In terms of seeking out fantasy football sleepers at the quarterback position as the 2013 NFL season approaches, there are several standouts who are logical gambles.
Speculating how an unproven rookie might do in his first action under center is always dicey, as is projecting the numbers for younger signal-callers who are still clearly developing.
Several QB options aren't considered among the league's elite, but all of them have had varying degrees of success in the past. The mixture of pedigree, arm talent, supporting cast and offensive scheme all play important factors in deciding to take a flier on a quarterback late in the fantasy draft.
Below is a look at the three safest bets when taking into account all those tangible elements, followed by a more extended list of sleeper quarterbacks who are also worth a look if these analyzed players are off the board.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
For a man who led the NFL in passing yards with 4,770 as recently as 2009, there isn't a lot of respect for Schaub in terms of fantasy value.
Perhaps it's because Arian Foster is one of the marquee running backs or because Schaub's career best as far as touchdowns in a season is 29.
This could definitely be the year Schaub breaks that mark, thanks to the long-awaited presence of a No. 2 wide receiver to pair opposite Andre Johnson in first-round rookie DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson.
Hopkins is lethal in the open field and has outstanding vision and agility, but he can also go up over defenders and make phenomenal catches with strong hands.
Longtime Texans tight end Owen Daniels is still in the fold, and Garrett Graham emerged as a receiving threat at the position last season, catching 28 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Play-calling head coach Gary Kubiak has been mentoring Schaub the entire time the quarterback has been in Houston, so familiarity with the offensive scheme is not at all an issue. With these pieces all in place around Schaub, it's time for him to put up monster numbers.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
When a franchise is undergoing a regime change, it's always a bit tricky to figure out how the new systems will take. In the case of the Cardinals, though, the arrival of head coach Bruce Arians and Palmer should make things instantly more exciting in the desert.
Palmer has superstar Larry Fitzgerald and rising second-year player Michael Floyd at his disposal. Both of them are big targets who are strong with the football and have incredible ball skills.
The combination of Palmer's knack for throwing the deep ball and Arians' penchant for dialing up plays in that mold should translate to a lot of aerial theatrics for the Cardinals.
Andre Roberts is another underrated commodity Palmer can find in the slot, and tight end Rob Housler is 6'5", 250 pounds and runs extremely fast, which will help stretch the middle of the field as well.
Oh, and cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is an absolute freak of an athlete, claims that Arians has clued him in on the offense and that there is a package of 60 plays or so he will be available for.
ESPN fantasy guru Matthew Berry has a prediction for Palmer of 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, which is rather reasonable in this context:
Arizona needs everything it can muster to throw off the tough defenses of the NFC West in the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams. From the looks of how the team stacks up at the moment, Palmer is in a great position to thrive.
After all, he threw for over 4,000 yards in Oakland last season despite being complemented—well, not really—by the league's 28th-ranked rushing offense and a slew of inexperienced receivers.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The three fundamental goals offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, preaches are decision-making, accuracy and leadership, per the Tampa Bay Times.
Freeman peaked from October through November in 2012, throwing for nearly 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions in that span. However, decision-making and accuracy were absent at other times, and he wound up with 17 interceptions on the year and a 54.8 completion percentage.
Which quarterback will put up the biggest numbers in 2013?
This marks Freeman's second year in Sullivan's scheme, which offers a heavy dose of running with the likes of Doug Martin in the backfield but also allows Freeman to take shots deep.
With a big target in Vincent Jackson on the outside to go along with Mike Williams as the No. 2 receiver, big plays are bound to happen. What also helps Freeman is that Martin can catch very well, too.
The moxie and clutch abilities Freeman has flashed in his brief career indicate he's on the cusp of being a superstar. In his breakout season in 2010, he led five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter to allow the Bucs to come from behind and win, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Results haven't been as steady since that 10-win campaign, but 2013 is his contract year, so it's time for Freeman to step up and shine. His upside is off the charts, and the stage at which Freeman will likely be drafted in fantasy makes his value tremendous.
|1||Matt Schaub, Houston Texans|
|2||Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals|
|3||Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|4||Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears|
|5||Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams|
|7||Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins|
|8||EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills|
|9||Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns|
|10||Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans|
Rankings are strictly opinion