Faceoff: Kevin Kolb

August 4th

Sigmund Bloom: It is difficult to want to stick your neck out for a first-year starting QB, but in Kolb's case, you don't have to stick it out far considering the possible reward. Kolb has already given us a glimpse of what could be in his future, and you can't argue with the situation he gets to take over.

First and foremost, Kolb takes over an Andy Reid pass offense that routinely produces 4000 passing yards over the course of a season. The offense runs through the QB and that should be nothing new for Kolb, who ran a fast-paced pass-happy offense in college at Houston. Kolb was hand-picked by Philadelphia at a time when they didn't have an immediate need for a QB, and the Eagles dealt away long-time starter Donovan McNabb this offseason, so they have faith in Kolb's ability to hit the ground running.

Kolb has been developing for three years now, and we finally got a chance to see him when McNabb got hurt in the first game of the season last year. Kolb threw for over 300 yards and multiple TDs in both games and looked comfortable and in command of the passing offense. While it is unlikely that he'll keep up that kind of pace this season, he only needs to throw for 250 a game to hit 4000, and as long as he throws for multiple TDs about half of the time, 25 passing TDs should be within his reach.

Recent history has been good for QBs who have had time to mature on the bench. Aaron Rodgers was the #2 overall fantasy QB after spending three years behind Brett Favre, and Philip Rivers threw 22 TDs and averaged over 200 passing yards a game in his first season as the starter after spending two years behind Drew Brees, despite throwing less than 30 passes a game.

Kolb is also lucky to have a great nucleus of young talent around him that he has come up with since being drafted in 2007. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson provide tons of speed and playing ability, Brent Celek is a trustworthy target over the middle (and Kolb's road roommate and good buddy), and LeSean McCoy has the quickness and hands to at least partially fill the big shoes of Brian Westbrook. Jason Avant gives Kolb a crafty slot receiver so he can take advantage of the way that Philadelphia's offense spreads the opposing defense and creates mismatches.

Even if you think Philadelphia's success as a passing team has been due mostly to Donovan McNabb's quality play, Kolb's ADP is low enough that you can afford to take McNabb as your QB2 a round or two later and hedge your bet. Even if Kolb does struggle, the rocky road will likely lead to deficits and even more passing as the team spends a lot of time in catch up mode. Kevin Kolb carries a good amount of risk, as any first-year starting QB does, but the surrounding scheme, talent, and patience and confidence the Eagles have shown with Kolb means the possible payoff is more than enough to make taking the plunge worth it.

Matt Waldman: Kolb remains the QB8 and a sixth round pick in nearly 500 mock drafts at FantasyFootballCalculator.com. And based on the site's trend analysis, his value is slowly climbing. Although I think Kolb has talent to be a good quarterback, but to rank him above Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, and Donovan McNabb smacks of overconfidence in a player that has started less than a handful of NFL games.

Most notably, Kolb's status comes off two big games against the Chiefs and Saints (Can you say defenses respectively synonymous with the words "weak" and "prevent?") and the assumption is that the Eagles have great surrounding talent. But I believe it was Donovan McNabb who stirred the offensive drink in Philly; he was the rare case where the QB had more to do with elevating the surrounding talent's production than the other way around.

The Eagles franchise QB had an end of the year fantasy ranking as a fantasy QB1 six times, but for only half of those seasons did he have a player gain 1000 yards receiving. The best production McNabb ever got from a trio at the same time was last year with Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin's 900/1100/700 yards. Yet, McNabb was still only 11th overall among fantasy passers in 2009. Even if he didn't miss two games and continued to perform to his average production he would have ranked no better than 10th overall.

With less surrounding talent than what's currently in Philadelphia, McNabb was on track to produce as the No.1 overall fantasy QB in at least three of his six seasons before going down with an injury. It's rare for a quarterback to perform this well without two quality receivers. It's debatable the Eagles current receivers, although rising talents, are ready to take that next step to support a quarterback than the other way around.

Neither Jackson nor Maclin has demonstrated a strong inside presence over the middle beyond crossing routes. Although Avant and Celek can provide that dimension, I think Celek's 2009 production was probably at his ceiling of potential and Avant is purely a dump-off option. If Kolb were back in the University of Houston's spread offense facing amateur defenses then I'd be more of a believer, but I don't believe you can mask the deficiencies of young and less versatile receivers with a young, are far less experienced quarterback.

It's no coincidence that they acquired two between-the-tackles bangers in Mike Bell and Charles Scott after dealing McNabb away. Philadelphia knows Kolb is going to deal with a lot more pressure than he did against the Chiefs and Saints and they will need a more powerful ground game to mitigate it. If Kolb receives the same quality of pass protection that McNabb dealt with then he's going to struggle with more bad throws, sacks and turnovers that keep his production at QB13-QB15 level than people drafting him in the early sixth round expect.