Heading into this year’s fantasy football draft we all know the likely QBs off the board first will be Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Stafford, and Newton. Following those QBs, some would argue, will be Romo, Manning, and Ryan, and others; but then who?
Who can that back-up/sleeper QB be this year? You know, the guy drafted later in the draft, either do to the fact that you waited too long to draft a QB or you believe you need that solid back-up, who can that be? Well I can give you three QBs that you shouldn’t overlook; Josh Freeman, Alex Smith, and Carson Palmer.
While his first game under center as a Raider was abysmal to say the least, things started looking up for Palmer as the season went on. Despite playing in 10 games, and starting in nine, Palmer managed seven double-digit fantasy games, scoring 22 in one. While that may not seem all that impressive, it is important to remember that when Palmer came over to the Raiders last year he was immediately thrown into the fire with little time to learn the system. Now that he actually has an offseason to work with his team I guarantee his numbers will continue to improve.
One main reason I believe so is because he will benefit from his underrated receivers. That is not to say that his receivers are even Pro-Bowl-caliber, however they get a worse rap then deserved. For starters, Darrius Heyward-Bey may not be the most reliable WR out there, but he benefitted highly from Palmer’s arrival. Setting career highs in receptions, yards, and TDs last year (although that wasn’t that hard) Heyward-Bey had three of his four TDs and two of his three 100+ yard games with Palmer as his QB. Denarius Moore also will help Palmer after his solid rookie season. Like Heyward-Bey, three of Moore’s 5 TDs came with Palmer, as well as two or his three 100+yard games.
Everyone, including myself, doubted him. Nobody trusted him. He was thought to be one of the bigger busts in recent history, but what did Alex Smith do last season when the pressure was on? He produced. Career highs in completions, completion percentages, and yards last season helped Smith to be the #14 ranked QB in fantasy last year. While that may not sound impressive to some, he finished only five points behind Roethlisberger, and six behind Fitzpatrick. He also finished ahead of guys like Flacco, Dalton, and Freeman. Smith did all this last year with no real receivers, with the exception of Davis (who by his standards had an average season) and Michael Crabtree who didn’t really start to blossom until later in the season.
Then this offseason, the 49ers go out and draft the talented A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois, and nab Manningham and Moss out of free agency. Not only that but then they went and bulked up their backfield by adding Jacobs, which all together makes the 49ers offense much deadlier than a year ago. All of these additions bode well for Smith, as he should benefit the most from these players. I am not advocating he will a top-tier QB, however do not be surprised if he quietly sneaks his way into the top-10.
After such a promising rookie and second season, Freeman suffered last year. In spite his poor performance, Freeman set career highs in yards and completion percentage. Freeman also managed to keep his fantasy value somewhat relevant with his size and athleticism, averaging 12 points/game. Also, heading into this season he will be without Kellen Winslow who lead the team in receptions last year, and was second in yards. In spite of what he lost and his play last year, I see Freeman becoming significant to fantasy football again this year.
Like the two QBs before Freeman on this list, his success will too come from off season acquisitions. With Blount’s fumbling and health an issue, the Bucs went out and drafted Doug Martin, a rookie I think will have a great impact this year. In addition to Martin, Freeman will have one of the best deep-threats in the league, as his team went out and signed Vincent Jackson, the speedy 6’5” WR, yet that wasn’t even their biggest move. While these two new weapons are great upgrades, they would be useless if it weren’t for the Bucs signing OG Carl Nicks. Nicks, who spent the previous four seasons protecting Drew Brees, is regarded as one of the best OG in the league. This move will allow Freeman more free time as he was sacked a career-high 29 times last year.