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Spotlight: Matt Schaub

posted by Heath Cummings on Jul 15th


Heath Cummings's thoughts

But for the deepest of leagues, Matt Schaub is not a QB1 in 2012. That may sound a little surprising to you now, but it would have sounded even more so after the 2009 season. In 2009 Schaub threw for 4700 yards, 29 TDs, and finished fourth amongst all quarterbacks in fantasy points. He was 28 years old and he had finally come into his own in his sixth season of his career (third as a starter). As good as that season was, there were warning signs then, and they've come to pass over the last two seasons.

Through 2009, Schaub had missed 10 games due to injury over 3 full seasons as a starter. Since 2009, Schaub has missed 6 starts, all of which came last year after suffering a broken meniscus. Of the 80 games he could have started since taking over in Houston, Schaub has now missed 20%. That would translate to playing about 12 games a year. Not exactly the type of reliability you're looking for from your QB1.

Through 2009, Schaub had thrown 59 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. That is not a ratio that screams elite quarterback. Since 2009, that ratio has improved, but not dramatically. Schaub has thrown 39 touchdowns and only 18 picks in the last two seasons. Considering that he's now 31 years old, it would be foolish to expect anything much better than a 2-1 ratio in 2012. While interceptions don't often hurt too badly in fantasy football, they drive real football coaches crazy. As good as the Texans running game should be in 2012, I can't see Gary Kubiak having any patience for turning the ball over.

The game is changing, but Houston is going old school. Fantasy points for quarterbacks skyrocketed last season as we saw five quarterbacks break 400 fantasy points in the same year, easily an all-time record. To give you a reference point, only 6 quarterbacks did that from 2000-2011. While everyone likes to say the NFL is a copycat league, and many teams are turning to the aerial attack, the Texans are transitioning from a team that is known for throwing the ball a lot (Schaub led the league in attempts in 2009) to one that is content to ground and pound. Part of that is Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but a bigger part is the Texans defense. With that defense feasting on the likes of the Jaguars, Colts, Dolphins and Vikings it's hard to see Schaub getting to throw the ball near as much as the likes of Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.

That being said, Schaub is by no means useless in 2012. You could make a case that he has the weapons to return to the peak he reached in 2009. Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and Owen Daniels bring with them 8 pro bowls and a strong connection to Schaub. Perhaps no offense in the league has the talent and continuity that this Texans team does on the offensive side of the ball.

Of course, injuries have been as much of a problem for Schaub's big three as they have for the quarterback himself. Daniels hasn't played a 16 game schedule since 2008, Johnson has missed time three of the last five years, and Foster struggled with hamstring issues last season. While the Texans have formidable reserves at tight end (Joel Dreessen) and running back (Ben Tate), they are absurdly thin at wide receiver. Another injury to their 31 year old receiver would have a major impact on Schaub's effectiveness.

Even though I don't feel he's a legitimate QB1, I wouldn't call Schaub a backup. I think he is a perfect candidate if you're looking to try out quarterback by committee (QBBC) in 2012. While Schaub's schedule is difficult in the middle of the season, he finishes with one of the easiest slates in the league, especially weeks 14 through 16. One quarterback he matches up extremely well with is Matt Cassel. In combining their schedules, you could go 14 of the 17 weeks of the season with a favorable matchup for your quarterback. Other quarterbacks that match up well with Schaub's schedule for QBBC include Peyton Manning, Josh Freeman, and whoever wins the starting job in Tennessee.

Positives

  • Incredible talent around him if they can all stay healthy
  • Solid running game should slow the pass rush, increasing the chances that Schaub can stay healthy
  • Strong finishing schedule could give you the push you need in the playoffs

Negatives

  • Injury history of both Schaub and his weapons makes it seem unlikely they'll all stay healthy
  • Houston's defense and ability to run the ball could cut way down on Schaub's attempts
  • Behind Andre Johnson, the Texans are desperately thin at receiver

Final thoughts

All it would take for Matt Schaub to return to the ranks of the league top passers is good health, a pass heavy attack from a team expected to run more than pass, and a healthy year from Andre Johnson. That is a lot more than I'm willing to count on. What seems more likely to me is that the Texans focus heavily on the run, and Schaub turns in a fairly mediocre season with three to four monster performances mixed in. If you land Schaub as your second quarterback in the late rounds, or opt for a QBBC approach, you should be very pleased with the results.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Jason Wood (Footballguys.com Senior Writer) said:

Remember, this was a guy that was considered one of the best quarterbacks to target for a number of years, because he didn't require a pick in the first three rounds but had a reasonable shot at 4,000 yards passing and 25+ TDs. But then Schaub got hurt last year, and the Texans thrived with a new attacking defense and a powerhouse rushing attack. This year, in spite of being assured Schaub will be a full go for the start of training camp, he's been a forgotten man in drafts, and is being drafted as a low end QB2. That could mean one of two things -- he's one of the better values at the position this year, OR, the Texans new offensive balance has forever changed Schaub's paradigm.

We Tigers said:

I'm a huge Matt Schaub fan, having followed him at UVA and owned him in many leagues for several years. In 2009, he was the key to a couple of fantasy championships. Last year, he was mostly just another guy up till his injury. Here are his per-game numbers leading up to and since his breakout season:

2008: 277 yds/game, 1.37 TDs, 34.5 attempts
2009: 298 yds/game, 1.82 TDs, 36.4 attempts
2010: 273 yds/game, 1.5 TDs, 35.8 attempts
2011: 248 yds/game, 1.5 TDs, 29.2 attempts

Foster's ascension to fantasy superstar might overshadow the fact that in 2008, Steve Slaton put up 1600 total yards in the same offense. Although Foster was obviously a monster, Slaton provided a pretty good running threat himself. In 2009, the RBs were a disappointing ever-changing committee, which lead to a loooot of downfield passing and big yards. In 2010, Schaub still put up pretty good numbers with the ascension of Foster. In 2011, his numbers really dropped. In my eyes, the real reason for Schaub's decline last year wasn't Arian Foster; it was Ben Tate.

For the first time, Houston had a really good second runner who let them grind out games and comfortably rack up rushing yards and 1st downs. Tate's 175 carries were by far the most of any Texans' 2nd-leading-runner under Kubiak. I think they want to run, and I think they now have the personnel that really let them do that.

Here's the thing, though; 3900 and 24--his per-game forecast out to a whole season--would still be the 11th highest yardage total and 10th highest TD total among QBs. The problem is that it's such a big drop from the currently elite players. So, at QB14/15 territory, if you think a healthy Schaub can still give you that, he's very nice value--a strong backup and a good-enough starter if needed, albeit one who still leaves you looking pretty far up in a 12-team league.

All that said, the Texans draw a tough schedule this year, playing against the NFC North. They also hope to have Andre Johnson around for more than 7 games, which would probably drive the passing numbers up, too. So, I'm going to project a slight improvement in Schaub's performance given Johnson, and a small bump in attempts to account for probably needing to bomb away against those tough opponents.


Matt Schaub projections

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