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Fantasy Football: Drew Stanton, QB2 in Hiding

Drew Stanton

Yes, the name Drew Stanton should be familiar to you by now but he hasn’t really had a proper introduction to the fantasy football community just quite yet. How about we welcome him to the world of fantasy football with open arms, shall we?

Drew Stanton

Drew Stanton throws the ball during the second half of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, you’re not quite ready to do that just yet? Okay, I get it. I’d have a hard time too trusting Stanton on my fantasy football roster in 2013 and I can’t type this article with a straight face recommending him as a starting quarterback in 1-QB fantasy football leagues. That’s for sure. And that’s even more true now Carson Palmer is an Arizona Cardinal, which could (probably will) put an end to Stanton’s starting quarterback career as an Arizona Cardinal before it even begins.

Even with that in mind I do believe Stanton has a shot at being a potentially serviceable QB2 in 2-QB fantasy football leagues if he beats out Palmer for the job somehow. And the reason why is opportunity.

Signing with Cardinals was supposed to be the first time in Stanton’s NFL career that he was truly getting a shot to lead a football team and if the quote, “Preparation plus opportunity equals success” is a harbinger of things to come for Stanton and his Arizona Cardinals career then we could potentially be looking at a more-than-decent QB2 for our fake 2-QB football leagues. With Palmer now in town that might not be the case any longer but if he’s given a fair shot at competing for the job it could still happen for him.

Why Drew Stanton you may be asking yourself? Well, it all started innocently enough with a post on Pro Football Talk (PFT) back in the early part of February in which they reported that the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Pompeii could see Stanton eventually wind up in Arizona as a potential starting quarterback option, where Stanton would follow new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians from Indianapolis to Arizona.

From that moment on I kept tabs on Stanton and the Cardinals’ quarterback situation, seeing what would happen between the two, if anything. Fast forward to Wednesday, March 13th, the date Stanton officially signed with the Cardinals and what Pompeii first speculated about came to fruition.

It might seem like a weird time to be talking about Stanton’s fantasy football future when his real life NFL future in Arizona could be in doubt with the Palmer signing and all the Mike Glennon being drafted by Arizona rumors. The fantasy football community loves Palmer as a Cardinal because it gives Larry Fitzgerald, and his fantasy owners, hope again. For now though Stanton is still around and somebody to watch out for.

In order to see a glimpse of Stanton’s fantasy football future we need to delve into his past to see how exactly he got to become a member of the Cardinals. The Detroit Lions drafted Stanton in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft, 43rd overall. During Stanton’s first year with the Lions each of the following quarterbacks made an in-game appearance:

No matter how many times you look at those names you will never be able to forget that Dan Orlovsky was once an NFL starting quarterback. If you want to see something even more horrifying take a look at Stanton’s NFL career passing stats to date:

12 appearances, 4 starts, 104 of 187 for 1,158 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, nine interceptions, 6.2 yards per attempt (Y/A) and a career QB rating of 63.1.

If you don’t know much about Stanton other than how Tim Tebow’s arrival in New York last season forced Stanton out of the quarterbacking picture for the Jets, and that eventually saw him wind up in Indianapolis as Andrew Luck’s back-up, that’s as good a place as any to start. And, really, it’s the main reason why Stanton finds himself in Arizona today.

The offensive coordinator in Indianapolis last year was Bruce Arians. The new head coach for the Arizona Cardinals is Bruce Arians. No Arians in Arizona would have likely meant no Stanton in Arizona either. Arians brought in Stanton because he knows Arians’ system and that automatically puts Stanton above the likes of John Skelton (recently cut), Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer. Any player that comes to a team with a new coach that knows that coach’s system will have a leg up on the rest of his teammates and here’s what Arians had to say about Stanton: “Drew knows the offense, he is more than capable of doing it. If he is our guy, I am comfortable.”

