Brandon Weeden isn’t a quarterback that’s routinely mentioned, not even in the 2-QB fantasy football landscape, but maybe it’s time to re-consider that notion.
Last year was an up and down rookie season in Cleveland for Weeden, and the expectations weren’t all that high to begin with for the 29-year-old first-round rookie quarterback. If you take a look at the overall picture in regards to Weeden’s first year in the NFL, he threw for 3,385 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, and 17 interceptions.
If you take those numbers and convert them into fantasy points, Weeden was the 26th highest scoring fantasy quarterback in both standard scoring leagues and leagues that awarded 6 points/passing touchdown. Don’t forget that Weeden missed one game last year, so the potential was there for him to sneak into that QB2 tier, especially in 12-team 2-QB leagues.
It’s been said over and over again, but drafting in 2-QB leagues is one where you have to scour the depth of the quarterback position, trying to find values whenever and wherever you can, and that’s where Weeden can be a factor in 2013 for those that play in 2-QB leagues. If you take a look at the 2-QB ADP data we have, which is outdated, you’ll see that Weeden is currently the 30th quarterback off the board.
That’s a good start to the Weeden has value in 2-QB leagues train of thought. When you look closer at Weeden, there are actually quite a few positives to consider.
First, his offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, and Pro Football Focus ranked it the fifth best offensive line in 2012, with a pass blocking grade of 3rd overall. Now, that offensive line has taken a hit this off-season, with both starting guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston suffering injuries that will see them miss multiple weeks leading into the regular season.
The next reason to be bullish on Weeden and his potential 2013 season is the offensive weapons surrounding him. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Gordon became Weeden’s go to target last season, and he’s a deep threat receiver that Weeden will continue to look for in the Browns’ new vertical pass attack offense.
At tight end for the Browns is former uber-sleeper Jordan Cameron, the man that has become everybody’s must have fantasy tight end if they fall short of Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. Those two are going to play a large role in Weeden’s development as a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL and could help, along with a new coaching scheme, to raise his 8.0 aDOT from last season.
In addition to Gordon and Cameron, Weeden will also have Trent Richardson as a pass catching option. While it might come as a surprise to some, Richardson totaled 51 receptions last season and new Browns Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has said he’d like for Richardson to be a 60 catch guy this year.
With those three options, and Weeden’s strong arm/gunslinging mentality, it’s a blessing for Weeden that he will now be under the tutelage of Turner and new Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, who will bring in a downfield/field stretching passing style of offense that should be attack oriented this year. Just one more attractive aspect to Weeden. If you’re still unsure of Weeden’s potential, this quote from Ron Jaworski might start to change your mind:
That’s some strong praise from the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
To dig a little deeper on the impact that Turner and Chudzinski will have on Weeden this year, this stat nugget from rotoViz’s Davis Mattek is a good start: “Quarterbacks in Chudzinski’s offenses average 3,559 yards and exactly 20 touchdowns.” That’s pretty close to what Weeden was able to put up last season, and as was mentioned earlier, Weeden was almost a QB2 candidate as a rookie in 2012.
If we dig a little deeper into the numbers of Chudzinski and Turner, you’ll see that they both have histories of getting the most out of their quarterbacks, be they Super Bowl MVPs and Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman, or the complete opposite of Super Bowl MVPs and Hall of Famers like Derek Anderson. Using the Historical Stats tool at Footballguys.com, I’ve compiled a list of the end of season fantasy QB rankings of the quarterbacks that played under both Turner and Chudzinski, in the years they were either NFL Head Coaches or Offensive Coordinators:
Chudzinski as Offensive Coordinator:
Cleveland Browns 2007 – Derek Anderson QB5
Cleveland Browns 2008 – Derek Anderson QB32
Carolina Panthers 20011 – Cam Newton QB4
Carolina Panthers 20012 – Cam Newton QB4
Norv Turner as Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys 1991 – Troy Aikman QB18
Dallas Cowboys 1992 – Troy Aikman QB4
Dallas Cowboys 1993 – Troy Aikman QB10
San Diego Chargers – 2001 Doug Flutie QB17
Miami Dolphins 2002 – Jay Fiedler QB26
Miami Dolphins 2003 – Jay Fiedler QB24
San Francisco 49ers – 2006 Alex Smith QB18
Norv Turner as Head Coach
Washington Redskins – 1994 Heath Shuler QB25
Washington Redskins – 1995 Gus Frerotte QB26
Washington Redskins – 1996 Gus Frerotte QB11
Washington Redskins – 1997 Gus Frerotte QB20
Washington Redskins – 1998 Trent Green QB7
Washington Redskins – 1999 Brad Johnson QB5
Washington Redskins – 2000 Brad Johnson QB25
Oakland Raiders – 2004 Kerry Collins QB15
Oakland Raiders – 2005 Kerry Collins QB9
San Diego Chargers – 2007 Philip Rivers QB17
San Diego Chargers – 2008 Philip Rivers QB15
San Diego Chargers – 2009 Philip Rivers QB9
San Diego Chargers – 2010 Philip Rivers QB4
San Diego Chargers – 2011 Philip Rivers QB9
San Diego Chargers – 2012 Philip Rivers QB20
Add it all up and, out of 26 eligible seasons, we have only five seasons in which there wasn’t a QB2 season (based on 12-team 2-QB leagues) in which a Turner/Chudzinski coached quarterback didn’t finish the season as at least a QB2. Sure, you could argue that anybody could coach an Aikman or Cam Newton and have success, but look at some of the names on that list. Kerry Collins, Brad Johnson, head banging-Gus Frerotte, and Derek Anderson put up Q1 fantasy campaigns under Turner/Chudzinski. Is it all that hard to imagine Weeden being lumped into such an illustrious group of signal callers?
