There are not many Oakland Raiders who hold any value for fantasy football owners, but that total could increase by one in 2013.
The Oakland Raiders—or should we call them the Oakland Traders?—dealt Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals and acquired Matt Flynn in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, so now Flynn will be quarterbacking Oakland’s silver-and-black passing attack this upcoming season.
Flynn barely did more for fantasy football owners in 2012 than Plaxico Burress did. He completed five passes for 68 yards. That is over the course of the entire season. Guys like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning do that on the opening drive in one game.
But fantasy owners still remember how special Flynn was during the final game of the 2011 campaign when he stepped in for a resting Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers and threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions, which probably won some fantasy leagues for lucky owners who picked up and played Flynn that last week.
After taking a stat sabbatical in 2012, Flynn should return to fantasy relevance this season since odds are good he will complete more than five passes. That does not mean he will suddenly become a top-10 fantasy quarterback, though.
Here is the good and bad news about Matt Flynn for fantasy football owners.
The Good News
1. Flynn goes from being Russell Wilson’s clipboard holder in Seattle to a starting signal-caller in Oakland. That right there helps him go from worthless to worth something for fantasy owners. More playing time means more pass attempts, which equals more passing yards and touchdown tosses.
Note—I did not mention that starting will lead to more rushing yards for Flynn because he only has 14 career rushing yards. His footwork reminds me more of Andy Dick than Michael Vick.
2. Flynn will be starting for a team that should be trailing in many, if not most of, its games, and will do so for an organization that has always believed in passing the ball. Palmer, who in his later years is as far from an All-Pro player as Dwayne Johnson is from an Oscar nominee, threw for over 4,000 yards and had 22 touchdown tosses with the Raiders in 2012.
McFadden has never played in 14 games in any season, let alone 16, so maybe he has finally learned how to drink his milk, take his vitamins and stay on the field. If he stays injury-free, then Flynn could pile up passing yards on screens and swing passes to “Run DMC,” plus McFadden could force defenses to key on him, which would open up passing lanes for Flynn.
4. Flynn should play with a Jake Long-sized chip on his throwing shoulder because of how he lost his starting spot in Seattle. Flynn will want to prove people wrong who think he is just an average backup quarterback. He could come out throwing like Dan Fouts because he wants to show his skills.
The Bad News
1. Flynn is not going to be the quarterback fantasy owners gushed over when he threw for those six touchdowns against Detroit at the end of 2011. He will not be facing defenses as porous as that Lions defense was on a weekly basis, and he will not be throwing to Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and the other Packers pass-catchers like he did on that fateful afternoon.
We know Flynn can throw to an uber-talented receiving posse littered with Pro Bowl playmakers, but what can he do with an inconsistent, below-average group headed up by Denarius Moore who are known more for their injuries than their touchdowns? .
2. Not only is Flynn’s wide receiving corps underwhelming and undermanned, he also will not benefit from having tight end behemoth Brandon Myers around.
Myers had 79 receptions and 806 yards last season and was Palmer’s most trusted pass-catcher. Unless Oakland upgrades its tight end troupe via the draft or a free-agent signing, Flynn’s tight end trio will consist of David Ausberry, Richard Gordon and Mickey Shuler, who have 14 career receptions between them.
3. The biggest problem of all for Flynn, however, is probably his backup. Because of the run-option craze that is weeping the NFL like “Beatlemania” did in the 1960s, the Raiders seem fascinated by what scrambler Terrelle Pryor can do.
Pryor could cut into Flynn’s playing time and cut into Flynn’s pass attempts by being on the field five-to-10 snaps per game. Now if Pryor is as ineffective as Tim Tebow was last season, then it will not be a big deal. But if Pryor starts taking over games like Colin Kaepernick did for San Francisco in the middle of last season, Flynn could become the next Alex Smith.
Final Fantasy Projection
Flynn belongs on the Riddler’s green jacket, because he is a question mark. If you told me he is going to throw for 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, I would believe you. If you told me he is going to lose his job by the midpoint of the season to Pryor, I would believe you. Flynn is an unknown because he has never been a full-time starter before.
I think Flynn has a 70-30 chance of holding onto the job because Pryor is far from a polished passer. I would plug Flynn in the 3,750-yard, 21-touchdown range next season. I would rank him lower than Palmer on a fantasy cheat sheet, but higher than Buffalo’s Kevin Kolb or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder.
Think of him as possibly 2013's Ryan Fitzpatrick.