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Take a chance on lower-echelon quarterbacks
By GREG AUMAN
Published December 6, 2005
Unless you have one of the league's elite quarterbacks, the unquestionable every-week no-brainer starters such as Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer , I'm starting to wonder whether fantasy teams aren't better off just studying matchups and spot-starting new quarterbacks each week.
Is it possible to find a top-10 quarterback off waivers every week? Consider Sunday, when six of the top 13 scoring efforts for fantasy passers came from quarterbacks not rostered in one of the leagues I'm in.
I'm not suggesting anyone should have known to start Buffalo's J.P. Losman or Miami backup Sage Rosenfels or Browns rookie Charlie Frye ; they each had multitouchdown games Sunday, which is more than Michael Vick , Mark Brunell or Jake Plummer could boast. But I'm trying an experiment, just to see whether six unrostered quarterbacks can outscore the six worst quarterbacks who should logically be starting, based on their season statistics.
I'm disregarding the league's top six passers - Palmer, both Mannings, Tom Brady , Drew Brees and Kerry Collins - and choosing the next six as the "who you'd think would start" group. That's Brunell, Plummer, Vick, Drew Bledsoe , Brett Favre and Jake Delhomme .
In the other corner, I'm picking six passers you can likely find unclaimed, all going against bad pass defenses. In descending order, I like David Carr , Steve McNair , Losman, Kyle Boller and rookies Ryan Fitzpatrick and Frye. All are facing defenses that have allowed 16 or more passing touchdowns; I think the challengers will outscore the old guard.
If you're looking at starting one of the first six but wavering, see who's available from the second group. This weekend's breakout surprises might not be so surprising, and the gamble could help you get into your league's playoffs.
NEW QB, NEW STAR: Some of the NFL's best stories are backup quarterbacks shining as starters, most notably Brad Johnson in Minnesota and David Garrard in Jacksonville. New passers have new favorite targets, and you can benefit by latching on to the receivers these quarterbacks are favoring.
For Johnson, it's former Seahawks star Koren Robinson, who had just five catches in the Vikings' first nine games. In the past three, he has 11 catches for 228 yards, with a touchdown Sunday. Last week, Johnson had three scores to veteran Marcus Robinson ; those two are the targets he's liking, not Travis Taylor or rookie Troy Williamson .
Similarly, Buffalo's Lee Evans had three touchdowns from Losman in the first quarter Sunday, as many as the receiver totaled all season. Both are second-year players, and there's a connection there; they hooked up twice for scores three weeks ago. The Bills' next two games are at home against weak pass defenses in New England and Denver; expect more Losman-to-Evans touchdowns.
THIS AND THAT: Who is Bryan Fletcher ? The Colts tight end was drafted by the Bears in 2002, cut five times by three different teams and didn't catch a pass until this season. Now he has touchdowns in three straight games. Indy's a nice offense to borrow a hot player from, and Fletcher's a smart spot start. ... Few things frustrate a fantasy owner like a player who can pile up yards but can't score touchdowns. Receivers aren't as agonizing this season; of the league's top 14 players in receiving yards, all have at least five scores. But running backs? Atlanta's Warrick Dunn is third in the league with 1,174 rushing yards but has just four scores, and Buffalo's Willis McGahee and Cleveland's Reuben Droughns are over 1,000 yards with six TDs between them. After 13 scoring touchdowns last season, McGahee hasn't found the end zone in six weeks.
--Times staff writer Greg Auman writes a weekly fantasy football column. Have a lineup question or a comment? E-mail him at auman@sptimes