NFL Quarterbacks Waiting in the Wings

Ken KellyContributor IIIJuly 22, 2010

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the San Diego Chargers watches from the sideline during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on November 12, 2006 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Chargers defeated the Bengals 49-41. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

What do such names as Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees all have in common?

If you answered that all of these top-tier QBs were not drafted to be the immediate starter for their respective teams, you would be correct. 

Brady was a late round selection, Romo went entirely undrafted, and Brees was an undersized QB drafted in the second round who few analysts gave any chance to succeed in the NFL.

Every year at each skill position, players emerge from the shadows to become fantasy producers and, sometimes, fantasy stars.  It’s all too easy to lose focus of one of the main tenets in the dynasty format—find the fantasy stars of tomorrow, today. 

In this first of a three-part series, I’ll highlight five quarterbacks who should be on your radar and off of your waiver wire.

I would never suggest dropping a producing player on your roster to add one of these players, but should you have the roster space and the positional need, give them consideration.  The most successful dynasty coaches will always keep a roster spot, or three, for this type of developmental player.

Note that for the purpose of this article, I am not highlighting those quarterbacks with significant previous playing experience (those ships have sailed) or the clear, imminent, No. 2s.  In most cases, the selections below are those QBs with good situations that may be a year or more away from getting any meaningful time.

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In order of priority:

No. 1  Charlie Whitehurst, SEA
6’4″ 220 lbs.
Age:  27

The strong-armed and surprisingly mobile Whitehurst signed a two-year, $8 million contract this year in Seattle, and slides into the No. 2 QB role behind aging veteran Matt Hasselbeck.  With two career rushes (including one TD) and no passing attempts, Whitehurst is the stereotypical clipboard-holding, back-up QB.

Incumbent and fragile starter Hasselbeck is far from a lock to start 16 games, and many believe that Whitehurst will be starting potentially as soon as week six, following Seattle’s bye. 

Early reports have said that Hasselbeck is finally 100 percent healthy and throwing very well, and recent UFL addition, J.P. Losman has played as well as Whitehurst, perhaps making for a hotly contested place on the depth chart. 

That said, the Seahawks gave Whitehurst a hefty contract, and that is not done unless there is serious consideration for the player to start sooner rather than later. 

Smart money is on Whitehurst to be starting for the Hawks sometime in 2010, perhaps at a point when the playoffs are nearly out of reach.  Even if Whitehurst does not take a snap from under center in 2010, he has the prototypical size, intelligence, and arm to be a productive QB once he does take over and he should not be on your waiver wire at this time.

No. 2  Dennis Dixon, PIT

6’3″ 209 lbs.
Age:  25

Unless Big Ben can get his act together and rebuild his life around a new set of priorities, it’s safe to assume that he has all but worn out his welcome in the Steel City.  Perhaps more telling than fan reaction is future Hall of Famer WR Heinz Ward’s less than stellar criticism of his QB. 

Surely Ward’s sentiments are reflected in more than just a few of Pittsburgh’s veterans, and Roethlisberger’s career will likely end with some other team. 

In another close backup QB competition, Byron Leftwich would seemingly have a slight edge over the younger and exceedingly more mobile Dixon. 

Dixon recovered well from the ACL injury that ended his college season, and he performed fairly in spot duty with the Steelers in 2009.  Dixon’s forte is his speed and escapability, but he is not without a good arm and a fine set of intangibles.  Dixon also has Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in his camp.

It seems likely that, even if Byron Leftwich wins the backup quarterback battle in 2010, he is no more than a one-year placeholder.  Dixon should eventually get a chance to earn the starting job when and if Roethlisberger finds himself out of the black and gold. Dixon warrants strong consideration now.

No. 3  Stephen McGee
6’3″ 218 lbs.
Age:  24

Just by chance, I recently had the pleasure to speak with two separate and unrelated Cowboys fans.  Both of them expressed nearly the same thought.  The Cowboys have the talent to win the Super Bowl, but they won’t with Tony Romo leading them.

My immediate thought was “Donovan McNabb” and the first fan went on to mention just that.  Ever since that fateful day in Seattle with the botched extra point, it seems that Romo has carried the label of being a great regular season QB, but not one capable of winning the big game. 

Firstly, dare I say that if Martin Gramatica gets any sort of block after that snap, Romo most likely scores on the play and history is changed, but I digress. 

Jerry Jones has long had a good eye for sharp, intelligent, and largely unknown QBs.  Whether Jason Garrett, Tony Romo or, now, Stephen McGee.  The fact is that the Cowboys have a knack for turning third quarterbacks into starters. 

A fourth round pick in 2009, McGee had a somewhat successful college career playing at Texas A&M.  With a great arm, good accuracy, and nice touch, McGee has drawn praise in Big D for his football intelligence and starter qualities.

Jerry Jones is not an owner who excels in the area of patience, and if fan support for a change from Romo is already present or growing, Jones can’t be far behind.

It’s very safe to assume that Romo will remain the starter for 2010, but should the Cowboys again have an early exit from the playoffs, notice may be served.  McGee is worthy of a roster addition should you have a deep need at QB and have the roster space available.

No. 4  John Skelton, ARI
6’5″ 243 lbs.
Age: 22

The Fordham graduate finished his three-year stint as a starter with an impressive 64 percent completion rate, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Skelton stands tall in the pocket and isn’t overly elusive but moves well for a QB of his size. His impressive arm strength, when patient, is a significant asset, but he does sometimes overly rely on that strength as the pocket breaks down. 

Skelton has the raw traits to be a NFL caliber starter. There is little question about that.  Better yet, he’s playing for the Cardinals where the talking heads are saying all the right things about QB Matt Leinart as the unquestioned starter when all the while common sense and history suggest that there has to be more than a modicum of concern present. 

Behind Leinart sits one Derek Anderson, another strong-armed QB with questionable decision-making skills. Enough quality exists at the position such that the long term starter may not be known for some time. Arizona presents the type of offense and system where the right QB could find great success. 

For the record, I don’t believe that will be with Matt Leinart. At age 22, Skelton may need to spend two to three seasons learning the speed of the NFL game, but his situation is a fine one to keep tabs on.  He can be owned to the same degree Stephen McGee above can.

No. 5  Brian Hoyer, NE
6’2″  215 lbs.
Age:  24

The fifth QB in this piece is not an easy selection.  Many good choices exist, but I have found myself continually looking back at Hoyer. 

Something doesn’t seem right in New England these days, and while I believe that all interested parties want Brady back as the starter for the remainder of his career, Brady’s recent body language and statements leave me wondering if his heart still resides on the east coast. 

Things can tend to get messy when Super Bowls and contracts collide, and while this could be resolved very quickly, it could just as easily break down further. 

Hoyer is well-liked in New England, and barring the signing of a veteran signal caller, the Partiots seem willing to continue to develop him.

To his credit, Hoyer is a fierce competitor with a great degree of confidence. In his spot duty, I found myself impressed with his poise and his ability to make plays.

Let’s not jump to any conclusions here because Brady is only 32 years old, Hall of Fame bound, and likely has a lot of football ahead of him, but the music could stop at any point, and there will have to be the “next” QB ready to go.

Hoyer, thus far, seems to be in the right place to take advantage should the stars align.  You don’t need to rush out to your free-agent wire, but continue to watch his development.

In my next installment, I’ll highlight five running backs to keep your eye on that aren’t everyday names.

Article written by Jeff Haverlack
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