Coffin Corner: A Look at a Trio of QBs
Often in the fantasy game we get wrapped up in names. Instead of taking a close look at the production of players we say to ourselves 'I know Player A is struggling, but he's been good for four years so he will come around.” I'm sometimes guilty of that. Sometimes we also say 'I know Player B is surging, but he hasn't been good for four years so this will pass.' I'm sometimes guilty of that. Bottom line is that we need a balance of both points of view. You can't go all in on either line of thought. Well you can, but I wouldn't advocate that approach. So in this piece I'm going to try and walk that line while looking at three quarterbacks. The three signal callers have been performing extremely well the past month. The three signal callers weren't drafted to be QB1's, though they are performing at that level currently. What should you do with the trio? Let's explore.
A WEEKLY FANTASY BATTLE
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QUARTERBACK'S – THE LAST FOUR WEEKS
Here are some names that, depending on your scoring setup, could easily be in the top-10 at the quarterback position in points per game the past four weeks. Prepare to be shocked.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith.
Let's look at them one by one.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is boring. The other day on the radio when asked about him I said something like 'If you're looking for a guy to throw for 240 yards with 1.8 scores a game Fitzpatrick is your man.' Over the last four weeks Fitzpatrick is averaging 252 yards and two scores a week. As you can tell, I was pretty close just tossing out that statement from nowhere. 'But Ray, Fitzpatrick has only thrown for six scores, that's 1.5 touchdowns a week.' Yes, but no. That math is correct but it fails to take into account the two rushing scores that Ryan has the past four weeks. He is what he is. Boring, moderate and just there. 'But Ray, you said he was a top-10 QB the past four weeks, so how can he be boring?' Remember those two rushing scores? Let's remove those from his ledger. I fell this is pretty fair given that he's run for a total of nine scores in 80 NFL games. Moreover, that means he'd run for six touchdowns in his first 74 NFL games. Pretty sure he's not suddenly turning into Andrew Luck. Remove those 12 points from his scoring the last month, remove those three points a week, and Fitzpatrick falls to 15th at the QB position, per game, in the SiriusXM Experts League.
And that should point out something that I try to make people aware of all the time. The difference between being an also-ran and a borderline elite QB is small. Most will use this argument to say that's why you have to draft a stud QB early. I think that line of thought is totally backwards. In fact, what you should be looking at is that guys like Palmer, Fitzpatrick and Smith, guys that were not drafted in some leagues and three players that even people in 14 team leagues had no intention at starting at QB, have all been elite plays the last month. There's is always, in this day an age of passing, plenty of QB depth to go around.
Carson Palmer was brutal to start the year. After a 327 yard, two score outing in Week 1 he ran off one of the worst series of games by a borderline all-pro caliber talent in recent memory. In Weeks 2-5 he failed to throw for 250 yards one time. From Weeks 2-8 he failed to throw for 190 yards in three games. In Weeks 2-5 he tossed three touchdowns. You think that's bad? There's no debating that if those were the lone blemishes that there would have been plenty of reason to toss him to the waiver-wire. When you add in the turnovers, let's just say that Mr. Palmer was doing his best to make sure that he wasn't going to be owned in a single fantasy league of 10 or 12 teams. Over 5-straight games from Weeks 3-7 Palmer threw at least two interceptions in each game (he threw three in Week 5). That's a staggering run of ineptitude. Staggering. Palmer threw 11 interceptions in five games. The following quarterbacks haven't tossed 11 INTs all season: Big Ben, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson etc. But wait, this was supposed to be a pat on the back for Palmer not a punch to the solar plexus. Here's the good with Palmer. Over his last five games he's thrown at least two scores each time. Over those five games he has thrown for 11 scores and just four interceptions. Over his last three games he's thrown for at least 300 yards each time out while averaging 345 passing yards a week. He's still has no mobility and is at the mercy of his o-line, but the Cardinals seem to have figured a few things out making Palmer, at worst, a superb QB2 at the moment.
I really dislike Alex Smith as a fantasy quarterback. In the real world all he does is win, and he does so at an alarming rate for a player who is so often marginalized (29-8-1 over his last 38 games). But fantasy football isn't about winning games, it's about producing fantasy points, and in that respect Smith has never been anything other than a QB2. Ever. That is until the last month. Well, even that isn't completely accurate. While it is true that he's been a top-10 guy the past four weeks, there are many reasons for it that I don't ascribe to Smith all of a sudden becoming someone you can just role out there without worrying about it.
(1) Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees have all performed poorly and are outside the top-10 the past four weeks, some substantially outside the top-10 mind you.
(2) Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers are hurt.
Points #1 and #2 remove seven players that could legitimately lay claim to being a top-10 QB, so the level of competition for Smith has been lowered. Of course it's not Smith's fault that the others have struggled or been hurt, so let's just focus on what he's been doing.
Over his past four games Smith has averaged 235.3 yards passing per contest. On the season he is averaging 228 yards passing per game. I know he's thrown for 293 and 294 yards the past two weeks, but those are the first two times he has hit 290 yards this season. If we remove those two games from his ledger he's averaged 214.9 yards passing over the other 10 games. Take the last two games as “who he is” if you want but I'm much prefer to look at the other 10 games as an indication of what to expect moving forward. One last little note on passing yardage. In his previous seven seasons Smith has never averaged 216 passing yards per game.
Smith has thrown for seven scores the past three weeks. That's a huge outburst of touchdowns for Smith, a guy who has never thrown for 19 scores in an NFL season. Remember, this guy has been in the NFL for eight years now. Also remember that until the last couple of weeks he wasn't performing at a level anywhere near this. It's obvious. Over his first nine games as a Chief he threw nine scores. That's one a week. So now he's someone you should trust to throw more than two a game? Uh, no. Remember this as well. From Week 3 through 7 Smith threw a total of three scores in five games. From Week 3 through Week 9, a span of seven games, Smith threw five scores. And you think he's going to keep up his pace of the last three games?
One of the main reasons that Smith is scoring so highly of late is his legs. More athletic than most give him credit for, Smith isn't afraid to run if the situation calls for it, and when he takes off he's racking up the yardage. In two of his last three games he's run for 46 and 52 yards. In a standard setup that equates to 98 yards rushing or 9.8 points. That certainly has helped to boost his point totals (just like it did above with Fitzpatrick and the rushing scores). You can't expect this level of ground success to continue though. Smith has averaged 12.2 yards rushing per game for his career, and he's never finished any one of his seven seasons with a mark above 13.2. Is he, in year eight, going to more than double his previous best and finish at 30 yards per game? He could, but don’t forget that in his last four games he's also had game of seven and (-3) rushing yards.
Smith has a great matchup with the Redskins in Week 14 which says his run of success should continue. At the same time, given the totality of his career, I still cannot recommend him as a top-10 play for the week.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT & Friday's at 9 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answers everyone's questions.