Fantasy files — Rookie quarterbacks

The first QB drafted isn’t always the best one. If this doesn’t convince you, then I can look back to 1999 and pull out Tim Couch. This doesn’t mean that Alex Smith will be a bust. I do remember the week after the Fiesta Bowl, when Alex Smith declared for the draft, that he wasn’t really thought of as a number-one pick. Peyton Manning was the number-one pick in the 1998 draft before he even lost to Florida for the fourth time.

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers: His stats are quite impressive. He had 57 touchdowns (47 passing, 10 rushing) with eight interceptions. It’s hard to say much bad about a QB who earned a degree in Economics (that bonus will be well-invested) in two years, led his team to an undefeated season and runs a 4.7 40. In short, he makes sense as a top pick. As for his surrounding cast, Kevan Barlow had a horrible year and it’s hard to tell if anyone besides Brandon Lloyd is a decent wide receiver. He’s a worthy dynasty pick, but stay far away from him in a redraft.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Like Smith, Rodgers led his school on a great two-year run. His 43/13 TD/int ratio is excellent. Jeff Tedford, his coach, has an excellent pedigree for developing quarterbacks. Rodgers didn’t put up the superb numbers I thought he was capable of in 2004. I think that J.J. Arrington, or that offensive line, was the star of the team. He’s behind Brett Favre which means he might be a good QB in a couple of years when Favre retires and John Madden cries his eyes out. Assuming that the team is still stocked at WR at that time (and who knows about that), Rodgers would be a good QB to have. The sound you hear is Craig Nall and J.T. O’Sullivan’s stock dropping.

Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins: I see him as this year’s Carson Palmer. Palmer was mediocre before getting under Norm Chow’s wing in his senior season. That turned out OK. Campbell was considered one of the top QBs coming out of high school. Three years of crapitude followed. Then Campbell blossomed in his senior season with the help of QB guru (you’re only a guru if you don’t suck) Al Borges. Sure he had Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in his backfield, but it was Campbell who earned SEC player of the year honors. He made the 4th-and-10 completion to help beat LSU and preserve a perfect season. Campbell’s big and runs well. Naturally the Redskins traded a lot of picks to get him when they already had a young QB in Patrick Ramsey and lots of holes. That situation dampens my enthusiasm a bit.

Charlie Frye, Cleveland Browns: Last year’s QB of the future, Luke McCown, was jettisoned to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In steps Charlie Frye. The Browns signed Trent Dilfer to run the team for a year. Because of the success of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich, Frye’s status as a MAC QB is actually a plus. Frye returned to Akron and led his team to a solid (for them) 6-5 record despite losing most of his supporting cast between his junior and senior years. He used that experience to become a much better all-around QB. He played nine games in 2002 with a broken bone in his right (throwing) hand. He’s being all but handed the job in 2006 with Braylon Edwards as his WR1. Now, about that offensive line. . .

Andrew Walter, Oakland Raiders: Walter set most of Arizona State’s career passing marks. Nice 30/9 TD/int ratio last year along with more than 3,000 passing yards. His size is ideal, and he has the arm to throw the deep ball. Walter suffered a shoulder separation in his final college start, which kept him from working out for scouts. If you look closely, you’ll notice the excellent set of receivers that Walter will inherit when Kerry Collins is put out to pasture.

David Greene, Seattle Seahawks: Greene was considered ‘roster fill’ when he signed with the Bulldogs, then he proceeded to start every game for four years (after a redshirt year). He’s the all-time winningest college QB with 42 victories. He’s more of a pocket passer than the guys mentioned so far. His accuracy isn’t great when on the move, so he will need time to work on that. The Seahawks let Trent Dilfer go, so Greene has a golden opportunity to back up Matt Hasslebeck. Many scouts think his ceiling is a backup, but he’s beaten scouts’ expectations before.

Kyle Orton, Chicago Bears: Yes, this means that the Bears aren’t convinced that Rex Grossman is going to lead them to the promised land. Orton and his Purdue Boilermakers were on their way to a season for the ages before things completely fell apart with four consecutive losses by 11 total points. Orton went from Heisman frontrunner to forgotten. Orton missed a couple of games during that streak with a hip injury. He spent a lot of time in the shotgun and will need time to adjust to taking a snap from center. If he’s fully recovered from his injury the Bears’ starting job could be his in a year or two.

