Friday, March 19, 2010

Fantasy Football Roundtable - Matt Leinart

Fantasy Football Roundtable
Hosted By FantasyFootballTrader.Com  March 16, 2010

This week's question: Given what we know (or think we know) about about Matt Leinart, what are your expectations for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010?...'

Ryan of LestersLegends.Com says:

I may be one of the only people that actually like the party boy. He has the talent and the pedigree. Maturity has been his main issue. He felt he was entitled to the job because he was a top draft pick. He didn't work hard.

Now with the future Hall of Famer out of the picture, Leinart has the opportunity to seize the gig. He has had several years to study under one of the best, not only in his ability, but in the way he prepared for games. I'll give Leinart the benefit of the doubt that he learned from that experience.

He has great weapons, with or without Anquan Boldin. The Cardinals should have an improved rushing attack with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. He won't be required to throw as often as Warner did.

Though he failed to throw a TD this year, he did complete a career high 66.2% of his passes. I won't say he looked totally comfortable when he spelled Kurt Warner against the Saints, but he managed to complete 7 of 10 passes for 61 yards.

I certainly wouldn't want him as a fantasy starter, but he's a nice low risk/high reward backup option. Before I draft him though, I want to see him take the OTAs and training camp seriously. If he shows me he's serious, I'll be serious about him. If not, I'll contact Jeff Gillooly as a Larry Fitzgerald owner.

Dave of RotoPicks.Com says:

I don’t think anyone can argue that the Cardinals hopes for 2010 took an enormous hit when Kurt Warner announced his retirement this off-season. From what I’ve seen of Matt Leinart, I’m sure he could become a middle of the road starting QB (maybe holding a fantasy value somewhere between Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell), but I doubt his ability to run a efficient passing offense. I’m expecting the Cardinals to bring in a few QBs this off-season and open up the competition to see who emerges.

Along with the QB position, there is uncertainty across the Cardinals roster. It’s very possible that Anquan Boldin will be wearing a different jersey next season, which will hurt whoever lands the starting QB job. The Cardinals have a couple of quality young WRs in Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, but I don’t think either of them can fill Boldin’s shoes on their own. Couple Arizona’s changes at QB and WR with the pending release of LB Karlos Dansby and S Antrel Rolle and we’ll be looking at a much different Cardinals squad in 2010.

As far as my overall expectations for the Cardinals go, I don’t think its all doom and gloom for the club. I think the Cardinals have enough pieces in place to have a good showing next season and finish the year as the second best team in the NFC West. But unless they make some huge off-season moves or re-sign a few of their key players I don’t think they’ll have a chance of beating out San Francisco for the division title.

Derek of FantasyFootballManiaxs.Com says:

Matt Leinart has a lot of weapons in Arizona. He has arguably the most talented receiver in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, who had 1,092 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns last season. I would be surprised if fellow star WR Anquan Boldin is back in 2010, but Leinart would still have Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, two talented receivers that could put up bigger numbers with more playing time. He also has running backs Chris Wells and Tim Hightower, who combined for 1,391 yards rushing, 571 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns.

He has enough running back talent to have success with play action passing and enough receivers that he can find open targets. The Cardinals have a very quarterback friendly situation and it is surprising that he lost his job in the first place; a more prepared quarterback would not have had the struggles Leinart has experienced. A big question with him has been his work ethic and it has shown since he arrived in 2006. If his work ethic does not improve in 2010, the Cardinals will not win the division with him at quarterback.

The Cardinals are in danger of losing the division to a San Francisco 49ers team that beat them twice in 2009 and trailed them only by two games in the final standings. The 49ers have a young improving team and they have the 13th and 17th picks in the draft, a luxury the Cardinals do not have. Warner threw 26 touchdown passes in 2009 and if Leinart has only between 15-20 that could be 40 to 60 less points, which is a big deal seeing they had a scoring differential of only 3.1 points per game last year.

They have also released S Antrel Rolle, who promptly signed with the Giants and lost LB Karlos Dansby in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. Those are a lot of losses for one year and I think the Cardinals will probably take a step back in 2010 as they recover from some of their player personnel losses; guys who played a big role in their rise to Super Bowl contender.

The above was an excerpt from Derek's full article at FFManiax.

