2011 Breakout Players - QBs
By FBG Staff
August 24th, 2011

Every season, there are players that perform above expectations. Some of them far exceed their draft position, and those are the players the propel good fantasy teams into championship seasons. We asked the Footballguys.com staff to pick their 2011 Breakout Players, and here are their quarterbacks:

Sigmund Bloom

Matthew Stafford, Det - It all comes down to durability with Stafford. If his shoulder injuries were just lightning striking twice and due to bad luck more than a fundamental flaw, he could be the QB that will "make your draft" this year. His durability at Georgia and the chance to hedge his injury risk with another QB help make the case for including Stafford in your draft plan. He is piloting an offense with the talent and game plan to greatly fatten up the quarterback's stats. Stafford was responsible for seven touchdowns in the two games he played most of last year. Stafford has flashed all of the abilities a quarterback needs to flourish in his limited time. If he can stay on the field this year, he should be in the conversation with the elite fantasy QBs taken in the first 4-5 rounds next year.

Jene Bramel

Matthew Stafford, Det - The top tiers of the quarterback position are crowded this year with established veteran players. Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman and Sam Bradford seem to be the most common sleeper candidates to jump into that elite tier, but it's Stafford that has my attention. He has the arm, the pocket presence, the elite receiving option and complementary underneath and red zone options to approach the 4000 yard and 25 touchdown plateaus this year. And he comes at a committee price. If you miss out on the top tier options, consider Stafford as your high upside QBBC1. He could finish in the top six this year.

Andrew Garda

Colt McCoy, Cle - While McCoy had an up and down year in 2010, there were more than a few moments where he impressed. During the lockout, McCoy worked on his arm strength and accuracy and by all appearances looks like he's ready to take the next step. He's played well against both Green Bay and Detroit, not turning the ball over, moving the chains, scoring touchdowns and completing a high percentage of his passes. McCoy isn't a guy I want to go with as a QB1 on a weekly basis. There are questions about his receiving corps and he's still learning the ropes. However, McCoy is someone you can easily pick up as a QB2 a little later in your draft and he's a guy who has the potential to put up much better numbers than he did in 2010 when he really wasn't going to start until the wheels completely came off for the Browns. With a lot of experience under his belt and a solid preseason, I think Colt McCoy could well outproduce his ADP and become a much smart fantasy play than people expect.

Jeff Haseley

Colt McCoy, Cle - There was one play that I saw Colt McCoy make in his rookie season against Pittsburgh that made me think he could be an effective QB in the NFL. The pocket was collapsing around him and he could have easily made a run for the edge of the field to possibly only lose one or two yards. In a very Ben Roethlisberger like fashion, McCoy proceeded to side step an oncoming rusher, keeping his arm and the ball away from any flailing hands. He stepped up with perfect footwork and fired a 15 yard pass that was perfectly thrown to an open receiver in stride, who was darting across the field. McCoy has always been very accurate with his passes, especially the hard to master 15-18 yard out pattern where only the receiver can make the catch, if it's well thrown. He has looked very sharp in the preseason, not only with accuracy, but with decision making. Now that he has a true WR1 caliber player in Greg Little, McCoy could elevate his game enough so that he becomes fantasy relevant in 2011.

Ryan Hester

Matthew Stafford, Det - Every Stafford analysis contains either the phrase, "if he's healthy" or "if he can play more than 12 games." This is very similar to the qualifiers thrown into the analysis of Matt Schaub before the 2009 season. Most will remember that Schaub hadn't started more than 11 games in each of his prior two seasons as the starter in Houston. In 2009, he started all 16 games and threw for 4,770 yards and 29 TDs. Those worried about his injury history should realize that because of where he is being drafted (88 overall), Stafford could be drafted as a backup or part of a QBBC tandem - thereby lowering the risk in drafting him. Stafford's ceiling is that of a top-four quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick (another injury risk), and Tom Brady. That type of finish would far exceed expectations and makes Stafford worth a selection.

