Source: <a href="http://www.fanball.com/fb/article.cfm/ID.4461" target="_blank">Fanball.com</a>
<img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/brees03.jpg" class="left" alt="Drew Brees" />After barely cracking double digit touchdowns and 2,000 passing yards in 2003, Drew Brees was on thin ice in San Diego. The Chargers obtained Philip Rivers on draft day and it appeared Brees would be blowing out of SoCal by the end of the year. On fantasy draft day, Brees wasn't even on the radar, but 27 touchdowns later somebody in every league had themselves one of the best fantasy free agency pickups of 2004. Is there a quarterback out there who might emerge in a similar fashion in 2005? We posed the question to our gang of fantasy football gurus.
<strong>Ted Carlson, Senior Editor</strong>
As with Brees at this time last year, Joey Harrington has a day-to-day hold on the starting job and is likely only one or two bad starts away from punching his ticket out of Mo-town. Harrington hasn't shown me much to make me believe in him (neither did Brees, by the way), but I have a few reasons for choosing Joey here. First, his back is against the wall, and many players step up when their NFL lives are on the line. Second, Kevin Jones leads the best Lions ground attack since Barry retired, and that threat can only help keep defenses honest. Third, Roy Williams is a major talent, and the trio of Charles Rogers, Marcus Pollard, and Mike Williams will provide an adequate array of targets. Fourth, Harrington's stats have improved for three straight seasons, and many quarterbacks don't blossom until they've been in the league for four or five campaigns.
<strong>Court E. Mann, Associate Editor</strong>
For all the talk about Byron Leftwich, the gunslinger from Marshall has yet to crack 3,000 yards or 15 touchdowns in either of his first two seasons. However, like Brees did a year ago, Leftwich is about to validate those that selected him early on day one of the NFL Draft, primarily because the Jaguars are suddenly about to exploit his natural ability. A conservative offense built on the ground game has failed to score 30 points in a game since cavemen were the dominant intellectuals (I know, so condescending). Add new OC Carl Smith, playmaker Matt Jones, and emerging second-year receiver Reggie Williams-all of which mean big things for a strong-armed quarterback who wants the offense put on his shoulders. Last week against a good Atlanta defense, Lord Byron threw for 180 yards in the first half alone. In his previous preseason effort, he completed 14-of-21 passes for 125 yards in a quarter-and-a-half. Remember, we're talking about a guy who averaged 318 passing yards and 1.5 touchdown passes per game in a four-contest stretch before sustaining a knee injury. Lefty isn't just my pick for the next Drew Brees, I'll take him straight up against Drew this season.
<strong>Christian Peterson, Associate Editor</strong>
Many have been expecting David Carr to break out for a couple of years now, but it just hasn't happened. In his defense, Carr has improved in each of his three NFL campaigns. Sure, they've been baby steps, but at least he's headed in the right direction. His completion percentage has increased from 52.5 to 56.6 to 61.2, and another increase of similar magnitude would put him right in the 65 percent wheelhouse with the big boys. From a yardage standpoint, Carr is already there â€“ his 3,539 ranked him 11th in the league a year ago. The inability of the Texans to develop another pass-catcher beyond Andre Johnson, as well as the seeming stagnation of Johnson's development, has led to some paltry touchdown numbers for Carr, though. Brees faced a similar situation a year ago, and found an unexpected outlet in all-world tight end Antonio Gates. Carr won't have a breakout player like Gates to work with, so he'll have to piece together his scores through Johnson and a cast of thousands. Assume, for a moment, that Johnson finally realizes his potential and grabs double-digit touchdowns this season. Then, if Jabar Gaffney, Jerome Mathis, Derick Armstrong, Corey Bradford, and Reggie Swinton can cobble together a dozen touchdowns between them and with Domanick Davis adroitly catching balls out of the backfield, Carr has a fighting chance to approach 30 touchdowns. No matter which way you slice it, 3,500-plus yards and close to 30 scores would make him a bona fide top 10 fantasy gunslinger. In other news, it's supposed to get down to 20 degrees in Hell today and I swear a pig just flew past the fifth-story window of Fanball World Headquarters.
Chris Bracke, Associate Editor</strong>
Last season, after three years of being average, Chargers quarterback Drew Brees finally took at step forward and became a legitimate NFL quarterback. After one year holding a clipboard and another riding the learning curve, Bengals signal caller Carson Palmer is prepared to take a Brees-like leap forward. Palmer will benefit from having a 1,400-yard back in Rudi Johnson to take some of the pressure off him and the deep and talented receiving corps is poised to take a similar step forward this season. Much like Brees did prior to his 2004 breakout season, Palmer finished the season strong. Over his last three weeks played in 2004, he averaged nearly 280 yards and three touchdowns per game with 382 yards and three of those scoring strikes coming against the Ravens. If he can do that against the Ravens, he can do it against just about anyone.