Spotlight: Kevin Kolb

posted by Jeff Pasquino on Jun 29th


Jeff Pasquino's thoughts

Kevin Kolb is going to make or break many fantasy football teams this year. His average draft position right now puts him as a borderline fantasy starter in most leagues (ADP of QB12) - but only by a slim margin. The question many will be asking this year is this - will he put up better, worse, or similar numbers to Donovan McNabb when he led the Eagles last season?

The Eagles have made a clean break with McNabb as they traded their former starter for more than a decade to the Washington Redskins. The changing of the guard has happened, and the reins have been given to the former University of Houston quarterback that was selected in the second round in 2007. This story may sound similar to some NFL fans of a particular quarterback transition that occurred two years ago in Green Bay. Brett Favre was finally out of town in favor of Aaron Rodgers, and we all know that both quarterbacks still had plenty of life left in their respective arms. The comparisons are correctly applied in Philadelphia as both former quarterbacks in the two situations were Pro Bowlers and the young gun waiting in the wings had several seasons of experience under their belt. The problem many fans had was that they never saw how good (or bad) the new guy was, as all the development happened during practices, meetings and training camps.

Now, Donovan McNabb is no Brett Favre, just as Kevin Kolb should not be put up against Aaron Rodgers at this point either. It has to be said that - to this trained eye as an NFL and Philadelphia observer - that Kevin Kolb is a better quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles at this point of his career than McNabb. McNabb was a very good - at times great - quarterback for the Eagles, but he was never a perfect fit for the West Coast offensive style that Andy Reid tried to run. McNabb did quite well in the offense and put up great numbers, but many observers saw even more opportunity that was missed either due to inaccurate throws, passes that did not lead receivers for more yards after the catch, or even too much caution to throw the ball into tight windows. McNabb had a fantastic touchdown to interception ratio (213 to 100) but some of it was due to being extra cautious.

Enough of McNabb - this is all about Kevin Kolb. Philadelphia has a great number of receiving weapons, starting with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and continuing with a strong tight end (Brent Celek) and running back with good hands (LeSean McCoy). All three can rack up the yardage after short or intermediate throws. That's not to say that Kolb cannot throw deep - he has a big arm and displayed it well both in the spread offense at Houston and in his limited NFL action.

That's the other concern here - "limited NFL action". For every positive statement like "Kolb is the only NFL quarterback to ever throw for over 300 yards in his first two starts" there is the rebuttal of "it was against Kansas City and New Orleans in a blowout". There is not quite enough data to make a clear case one way or another.

Positives

  • DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek are all fantastic targets that can put up big numbers and big plays. All of them can get yards after the catch and this arsenal should give Kolb plenty of options on passing downs.
  • Kevin Kolb possesses more mobility - both in and out of the pocket - than Donovan McNabb at this stage of their careers. That is important given the pass rushers in the division and the at times suspect Eagles' offensive line. Kolb ran over 100 times a season for all four years as a starter in Houston.
  • The Eagles want to run a classic West Coast offense, and Kolb offers both better accuracy and deep ball than McNabb.
  • Philadelphia's defense will be suspect and challenged all season by several high-powered offenses on the schedule. Expect more 34-31 type games where Kolb will have to throw a ton to keep the Eagles in those contests.
  • Like Aaron Rodgers, Kolb is not a rookie. Kolb will start 2010 as a fourth year veteran with over three years of experience in the same offense under Andy Reid.

Negatives

  • While Kevin Kolb is not a rookie, he only has two NFL starts in his career. He did put up strong numbers but the competition and game situations were suspect.
  • The Philadelphia offensive line is not rock solid this year with questions at center and with little depth. Kolb has to hope that the unit gels quickly to keep him safe back there in the pocket.
  • Michael Vick is a strong candidate to steal some touches in the Wildcat package. Vick attempted 13 passes and ran 24 times last year and rumors are that he will be utilized more. If Vick comes in 4-6 times a game and takes important touches (especially in the Red Zone) away from Kolb, Kolb's fantasy value will take a hit.

Final thoughts

Like I said earlier, Kevin Kolb will make or break several fantasy teams this year. As QB12 off of the average draft board, some fantasy team owners will think that they got a steal by waiting at quarterback while others will hope that he can achieve "McNabb in 2009" type numbers this year. Considering all of this, my personal opinion is that Kolb is going to be a steal this season and many championship teams will have him on their roster. Of all the quarterbacks outside of the Top 5-8 guys (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub and possibly Jay Cutler), only Kolb for me has the potential to put up enough big games to carry a team to a championship. I fully expect that Philadelphia will throw at least 65% of the time and will be in many shootouts this season. With the likes of Green Bay, Dallas twice, the Giants twice, Houston, Minnesota, Indianapolis - even Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco - there are many games that will keep the scoreboard operator busy all game long. Philadelphia's weakness on defense is their secondary, and with nearly every Top 8 quarterback on the schedule (plus the likelihood of Brett Favre), I can easily see 5-6 300-yard games for Kolb and an average of 250 yards the other 10-11 contests. Kolb will be throwing the ball 30-35 times a game and with so many strong receiving weapons the pieces are there for Kolb to put up big numbers.

