Is Joe Flacco a QB1?

24 August 2010

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As fantasy drafts are starting to take off across the globe, there are still many questions to be answered. One of them is whether or not Joe Flacco is a legitimate starting fantasy QB. The addition of Anquan Boldin has to at least put him in the conversation, but is it enough.


It appears that Flacco is right on the fringe. Mock Draft Central has him pegged as the 13th QB (91st overall) going off draft boards. I have him one slot higher, and into starting fantasy QB territory at #12 (click to see my 2010 QB rankings). Boldin’s presence has a lot to do with it.


Flacco took major strides in his second season, increasing his numbers across the board. His completion percentage rose from 60.0 to 63.1. His yardage increased from 2971 to 3613. His TDs rose from 14 to 21 while his INTs remained at 12. His passer rating rose from 80.3 to 88.9. The only place where his numbers decreased was in the rushing department as he went from 180 yards and 2 TDs to 56 yards without a score.


He was fairly productive with an aging Derrick Mason as his primary option in the passing game. Ray Rice did his part with 78 catches for 702 yards and Todd Heap turned back the clock with a 53 catch season, but those aren’t numbers to write home about. Aside from Mason, Flacco got very little production from his WRs. Mark Clayton had 34 catches for 480 yards. Kelley Washington also had 34 catches for 431 yards. The rest aren’t worth mentioning, which is like 2008 when Mason (80-1037-5) and Clayton (41-695-3) were the only WRs to top 200 yards.
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You aren’t going to find many bigger Larry Fitzgerald fans than yours truly. I have forever loved the way he approaches the game. He learned how to prepare for an NFL season from Cris Carter and followed in his footsteps of gathering WRs around the league for a grueling camp.


Not only does he prepare intensely, and take young players under his wing (Sidney Rice last year for example), but he never seems to be in conflict with the team or his teammates, let alone not getting in trouble off the field.


On the field is where he truly captivates me. He does not have blazing speed, but he simply finds a way to get it done. He has great hands, footwork, leaping ability, vision, etc. I should stop before I am accused of a man-crush on Fitz.


In six NFL seasons he has averaged 87.2 catches for 1177.8 yards (13.5 ypc), and 9.8 TDs. In four of his last five years he had at least 96 catches and double-digit TDs. In three of his last five years he had 1400+ receiving yards.


He’s been just a bout a sure thing for double-digit TDs as any RB out there the past few years. Not only did I consider him a first round pick last year, I considered him a mid-round (6-8) first round pick.


Things have changed though. Kurt Warner is gone and Matt Leinart is at the helm. Leinart has had his share of bumps and bruises, but he has had some success with Fitz in the past.


In 2006 they played in eight games together when Leinart was the starting QB. Fitz averaged 5.25 catches for 74 yards with 4 TDs. Those aren’t the numbers you have come to expect from Fitz, but he has come a long way from 2006. I am counting on Leinart to do the same when he’s finally given another chance this year.


Not only did he lose his QB, but Fitz lost his running mate. While Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are quality WRs, they aren’t Anquan Boldin. I’m not sure how much that will affect Fitz though. Last year Boldin missed Week 9 and Fitz torched Chicago for 123 yards and 2 TDs. In 2008 Boldin missed Weeks 5, 6, 16 & 17 and Fitz caught 20 passes for 362 yards and 6 TDs in his absence. In 2007 Boldin was out Weeks 4, 5, 6 & 14 and Fitz caught 31 passes for 432 yards and 2 TDs in those four games.


I also think the Cardinals will lean much heavier on the run with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower taking some of the pressure off of Leinart. Kurt Warner was an elite talent so it made sense to rely on his arm. Leinart has ability, but there is going to be a philosophy change in the desert.


I’m not expecting another 1400 yard season for Fitz, but I do have him ranked high among WRs (click to see rankings) with a projection of 100 catches for 1250 yards and 10 TDs. Those are first round numbers, but I can see the argument that I’m being overly optimistic.


Mock Draft Central has Fitz with an ADP of 11. I would put him right around there as well. I would prefer RBs like AP, Chris Johnson, MJD, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Ray Rice, and Steven Jackson over Fitz. I would also rather have WRs Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne as well. I do like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees a lot, but I’d rather grab Fitz and settle for a Manning, Brady, Romo, Schaub, or Rivers later.


That puts Fitz at the 10th pick in my book, so yes I do consider him a first round pick still. Remember, I may be a little biased since I am such a big fan, but there aren’t many guys that you can basically pencil in for 1000+ yard and 10 TDs. I believe Fitz remains on of them.


What do you expect from Larry Fitzgerald?


