Spotlight - QB Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Posted on 7/4,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
What a strange career arc Kurt Warner has ridden. By now even casual football fans know of Warner’s journey from grocery store clerk to Arena league star to 2-time NFL MVP. But at the start of the 2006 season, Warner will be five years removed from his last stellar campaign. For those with a short memory, Warner finished the 2001 season as the top fantasy QB with:
- 375 completions
- 546 attempts
- 4,830 yards
- 36 touchdowns
- 22 interceptions
But since then, Warner has played in just 29 of 65 regular season games, changed teams twice (first to the Giants, then to Arizona) and finished no better than 22nd among fantasy QBs.
Warner’s fantasy ranking, by year:
- 2002 – 40th ranked QB
- 2003 – 53rd ranked QB
- 2004 – 29th ranked QB
- 2005 – 22nd ranked QB
Looking at his 2005 season, it’s hardly eye-popping:
- 242 completions
- 375 attempts
- 2,713 yards
- 11 touchdowns
- 9 interceptions
So why, then, did Arizona sign Warner to a multi-year extension and seemingly hand their 2006 fortunes on the once elite passer?
The devil is in the details…
He only played 10 games last year, making his season totals a bit misleading. Were one to pro rate Warner’s 2005 season over a 16-game slate, it would’ve amounted to:
- 387 completions
- 600 attempts
- 4,340 yards
- 18 touchdowns
- 14 interceptions
On a points-per-game basis, Warner was the 10th best fantasy QB last year. Impressive numbers, and further bolstered by the Cardinals personnel and full season tallies. The Cardinals led the league in passing yards last year (with Warner and Josh McCown sharing time) and have two of the league’s preeminent receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
So what fantasy owners need to ask themselves is, a) how many games can one reasonably expect Warner to start and b) is he worth the draft choice under those assumptions? According to current ADP data, Warner is the 14th QB taken (95th overall pick). Is he worth that pick? Certainly he may be as part of a QB committee; but it would seem he’s a more compelling option as your principal backup.
Three other factors to consider when evaluating Warner’s prospects:
1) Edgerrin James – The Cardinals were the league’s worst rushing team a year ago, forcing the team to throw more than it would’ve liked, but also allowing defenses to key on the passing game. The addition of Edgerrin James will change the complexity of the Cardinals offense; in my opinion for the better. Warner has always been prone to throwing interceptions, even in his elite days, and could use a more balanced defensive scheme to allow a greater TD/INT ratio to present itself.
2) The offensive line – Warner needs great pass protection as he’s not mobile and has shown signs of degrading productivity in the face of consistent pressure. The Cardinals added Milford Brown and Deuce Lutui in the offseason, and both are considered potential starters on the interior. But whether the offensive line makes major strides remains very much in question.
3) Matt Leinart – In typical Dennis Green fashion, he found a potential franchise QB fall into his lap on draft day. Leinart certainly is the future of the Cardinals, but just as Dennis Green did with Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota, he will most likely sit out for at least a season. However, given Leinart’s polish, if Warner gets hurt, or struggles, Leinart may get into the huddle and never relinquish control back to Warner.
- Warner is an accurate, savvy veteran quarterback who can put up tons of yardage when given proper protection
- Warner has two of the league’s best receivers at his disposal, and now adds an above average receiving back (James) and a promising rookie tight end (Pope) to his arsenal
- Dennis Green is one of the league’s most accomplish offensive coaches
- Warner hasn’t played more than 10 games in a season since 2001
- Matt Leinart isn’t a typical backup, and the Cardinals could look to him by midseason if the team gets off to a rocky start
- With the addition of Edgerrin James, the Cardinals should take fewer passing attempts in 2006
Kurt Warner is an enigmatic fantasy option. When healthy, he remains an effective starter, but hardly an elite fantasy option. Last year, he ranked 10th among QBs on a points per game basis; which is good enough to win if you’ve got great talent throughout the rest of your lineup but not the kind of productivity that will carry you through on its own. Assuming Warner remains the starter throughout the season; his current ADP should just about approximate his year end ranking. In other words, it’s neither compelling nor particularly risky to draft him. If you can draft Warner in the 10th round or later as your backup, you may be happy with your return on investment.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
I believe the Cardinals aired it out last year more out of necessity than than by design. Green wanted to run way more than than they did last year but they were ineffective up front and at RB. Warner's got excellent talent around him and I expect his line to be improved in pass protection and the running game but they brought in Edge for a reason so I see Warner's numbers at about 3,400 passing yds, 24 TDs for the season .
With a guy like Warner who I "know" will be injured, I project his stats for a full, healthy 16 games and then note on my board the high injury risk. I then draft from my gut, often selecting lower ranked players but opting for him if circumstances warrant.
I'm not sure that Edge will cut into the passing TDs all that much. For one, he brings legitimacy to the play-action game, so while he might take a couple of goaline TDs away, he will add a few long bomb TDs through play-action. Also, Edge isn't the most accomplished goaline runner, and has been up-and-down throughout his career in short yardage. If you're Denny Green, and you've got Fitzgerald and Boldin to throw to in the red zone, I think you go with it. Cris Carter and Randy Moss caught a LOT of TDs under Green.
Kurt Warner Projections
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