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When I learned that former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady was headed to Carolina, the pairing with Teddy Bridgewater made perfect sense because when I watched Joe Burrow at LSU, I saw a lot of Bridgewater in the Cincinnati Bengal quarterback's game.
Both are creative and hyper-accurate throws in the short and mid-ranges of the field. Both possess excellent pocket awareness and underrated mobility on either side of the line of scrimmage. And both are tough field generals who rarely make egregious mistakes.
Bridgewater is the original Joe Burrow. He arrived in the NFL 3-5 years earlier than the NFL's widespread readiness to accept a quarterback with his blend of talents, and a devastating injury on the cusp of what was pointing to a breakout campaign in 2016 derailed his ascent as the leader of a Vikings offense that would have been even better with his talents than those of Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins.
The New York Jets could have had Bridgewater if they didn't succumb to the draft capital bias of Sam Darnold. Although lamentable, it's also understandable that they feared creating a quarterback controversy if they kept the Bridgewater, especially after he outperformed the rest of the Jets depth chart during the summer of Darnold's rookie year.
It's also a little sad that the Saints prefer Taysom Hill as the future in New Orleans when Brees retires, but I can also imagine Bridgewater being more than ready to earn a starting role after a four-year hiatus from a lead gig due to the knee injury. Some will probably see these stints in New York and New Orleans as examples of Bridgewater not being good enough to start or else he'd be in higher demand.
It's a perspective lacking nuance about quarterbacking in the NFL. After all, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes II were all taken later than they should have been and after their success, they've all earned the same backhanded compliment from analysts: They landed in the perfect spots to maximize their talents.
In one respect, this is likely true because the teams showed a willingness to create offenses that leveraged their talents while minimizing the few weaknesses they possess. This is also true of Drew Brees in Sean Payton's system and really, any quarterback with long-term success. You wouldn't put Tom Brady in Jackson's or Wilson's offense. However, to make my point, you could Wilson, Mahomes, and Jackson in Brees or Brady's offenses, and they'd also excel.
The Jets wanted a big-armed quarterback and they were willing to sacrifice a higher level of mental processing at the position to get it, hoping Darnold would develop it. Brees probably has the mentality of a player that will need to be dragged away from the game. And during the time that injuries dragged Brees off the field, Bridgewater went 5-0 with the Saints and delivered 16th-ranked fantasy production during those starts.
While a faulty way of looking at Bridgewater's fantasy value because his week-to-week consistency wasn't strong, he was fantasy football's No.10 passer during four of those weeks (3-7). It's only worth mentioning because Bridgewater never earned starter reps during the preseason and hadn't started a game in over three years.
Now in Carolina, the O.G. Burrow earned a full offseason to prepare as the starter and despite not having a full-fledged training camp and preseason to hone his craft and maximize his rapport with his offense, Bridgewater is among the league leaders in completions, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passing yards.
If his red-zone production were better—one of the areas that is often indicative of how much experience a quarterback has worked with his teammates—Bridgewater would easily be a top 10 fantasy passer right now. In fact, Bridgewater is the No.12 quarterback in fantasy leagues for the past two weeks, and Carolina's schedule is a favorable one for the Panthers' passing game.
After studying Bridgewater's first month of the 2020 season, it's clear that this offense is a great fit for him. Bridgewater lacks the howitzer arm that can throw its way out of bad decisions. At least that's what NFL executives think when they draft the likes of Darnold, Daniel Jones, Paxton Lynch, Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, Blaine Gabbert, and so many other "Robo-Quarterback" types who might as well roll off the assembly line of the "CYA School" of drafting prospects. However, Bridgewater's talents compensate for what these athletic but less savvy types lack.
Watch this short video below, and you'll see an offense that's built for Bridgewater to get the ball to his receivers in stride—receivers who thrive after the catch and have the middle-of-the-field toughness to make plays on the move and in tight windows. They're also athletic enough to make creative adjustments to the ball based on Bridgewater making excellent placement decisions that keep the ball away from the nearest defender while only giving the receiver a shot to make the catch.
Unlike the quarterbacks mentioned above, Bridgewater has a fantastic feel for the pocket. He's been sacked 8 times, which is the 12th-lowest figure among quarterbacks who've started every game this year. This has greater weight than this figure and his middle-of-the-road (16th) ranking in sack percentage suggest because Carolina's offensive line is a weak unit, and the Buccaneers and Chargers have potent pass-rushers.
Although Bridgewater isn't a run-first player when pressure arrives when he spots an opportunity, he's far more dynamic and creative than credited. You'll see a touchdown run against the Cardinals in Week 4 in the video below that's as good as any run that you'll see from a starting quarterback this year.
