Fantasy Football Crystal Ball: Tyler Thigpen

Dan BentonCorrespondent INovember 16, 2008

Who is the most unlikely, but now one of the hottest commodities in fantasy football right now?  The answer is Tyler Thigpen, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs.

That's right, the same Thigpen who was a disastrous 14-36 for 128 yards, a TD, and 3 INTs in his first NFL start earlier this season against Atlanta.  The same Thigpen who came into the season as the third QB of the Chiefs. The same Chiefs who finished 31st last season with 14.1 points per game.

Yes indeed, the same Tyler Thigpen has thrown eight TDs and only one INT in his last four games, and he has thrown for at least 235 yards in three of those four games. Somehow, some way, the QB from Coastal Carolina has become a revelation for the Chiefs and now for fantasy football owners.

The question is can he keep this up? Is it wise to keep him as the full-time starter for the rest of the season?

Let us take a look at the pros and cons:


Thigpen had no idea what he was doing in his start against Atlanta. In part because he had little opportunity to work with the first team offense, but primarily because he was not used to the Chiefs' preferred power running-game offense. At Coastal Carolina, he ran a college-style, spread-formation offense, not the drop-back offense the Chiefs preferred to run with Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard.

Credit offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and head coach Herm Edwards for not being afraid to change the offense to make Thigpen comfortable. Of course, it helped that Croyle and Huard were lost for the season around the same time, so the coaches knew they had to stick with Thigpen for the long haul, but it also helped that RB Larry Johnson was suspended or inactive for several games. Now, even with Johnson's return, the Chiefs have stuck with the spread offense because it has worked.

Thigpen has helped the Chiefs score at least 19 points in the last four games, something they did only once in their previous six games. Perhaps more importantly, he has not turned the ball over, throwing only one INT on a desperation pass late in the game against New Orleans. That gives the Chiefs confidence to continue putting the ball in Thigpen's hands.

The schedule also works in Thigpen's favor from here on out. He has a somewhat tough matchup against Buffalo next week, but after that, he faces Oakland, Denver, San Diego, Miami, and Cincinnati. He has an excellent contingent of receivers in Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe, and the rising Mark Bradley. He has an offensive coordinator who coached in the college game and is therefore familiar with the spread-style offense, but also coached in the pro game and therefore has a realistic assessment of what works in the NFL and what doesn't.

The Chiefs' defense is still porous, so they do tend to fall behind, even as the Chiefs have built early leads.  That means more opportunities to put the ball in Thigpen's hands.

Oh, and one more pro- he can run.  He has rushed for at least 20 yards in each of his last four starts.


For all his successes in recent weeks, Thigpen's accuracy has been erratic. In his four recent starts, Thigpen's completion percentages have been: 69.4%, 56.0%, 65.9%, and 50.0%.  He has tended to fade in the second halves of games, sailing some passes over the heads of open receivers. He also has become a little too dependent on Bowe and Gonzalez at times, trying to force passes to them that aren't there. With the game on the line, Thigpen has not yet shown that killer instinct to put a game away.

The possible X-factor? Larry Johnson.

Johnson's style is more suited to a power running attack, so his role in a spread offense is unclear. The Chiefs are not going to revert to the old offense, which could not move the ball at all, but they have to figure out how best to use Johnson's talents. That could mean an adjustment period as Gailey tries to figure out what role Johnson will play.

Thigpen's tendency to fade in the second halves of games is also a concern because it may be a sign that defenses adjust to him. Thigpen has not been in the league long enough for defenses to recognize his style of play immediately; however, once defenses actually face him, they can figure out the velocity of his throws and his reactions to certain defenses.


For the time being, it is safe to insert Thigpen as your starting QB for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for fantasy owners, the ability to win games is not an important consideration in fantasy leagues; the only question is whether he can put up points. He has done that better than almost any fantasy player in the last four weeks. He has reached a very good comfort level with Bowe and Gonzalez, two playmakers with the ability to score. All of that is a good formula for success; not bad for a QB who nobody had on their fantasy roster until after Week 8, at best.

Look for Thigpen to continue putting up numbers worthy of a starting fantasy QB.

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