Commentary

32 Questions: Can Matt Schaub be a top-10 quarterback?

Updated: August 21, 2008, 6:10 PM ET
By James Quintong | ESPN.com

Can Matt Schaub be a top-10 fantasy quarterback?

The Falcons are probably still kicking themselves for dealing Matt Schaub to the Texans before the whole Michael Vick fiasco unfolded. However, while Atlanta struggled to find a suitable replacement at quarterback in 2007, Schaub wasn't necessarily a success in his first season for Houston.

He opened the season with five TDs and three picks in his first four games, throwing for at least 225 yards in each contest. Schaub clicked early with Andre Johnson, who caught 14 passes for 262 yards and three TDs in his first two games of the season before a knee injury knocked him out for seven games. With Johnson out of the lineup, Schaub struggled to find the end zone despite piling up the yards.

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesMatt Schaub threw for 2,241 yards and 9 TDs in 11 games.

Then Schaub injured his shoulder in Week 7 against the Titans, which caused him to miss parts of the next two games and all of Week 9 against the Raiders. He came back with two nice games in Weeks 10 and 11, just as Johnson returned from his knee injury, throwing for 549 yards, four TDs and two picks. But the Schaub-Johnson partnership was short-lived, as Schaub injured his shoulder again in Week 12 and was done for the season.

While Schaub was out of the lineup, Sage Rosenfels was a more-than-capable backup, throwing a TD pass in each of the nine games he played. In fact, Rosenfels finished with more TD passes (15) than Schaub. Despite that, the job is still Schaub's to lose, and given some of the numbers both guys put up last year, there is a lot of hope heading into 2008.

On the plus side, Schaub has a bona fide stud receiver in Johnson. Unfortunately, they worked together in just four games last year, but Johnson had 23 catches for 419 yards with four touchdowns during that time. He's already a go-to guy, and a good one at that, and that's a great way to build up confidence in your passing game.

While the talent level drops off a bit after Johnson, the rest of the receiving corps is at least passable. Kevin Walter led the team with 65 catches and is a nice complement to Johnson. Journeyman Andre Davis averaged 17.7 yards per catch last year in addition to his three kickoff returns for touchdowns, so you know he's got some big-play ability in him. Tight end Owen Daniels had 63 catches last year for 768 yards and acts as a nice safety valve and red zone target as well.

And while the nine touchdowns weren't anything special, Schaub did have a 66.4 percent completion rate and 7.8 yards-per-attempt average, both ranking in the top five in the league. Those numbers do bode well for the future.

On the other hand, the Texans' running game is still in flux, with ailing veteran Ahman Green fighting for time with former Titan Chris Brown and rookie Steve Slaton, among others. It's both a good and bad thing for Schaub, as he'll probably have more chances to throw (and put up lots of yards) without a reliable ground game. However, without a running game to keep the offense honest, defenses can key in on stopping the pass (leading to more sacks and turnovers).

The biggest wild card in the equation is injuries. As mentioned before, Schaub and Johnson played together in only four games because of their combined injuries. Hopefully, Schaub's left (nonthrowing) shoulder is fine after offseason surgery, but he seems more prone to taking sacks than Rosenfels (16 for Schaub, six for Rosenfels in roughly the same amount of playing time). Schaub has yet to go through the rigors of starting all 16 games in a season, so his endurance will be something to watch.

Meanwhile, Johnson missed seven games with a knee injury, which later required offseason surgery. He's been slowed down with a groin injury during training camp, although he's expected to play in the Texans' third preseason game this weekend, which is a good sign. Given that he also missed three games in 2005, Johnson isn't necessarily a sure bet to be healthy the whole season. But when he's in there, he is a difference-maker.

There is still a lot of upside with Schaub, and this time fantasy owners do have more stats to back up the conclusion that he can produce when given the opportunity. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty over his supporting cast and injuries that will make many people hesitant to pull the trigger on Schaub as their starting fantasy quarterback. But he'll probably be one of the first guys taken when it's time to take a second quarterback, and that's where he'll provide excellent fantasy value.

So can Schaub be a top-10 fantasy quarterback? Absolutely. Remember, Derek Anderson came out of nowhere to be a top-10 guy last year. But is taking him as one worth the risk? Not right now.

James Quintong is an editor for ESPN Fantasy.