Stephen Holloway

Colt McCoy, Cle - Cleveland Browns QB McCoy was their third round selection only a year ago. He played in eight games down the stretch in 2010 and had moderate success, with a completion percentage of 61% and averaging 7.1 YPA. The off-season brought Pat Shurmur in as head coach and he will also call the offensive plays for the Browns. They will employ a West Coast attack, similar to what the Rams played a year ago and Bradford threw the third most passes in the NFL. This attack is a perfect match for McCoy's skills. He does not have a huge arm, but at Texas he made excellent decisions and was very accurate. Look for Greg Little, Peyton Hillis, and a couple of TEs to see plentiful targets with the short passing game featured more than most are predicting for the Browns. McCoy's ADP has recently climbed from QB #27 and 213 overall to QB #24 and 172, but he should finish the year much higher. Although I do not expect surprises in the top ten QBs, McCoy offers the best chance at the least cost to challenge that lofty ranking.

Dave Larkin

Matthew Stafford, Det - The former number one overall pick out of Georgia has been a tad unfortunate to this point in his young professional career with the Lions, suffering back-to-back shoulder injuries that essentially derailed his promising start. Fantasy owners have short memories. The 'what have you done for me lately' mentality can be the downfall of many owners as they neglect to consider the talent of a player and instead focus on injury risks. Matthew Stafford enters the 2011 season with a clean bill of health. In the first two preseason contests, Stafford has been a model of consistency. He and Calvin Johnson have a special on-field relationship that can be unstoppable when it clicks. Nate Burleson provides a solid veteran presence opposite the all-world playmaker Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew is a great dual threat at tight end. Jahvid Best and the combination of Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell will be a capable trio for Stafford to lean on when necessary. This season can be the year that the Lions offense becomes a juggernaut with Stafford's leadership.

Jeff Pasquino

Matthew Stafford, Det - At first this might seem like I am taking an easy selection here, but hear me out - I think Stafford will finish as a Top 5-7 quarterback this year. That's right - I am talking high 20s or even 30+ touchdowns this year. Everyone is talking up the Lions, but the subtle part of the equation is that Jahvid Best is not a feature back and the loss of Mikel LeShoure really hurts. That means Detroit will be throwing a ton again this year, trying to keep pace with Green Bay and Chicago on the scoreboard. The defense is better but the running game is not, plus Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew are all guys who can score often this year. Take Stafford as a borderline fantasy QB1 and do not be surprised if he scores close to Brady or Brees.

Jeff Tefertiller

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buf - Fitzpatrick took the reins of the Buffalo offense in week three last year. It did not take the journeyman long to take control of Chan Gailey's pass offense and be productive. With a very average group of receivers, Fitzpatrick was a very effective fantasy option. He helped Stevie Johnson have a monster season. From week three (his first appearance) through week sixteen, the Bills passer was the eighth best quarterback in fantasy leagues. While it may be asking too much for him to ascend into the Top 5, Fitzpatrick could be a fantasy starter once again even though his ADP is QB23. Yes, that is correct. A fantasy starter for the price of a very late QB2 available in the 14th round of many drafts.

Matt Waldman

Matt Stafford, Det - Stafford has two veteran, big-play receivers in Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. Although Johnson is the downfield threat, both he and Burleson are highly effective in the red zone. Add Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best and I believe Stafford has matured enough to pick teams apart or create a big play. Stafford has only played 13 games in his two-year career, but he has exceeded 19 fantasy points in six of those contests. He had two games of at least 28 fantasy points in the only three he played in last year. I think this is the year that Stafford puts it all together. Watching him in the preseason, he has clearly established a rapport with Burleson and Johnson to target passes in areas that only these receivers can catch the ball. This kind of timing is something you see from Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Picking Stafford in the seventh round can greatly enhance your opportunities to select to players at other positions and still come out ahead at quarterback. I think Stafford can throw for 3800-4300 yards and 30-35 touchdowns.

Jason Wood

Matthew Stafford, Det - No QB particularly jumped out at me this year in terms of a deep sleeper I thought had at least a fighter's chance at finishing as a QB1, so I had to look elsewhere. I almost nominated Tony Romo, simply because he's going 7th among QBs and it wouldn't shock me if he's 1st or 2nd at season's end. But when the dust settled, I chose Matthew Stafford. Stafford's shoulder is going to be a concern, until it's not. Assuming he's really healthy, the table is set for his ascension to greatness. He's strong armed, has great mechanics, and has been within this offensive system long enough to start mastering the nuances. With a cadre of potent weapons - not the least of which is Calvin "Megatron" Johnson - Stafford could easily throw for 3,800-4,000 yards and 25 TDs if things fall into place.

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