A typical fantasy league has about ten dudes that each draft about four quarterbacks, thus it's really not wise to reach too far for sleeper quarterbacks. In fact it doesn't make much sense to spend a great deal of time compiling a long list of potential quarterbacks. If you're drafting a system signal caller then you follow this formula: draft the starter, his backup, and then the quarterback that faces the weakest opponents when your starter's team is on the bye. Done. However the best-laid plans of mice and fantasy owners go oft awry. And this is when your fourth quarterback could become very vital in rescuing your season.
Many of us didn't read too much in high school, however we all know the story, Of Mice and Men, and we all have a little Lennie Small in us.
On draft day we're all like Lennie at the beginning of the great Steinbeck novel. While Lennie is happy because he's with George, eating beans and talking about petting rabbits for the rest of his life, draft night sees fantasy owners with a dumb grin (albeit often alcohol induced) on their faces as well. After all they all have a great, healthy starting quarterback and life is going to be just great. You'll be able to live of the fat of the land.
Then, for many, comes a devastating setback. For Lennie this arrives in the form of a tart in a pretty dress, which leads to the unfortunate end to said tart, and Lennie's eventual capping at the hands of best friend. For fantasy owners this debilitating setback often comes in the form of a season-ending injury suffered early in the year. See Bradford, Sam.
The purpose of this article isn't to keep your best friend from shooting you. Nor is it to tell you which players are going to suffer season-ending injuries. Rather it's to provide hope in the event that your starting quarterback goes down, and your fantasy chances appear gone with the wind. So here are four quarterbacks with the potential to exceed all expectations. Each checks in below the #30 spot based on our statistical projections, yet I'm certain that each could blow up should the stars align.
Current Position Ranking Based on Projections: 47
Two years ago the pass-happy Houston Cougars went with a heady sophomore quarterback who knew where to put the football. This year the pass-happy Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are going to go with heady redshirt junior quarterback who knows where to put the football. No, I'm not predicting a Case Keenum-esque season from Ross Jenkins, however I will not overlook what an offense run by Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin can do against a schedule that will present a bunch of contests against defensively-challenged squads.
Dykes and Franklin are in a great spot because Derek Dooley did not leave the cupboard bare, and the Bulldogs return five starters on the offensive line. Granted this unit will have to pass block much more than in the past, but this type of experience means that the line should pick up the new scheme quickly. And they'll be blocking for a very efficient quarterback who is poised for a huge statistical breakout.
Jenkins posted 19 touchdowns against only five interceptions, numbers earned even with Jenkins only throwing for more than 300 yards in one contest. It's not out of the realm of possibilities that Jenkins flies by 30 scores.
Talented quarterback + strong supporting cast + plus a coach and offensive coordinator that will throw it at every opportunity = a great late-round option.
Current Position Ranking Based on Projections: 33
In the interest of full disclosure, I must again remind you that I am an alum of MSU. And while I've seen a whole lot of mediocre football over the years, I also know that I've never seen a better quarterback in Green and White. As a redshirt sophomore Cousins posted over 2,600 yards and 19 scores. These numbers become even more impressive when you factor in the following: he missed the Illinois contest with injury, was knocked out of the Michigan game after going 15-21, and he had to deal with his head coach's insistence on playing Keith Nichol at some of the strangest times. Suddenly it's very possible that 2,600 and 19 could have been about 3,200 and 26.
Cousins throws one of the prettiest passes you'll see, and it's a real surprise when he hits a receiver in one of the numbers as opposed to right smack between the two. Only his late-game decision making needs improvement, something that often goes hand in hand with experience. Additionally his fantasy prospects will have to overcome a system that does emphasize balance, so the Spartans will run the ball if the opportunity presents itself. However while the Spartan defense should be improved, this is still a unit that will allow its fair share of points. Thus Cousins will have to wing it to win.
The schedule is again favorable. The Spartans don't leave the State until Week Eight, and there is no trip to or visit from the Columbus boys.
Current Position Ranking Based on Projections: 40
Three offensive linemen and seven total starters return from an offense that ranked 107th in total offense a season ago. Yes, 107th, so I'm not sure if seven guys back is a good thing. However expected strides from Mr. Carta-Samuels may offset the difficulties in getting some decent protection for this true sophomore. And there's nowhere for this offense to go but up, making the Wyoming quarterback's 14 total touchdowns from a season ago a nice starting point.
2009 was the first year of coach Dave Christensen's wide-open offense, and though the team did go to and win a bowl game, their offense struggled mightily. Did I mention the Cowboys ranked 107th? Year two will see greater familiarity, thus better decisions making quicker, and more explosive plays. I won't go as far to guarantee that Samuels doubles his touchdown total from a season ago, but there's no way a healthy Carta-Samuels doesn't push towards the mid-20's in touchdown production.
Current Position Ranking Based on Projections: 66
I know what you're thinking. Even with his reputation as a quarterback guru, the Jeff Tedford offense has looked a lot more like a Big Ten squad than one from the Pac-10. And Kevin Riley has been asked to be not much more than a game manager during his time in Berkeley. However Riley has battled and maintained his starting job, and he was able to post 19 scores against only nine picks a season ago. These numbers came with no superstar receivers, though in Marvin Jones we have one that is clearly emerging.
The offense loses Jahvid Best, and though we're high on Shane Vereen, it's likely that Tedford will be more willing to put games in the hands of his senior quarterback who'll be throwing behind a line that returns four starters. The non-conference schedule is not daunting, with games against UC Davis, Colorado and Nevada. Additionally Riley also gets to play Washington State.
There's a reason that Riley is listed fourth among these quarterbacks; it's very likely that 22-24 touchdowns is his senior-year ceiling. However a hot start could see Riley push toward 28 scores, even for an offense is willing it to pound it to win.
It's very possible that none of the above quarterbacks will soften the blow if your franchise guy is lost for a significant chunk of the season. It's rare that an owner can recover from a first or even second-round pick that can't produce. However I've seen many fine drafters throw away late quarterback selections on longshot keeper prospects that may never pan out. Rather than take a flier on one of those youngsters, take a shot on one of above. Each has shown the ability to get it done, and each provides reason to believe that 2010 could be a career year.