Week 17 Fantasy Football Rankings: Risky Starting Quarterbacks Worth a Flier

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes calls out from under center against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Most fantasy football leagues opt to conclude before Week 17 for a number of reasons. Too many backups, too many variables, too much entropy.

But if, for some reason, you still find yourself playing fantasy this week, you should know that things are different. Matt Flynn rewrote the Week 17 rulebook last year, stepping in for Aaron Rodgers and totaling 480 yards to go with six touchdowns.

Like clockwork, Week 17, 2012 features a number of other first-time starters, all of whom are looking to duplicate Flynn's success. No one's gonna put up numbers that massive, but one or two of them could turn out surprisingly viable.

If you're interested in striking gold, and making your friends think you're a genius, here's a look at three unlikely Week 17 starters:


Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders

Pryor's gone from Ohio State hero, to Ohio State villain, to supplemental draft pick, to Raiders' third stringer. It's been an interesting path, but Sunday, finally, Pryor will get a chance to start under center in the NFL.

He'll be going up against a Chargers defense that actually isn't terrible. Football Outsiders ranks them 15th in the league; 11th vs. the run, 18th vs. the pass.

But who knows where their heads will be for this one? What does this game mean to them? Do they want to send Norv Turner out with a win? Do they realize how fitting it would be to send him out with a no-show?

Pryor is, admittedly, kind of a gimmicky quarterback. He doesn't have the arm to succeed in a traditional offense. But the great thing about a gimmick is that, while it may not be tenable for the long-term, it benefits from the element of surprise.

With little-to-no NFL tape on  Pryor, the Chargers could struggle to slow him down.


Brian Hoyer, Arizona Cardinals

Up until this preseason, Brian Hoyer was actually considered a decent backup commodity. He tore up the preseason in New England, and stood poised to be the next Matt Cassell if Tom Brady ever got hurt.

Ryan Mallett's emergence made him expendable, and he ended up floating around as a free agent (making a brief stop in Pittsburgh) until Arizona signed him on December 11th. And even so, it's literally unfathomable that they took this long to plug him in.

Unlike any of the Cardinals' other QBs, Hoyer flashed competence upon being subbed in against the Bears, completing 11 passes for 105 yards. He hit Larry Fitzgerald on a nice 24-yard seam route, too, which is always a welcome sight.

He'll play the 49ers, who aren't exactly a good opponent for one's first start. But if they take a lead, they could take their foot off the gas. Especially in the second half.

Look for Hoyer to pad his fantasy numbers in garbage time.


Thaddeus Lewis, Cleveland Browns

With both Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy banged up, the starting nod likely goes to Thaddeus Lewis, an unknown commodity from Duke.

The journeyman QB hasn't inspired much confidence over the years, but, like Pryor, he could benefit greatly from the lack of tape teams have on him.

He'll go up against a Steelers defense that (a) looked iffy all season, and (b) might not be motivated after being eliminated last week.

It's not likely, but if you want your friends to think you're a genius, give him a start, and pray for a miracle.