Please note the above was an excerpt from Derek's full article at FFManiax.

Matt of RapidDraft.Com says:

Despite what many folks will say, there’s really not a whole lot that we know about the way Matt Leinart will perform in 2010.

Just think about it: The only season in which he got a real stretch to work as the starting quarterback was in 2006, when he was a rookie who held out through a large portion of his first training camp. Leinart started 11 games that season and finished with a respectable 56.7 percent completion rate and 11-12 touchdown-interception ratio. (Much better numbers than the Sanchize -- albeit with better receivers.)

Since then, Leinart has gotten little time to develop on the field and spent those reps not only with Kurt Warner staring directly over his shoulder, but often warming up with the bullpen and getting his boy God to whisper in the coaches’ ears. Now, by all accounts, Leinart hasn’t gotten more playing time because he hasn’t bowled his coaches over, but the fact remains that it’s been four years since we got a good look at him in NFL games.

On the other hand, here’s what we do know. The high-powered Arizona pass offense won’t be nearly as efficient this year. How can it be? The biggest thing going for Kurt Warner (besides his story and, of course, Jesus) is that he has been one of the most accurate passers in the league over at least the past decade. That will likely mean that even if Larry Fitzgerald (and whoever starts across from him) catches as many passes as we’re used to, he’ll have a hard time matching yardage and touchdown numbers.

For what it’s worth, in 14 games with Leinart as the starter or more-active passer, Fitzgerald has scored just five times. For his career, he has averaged about 10 touchdowns per 16 games played. Similarly, Anquan Boldin has caught just four touchdowns from Leinart in 15 games together, as opposed to a career average of about seven per 16 games.

We also know, however, that Leinart loves looking to his left (throwing) side and going to Fitzgerald. Fitz’s other numbers in Leinart games extrapolate to 93 catches and 1,230 yards over a 16-game season. Compare that with an average of 91 receptions and 1,229 yards for his career.

Now, Fitzgerald’s more recent stats look better than that after lower output early on, but that early portion of his career was also when the bulk of his exposure to Leinart came. Even if a full season with Leinart could mean seven or eight scores instead of 10 to 12, Fitzgerald should still catch 90 to 100 passes and get to or past 1,200 yards.

Boldin’s 16-game projection with Leinart, however, comes up 23 catches and 209 yards short of his career 16-game averages. That will be moot for him if he starts 2010 with another team but doesn’t bode particularly well for whoever would replace him.

The player who could be helped by the switch to Leinart, of course, is Chris Wells. Ken Whisenhunt has preached a desire to feature the run more, and it should be quite a bit easier to stick with the running game when the other option is relying heavily on the young lefty instead of Warner. Wells is due to begin this year as the starter and should easily surpass 250 carries if he can stay healthy.

Russ of FantasyFootballStarters.Com says:

For over 2 years, Leinart has been on the sidelines most of the time watching Kurt Warner execute the offensive system in Arizona. Everyone seems to forget that Leinart was actually the starter for 11 games as a rookie and has started 17 games over his 4 year career. He's still a young QB who hasn't been given enough starting time to develop into the player he can become. His stats haven't been great, but conversely they haven't been awful either. In his 17 career starts (and remember that for the first 5 games of 2007, Ken Whisenhunt used a dual QB attack with Leinart starting and Warner coming in for chunks of the game, often in red zone situations) Leinart's stat line reads 289-511 for 3,364 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

Like I said, not great, but certainly not horrible either. And there's room for improvement as he acquires more playing experience.

Now, the Cardinals will tweak their offense to be more balanced in their attack. They have a power RB in Chris Wells. They have a solid complimentary RB in Tim Hightower. Even though they have traded WR Anquan Boldin, they still have Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and emerging Early Doucet. The weapons are in place for a game managing Leinart to succeed. Ken Whisenhunt had a strong rushing attack when he was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh a few years ago, and while it's never translated into a featured rushing attack in Arizona, he also never really had a RB like Wells to rely on. I think you'll see the Cardinals become a lot more balanced offensively if Leinart takes over.