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The Ravens made a big splash by landing Anquan Boldin, giving third-year QB Joe Flacco one more weapon. Suddenly the offense has as many stars as the defense.


Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:   Favorable
The Ravens take on the Saints at home sandwiched in between road games against the Texans and the Browns. The Ravens offensive players and defense should be among the highest ranked in the fantasy football championship.


Five Star Fantasy Options
Ray Rice – Rice gets the job done on the ground and through the air making him one of the most versatile backs in the game.


Four Star Fantasy Options
Anquan Boldin – It will be interesting to see how he handles switching to a new team. He’s such a force when healthy.


Ravens Defense/Special Teams – Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are a year older, but this unit still gets after it.


Three Star Fantasy Options
Joe Flacco – Flacco threw for 3613 yards, 21 TDs, and 12 INTs. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes for a 88.9 passer rating. With a legitimate #1 WR, his numbers could take off.


Two Star Fantasy Options
Willis McGahee – McGahee excelled in his role last year with 629 total yards (585 rush, 85 receiving) and 14 TDs (12 rush, 2 receiving). He’ll likely be a vulture again, and could see his stock rise if Rice is injured.


Derrick Mason – Is this the year he loses a step? I wouldn’t bet on it.


Todd Heap – Heap can still get it done, as evidence by the 53-593-6 season he turned in last year. Injuries remain a concern. Rookies Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will likely cut into his production.


One Star Fantasy Options
Le’Ron McClain – If McGehee were to go down, McClain would likely take over red zone duties.


Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

The Cardinals enter the 2010 with as much uncertainty as any other NFL team. They lost leaders (Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby) on both sides of the ball. Matt Leinart is in line to take over the QB position. Derek Anderson was brought in to push him.


Fantasy Playoff Schedule:  Slightly Unfavorable
The Cards draw Denver, Carolina, and Dallas in the fantasy playoffs. The Denver (and Dallas) game is at home so weather shouldn’t play a factor.


Five Star Fantasy Options
Larry Fitzgerald – Talent is talent. It hurts losing Warner, but Leinart has been in the system for a long time. Fitz may not be the top rated WR any more, but he’s close.


Four Star Fantasy Options


Three Star Fantasy Options
Beanie Wells – After a solid rookie season (793 yards, 7 TDs), Beanie should be even better in 2010. He scored six of his TDs from Week 10 on.


Two Star Fantasy Options
Matt Leinart – If he wins the starting job like I expect he makes for a solid backup fantasy QB. Despite Anquan Boldin’s departure, he still has plenty of weapons at WR.


Tim Hightower – I expect Hightower to take a less prominent role in the offense, but he still should be a viable flex position option. With Beanie Wells’ injury history, he could be counted on even more.


Steve Breaston/Early Doucet – Boldin’s departure opens the door for Breaston and Doucet to see increased production. Look for Breaston’s numbers to be more like 2008 than 2009. Doucet averaged 7 catches for 72.5 yards in two playoff games last year. Expect more of that in 2010.


Cardinals Defense/Special Teams:  Dansby will be missed, but they will still be a spot start defense when they have favorable match-ups.


Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Anquan Boldin catching
It’s looking like Anquan Boldin will finally be forced to sit out because of his ankle injury. It’s not healing properly because he keeps tweaking it. They’ll need him at full strength if they’re going to make another run at the division and beyond. Steve Breaston will get the start, and makes a great play this weekend.

Jake Delhomme (chest) has been able to practice, but I wouldn’t even use him in two-QB leagues at this point. If he struggles, it will be Matt Moore time. He is also a risk to aggravate his injury. Oh yeah, and he must be color blind because he can’t figure out which team to throw the ball to.

Calvin Johnson TD
Calvin Johnson
(knee) was able to return to practice for the Lions, which is a good indication that he’ll be ready to return to the field finally. Detroit desperately needs him in their lineup. If he can go, he makes for a great play against Seattle.

Westbrook Soars
Brian Westbrook
(concussion) got medical clearance to play this weekend against Dallas. He’ll probably be in a reduced role because LeSean McCoy has played so well. Westy isn’t a must-start at this point, but he should be a solid option as long as he’s given the green light by the Eagles’ coaching staff.  McCoy has the flu, which could cause the Eagles to lean on Westy a bit more. Monitor this situation.

Limited (No Worries)
Steve Breaston (knee)
Donald Driver (neck)
Matt Hasselbeck (ribs)
Todd Heap (ankle)
Devin Hester (ankle)
Greg Olsen (ankle)
Aaron Rodgers (foot, toe)
Kevin Smith (shoulder)
Jonathan Stewart (heel)

Limited (Don’t Use)
Lance Moore (ankle) – Not because he’s hurting, but because he’s been bad this year.
Muhsin Muhammad – Even if he plays, he shouldn’t be in your lineup.

