Aaron Rodgers has barely wrapped his newly-won championship belt around his waist, and fantasy football owners are already looking forward to the 2011 NFL season — if there is one.
It is never too early to prepare as a fantasy football owner, especially if you are in a dynasty league and are allowed to protect players. I have already inked Drew Brees, Andre Johnson, and Vernon Davis to long-term contracts, and I am sure I am not alone in wondering how possible uniform changes will affect their fantasy draft status and which guys I will draft in the CFL league I will join when the NFL starts locking out players.
Unless the NFL labor situation prevents player movement, or the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans decide to hold onto quarterbacks they should be getting rid of, Kevin Kolb and Vince Young will have new homes in 2011.
Kolb and Young did not exactly light the fantasy world on fire this past season as both dealt with injuries, job losses, and inconsistent play. But changes of scenery normally boost a player’s fantasy worth, and that could very well hold true for these two.
So where would I want to see Kolb and Young go if I was a fantasy owner who could keep them for 2011? Here are my top choices for each signal caller.
Kolb entered the 2010 season with more PR hype than the new Nicki Minaj album, but he flopped worse than Groupon’s Super Bowl ad campaign. He was ranked as a Top-12 quarterback by many fantasy publications, because Philadelphia passes the ball more than any team in the league and has one of the fastest receiving corps. One half into the opening game of the season, Kolb suffered a concussion and opened the door for Michael Vick to scramble his way to the starting job.
With Vick seemingly entrenched as the Eagles’ No. 1 QB, Kolb can be traded for draft choices, much-needed defensive players, and/or another starting pitcher for the ace-heavy Phillies.
You would not think a youngster with an 11-to-14 career touchdown-to-interception ratio would be chased after like an escaped convict. However, the quarterback market is dry, the draft is not stocked with a ton of Sam Bradfords and several NFL teams are in need of new passers. With Kolb’s upside, along with his good mobility and accurate arm, he anticipates a bright future.
Perfect team for Kolb — Tennessee Titans
Former head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger favored a run-first philosophy, but there could be a seismic shift now that the coaching staff has been overhauled. While Tennessee certainly will not abandon the run entirely—like the Green Bay Packers did during the Super Bowl—because of top tailback Chris Johnson, the Titans have talented receivers that should be featured much more than in the past.
Kenny Britt is a fantasy monster when he stays out of trouble and is not pulling his hamstrings. If Britt was targeted more in the passing game, especially deep downfield, he could rival Baltimore’s Ray Rice for the title of Most Valuable Rutgers Product in Fantasy Football. Now there is a title to win!
It would also be interesting to see how speedster Nate Washington and the streaky Justin Gage would do if Tennessee threw the ball 35 times per game instead of 25. Neither is regarded as more than a backup receiver on a fantasy roster, but maybe one or the other could be an 850-yard, eight-TD guy with Kolb chucking to him.
Kolb will never find a team that throws as often as the Eagles do. But Tennessee has underrated, big-play receivers, a solid offensive line, one of the best running backs in football and a new regime that might be ready to open up the offense. Plus, there are no above-average defenses in the AFC South, so Kolb’s schedule if he were on the Titans would be favorable.
Kolb has talent. He throws a nice spiral and is comfortable and accurate with short to mid-range passes. He also has mobility inside and outside of the pocket. His ability to throw deep and his durability are still questionable at this point, but he needs a full-time starting gig to prove he can air it out and stay healthy. If I was a Kolb owner, I would like to see him get traded to Tennessee.
I consider Young the Jon Garland of fantasy football. Garland is widely-regarded in baseball circles as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. He does not throw hard, he does not strike many batters out, and his stats are never worthy of Cy Young consideration. He is always taken towards the end of fantasy baseball drafts, long after the Scott Kazmirs and A.J. Burnetts have been scooped up.
Yet Garland’s numbers are always solid. He has posted nine straight years of double-digit wins, he usually averages 200 innings pitched and he keeps his ERA around the 4.00 mark. Last season he even struck out a career-high 136 batters. Fantasy owners could do better than Garland, but they could also do ten times worse.
Young never throws for 300 yards, rushes for 100 yards or has four-TD games—unless he is facing Michigan in the Rose Bowl—but somehow, some way his teams win when he starts. In addition, he is coming off a shortened season where he set new career-bests in TD-to-INT ratio and QB rating. That will definitely make many suitors come calling Tennessee for his services this off-season, and if he ends up on the right team he could end up being a decent fantasy option.
Young has the physical skills to be a fantasy force if he were given the chance. He should be able to run for near as many yards as a Vick and throw for 200-plus yards and 1-2 touchdowns per game. But is there a team out there willing to trade for him, hand him the starting job, and allow him to freewheel his way to fantasy solidness?
Perfect team for Young — Miami Dolphins
Miami has to show Chad Henne the same door Denver showed Josh McDaniels. I would rather have Naomi Campbell as my anger management counselor than have Henne on my fantasy team. Henne is another in a string of second-round draft picked quarterbacks (remember Pat White and John Beck?) that Miami missed the mark with.
Since Tony Sparano is sticking around as head coach, Miami’s offensive system might not change much. That means an offense that revolves around running the ball with multiple backs—although possibly not Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams—out of multiple formations and short passes to 100-reception man Brandon Marshall.
Miami’s approach would mesh perfectly with Young’s abilities if the Dolphins built in more rollouts, designed scrambles, and option plays into their offense. The “Wildcat” would be obsolete because Young could run that formation himself whenever needed because of his pass-run double-threat talent.
Young could never quarterback a run-and-shoot offense or a team that spreads out defenses with five-receiver sets like the New England Patriots. He is just not a good enough passer yet, but if he stays on the field and remains a starter in a system that plays off his strengths, he will improve. He just needs the right system, offensive coordinator, quarterback coach and supporting cast.
The rub here is that both Brown and Williams are free agents and one or both will not be re-signed. Word is that the Dolphins are targeting a big-play tailback either via the draft or free agency because the aging duo has lost the speed to break away for 20-yard runs. A faster, younger, running back could only help Young by turning his screen and shovel passes into long gainers and by making his bootlegs and play-action passes more believable and harder to defend.
At this point, I would rather have Bernie Madoff managing my money than have Young on my fantasy roster. But if he gets traded to a team that plays to his strengths and skills, I will definitely consider him for a No. 2 or No. 3 QB slot on my fantasy squad, and I think the Dolphins could be the team he could mesh with the best. He has never thrown to a receiver as great as Marshall before, and Tennessee just did not give him the freedom a team like Miami might.