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2010 Draft Prep: Three QBs up, three QBs down

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Getting the right quarterback could be the key to winning a Fantasy championship. But what happens when your starting quarterback was someone you never even considered on Draft Day?

Think about the Fantasy quarterbacks you've seen come out of nowhere to be potential starters and even playoff options the past few seasons. In 2007, many Fantasy owners were counting on passers like Derek Anderson and David Garrard. In 2008, we had Matt Cassel, Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen. And last year, some owners were even starting Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell down the stretch since both finished as Top 15 Fantasy quarterbacks in standard leagues.

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Some, like Anderson, Cassel and Thigpen, were backups on their own team when the season started and needed injuries to get a chance. Others, like Garrard, Pennington, Orton and Campbell, just had a successful year based on the rest of their careers. There's no telling what will happen this year with quarterbacks who come out of nowhere.

With that in mind, don't expect us to tell you to draft quarterbacks like Matt Moore, Tim Tebow or A.J. Feeley. While they might end up playing well if given a chance, you're not wasting a draft pick on them in the majority of standard leagues.

So who will step up this year? And who will falter to make the other quarterbacks shine? The prediction here is three Top 12 quarterbacks who could struggle are Brett Favre, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler. And three backup Fantasy quarterbacks you should target are Matthew Stafford, Chad Henne and Alex Smith, because they could end up as starting options.

A good plan on Draft Day might be to handcuff these quarterbacks. There are other quality backups as well like Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger, but we're going to focus on Stafford, Henne and Smith. And we wouldn't be shocked if Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer had a down year, but there's a better chance that Favre, Manning and Cutler are disappointments.

If you're not a risk taker then plan on taking an elite quarterback like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady with an early pick. But if you pass on one of the top passers and end up with a second-tier quarterback who falters, you could be in trouble. That is, unless you get the right backup. Then you'll be just fine.

Three risers

Chad Henne, Miami
Jamey's projection: 3,603 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 17 interceptions
Dave's projection: 3,517 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 125 overall (Round 11)
The reason Orton finished as a Top 15 Fantasy quarterback last year, when he passed for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, was because of Brandon Marshall. Now Marshall is in Miami, and Henne will benefit. He also has other quality targets in Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. All of them should help Henne shine. He has to improve from last year's stats when he had 2,878 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but he's still developing as a quarterback. This will be his first full year as a starter, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross believes Henne has the chance to be better than Dan Marino. That's crazy, but it shows the faith the organization has in Henne. You should have faith as well.

Alex Smith, San Francisco
Jamey's projection: 3,402 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Dave's projection: 3,686 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 127 overall (Round 11)
Smith has a lot in his favor this season. He has a great schedule in the weak NFC West. He's in the same offensive system for the second year in a row, which he's never had. He has talents on the rise with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan and a strong running game with Frank Gore. Now, Smith isn't an elite quarterback, but he's in a great situation. And the 49ers, while wanting to be a power running team, will show more balance than expected. Last year, Smith passed for 2,350 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games. If you project that over a full season, Smith would have passed for 3,418 yards, 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. That would be impressive if he could reach those stats, but we wouldn't be surprised if he gets there this season based on all his positive intangibles.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit
Jamey's projection: 3,733 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Dave's projection: 3,423 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 17 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 132 overall (Round 11)
Give a quarterback with a strong arm and the potential to be a star some weapons, and he should post big stats. That's what Stafford has this year, and we expect him to take advantage of that. He also has a defense that can't stop anyone, so he should be throwing every week. Calvin Johnson is among the best wide receivers in the NFL, and the Lions also gave Stafford additional weapons in Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Jahvid Best. He struggled with injuries last year and threw 13 touchdowns with 20 interceptions, but that's expected from a rookie passer. He'll improve in his second year like Matt Ryan, who threw six more touchdowns in his second year, and Joe Flacco, who improved by seven touchdowns. Stafford has done well this preseason, and he should carry that over into the year. Based on where he's being drafted that's tremendous value even if he doesn't finish as a Top 12 option.

Three letdowns

Jay Cutler, Chicago
Jamey's projection: 3,942 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 21 interceptions
Dave's projection: 3,904 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 19 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 71 overall (Round 6)
Cutler is going to have some great weeks, like Week 1 against Detroit, but he's also going to hurt you when he has a difficult matchup. He's looked bad in the preseason, and the Mike Martz offense might take a while to sink in. The Bears have intriguing wide receivers like Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu, but there's no dominant player to draw double teams. I'm counting on Matt Forte for a bounce-back year, but he could play well even with Cutler struggling. Remember, he had 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions last year. Those 52 points he lost were costly, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he has 20-plus interceptions again. I have Cutler ranked No. 12 coming into the season, so he's still worth drafting as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. But there are going to be weeks where Cutler drives you crazy, and you'll want a capable backup if you want to bench him when he has a difficult matchup.

Eli Manning, New York Giants
Jamey's projection: 3,879 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
Dave's projection: 4,067 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 72 overall (Round 6)
The Giants have the look of a team you want to avoid heading into 2010. They have struggled in the preseason, and we all saw Manning get pummeled by the Jets in the first game. The offensive line is a mess, and although the Giants still want to prove they are a running team first, it could lead to Manning throwing as often as he did last season, when he passed for 4,021 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. But I'm not buying into him as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. The Giants can't afford to have Manning get hit like he did last year when he was sacked a career-high 30 times. He also had 22 turnovers, including a career-high eight lost fumbles. The difference for Manning last year was he set a new career high with a 62 percent completion percentage. Considering Manning has a career average of 57 percent completions, he is likely to be less accurate this year. We don't expect Manning to have a huge drop-off in production, especially with his talent at receiver, but don't consider him a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback. He should still be viewed as a borderline starter in most leagues.

Brett Favre, Minnesota
Jamey's projection: 3,808 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 19 interceptions
Dave's projection: 3,733 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 76 overall (Round 7)
Favre is without Sidney Rice (hip) for the first half of the season, and he could lose Percy Harvin (migraines) at any time. Do you really want to trust your No. 1 quarterback throwing to Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker even if Adrian Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe are proven options? On top of that, Favre is 40 going on 41, and there's no chance he plays at last year's level when he passed for 4,202 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions. His ankle is clearly a problem, and you're asking Favre to avoid being interception prone for two years in a row. This is still the same quarterback who, from 2005-08, had 88 touchdowns and 84 interceptions in three seasons with the Packers and one with the Jets. It's great that Favre is back, but he should not be counted on as a No. 1 Fantasy option.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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