Anquan Boldin catching
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If you’re an Anquan Boldin owner, I’m sure you were preparing to hear the phrase Game-Time Decision regarding Boldin’s availability for Sunday’s clash with the Giants.  He injured his ankle in last week’s win over Seattle and was held out of practice today.

He was able to play, albeit sparingly, in the second half of last week’s game, which leads me to believe he’ll at least make an attempt to play this week.  That, and the fact that he is a tough, physical receiver.

The problem, however, is his game is the Sunday Night game, which makes it hard to gamble on plugging him into your lineup.  If you don’t have a Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, or Santana Moss it would be hard to depend on Boldin this week because if he can’t go, his replacement options are limited.

Stay tuned as this story develops, but for now I’d make alternate plans at WR this week.

Anquan Boldin catching
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It doesn’t look like Anquan Boldin is going anywhere.  At least not any time soon, which is good news for Cardinals fans, and most likely Boldin owners since you don’t know where he’d end up.  He’s in a pretty good setup with Kurt Warner at QB running the high-powered offense with Larry Fitzgerald drawing the opposition’s attention.  Though he has to share with Fitz, they have shown there are plenty of fantasy goodies for both of them.  Though he didn’t finish strong, Boldin had 100+ yards and/or a TD in in eight of his first nine games, including a six-game TD streak. Now Boldin just needs to show he can stay healthy.  He has missed multiple games in four of his six years in the league, including four in each of the past two years. 

I would roll with him as my #1 WR, but I would prefer him as my #2 if possible considering his injury history.  Of course that would mean taking two WRs with my first three picks since Boldin is going early in the third round in fantasy drafts.  It may be a good idea to try and land Steve Breaston as insurance if you draft Boldin.  Not only does Breaston put up solid numbers in his own right, but he would see a dramatic increase if Boldin went down.  My prediction for Boldin is 80 receptions for 1200 yards and 10 TDs.

This is my preseason top ten.

Click here for my Midseason revised rankings.

Click here for my Second Half rankings.

1.  Larry Fitzgerald
It was actually close for me between Fitz and Andre Johnson, but after his playoff run, no way I can not chose #11.  He reached 1400 yards and double-digit TDs for the third time in his last four seasons.  Kurt Warner is back.  I knew about the leaping ability, his body control, great route running, and hands, but I did not know he had that extra gear that he kicked in during his long Super Bowl TD.  That HAD to scare Defensive Coordinators to death.

2.  Andre Johnson
I let the cat out of the bag already with Johnson, but a quick glance at his numbers (115 receptions, 1575 yards, 8 TDs) and you can see why he was 1-A prior to the playoffs.  His QB, Matt Schaub, has a tendency to get hurt.  Having his backup, Sage Rosenfels, leave for Minnesota hurts his value a little.  Not enough to knock him out of the second slot, but it’s a question mark that wasn’t there last year.

3. Calvin Johnson
Megatron is right on par with the top two.  He just happens to play for the lowly Lions.  He still managed 1331 yards and 12 TDs.  He’s just getting his feet wet in the league, and the Lions should be a little more stable at QB next year with Culpepper participating in OTAs and training camp.  Plus, they very well could be selecting a stud QB or Offensive Lineman in the draft.

4.  Reggie Wayne
Wayne had a down year for the Colts (1145 yards, 6 TDs), but with Marvin Harrison not returning, I see no reason why Wayne doesn’t bounce back with a 1400 yard, 10 TD season.  If the Colts didn’t have so many other weapons, I’d put him in the top three.

5.  Steve Smith
Smith had 1421 yards despite missing two games for breaking teammate Ray Lucas’ nose in the preseason, having a less than stellar QB, and playing on a run first team.  That speaks volumes about Smith’s ability.  I don’t think he’ll break anyone’s nose this year so he should play a full season, but the other two scenarios won’t change.  Still, he’s too good to move any further.

6.  Randy Moss
With Tom Brady back under Center, Randy Moss moves up a few notches from where he finished in 2008.  Will he snag another 23 TD passes?  Hardly.  How about close to 1500 yards?  Not likely.  However, a 1300 yards, 12 TD season should be easily attainable.

7.  Greg Jennings
Jennings meshed well with first time QB Aaron Rodgers proving he wasn’t a mirage created by Brett Favre’s gunslinging ways.  Jenning actually proved to be more of a possession receiver recording 55 first downs (compared to 37 in 2008).  He also improved by 27 receptions and 372 yards.  His TD total decreased from 12 to 9, but his yards per catch didn’t change dramatically (17.4 to 16.2).  Rodgers won’t have to deal with the Favremania this offseason and won’t have quite as much pressure on him to escape #4′s shadow.  They can just focus on playing football, something both Jennings and Rodgers do well.

