“The Ten” Weekly: Rookie Watch
Editor’s Note: This season, the LWOS Football Department is tracking the progress and success of the league’s 10 up-and-coming signal callers in a regular series called ”The Ten Weekly”, which you will be able to find in our column, “3rd String NFL”. This year, columnist Derek Brown will follow five rookies (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden) and five second-year players (Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert), who have earned starting quarterbacking duties for their respective teams. ”Brown” will chronicle their up’s and down’s and examine each player’s impact on their team’s success as well as the impact on fantasy football. We will also rank each player, but give the most weight to how each QB is playing at that particular moment rather than their overall career. For simplicity’s sake, we will break the weekly review into two sections – “Rookie Watch” and “Sophomore Watch”. Both will be published on Tuesdays.
5) Brandon Weeden - 12 for 35 speaks for itself. He competed nearly as many passes to the other team (four) as his own. Philly is never the easiest defense to face because of their attacking style and strong cover corners. But Weeden made poor decisions from the start and made several throws he should have just thrown into the stands. The real problem for the Browns though is that many of Weeden’s worst throws were made when he wasn’t under any pressure at all. Weeden has gone from throwing to nothing but wide open receivers last year at Oklahoma State to playing in the toughest defensive division in the NFL. Weeden will struggle to make the transition – in a big way.
Fantasy Impact - If Weeden continues to be this inconsistent it is tough to imagine any of his receivers becoming a true fantasy threat either. There is no established play maker on Cleveland and that makes Weeden’s job even tougher. The bigger fantasy impact though might be on the ground. Trent Richardson is expected to be a strong fantasy RB this year, but after week one I have my doubts. If Weeden can’t threaten the defense with his arm then they will key on stopping Richardson and the Browns offensive line proved on Sunday they will struggle to open up lanes in these situations. Factor in that Richardson will play four games this season against the Steelers and Ravens, and two road games against the strong Giants and Cowboys defensive lines and you are looking at getting production from Richardson in only a handful of games. See if you can find a taker for Richardson while you still can. Abort! Abort!
4) Ryan Tannehill - Tannehill is in a better situation in Miami than Weeden in Cleveland, however minimally. At least in Miami the Dolphins have the semblance of a run game to help out their rookie QB. The run game helped and Tannehill was less obviously brutal than Weeden was on Sunday but he still looked like a rookie. Particularly on one stretch where he threw three INT’s in only three minutes and essentially played his team out of the game. The receiving situation in Miami is dire so expect Tannehill to continue to struggle early in the season.
Fantasy Impact - The Dolphins are still strong on both lines which will keep them in a lot of games and should allow them to go to the run game to protect their rookie QB. Reggie Bush should have a fine fantasy season but I wouldn’t hold my breath for his back-up, Daniel Thomas. Bush has looked like a true lead back every game he has played in Miami and I don’t see him letting up. In New Orleans the knock on Bush was injuries, but look how other Saints back’s have held-up injury wise in recent years. From the receiver standpoint, Davone Bess has the best chance of breaking out but I wouldn’t expect consistency from anyone.
3) Russell Wilson - I expect Wilson to have a strong season and challenge each of the other rookie QB’s for the title of best rookie QB, but Sunday was a struggle for him. Arizona attacked the pocket constantly against Seattle and their penetration rattled Wilson a little bit. The Seahawks were unable to gain any momentum in the run game to help out their rookie QB either. A familiar problem from the preseason showed up again also. The Seahawks receivers were failing to get any separation on the majority of plays, and if you have read my column “3rd String NFL” in the past, you will know how I feel about the ‘hawks receivers. Credit Wilson for continuing to keep his eyes down field, but he was unable to find his target more often than not.
Fantasy Impact - Arizona, despite their reputation, is a tough place to play and it had a big impact on Seattle on Sunday. Until we see more of the Wilson led Seahawks offense it may be best to avoid starting any Seahawks in road games – including at running back, because the Seahawks got no push against the Cards. Sidney Rice looked like the most dangerous Seahawks receiver and may emerge an Wilson’s #1 target.
2) Andrew Luck – No rookie QB had a tougher match-up than Luck on opening weekend, who had to play on the road against a tough Bears defense. The Colts were unable to put any drives together early in the game and by the time they did it was already over. Luck showed toughness however, and this Colts team will improve all season long.
Fantasy Impact – Expect the Colts to be behind in games quite a bit early in the season so 300 yard games from Luck, like against the Bears, might not be uncommon. Reggie Wayne is still a star player and will be a legitimate #1 fantasy WR this season. Austin Collie will immediately be the #2 receiver when he returns also. Donald Brown ran hard on Sunday and looks like he will be able to hold off Vick Ballard and retain his starting job for the time being.
1) Robert Griffin III - Griffin takes the handoff, he shows a play-action ball fake and the linebackers bite-up as expected. He pulls the ball back in and sprints out of the pocket with amazing speed, and when he turns around he finds a receiver running open down the field and delivers the ball with pinpoint accuracy. Which play was this? Well, nearly every play. Mike Shannhan knows how to pick a QB to run his offense and he has clearly found the perfect fit in Griffin. Of all the rookie QBs, Griffin arrives in the best situation because of his team’s strong defense and the potential of the run game to help him out.
Fantasy Impact - Pierre Garcon is cleary the #1 wideout in Washington and you might already have him on your squad if you listened to our advice this offseason. Beyond Garcon though, I am not sure there are any other impact wide receivers because of the Redskins heavy focus on the run game (44 rushes versus 26 pass attempts). Speaking of the run game, Alfred Morris is worth a pick up if he is on waivers in your league, but don’t get too carried away. No one outside of the Redskins knows if he will even be the starter next week.
Check back next Tuesday morning for more rookie and sophomore analysis in “The Ten Weekly”.