There was also some more gushing on the part of Arians when talking about Stanton’s Arizona arrival: “Physically he has everything you want in a quarterback — big with a strong arm, can get it up the field and make all the throws.” Arians also said that Stanton’s, “just as impressive mentally and understands the position. I’m excited to get him here and compete.” 

What we know about Arians’ career as an offensive coordinator in Cleveland (2001-2003), Pittsburgh (207-2011) and Indianapolis last season is that he has had first round quarterbacks to work with in all three of his stops. Tim Couch, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. We also can’t forget that he was the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning first came onto the NFL scene but I wanted to focus on his stints as an offensive coordinator only for now. Stanton might not be the next Peyton, Luck, or Roethlisberger but he could be the next Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb was the one quarterback during Arians’ previous offensive coordinating days in Cleveland that wasn’t a former first round pick and according to Arians himself Holcomb was the one quarterback Arians actually had to coach up:

“The guy I take the most pride in coaching is Kelly Holcomb. Took him from a guy that was basically off the street to every time he played he threw for 400 yards. The bigger game the better. Drew Stanton, reminds me a lot of Kelly. Ben, Peyton, Tim, Andrew … God gave them a ton of talent. You just tried to guide them and not screw them up. When you get your hands on a guy like Kelly and you watch him grow and fight the battles of someone bringing in somebody to beat him out every year, but when he gets his opportunity, he shines. Not just the Pittsburgh game, the Kansas City game … he threw for 410, I think, and Dwayne (Rudd) throws his helmet off and we lose. So, there are guys that don’t have the hype that can play the position.”

First off, Holcomb didn’t throw for 410 yards against the Chiefs, it was actually, 326, but who’s counting? Oh, every fantasy football owner that cares about numbers. Right. In that Chiefs game, Holcomb also threw three touchdowns and completed almost 70% of his passing for a QB rating of 120.2. Weirdly enough the best regular season performance by Holcomb under Arians came against the Cardinals in 2003, when he went 29 of 35 for 392 yards, threw 3 passing touchdowns and ended up with a 141.9 QB rating.

During his Cleveland Browns career with Arians as his offensive coordinator Holcomb appeared in a total of 15 games, starting 10 of them. Here are his combined stats from those games:

-264 completions, 420 attempts, 60.87% completion rate, 2,701 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and he averaged 7.6 Y/A.

In a standard scoring league that would amount to 152.84 fantasy points. In a fantasy league where passing points are worth 6 points instead of 4 those numbers would be worth 190.84 points; or the 27th highest scoring quarterback in the 2012 fantasy football season, standard or non-standard scoring.

If we were to extrapolate Holcomb’s Browns’ career stats into a full 16-game season we would get something like this:

-2,880.16 passing yards, 20.32 touchdowns, and 17.12 interceptions.

Extrapolating a three year career over the span of one full NFL season doesn’t seem like it would be prudent but it’s just a simple experiment and in the world of fantasy football those numbers would have had Holcomb as QB27 (162.25 points) in standard scoring leagues and QB25 (202.89) in 6-point leagues last season.

When we look at Arians’ offensive coordinating career overall it has produced the following fantasy QB rankings:

  • 2001 Tim Couch (QB21)
  • 2002 Tim Couch (QB23)
  • *2003 Tim Couch (QB33)/Kelly Holcomb (QB30)
  • 2007 Ben Roethlisberger (QB4)
  • 2008 Ben Roethlisberger (QB19)
  • 2009 Ben Roethlisberger (QB9)
  • 2010 Ben Roethlisberger (QB15)
  • 2011 Ben Roethlisberger (QB13)
  • 2012 Andrew Luck (QB9)

*In 2003 Holcomb and Couch each started 8 games that season for the Browns and their combined fantasy points would have been the equivalent of QB17 that season.