Stefan Lefors, Carolina Panthers: All Lefors did last year was captain his team to an 11-1 finish while leading the country in passing efficiency and holding off the nation’s number one college QB prospect in Brian Brohm. He was drafted earlier than expected, as his small stature and iffy deep ball hurt his prospects. He’s mobile and very accurate. JakeDelhomme is entrenched as a starter but he’s already 30. Rodney Peete’s eligible for Social Security, so the Panthers need a new backup.

Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions: Like Kyle Orton, Orlovsky was selected by a team with a young QB who may or may not pan out. The Lions signed Jeff Garcia for the short term and drafted Orlovsky for the long term. UConn made the move from 1-AA to 1-A and Orlovsky was their ‘franchise’ player. He led the Huskies to their first bowl appearance and win in 2004. Orlovsky’s a big guy with good arm strength although he sometimes forces the ball into coverage. Then again, what quarterback doesn’t occasionally force the ball into coverage? He’s another less-than-mobile prospect. If he does earn a shot at starting in Detroit, the Lions will probably draft or sign someone to challenge him.

Adrian McPherson, New Orleans Saints: You want intriguing? How about a tall, athletic QB who can throw the ball 70 yards flat-footed. You want a rap sheet? He has one of those too. McPherson was kicked out of Florida State after passing a check. There were allegations of gambling, but they were never proven. McPherson then played a year in the Arena League and had 80 total touchdowns (this number isn’t as mind-boggling as it looks). He’s a QB who will try to get by on his athleticism alone. That won’t cut it in the NFL if you’re not named Vick. Aaron Brooks is a consistent top-ten fantasy performer but he’s not going to last much longer in New Orleans if his leadership doesn’t improve. That gives McPherson an opening.

Derek Anderson, Baltimore Ravens: Anderson was a turnover machine at Oregon State, so he’s perfect for the Ravens. At 6’6 Anderson is the tallest drafted quarterback. For a tall guy he has a lot of balls batted down at the line. He has the size and physical ability to be a competent QB in the league. Rick Neuheisel has a lot of work to do on this guy. With Kyle Boller being Kyle Boller, you never know.

Seventh-rounders in a hurry:

James Killian, Kansas City Chiefs: He’s a project. He has good arm strength and foot speed. They have to replace Trent Green one of these days.

Matt Cassel, New England Patriots: Can you say practice squad? Cassel backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinhart, so he has one advantage over all other prospects. He knows how to hold a clipboard. He played some tight end in college, and you know how the Patriots like those tight ends.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, St. Louis Rams: Led Harvard to an undefeated season. Scored very high on his Wonderlic. The Rams have been good at finding diamonds in the rough, so Fitzpatrick is the rare seventh-rounder worth watching.

UDFAs:

Timmy Chang, Arizona Cardinals
Brian Randle, Atlanta Falcons
Gino Guidulgi, Tennessee Titans
Brock Berlin, Miami Dolphins
Craig Ochs, San Diego Chargers
Marcus Randle, Tennessee Titans
Chad Friehauf, Denver Broncos
Shane Boyd, Tennessee Titans
Darian Durant, Baltimore Ravens
John Bowenkamp, Minnesota Vikings

Five years of rookie QBs (player, team, draft spot):

2004:
Eli Manning, New York Giants (1)
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (4)
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills (22)
Matt Schaub, Atlanta Falcons (90)

2003:

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals (1)
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville Jaguars (7)
Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens (19)
Rex Grossman, Chicago Bears (22)
Dave Ragone, Houston Texans (88)
Chris Simms, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (97)

2002:

David Carr, Houston Texans (1)
Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions (3)
Patrick Ramsey, Washington Redskins (32)
Josh McCown, Arizona Cardinals (81)
David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (108)

2001:

Mike Vick, Atlanta Falcons (1)
Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers (32)
Quincy Carter, Dallas Cowboys (53)
Marques Tuiasosopo, Oakland Raiders (59)
Chris Weinke, Carolina Panthers (106)

2000:

Chad Pennington, New York Jets (18)
Giovanni Carmazzi, San Francisco 49ers (65)
Chris Redman, Baltimore Ravens (75)
Tee Martin, Pittsburgh Steelers (163)
Marc Bulger, New Orleans Saints (168)

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