One preseason game is out of the way, and neither Matt Cassel nor Teddy Bridgewater has distanced himself in the race to name a starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikes beat the Oakland Raiders on Friday night, 10-6. Cassel went 5-of-6 for 62 yards, while Bridgewater was 6-of-13 for 49 yards.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller walked away impressed with the veteran's efficient performance:
Who is this Matt Cassel? He's moving very well in drops, getting the ball out with velocity. Working man coverage.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 9, 2014
However, the fans in Minnesota have already picked their horse, per NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah:
Vikings fans already chanting "Teddy, Teddy"— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 9, 2014
Most football fans have been focusing on the quarterback battle in Cleveland between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer, completely forgetting another first-round draft pick is fighting for a starting job, too.
Some might be reading into the rookie taking snaps early in the game as some indicator that he's edging ahead of Cassel. On the contrary, Bridgewater getting a few series with the first team was always part of the plan.
"When the lights come on, it's a different deal," said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, per ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis, via The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer. "It will be good for him and how he reacts to seeing defenses that he hasn't seen very much of, how he has to readjust the blitz, how he has to get the ball out and make the right calls, how he plays under pressure."
Those sentiments were echoed by offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
"We need to play Teddy with the first line," he said, per ESPN.com's Ben Goessling. "We need to mix a lot of players. I think we're still trying to work that out in terms of how we want to do it. I know Coach Zimmer has a plan in place. It will be a number of plays, and we want to see Teddy play. He needs to play to get through that the first time going out."
Cassel is listed first in the Vikings' "unofficial" depth chart, but as Friday night's game showed, Zimmer and Turner are leaving their options open. They wouldn't have let Bridgewater take snaps with the first team if they didn't think he has a shot at starting in Week 1.
In terms of the fantasy realm, Minnesota's win over the Raiders shouldn't affect your draft strategy at all. Cassel's unlikely to undergo a career renaissance, despite his encouraging performance, and the performance of rookie quarterbacks are extremely hard to forecast. Neither is a very attractive option.
Adrian Peterson's also still in the backfield, so it's not like Minnesota is all of a sudden going to become a pass-first offense.
Of the two QBs, Bridgewater has higher fantasy potential simply because he's an unknown quantity, but you'll have to be very careful when you plan on taking him.
For every Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, there's a Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith or Christian Ponder. Below is a look at the last three years of rookie quarterbacks and how they scored fantasy-wise on Pro-Football-Reference.com.
|Rank||Player||Fantasy Pts.||QB Rank|
|1||Robert Griffin III||318||5|
Perhaps if Bridgewater were a can't-miss QB prospect coming out of college like Luck and RG3 were, then you could make the argument that he's worth a gamble in your starting lineup, as long as you had a reliable backup behind him.
Bridgewater isn't even the runner that Wilson or Griffin are, so he lacks that extra dimension to pad his fantasy stats.
In general, drafting somebody locked in a QB battle is tricky, because so much hinges on what the head coach does. You don't want to act too early and get stuck with somebody who's second on the depth chart, even if he is a promising rookie.
If you're in a keeper league, Bridgewater would be a great pick, but for the time being, he should probably be avoided until the later rounds, while Cassel shouldn't be targeted unless you're in a very deep league in which you've got little recourse.