What can we expect out of Weeden for 2013, based on his rotoViz QB Custom Similarity Scores App projections? Well, when putting Weeden through the app, and eliminating Week 16 from the projections, a game he had to leave due to injury, Weeden projects for a 14.2 Points Per Game (PPG) high in standard scoring leagues, and 17.2 PPG high in 6 points/passing touchdown leagues. Convert those numbers over a 16 game season and that would have ranked Weeden 20th in terms of PPG at the quarterback position in standard scoring leagues, and 19th in 6 points/passing touchdown leagues in 2012. Both QB2 type numbers.
Now, it’s not all rosy for Weeden. Just like any quarterback, there are downsides. Take the rotoViz 2013 projections for Weeden. We mentioned his PPG highs but his PPG lows paint a very scary picture. His ceiling is one that could lead to fantasy misery as he has PPG lows of 10 (standard scoring) and 12.3 (6 points/passing TD leagues). Those are QB4 numbers in 2012. Yikes.
The next sort of red flag for Weeden’s fantasy value in 2-QB leagues for 2013 is his schedule. One of my favorite fantasy tools this off-season has been the color coded strength of schedule chart created by Patrick Thorman of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Pat’s chart in his detailed article shows which QB2/QB3 has favorable match-ups, based on who he thinks will be a top defense next year, who might be a top defense, and defenses that could provide fits for fantasy quarterbacks.
Taking a quick glance over the chart, Weeden’s schedule has spurts of being relatively fantasy friendly. There is only one Red matchup, unfortunately it’s in Week 15 against the Bears, and then there are a total of five Orange/Yellow match-ups, with two of them coming in the final two weeks of the season.
That’s where the tricky part comes into play when trusting Weeden as your QB2, because, including his Week 15 Red match-up, and Week 16 Yellow match-up, it’ll prove difficult putting your faith in Weeden as a starting quarterback option in your 2-QB fantasy league when it’s playoff season.
There is an alternative though. As I mentioned in my ‘Studs+Streaming’ Approach to 2-QB drafting article, you could pair up Weeden with a QB2/QB3 that matches up well with his schedule. You might already know where I’m going with this, but that best option could be somebody like Alex Smith. The only thing is that they each have the same bye week but Smith’s soft fantasy schedule would be the perfect pairing with Weeden late in the season.
Also hurting Weeden is Gordon’s two game suspension to start the season, but this could be a boon if you’re too scared of drafting Weeden. The opportunity might present itself to trade for Weeden if he has a slow start to the season without his #1 pass catching option, and whoever did draft Weeden in your league might view him as nothing more than a bye week fill-in, gladly taking anything in return for dumping a player he thinks to be a bust.
That might give you the option to buy Weeden, on the cheap, reap the rewards of his friendly schedule from Weeks 3-9, where he has only one potential bad match-up in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and then field trade offers for him, before he hits the tough part of his schedule.
That would be a great idea for 2-QBers that have to deal with early bye weeks to their QB1 or QB2 starters like Ben Roethlisberger/Robert Griffin III (Week 5), Matt Ryan (Week 6), Drew Brees (Week 7), Andrew Luck (Week 8), or Peyton Manning/Matthew Stafford/Eli Manning/Colin Kaepernick/Carson Palmer (Week 9).
Drafting Weeden to be your team’s every week QB2 starter isn’t something you have to do, and based on his 2-QB ADP he’s being drafted in the QB3 tier, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of risk involved if you draft him at his QB3 price. Pairing him up with an Alex Smith type could give you a nice QB2 streaming pair, or you could draft him to sit on your bench, using him during favorable match-ups when your stud QB1/QB2 is either on a bye/playing a tough defense.
The other option is to go all in on Weeden to be your team’s weekly QB2, with the advantage of being able to draft him later than other QB2 options, as his 2-QB ADP is of QB30, which allows you to stock up your 2-QB team at other positions. There are always going to be difficult decisions to be made when drafting and playing in 2-QB fantasy football leagues, and deciding where you stand on Weeden’s value could prove to be one of the most difficult ones.