When you’re drafting in a 2-QB league you want to grab a QB2 whom you hope will at the very least perform at a QB2 level, but that has potential for more. In 10-team leagues that’s 20 starting quarterbacks and in 12-team leagues that’s 24 starting quarterbacks. Every season that Arians has been an offensive coordinator, if you combine the fantasy points from Couch and Holcomb in 2003, his quarterback has finished the season as no worse than QB23 in standard scoring 12-team leagues.

What does Kelly Holcomb have to do with Drew Stanton? The reason why Stanton now finds himself in Arizona is because he followed Arians there, like Holcomb once did, with the belief that he would have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job, again, just like Holcomb. With the arrival of  Palmer in Arizona the assumption is that Stanton’s short reign atop the Cardinals’ quarterback depth chart is coming to an end soon.

For Cardinal fans and Larry Fitzgerald fantasy owners hoping for that to be true it might not be the case, as we all assume it to be. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport had an interesting tweet about the situation:

The competition hashtag makes it seem that not only did Stanton know Palmer could be a Cardinal but that he would be given an opportunity to compete for the job. There’s still plenty of time between now and Week 1 of the NFL season and anything can happen during the off-season.

All of this brings us back to Kelly Holcomb. Once upon a time Holcomb was buried on the depth chart behind a former #1 overall draft pick (Peyton Manning) on a team (Indianapolis Colts) that had Bruce Arians on the coaching staff. Holcomb, like Stanton, left the Colts to compete for the starting quarterback job on Arians’ new team (Cleveland Browns). Holcomb eventually did get to start for the Browns and even got to start in a playoff game for them too. With Palmer in Arizona Stanton finds himself in an eerily similar situation as Holcomb, where he would be following Arians and battling a former #1 overall draft pick in Palmer, just like Holcomb did when he competed against Couch.

The one thing that Stanton does bring, which Holcomb didn’t and neither does Palmer, is mobility. Stanton has rushed for 166 yards on 30 attempts, which is good for a 5.5 yards per carry (YPC) average; he also has two career rushing touchdowns. That’s always a nice bonus when drafting quarterbacks in fantasy football.

If you’re wondering to yourself why does it matter if Stanton or Palmer is the starting quarterback in Arizona next season the reason why is because of the talent that is on the offensive side of the ball. There’s All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, former first round pick Michael Floyd, tight end Rob Housler and wide receiver Andre Roberts. A semi-decent quarterback can put up numbers with those players around them. Let’s just skip over the offensive line in Arizona though, because it if doesn’t get fixed we might not care at all about the great 2013 fantasy football debate of Stanton versus Palmer.

Stanton’s career numbers don’t scream out fantasy football quarterback; especially in 1-QB leagues. But in a 2-QB league, where he would be playing in Bruce Arians’ vertical passing system where having a strong arm is integral, and Stanton does possess arm strength and knows Arians’ system, with one of the best wide receivers in the game in Fitzgerald he would be throwing to how could you not at least be tempted to take a flier on Stanton as your QB3 and watch to see if he could become a weekly QB2 in 2-QB leagues?

The best part about drafting Stanton is that it wouldn’t cost you anything at all, really. Current 12-team ADP data from MyFantasyLeague.com has Stanton being drafted as the 30th QB, with an ADP of 203.80. That’s early 17th round territory. The arrival of Palmer in Arizona pretty much makes everybody in the fantasy football playing community want to hit the snooze button to ignore Stanton. And, yes, I read that Arians has named Palmer his starter:

Still, everything I wrote about Stanton is still true. You can still draft him for nothing and can keep him on your bench as a QB3. There might come a time during the year when Stanton finally does get a chance and Kent Somers of AZ Central sums it up nicely when he said, “Things could still work out for Stanton. If following the Cardinals teaches us anything, it’s that backup quarterbacks usually get to play.” For now Stanton is a name to keep an eye on in 2-QB fantasy football re-draft leagues.

Stats used in this article courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com, NFLData.com, ESPN and Pro-Football-Reference

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