And when opposing defenses give Bridgewater and his receivers one-on-one matchups in the vertical game, Bridgewater displays the placement of a skilled veteran that maximizes those opportunities. What you're about to watch is evidence of an emerging passing offense.
Completion percentage and yards per attempt aren't figures where you'll commonly see a dramatic increase during the rest of the season unless a team has been missing its starting quarterback or a primary receiver during the early part of the year. The fact that the Panthers are already performing well in this area is positive, especially when you consider that red-zone productivity has a greater likelihood of increasing as the offense gains rapport.
Carolina's remaining schedule of opponents has the potential for Bridgewater to deliver worthwhile fantasy production. The figures below are based on worst to best:
- Atlanta (Weeks 5 and 8)
- 2nd in passing yards allowed
- 1st in passing touchdowns allowed
- 2nd in completions allowed
- 2nd in yards allowed
- 3rd in points allowed
- New Orleans (Weeks 7 and 17):
- Tied for 3rd in points allowed
- Tied for 3rd in passing touchdowns allowed
- Tampa (Week 10)
- 11th in passing yards allowed.
- Detroit (Week 11):
- 4th in points allowed
- 7th in yards allowed
- 5th in passing touchdowns allowed
- Minnesota (Week 12)
- 5th in passing yards allowed
- 12th in yards allowed
- Tied for 15th in points allowed
- 9th in passing touchdowns allowed
- Denver (Week 14)
- 8th in passing yards allowed
- Tied for 9th in passing touchdowns allowed
- Green Bay (Week 15)
- 12th in passing yards allowed
- Tied for 9th in passing touchdowns allowed
- Washington (Week 16):
- 7th in points allowed
- tied for 9th in passing touchdowns allowed
These are 10 of Carolina's remaining 12 games with teams that are below-average performers in these significant categories of pass defense and the Packers, Broncos, Vikings, Lions, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Falcons offenses all have the potential to generate high-scoring game scripts. The only game where the weather is currently a projectable factor to diminish the value of the passing game is Green Bay in Week 15.
With Christian McCaffrey still a week away from even being eligible to come off IR, we might not even see the runner at full strength for another 2-4 weeks. In addition, McCaffrey only bolsters Carolina's passing attack. Since the offensive line is unlikely to make significant improvements this year, game scripts appear consistently in favor of a Bridgewater emergence as a viable fantasy starter.
How should one formulate a winning fantasy strategy around him?
If Yahoo! is an applicable guideline for many leagues, Bridgewater is only on 33 percent of its rosters. If you can simply add him as a low-cost investment, this is the easiest course. After last week's performance against the Cardinals, there may be some willing to bid on him but I bet many of you can still get him as a first-come, first-serve option at zero cost to your free agent budget.
If you already have 1-2 strong performers at quarterback, adding Bridgewater gives you the luxury to shop one of your higher-performing quarterbacks. Although demand for quarterbacks when it comes to the trade market is low, if you have a top-rated passer, there will still be some appeal, especially to a team that lacks a top passer or has a passer who is either hurt (Drew Lock) or waiting on a significant component of his offense to return from injury (Drew Brees).
While trading a player like Josh Allen, Wilson, Jackson, or Kyler Murray may be hard for many of you to stomach, it could be necessary f your team is weak elsewhere and your record and overall points production is flagging. Pairing one of these premium passers could land you one of the following:
- A premium player at another position.
- A proven starter and promising talent with flex value.
- 2-3 low-end starters who you believe have potential to outplay their value for the rest of the year.
If you don't have a proven fantasy quarterback, Bridgewater is an obvious choice at a low cost to supplement your squad with an option who should continue to emerge as no worse than a low-end QB1 as the season progresses.
Bridgewater's potential value is only one angle to approach here. There will be people who believe that Robby Anderson is a sell-high type of player. If you can get him at a reasonable price (a high-range or mid-range WR2 value), you likely have no worse than a low-end WR1 for the rest of the way.
Anderson is a great fit in this offense and the Panthers are moving him around the offense to maximize his value. Curtis Samuel could wind up becoming a cheap investment off the waiver wire and is worth monitoring when he's dropped or when to add him if he's already a free agent in your league.
D.J. Moore has earned enough targets and yardage off those targets to remain on fantasy rosters, but there will be fantasy players frustrated with his performance and you might get him at a discount, especially if you're one of those teams with a good quarterback you can trade away and get Moore in return along with another talent.
None of this is rocket science. If Bridgewater proves to be an emerging value, he could be one of the reasons you can turn a flagging team around.