What to make of Brady Quinn
Somehow it seems fitting for a quarterback whom many remember not for his strong college career at Notre Dame, but for the hours he sat painfully waiting to be drafted, that he throws his first 60 or so passes on national television. His first start was a resounding success against the Denver Broncos on the Thursday night of Week 10 -- well, statistically it was nice, not on the scoreboard for Browns fans -- and now Brady Quinn gets to play on Monday Night Football as well.
The problem for the only healthy Brady actually throwing passes in the NFL this week is not getting national attention, but living up to expectations to repeat his 17-point fantasy effort, in which he threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns. The Cleveland Browns might not suddenly be a good team, or be expected to turn things around, but now that Quinn is on the field they should at least be able to put up points and be more watchable.
Some think Derek Anderson didn't get a fair shake this season, but two months seemed plenty of time to realize that the 2007 darling wasn't performing at nearly the level of his breakout season. Quinn has the same weapons, really, and no easier a schedule now that the Broncos game is complete, so he shouldn't be judged any less harshly. However, he's off to a rousing start, and while fantasy owners should be rather conservative in projecting raw, inexperienced players to start out consistent and stay that way, this guy might be different. If this crazy NFL season, with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco playable as rookies, has shown us, this thing could really work out, and fantasy owners will reap the benefits.
Quinn actually had a full week of practice -- and then some -- to prepare for upcoming start No. 2, but he sure looked mature and accurate against the Broncos. Monday's opponent is the beleaguered Buffalo Bills, a tougher defense than Denver's on paper but still struggling of late as they slip out of playoff contention. The Browns probably didn't turn the playbook upside down for their quarterback, but the mobile Quinn is capable of doing more than what worked against the Broncos -- mainly short, accurate passes that certainly favored enigmatic tight end Kellen Winslow. Quinn attempted only three passes of more than 10 yards, completing one, but don't be surprised if for Monday's game Quinn spreads the ball around a bit more as he gets used to all his weapons. Yes, he might even look downfield at Braylon Edwards!
Fantasy owners should practice some restraint in activating Quinn, and we ranked him cautiously, outside the top 20, but there's no harm in finding room on your bench for a player with this kind of upside. Have we not learned anything from what Tyler Thigpen has been doing? Backup quarterback Anderson was one of fantasy's heroes a season ago, and Quinn has no less an opportunity to succeed. Enjoy watching him play Monday against the Bills, because not all his games will garner as much attention in prime time, at least not this season.
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. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.