There are a few other reasons to like Kolb, and they all revolve around the ground game. The Eagles have struggled to move the ball on the ground in the past year or two, mostly coinciding with the decline of Brian Westbrook. Philadelphia hopes that McCoy steps up and fills some of that role, but for now he is a better player with the ball in space and that means more short passes and screens should be heading towards McCoy this year. That also serves to bolster Kolb's passing numbers. Another plus to Kolb that will be overlooked is his ability to move around, plus a willingness to tuck it and run. Kolb ran nearly 500 times in college, topping 100 carries a season (averaging over nine carries a game) at Houston. Look for Kolb to scramble a little - not a ton, but enough - to add a little more to his fantasy value.

The bottom line for me is that the Eagles will live and die by the pass this year mostly because they have to score early and often to keep pace with a brutal schedule. Kolb is their guy and even if Vick takes a few snaps here and there or if Kolb throws a pick or two in a game, Andy Reid will go right back to the pass plays on his play sheet because that is what the Eagles do - throw, throw and throw some more. That is where their talent lies, both at receiver and at quarterback. Fantasy team owners should take notice that the Eagles have the "fantasy trifecta" in place - a schedule that means high scoring games, an offense and talent pool that favors the pass, and a defense that should give up some points as well this season. That means tons of fireworks in Philadelphia this year even after the Fourth of July.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

rzrback77 said:

Kolb, a 2007 second round pick has thrown 130 NFL passes in three years, most of them coming in two successful games a season ago against the Saints and Chiefs. He completed 60.8% of 51 passes against the Saints for 7.67 ypa and 70.6% of 34 attempts for 9.62 against the Chiefs. In short, he had two outstanding games against not so good defenses, but now will lead the Eagles against the tough NFC East.

In addition to the tough six in-diision contests, the Eagles host five teams thinking about the playoffs, the Packers, Colts, Texans, and Vikings. Their road schedule is potentially much easier, at Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Chicago. Even those games include some tough defenses and they do travel across the country once.

There seems to be quite a few drinking the kool-aid for Kolb as he is currently being drafted as QB 12 and 80 overall, going before Flacco and Palmer. He has quite a few receiving options, but that high seems as risky to me as the Eagles trading McNabb within the division.

I also think that Michael Vick will see the field more in 2010 than a year ago sometimes putting a crimp on Kolb's production.

TheDirtyWord said:

One of the underappreciated traits of Donavan McNabb IMO, and one that allowed Andy Reid to have the mindset to throw the ball as much as he did, was because McNabb simply never threw alot of interceptions. In the last 6 seasons which comprised of 2840 pass attempts, McNabb's INT% was 1.8%. That's VERY low. It would have ranked 4th best in the NFL last year. And this was a standard by which the Eagles operated for the last 6 seasons. Granted, McNabb missed his share of games over that period, but his status as the engine of the Eagles always remained.

When a coach has this much confidence in his QB and his offense to not make negative momentum changing plays in the passing game, it gives him more confidence to continue to put the ball in the air. For the last 10 years, Reid has operated primarily with a QB who not only was extremely talented, but was judicious with the ball as well.

We have very little information on Kolb thus far. Last year he had 96 attempts and while he put up some impressive numbers, he did so:

1) In a rout against the Saints (in the wrong direction)
2) Against the Chiefs

...and even as impressive as his numbers were, his INT% was still 3.1%. So to project that out over the course of a season of say 550 pass attempts - Reid has been used to McNabb throwing 10 INT's. That's a very low number. While I mentioned 3.1% as what Kolb produced in his short stint, that's not a bad figure at all (league average in 2009 was 3.08%). So assuming Kolb can hit the league average, over 550 pass attempts, that comes out to 17 INT's (and in actuality, the Eagles have averaged 575 pass attempts/year over the past 6 seasons).

To be honest, I don't know what to make of Kolb. Not alot of folks were high on him as McNabb's successor this time last year. Now, he's getting drafted on average 2.5 rounds ahead of McNabb. To me, that means alot of people are assuming a plug & play mentality as it relates to the Eagles passing game, without taking a closer look as to why it was so effective in the first place. With that said, Kolb has probably the best weapons catching passes that the Eagles have ever had under Reid. However, to assume a seamless transition IMO is naive and Kolb would have to put up 4000 yards and 25 TD's at this point to justify his draft slot. That's a lot to place on any first year starter.

While many have pointed to the fact that Reid wouldn't have done this if he didn't have faith in Kolb...I don't disagree. But Reid is probably amongst the Top 3-5 coaches in the NFL in terms of job security. I think he realized that McNabb had taken this franchise as far as he was going to take it...and he decided to cut the cord on that relationship perhaps at the cost of a better chance at near term success.

I think they'll be some growing pains, Kolb will show that this was the right move for the Eagles...but that there is work to do for him to reach the level and standard Reid expects out of his QB1.

5Rings said:

I think Kolb will prove to be a more accurate and better pure passer than McNabb. He won't be able to extend plays or any of the other non-box score items that made McNabb special, but for fantasy purposes, I think Kolb is a goldmine.


Kevin Kolb projections

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