Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees will be the Top 3 quarterbacks selected in fantasy drafts for 2012. In which order they are taken will break down by league scoring and personal preference from owner to owner, but the consensus tells us that they will go off the board in the first round or early second round at the latest. So, once that decision is made, it is time to decide which quarterback to select late in your draft as the bye week or worst-case scenario, injury replacement for the big three.
Tom Brady, Week 9 bye: In looking for a fantasy productive option to step in for Brady during Week 9, things get a bit swirly as many of the defenses that could be projected to perform poorly against the pass are matched up against NFL teams with unsettled quarterback situations. Ideally an owner would look to grab the quarterback who faces the Indianapolis Colts, as it is a rebuilding franchise and will struggle defensively while adjusting to a new head coach and scheme. Unfortunately, it is the Miami Dolphins that will be lining up against the Colts in Week 9, and their current quarterback situation is in a state of flux. The smart money says that by Week 9 the Dolphins will have turned things over to rookie Ryan Tannehill, and for fantasy purposes that does not bode well. Steer clear of rookie quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
The Detroit Lions defense, while boasting an impressive defensive line, has been vulnerable through the air, case in point being that Matt Flynn torched them for more than 500 yards and six touchdowns in Week 17 of the 2011 season. For the season, Detroit allowed more than 3,800 yards and 26 touchdowns, and, despite the recent signing of safety Sean Jones, they remain very weak in the secondary. However, in Week 9, the Lions face the Jacksonville Jaguars and the hot mess that is Blaine Gabbert. There is no way after watching Gabbert struggle mightily last season, that fantasy owners can comfortably select Gabbert to be a suitable bye week replacement. Chad Henne may have surpassed Gabbert by the time this game takes place and could be a waiver-wire grab to use in a pinch against the porous Detroit secondary, but only if an owner is desperate.
The Minnesota Vikings defense racked up 50 sacks in 2011, but allowed 34 passing touchdowns along the way. Jared Allen and company can get after the quarterback, but their defensive backs struggle in coverage and can be abused. The return of Antoine Winfield as well as first-round selection Harrison Smith will bolster the safety position for the Vikings, but their cornerbacks remains an iffy proposition. In Week 9, the Seattle Seahawks host Minnesota, and while there is currently a quarterback competition underway in Seattle, Matt Flynn looks to be the logical choice to be under center for the Seahawks as they face the Vikings in Week 9. Flynn does not have the body of work to-date that make evaluating his fantasy value a very easy proposition, but he has sat behind one of the best in the league for a couple of seasons and that could count for something. He may be the next Matt Hasselbeck, who put in his time and developed into a viable fantasy quarterback or he could be Kevin Kolb and struggle as a starting NFL quarterback.
Speaking of Kevin Kolb, the Arizona Cardinals play against the Green Bay Packers in Week 9, and the Packers struggled horribly in 2011 to defend the pass. They allowed just less than 4,800 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air while their sacks total tied for third-worst in the league with only 29. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are still sorting out who will be their No. 1 quarterback heading into 2012, and neither John Skelton nor Kevin Kolb seem poised to exploit a Packers defense that may still be able to be exploited through the air. Odds are that Green Bay will be much improved defensively but could still be nursing a large lead and allow fantasy stats to be padded late in games. Skelton and Kolb are just too unpredictable to select with confidence to step in and carry a fantasy team to victory while replacing Brady in Week 9.
Next up is a look at Josh Freeman as a possible late-round selection to fill in as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face Oakland in Week 9. Freeman is coming off a dreadful 2011 that saw his numbers drop significantly and will be the man under center for a team that will be looking to run the ball to set up the pass. After throwing for only 16 touchdowns last season, while being intercepted 22 times, Freeman will be available late in fantasy drafts as scorned 2011 owners avoid the name at all costs. The Raiders defense is vulnerable against the pass, allowing 31 touchdowns in 2011, and due to salary cap issues have lost more personnel than they have added. Oakland lost Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson and have brought in veteran Ron Bartell to help All-Pro Tyvon Branch shore up the secondary. They can be passed on, and by Week 9 Freeman and his new deep threat Vincent Jackson will have developed a rapport as the Tampa Bay rushing attack sets up play action opportunities for a vertical passing attack.
Finally, the name that many fantasy owners have been drawn to as a possible late-round selection to bolster their roster for a bye week, as well as a stable injury replacement, is Carson Palmer of the Oakland Raiders. He is the flavor of the moment as the quarterback to grab late in drafts to solidify not only a team’s bye week but as a player with possible No. 1 quarterback upside. In Week 9 the Raiders play Tampa Bay, who would be a prime match up for Palmer and the new look Raider offense to abuse a weak pass defense. The Buccaneers managed only 23 sacks in 2011, while allowing 30 touchdowns through the air. New head coach Greg Schiano will get the defense turned around, but it is not happening in one offseason. Palmer and company will be able to exploit newcomer Eric Wright and the entire Tampa Bay secondary. However, Palmer has become such a popular name when discussing quarterbacks to select as a solid insurance policy and bye week fill-in that his draft value is moving up into a range that may not suit owners who want to select their number two after a certain round in their draft.
Ideal No. 2 to Tom Brady –
Josh Freeman: Go with Freeman late and look for him put up a solid Week 9 fantasy performance out in Oakland as Brady relaxes and prepares to lead your fantasy squad down the stretch.