8.  Anquan Boldin
Boldin would be higher if  he could stay healthy (16 missed games in six season) and if his contract status weren’t in question.  Playing opposite of Larry Fitzgerald helps.  Having Kurt Warner at QB also helps.  Even if he forced his way out of Arizona, he would still produce in a new system.  He’s that good.

9.  Roddy White
White was great last year catching 88 passes for 1382 yards and 7 TDs with Rookie QB Matt Ryan proving his 2007 numbers (83, 1202, 6) weren’t a fluke.  As Ryan grows as a QB so will Roddy.  Michael Jenkins took a step forward last year to give him a compliment at wideout.  Plus, Defenses have Michael Turner to worry about.

10. Terrell Owens
I’m sure you’re well aware that T.O. landed in Buffalo.  While it’s not an ideal situation, T.O. should be motivated to prove Dallas wrong.  He has double-digit TDs in seven of his last nine seasons.  Lee Evans is the best Wide Receiver mate that T.O. has seen in quite some time.  His deep ball threat will keep Safeties honest.  T.O. could be in for a very big year.  I have him at ten because being T.O., his mouth could get him into trouble at any time.

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Past Top Tens
Running Backs

Kurt Warner
- 31of 43 for 377 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Ben Roethlisberger - 21 of 30 for 256 yards, TD, INT

Running Backs
Gary Russell
- 2 carries for -3 yards, TD
Willie Parker - 19 carries for 53 yards, 1 catch for -2 yards
Edgerrin James - 9 carries for 33 yards, 4 catches for 28 yards

Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald
- 7 catches for 127 yards, 2 TDs
Santonio Holmes - 9 catches for 131 yards, TD
Anquan Boldin - 8 catches for 84 yards
Steve Breaston - 6 catches for 71 yards
Hines Ward – 2 catches for 43 yards

Tight Ends
Ben Patrick
- 1 catch for 1 yard, TD
Heath Miller - 5 catches for 57 yards


On paper this looks like a runaway for Arizona.  Not only do they possess arguably the best Wide Receiver in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, they also have Anquan Boldin, who is perhaps a top ten talent.

Fitz not only produced in the regular season (96 catches, 1431 yards, 12 TDs) he has set the standard for playoff production with his NFL record 419 receiving yards through three games.  He has five TDs in the playoffs as well.  He has at least 100 yards or a TD in 16 of the 19 games he’s played in this year.  He has at least 100 yards and a score in his last five games.  He has great leaping ability, great hands, impeccable body control, and the power to shed tackles.  The scary thing is he wasn’t even the best wideout on his team for a stretch.

That honor belonged to Boldin, who had 513 yards and 6 TDs in Weeks 8-12 following his return from his vicious hit.  During that same stretch Fitz had 464 yards and 1 TD.  I think, in part, Warner felt terrible about the hit Boldin took and subconsciously was repaying that debt.  I wonder if the blowup over the weekend will lead to more balls thrown Anquan’s way.  The extra rest should help and I’m fairly certain Fitz has the Steelers’ attention.  Boldin could find himself very busy on Super Bowl Sunday.

Steve Breaston also enjoyed a fine season with 77 catches for 1006 yards and 3 TDs.  He was also a decent return guy.  He has seven catches for 77 yards in the playoffs.  I don’t expect his number to be called to often.  Finally, Jerheme Urban had some success this year.  He caught 34 passes for 448 yards and 4 TDs.  He hasn’t been much of a playoff factor.

While not as sexy as the Cardinal Wide Receivers, Pittsburgh isn’t lacking in that department.  Hines Ward is one of the most complete wideouts in the league.  He has great hands, runs crisp routes, and is one of the best blockers at his position.  He had 81 catches for 1043 yards and 7 TDs in the regular season.  He leads the Steelers with 7 catches for 125 yards in the playoffs.  He hurt his knee in the win over Baltimore, but there is little chance he won’t be ready in the Super Bowl.  He’s too darn tough to sit that one out.  Santonio Holmes regressed a bit this season (942 yards and 8 TDs in ’07 to 821 yards and 5 TDs in ’08).  He’s having a pretty good run in the playoffs though with a couple of long scores (one receiving, one punt return). He has 95 yards on four catches.  He is plenty capable of making another big play in Tampa.  Finally, Nate Washington is a pretty solid #3 WR.  He had 40 catches for 631 yards and 3 TDs during the regular season and six catches for 51 yards in the playoffs.  All of these wideouts are a step down from their counterparts, but they are good at what they do in their Offense.

Advantage:  Arizona

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