Sleeper Spotlight: Cardinals QB Dilemma and Fantasy Football Impact

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2010

If Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson continue to struggle with QB duties, how long until rookies John Skelton and Max Hall become part of the equation?
If Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson continue to struggle with QB duties, how long until rookies John Skelton and Max Hall become part of the equation?Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The minute Kurt Warner announced his retirement earlier this year, we knew two things immediately.

First, that unlike Brett Favre, Warner really was retiring for good.

And secondly, that the Cardinals quarterback situation was going to get very, very interesting from a fantasy football standpoint.

News Thursday escalated the situation even further.

First, anyone who watches football knew that Matt Leinart was not a shoo-in for fantasy greatness. He had multiple opportunities in the past to take the proverbial bull by the horns, and failed to make an impression.

With Kurt Warner out of the equation, Leinart still didn’t feel like an option to bank on, and the Cardinals responded this offseason by signing Derek Anderson and bringing in rookies John Skelton and Max Hall.

Two-plus weeks into preseason action, and word from Arizona is that Leinart will be “demoted” for the upcoming preseason contest against Chicago.

Seasoned fantasy football owners know that this type of news should be taken with a grain of salt...that coaches all the time attempt to shake things up or licit a higher level of play from an incumbent by playing with such roster moves during preseason action.

But accompanying reports from NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora have added some meat to the situation—speculating that the Cardinals brass has “very likely” given up on Mr. Leinart.

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt allegedly had this to say about the upcoming preseason game: “A lot of people look at this like a dress rehearsal game. We’re not looking at it that way.”

But before you dump Matt Leinart from your fantasy roster, let’s look at the situation a little closer.

First, there is plenty of football between now and the actual regular season opener. Plenty of decisions will be made last-minute, and there is ample time for Leinart to take this change in his status as a reason to step things up and wow the coaching staff.

Dumping Leinart now would be very foolish.

However, this isn’t Leinart’s first wake-up call. It would be equally foolish to not make a preemptive strike if you have the roster room to play with.

Derek Anderson is the logical replacement for Leinart in the desert. Of course, Anderson struggled with consistency of his own in the past and hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this preseason. While he has more yards and a touchdown during preseason action so far, Anderson’s QB rating, marred by two interceptions, is below 60.

Leinart, who has yet to throw a TD pass, but also hasn’t launched an interception, either, actually has a much better QB rating at this point in the preseason. Remember, too, that Anderson was playing mostly against second and third-string defenses, while Leinart was against the first-string guys.

So, we don’t really know how this will pan out at the moment. If Anderson does somehow vault his way past Leinart as the starter heading into regular season action, it is a safe bet, based on Derek’s track record, that he won’t stick there long-term.

Therefore, those who want a jump on true sleepers should look a little deeper on the bench. Skelton and Hall are projects at the moment...with Skelton a fifth-round pick for the Cardinals.  His big frame (6-5, 243) helped him become a household name despite playing for virtual unknown Fordham. He showed great poise and potential in the Cardinals first preseason game, going 5-for-6 for 84 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. For more on his impressive debut, check out this article.

Hall was an unsigned add to the roster and showed his own flashes of potential in the Cardinal’s second preaseason game. He showed improved arm strength, quick release and took overall command of the offense. His numbers (7-for-15, 101 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) don’t tell the whole story.

From a dynasty standpoint, if you can make the roster room, it wouldn’t hurt to snag both options and let them ripen on your bench like a tomato on your kitchen counter. At this point, either could become a solid play as early as this season if Leinart or Anderson doesn’t soon start locking down the starting gig.

For the meantime, don’t over-react and dump Leinart. Do snag Anderson if you can fit him on the roster as a speculative add.

And, most importantly, keep a very close eye on this situation as we near the regular season.

For more fantasy football advice, strategies, sleepers, rankings and everything else you will need to be successful this season, go here.

For the first Sleeper Spotlight article, on the Minnesota receivers, go here.

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