Quarterback controversies seem to be rare these days, but a genuine one is brewing in Arizona. On Saturday night, the Cardinals will switch from starting Matt Leinart to give Derek Anderson a shot against the Bears in Soldier Field. Let’s analyze this competition on the field and consider its fantasy football implications.
Leinart, once the golden boy of Troy as a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, was the 10th overall pick back in 2006, and as a rookie he started 11 games and showed promise. But Kurt Warner took over at the end of that season and then seized the starting job the next year, leading the Cardinals to levels of success they haven’t ever seen. Now that Warner is retired, most assumed that Leinart would finally get the chance to start for ‘Zona. Leinart’s hallmark isn’t a big arm but accuracy, which would seem to be at a premium in a Cardinals offense that has such talented wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and Early Doucet. But Leinart hasn’t shown that accuracy in the preseason, and he at this point appears almost gunshy. Now, it may not be in the cards for Leinart (right) to make it back into the starting lineup.
So the Cardinals now are taking a look at Derek Anderson, who joined the team in the offseason for backup money but with the chance to at least nominally compete for the starting job. Anderson has been a pro since 2005, and in his one season as a full-time starter he threw for 29 touchdowns and 3,787 yards for a Cleveland offense that had solid targets in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Anderson has a big arm and can fling the ball downfield, but he’s inconsistent and prone to mistakes. Last year, he played half the season and threw just three touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He doesn’t have the consistency that Leinart should have, but given the fact that head coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to move the Cardinals to a run-oriented offense, Anderson can provide the balance of more big plays that will keep defenses from focusing completely on Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. If Anderson can avoid turnovers, he has a real shot to seize the job from Leinart much as Warner did back in 2006-07.
Fantasy football owners should actually hope that happens. Anderson’s much more likely to keep Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy value up around the top 5 at receiver because of deep passes. Likewise, Breaston and Doucet would have marginally more value with Anderson. Of course, that uptick in value comes with more risk, given Anderson’s propensity toward inconsistency and interceptions, but fantasy owners crave the upside that Anderson can provide.