Monday Night Story Line: Tarvaris Jackson
While all eyes in the Vikings-Packers game Monday night will be on the quarterback replacing Hall of Famer Brett Favre, that other signal-caller has become kind of interesting to fantasy owners, as well. It's likely that neither Aaron Rodgers nor Tarvaris Jackson are being counted on as starting quarterbacks this week, but what are the chances either player becomes fantasy-relevant soon? I'd say the chances are growing, and it all starts Monday night.
On the surface, these players seem to have little in common, other than a world of pressure to perform up to expectations. Rodgers replaces a legend, of course, but let's not forget he was a touted first-round draft pick a few years ago. He has the ability and, according to the Packers, the poise and moxie to succeed. Rodgers has the same weapons Favre had at his disposal in talented wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and 1,000-yard running back Ryan Grant. He just needed an opportunity, and now he has it. I ranked Rodgers outside the top 15 at quarterback for the season, but not by much.
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I think people will be surprised at the strides Jackson makes this season. A very athletic player who likes to run, he generated fantasy buzz with his pair of rushing touchdowns in Week 16 last season. Jackson has been held back by mechanical problems in the past, and he hasn't been a very good game manager. The Vikings feel Jackson has turned the corner and will make fewer mistakes, but also that he will be more than someone who merely hands the ball to Adrian Peterson over and over. Jackson has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his short career, but this isn't unusual for a young quarterback. The team is his -- he just needs to step up.
Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers has been impressed with Jackson's maturity since last season. "It was across the board, really," Rogers told the St. Paul Pioneer Press of Jackson's improvement from last year. "I think he got better fundamentally with his techniques, in terms of mechanics as far as throwing the football, setting his hips, all those football jargon-type of things. And obviously he worked hard during the offseason to understand protection, coverage, things like that. It's never one thing with a quarterback; it's the whole picture. Now we have to have that translate into a game."
Rodgers and Jackson have more in common than just being on the proverbial hot seat: Each was involved in the Favre soap opera this offseason. For Rodgers, he didn't know for sure, despite the Packers backing him, whether he would be a starting quarterback until the moment Favre was traded to the Jets. People forget that Jackson was involved, as well, because the Vikings were one of the potential destinations for Favre. Now the Jets have a Hall of Famer and a victory heading into Week 2, and Rodgers and Jackson have opportunity. It all starts Monday.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can e-mail him here.