So, the unthinkable has happened. You spent an early pick (almost assuredly a first-rounder) on Tom Brady, only to see him go down for the season just 21 minutes into the Patriots’ opener. Now what?
If you’re a Brady owner, it may be tempting to write off the whole season already, but that would be a mistake. While his absence from your lineup creates a hole that may seem impossible to climb out from, it’s definitely worth the effort. At this point you basically have 3 options:
- Pick up Matt Cassel (almost assuredly available on your league’s waiver wire, unless your league is incredibly deep or has a “team QB” rule).
- Pick up a QB from another team off the waiver wire.
- Make a trade with another team in your league for a starting QB.
Let’s briefly examine each of these 3 options. While Matt Cassel will have a full week to practice with the first team in preparation for the Pats’ road game next Sunday against the Jets, keep in mind that he hasn’t been a starting QB since high school (he backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert at USC)! You may recall that Brad Johnson was in a similar situation when he first came to the NFL (he’d backed up Charlie Ward at Florida State), and he went on to quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory (notice that I used the word “quarterback” rather than “lead” - the Bucs’ defense was definitely the key to their championship). Still, it’s unrealistic to expect Cassel to throw for 300+ yards and several TDs on a consistent basis, which is the production you were probably banking on from Brady if you took him with your first pick. Overall, this is probably not your best option.
Which other QBs available on the waiver wire may be able to help your team, at least in the short run? Depending on how many teams are in your league, and how many QBs you’re required to start, some of the starting QBs who may be available include Kurt Warner (Ari), Matt Ryan (Atl), Joe Flacco (Bal), Kyle Orton (Chi), Tarvaris Jackson (Min), JaMarcus Russell (Oak), Marc Bulger (StL), J.T. O`Sullivan (SF), and Jeff Garcia (TB). Warner, Bulger, and Garcia have all had past success, and I would rank them in that order in terms of their likelihood to put up decent fantasy stats this season. Orton and Jackson both have previous starting experience, but not much apparent upside - I don’t consider either of them a desirable fantasy option for this season. Russell and Ryan are both intriguing prospects from big-time college programs and have significant upside. Flacco and O`Sullivan probably have lower ceilings than the previous pair and can be safely ignored unless there are no other options.
Third, there’s the trade route. Of course, your leaguemates know you’re in dire straits, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get fair value under the current conditions. Your goal is to sell high on a player you think exceeded expectations in Week 1 for an undervalued QB that a leaguemate feels exceeded his expections during Week 1. If you took Michael Turner, Willie Parker, or Reggie Bush as a 2nd (or even 3rd) Running Back, you are the lucky owner of a great bargaining chip. QBs you may be able to pry loose from their owners using these RBs as bait include Donovan McNabb and Jake Delhomme, both of whom I believe will exceed most people’s expectations this season (hopefully, including their current owners’!).
A quick note on a related topic. Under almost any scoring format imagineable, it hardly ever makes sense to take a quarterback with your first pick in a fantasy football draft, even if it is Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Tony Romo. While there are a handful of QBs that appear to be a cut above the rest going into each season, there’s usually a much smaller gap between the top-scoring QBs and the mediocre QBs than there is between the top scorers and middle of the pack contributors at both running back and wide receiver (the idea of position scarcity). Yes, LaDainian Tomlinson or Randy Moss could also suffer a season-ending injury in Week 1, but each season there are running backs and wide receivers passed over in fantasy drafts who go on to become top fantasy contributors that season (last year’s examples included Justin Fargas, Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Roddy White, and Dwayne Bowe). While it’s possible for this to happen at quarterback (Derek Anderson and Tony Romo are two recent examples), it’s much less likely.
I’ve also seen some instances where fantasy teams will draft just one QB and enter the season without a backup. Unless you’re playing in a league with 12 or fewer teams where nobody takes a backup, this is just a recipe for disaster. No matter how great/seemingly indestructable your starting QB appears to be (Brett Favre owners, listen up!), it always makes sense to have a contingency plan in case the unimagineable becomes the reality, as it did yesterday for Tom Brady owners.
Until next time,