browns in round
So, what did the Browns end up with? Well, a smart, technically sound quarterback
with all the intangibles and many of the tangibles needed to become a good NFL
quarterback. Frye's deep passes are suspect at times leading to concern that
he can't make all the power throws necessary in the NFL, but his consistency
and mental makeup should help even that out. There is some concern that not
having faced top level competition in the MAC might hinder his development.
However, considering the success of other smaller conference quarterbacks, I
wouldn't worry about that too terribly much at this point. What Frye is is a
big, athletic QB who can control a prostyle offense, which is exactly what Cleveland
is looking for. If the coaching staff can implement a playbook that caters to
his strengths, Frye should be a productive quarterback at the NFL Level.
Redraft: For all intents and purposes, Frye won't have much value in
the first part of the season. However, if he is able to unseat Trent Dilfer
as the Brown's starter, don't be scared to add him to your roster just because
he is a rookie. While rookie quarterbacks historically are poor fantasy performers
in their first year, Frye likely won't be put on the field until he is somewhat
"ready." All we're saying is to keep an eye on him if he gets the
starting nod. Based on the history of the coaching staff and front office, it
is unlikely he'll be asked to win games on his own, but rather to limit mistakes
and make smart throws. Such performance often equates solid, but not spectacular,
Dynasty: Frye should be considered in dynasty/keeper leagues as high
as QB2 if you happen to favor him over guys that will likely also have to wait
to see the field (Rodgers, Campbell). He should be selected in the late-second
round in most formats. There is very little reason to think that he won't be
given a chance to be the long term starter in Cleveland, despite being selected
in the 3rd round.
Our Comparison - Smart like Rich Gannon, precise like Tom Brady
4.5 Kyle Orton - Quarterback - Chicago Bears
Overview: Kyle Orton had a rough year. He started the season on fire,
elevated himself to being in the conversation for being a high first round pick,
fumbled against Wisconsin, got benched, and rallied back to finish about even-Steven
on the season. But here's the thing about Orton: in all that time, he didn't
become a worse quarterback, he simply wasn't able to do all the things people
were expecting of him. Orton has nice size for a QB (6'4, 233) and possesses
the accuracy needed to succeed in the NFL. He has a bit of trouble with the
deep ball, but the reason this pick makes sense is that we don't expect the
Bears to be stretching the field on every pass. Orton is EXACTLY the kind of
QB who can accurately control a short and mid range passing game while handing
the ball off to Cedric Benson 20 times a game. When Orton is playing to his
strengths, he is in control of all around him: he finds the open receiver, he
doesn't force passes to tight spaces, he doesn't make errant long throws looking
for a home. No, Orton finds the open receiver underneath, or sells the pump-fake
and then leads the receiver across the middle in full stride, or he calmly turns
and finds the outlet for a short - but drive extending - gain. You can teach
a QB to be accurate, but you can't teach him to be composed. Orton showed a
lot of grit getting benched this year and then working his way back to respectability.
Orton is a fantastic choice to come in and backup/challenge Rex Grossman for
Redraft: Orton has been named the opening day starter in Chicago. He
is worth rostering as a third quarterback in larger-roster leagues, but temper
your expectations as the team tries to implement a new system and new skill
players. Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that he would put up useful
fantasy numbers as a rookie.
Dynasty: The Bears likely selected Orton as a viable backup to Rex Grossman
since the team was woefully thin at quarterback. Now that Grossman is injured,
Orton has a chance to take the job and run with it. Orton has late first round
talent to pair with his 4th round senior season, and for him to emerge as the
Bears' starting QB of the future would hardly be a surprise. He warrants dynasty/keeper
consideration after the top 3 quarterbacks are off the board, likely in the
mid-to-late 3rd round of most drafts.
Our Comparison - Accurate like Brian Griese; resilient like fellow Purdue alum
5.16 - Adrian McPherson - Quarterback -
New Orleans Saints
Overview: So much for McPherson being a first round, or even first
DAY, selection. Despite the hype and hoopla, and despite the strong workouts
and honest interviews, McPherson slipped to round five in the draft. What we
do know about McPherson is that he is a fantastic athlete - strong arm, quickness
and speed with his legs, prototypical size, Mr. Basketball AND Football in the
state of Florida. We also know that he was booted out of college for a variety
of transgressions, including accusations of participating in gambling on college
Obviously, something in his personal file didn't sit well with NFL executives,
because there is no denying that Adrian McPherson has all the skills needed
to become a very good quarterback. As such, its tough to evaluate his actual
pro prospects without also considering the past. Is McPherson mature now and
ready to follow the straight-and-narrow? Or will he eventually relapse, showing
the same poor judgment that derailed his college career? The truth is, if you
believe the former, then this Arena League Rookie of the Year could emerge as
the next great quarterback. If you believe the latter, then he shouldn't even
be on your radar on draft day.
Redraft: Aaron Brooks is solidified as the Saints starter for the time
being, but he constantly seems to be on a short leash. Considering how talented
the Saints offense is, and how much heat comes down on coach Jim Haslett in
the latter parts of the season if the team is losing, it wouldn't be a huge
shock to see McPherson garner some snaps late in the season. However, the prospect
of him producing useful fantasy numbers is somewhat dim, considering it is unlikely
that he'll beat out Brooks for the starting job and he has appeared about as
raw as they come in preseason action.
Dynasty: In some drafts we have seen, Adrian McPherson is being selected
as the second or third quarterback overall. Rarely is he lasting past the third
round as it is likely that at least one person in each league is enamored with
his considerable upside. Our recommendation is that if you are interested in
acquiring McPherson, it is better to be safe than sorry and select him early,
rather then hoping he will slip a round or two. As stated, his fantasy draft
position has been all over the place so far. It is not unthinkable that McPherson
will be given a year or even two to incubate before being given a real chance
to push the mistake prone Brooks for playing time in New Orleans. It is also
not unthinkable that he would never see NFL action at all. If you are looking
for a player that carries considerable risk, along with substantial upside,
you could do worse than McPherson.
Our Comparison - Versatile like Donovan McNabb; makes all the throws like a
young Drew Bledsoe.