There is no shortage of opinions around here. And when it comes to leaps of faith and quarterbacks to avoid the three of us all have our gut feelings. As we kickoff our QB, RB and WR previews each of us shares our gut for the big three positions.
General Quarterback Philosophy:
If I don't get Keenum or Jerrod Johnson I'm going to wait a while. Keenum is Keenum. However as much as I've mocked Mike Sherman, he has at his disposal one impressive collection of offensive skill talent. And Jerrod Johnson is my favorite player in college football. He's tough, smart and super talented, and there's a very good chance he's on a plane to New York City in December...provided his team can pull a few upsets.
So if I wait a little while to draft a quarterback:
Then I'm taking John Brantley in BCS leagues and Kyle Padron in leagues that allow players from non-BCS leagues. Each is the clear #1 starter playing for a head coach that has a proven record for producing outstanding offensive units. June Jones is taking advantage of the insane amount of Texas talent, and Urban Meyer isn't going to go into a shell now that his son has moved to Denver
G.J. Kinne. The Texas transfer certainly earned his scholarship last season, as he took a whole lot of lumps behind an offensive line that was downright offensive at times. And naturally we can assume improvement for both the line and Kinne, right? I'm not so sure. Kinne is a gutty leader, but his accuracy and decision making can often leave a good deal to be desired. And there's a talented youngster waiting in the wings.
Should Kinne struggle in September, especially in contests at East Carolina and Oklahoma State, there's a very good chance that Shavodrick Beaver takes over against Central Arkansas at the end of the month. If Beaver shows a clear understanding of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris' offense, then there's certainly a chance he takes the job early.
My gut tells me that Kinne earns the gig and plays well in 2010. I just don't think he's worth the draft choice it'll take to get him.
Three rated too high:
Jake Locker - I know the Jake Locker love is running out of control, and it's rare that I'm the voice of reason. However I just want to emphasize that NFL potential and fantasy production don't always go hand in hand. See Stafford, Matthew.
Blaine Gabbert - Gabbert is one of six starters returning to Columbia, and two of those moving on (Danario Alexander and Jared Perry) take 20 touchdown receptions with them. The schedule doesn't scare me at all, though an offense that leans a bit more on Derrick Washington does.
Zach Collaros - I was impressed as anyone when Collaros filled in for Tony Pike a season ago. However the losses of Brian Kelly and Mardy Gilyard present a bit of a challenge. As do trips to Fresno State, North Carolina State, West Virginia and UConn. And Oklahoma won't be a polite guest.
Three rated too low:
Ross Jenkins - Draft Ross Jenkins as your #2 quarterback. The Louisiana Tech offense is ready to explode, and Jenkins will man the controls.
Nick Foles - This is a big year for Mike Stoops, and there's plenty of talent in Tuscon. The schedule sets up nicely with Iowa, Cal and USC all at home. Foles is a big talent playing in a wide open scheme. There's no way he should be projected in the 40's.
Austyn Carta-Samuels - Three games with three scores in 2009 is just the beginning. There are some offensive line woes to overcome, but a Dave Christensen offense is going to score points.
Rated Too High
I got a few with John Brantley and Garrett Gilbert topping my list. This is not to say they aren't fine quarterbacks. Both are obviously extremely talented. But I simply don't see them putting up numbers close to what their predecessors did. Florida was in the bottom half of the league in offensive plays run last year at 65.6 plays/game, and I don't see that number increasing as they break in a new quarterback. Both he and Gilbert also have the unenviable task of replacing two college football legends...good luck with that.
Man Crush Alert
I think it is quite clear by now I have a huge man crush on Notre Dame's Dayne Crist. If I had my way he'd probably be in our top 10 QBs. It really has less to do with Crist as it does with Brian Kelly. Kelly turned Ben Mauk and Tony Pike into fantasy must-haves. He even duped many, including us, into thinking Pike could be a high round NFL Draft pick. That is until Pike starting throwing at the NFL Combine. Kelley's magic fairy dust had apparently wore off, and it showed. I don't think there is a better coach in the country at getting his team prepared to play, especially his quarterback, than Kelly. And Crist is the most physically talented quarterback he's had to work with. My only concern is whether Crist's knee will hold up.
I think I've been pretty good by not raving about Spartans too much in the past. But I can't help myself with Kirk Cousins. Michigan State was 2nd in the Big Ten in passing offense in 2009 and did a better job in pass protection than run blocking. With a solid, but not dominating run game and veteran group of wide receivers and tight ends to throw to, the offense should be the Spartans' strength and I can see them leaning even more on Cousins' arm this year. And he won't be looking over his shoulder/splitting time with Keith Nichol.
QBs I would never draft
Call me stubborn, stupid or downright ignorant, but there are just certain players I just won't draft. For me it is the option quarterback. I'm not talking Tim Tebow or Colin Kaepernick; I love quarterbacks that can rack up rushing yards as well as pass. I'm talking the pure option quarterbacks like Josh Nesbitt and Ricky Dobbs. They're fantasy studs one week, absent from the scoreboard the next and then wrapped in a body cast the week after that.
Keep a special eye out on...
Please please please don't take this as recommendation to draft him. With my plea for sanity out of the way, I dug what I saw out of Mississippi State's Chris Relf at the end of last year. He seems like the perfect fit for Dan Mullen's offense. But he still has to win the starting job first.
Ryan Katz is a guy that won't get drafted in BCS leagues this year, but I can see him being a factor on the waiver wire at some point this season. The talent returning around him should give him ample opportunity to succeed. I'm not going to judge his season after a Week One road trip to TCU though.
Rated Too Low
Steven Sheffield showed us that he was the best quarterback in Lubbock with his play last season. Injuries and a coach that isn't known for admitting mistakes kept him from supplanting Taylor Potts as the number one guy last season. A new coaching staff gives everyone a fresh start, and I think Sheff is going to win the job outright and not look back. I'll grant that his current ranking is due to the ongoing competition for the job and his injury history, but Sticks is a guy that I'll take a risk on.
Christian Ponder is a quarterback that doesn't seem to be getting much attention in college fantasy football circles this year. I think he's going to have some big games and could be a big part of a fantasy quarterback rotation. He's probably not a sleeper, but I think he's a bit underrated. I'd value him about the same as this next quarterback...
Rated Too High
Russell Wilson is capable of dropping four touchdowns on most of his schedule, so he can help a fantasy squad. Is he the seventh best BCS fantasy QB? I'm not sold on that. Fellow QB Mike Glennon is looking like he's capable of picking up the offense and Wilson has continued his dalliance with baseball... making him one that I will avoid on draft day.
I don't know what to think about...
One guy that has me puzzled this year is Ryan Mallett. He's built like a prototype quarterback, he has game experience at both Michigan and Arkansas. And he has the offensive system built to produce fantasy numbers and a coach that probably won't be afraid to pad the score. We'll get a peek at his potential in Weeks One and Two when the Razorbacks square off with Tennessee Tech and Louisiana Monroe, but I'm a little bit worried about the next three weeks: at Georgia, vs. Alabama and Bye. And I still have to respect the rest of the SEC schedule, even though the league showed signs of becoming less defensive minded last season.
So yes, I got suckered into drafting Mallett in a recent BCS draft, but I'm leery about relying on him to be an every-week starter.