This situation kind of reminds some of the Packers situation 2 years ago with Aaron Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre. Little was known about how Rodgers would respond to having to take over for a legend in Green Bay. There were a lot of expectations and there was little history of Rodgers playing to gauge whether he'd step up and become a great NFL QB. There was so much concern in the organization that the Packers actually drafted TWO QB's that year (Brian Brohm in the second round and Matt Flynn in the seventh). Rodgers was under immense scrutiny and many predicted he would fail. His arm wasn't strong enough; his passes sailed; he wasn't a commanding presence in the huddle; etc. All of these things were said about Rodgers.

And all of them have been said, are being said, or will be said again about Leinart.

I was not one of those who predicted doom for Rodgers. And I'm not predicting doom for Leinart. Did I see how great Rodgers would turn out to be? No. But I certainly gave him a chance for it. Same chance I'm giving Leinart. I think Leinart can be one of the prime QB 2010 fantasy football sleepers.

Jim of FanaticFantasyFootball.Com says:

I looked back a few years to see what kind of stats some other quarterbacks put up in their first year after being the backup for extended time. David Garrard QB Jacksonville Jaguars, spent five years as the backup before his first full season in 2007. Garrard ranked #16 among fantasy QBs scoring 252 points. He completed 208 of 325 attempts, threw 18 touchdowns and was only intercepted 3 times.

The next player I looked at was Matt Schaub QB Houston Texans. After being a backup for three years and injured the better part of the next two years; Matt finally got his chance to start and play a full season in 2009. He didn’t disappoint his owners, as he finished as the #4 QB in 2009 with 372 completions, 544 attempts, 4467 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs, had much more success while running the New England Patriot offense but his stats with the Chiefs were respectable considering the team around him. He was 272/494 for 2924 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, compared to the year before (Patriots) where he posted 328/518 for 3693 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in what was actually his first full year after being a backup for three years.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, sat for three years behind Brett Favre in Green Bay. During his first year at the helm of Green Bay’s potent offense he posted super stats and followed that in 2009 with an even better year. We had rated Rodgers as the #1 QB in our 2009 Quarterback rankings.

Team wise, I think Texans Matt Schaub QB / Andre Johnson WR duo and Matt Leinart QB / Larry Fitzgerald WR duo are very similar situations. Anquan Boldin WR has been traded to the Baltimore Ravens, so I see Leinart’s numbers reading something like 260 completions, 433 attempts, 2860 yards, 16 touchdowns / 11 interceptions. He will have some games where he performs like a #1 quarterback but I see him more as a fantasy football backup in 2010. If he progresses this year and you can stash him on your team for spot duty then you might have a diamond in the rough for 2011.

The above was an excerpt from Jim's full article at FanaticFantasyFootball.

Jake of JunkYardJake.Com says:

Originally selected by Cardinals as a #10 overall pick, Matt Leinart was largely regarded as the top QB prospect in a 2006 draft class that included Vince young and Jay Cutler. He went on to start to twelve games that season, and despite the typical rookie learning curve for NFL quarterbacks, he actually had flashes of very solid performance. Overall, Leinart finished 2006 with over 2,500 passing yards, 12 INTs, and 11 TDs, highlighted by a 405 passing yard day versus Minnesota. When you consider that the top two rookie QBs drafted in 2009, Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, both threw 20 INTs as first-year staters, Leinart's rookie numbers look fairly good in comparison.

Indeed one of the attributes that scouts cited about Leinart when he came out of USC in 2006 was his experience in a pro-style offense. His ability to interpret defenses, read coverage and anticipate receiver routes were already quite advanced for a rookie QB. When you factor in his great size, impressive accuracy, strong leadership skills and efficient mechanics, it's easy to see why he was so highly touted back in 2006.

Fast forwarding to 2010, it is fairly likely that the Cardinals will attempt to deploy their running attack on a higher proportion of plays now that Kurt Warner is gone. Not to mention, standout receiver Anquan Boldin has been mentioned as trade bait, and the Cardinals seem willing to part with him for a 3rd round pick. Nonetheless, even in the event that Boldin leaves, Leinart will still have the dynamic Larry Fitzgerald along with solid #2 receiver Steve Breaston and dependable 3rd down back Tim Hightower. Clearly, he'll have all the help he needs to succeed in his first campaign as undisputed starter, and now with the luxuary of lowered expectations, and additional wisdom, Leinart could turn out to be a surprise fantasy contributor in 2010.

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