Say what you will about new, beleaguered and winless Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini, but the decision he made to switch quarterbacks this week, which some view as possibly shortsighted and reactive, does help fantasy football owners and the Browns. On Tuesday, when I thought popgun-armed Brady Quinn was still the Browns' quarterback, I didn't consider Braylon Edwards a top-25 wide receiver in our rankings. I placed him at No. 28, and he received that good a spot solely because the position is so decimated this week with byes, injuries and the like. In Week 3, Edwards was my No. 34 wide receiver.
On Friday, when our updated rankings are revealed, you'll see Edwards skyrocket to No. 15 in my set of rankings, ahead of Devin Hester, Kevin Walter and Santonio Holmes. Shortsighted and reactive? I don't think so.
On Wednesday, when I first heard the news that Mangini was following in the footsteps of Raheem Morris and trying to blame all the problems of his woeful team on poor quarterback play -- at least with the Buccaneers, Byron Leftwich was productive two of the three weeks -- my first reaction was that Derek Anderson was exactly what this offense needs. On the surface, everyone assumes he was awful in 2008. Sure, he made more mistakes than in his terrific 2007 campaign, and the numbers and the team's record suffered because of them, but some of that comes with the territory with him. Anderson has a major league arm and gets the ball downfield. Quinn does not and cannot.
Quinn was a brutal 8-for-23 on passes of more than 10 yards this season. He had thrown only one touchdown pass, and it came with 28 seconds left in the Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. I saw the pass, a nifty 26-yard touchdown to tight end Robert Royal, and let's just say with that little time left and up 34-13, the Vikings didn't seem too interested in defending a Brady Quinn pass. In the two games since then, Quinn directed his team to all of three field goals -- total. Some think Quinn deserved more of a chance, but I think Browns fans deserve more of Anderson. I thought this in August, when Mangini refused to call a winner in his quarterback battle. He waited until after we did our Week 1 rankings!
I'm conflicted on how to judge Anderson. I don't think he's as good as his 2007 season indicated, but at the same time he shouldn't have been pulled after Week 10 last year. You remember what happened? Anderson threw an awful interception to help blow a winnable game against the Ravens, a pass gift-wrapped for Terrell Suggs that was returned for a touchdown. Browns fans chanted for the backup quarterback, and Anderson was benched after that game by a lame-duck coach. I disagreed with the move at the time, since from Weeks 6 to 9, against some good defenses (Giants, Redskins, Jaguars and Ravens), Anderson threw six touchdown passes against only that Suggs interception, and the team was 2-2. He got the job back a few weeks later when Quinn hurt his finger, and then Anderson tore his MCL. The Browns didn't score an offensive touchdown the final six weeks.
The real point of this blog is not that I like Anderson as a top-20 quarterback for this week, though I will consider him in strong matchups. He would go to the level at which I judge Trent Edwards, Matt Cassel and possibly Shaun Hill, depending on their matchups, of course. There could come a time soon that fantasy owners need to use Anderson, and if he plays well this week, you will want to.
Edwards is the same talented player he was in 2007, when he broke out with 80 receptions, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns. His numbers this season are pathetic -- 57 wide receivers have more fantasy points, including Kenny Britt, Bobby Wade and Mike Wallace -- because Quinn is a younger version of Chad Pennington, but without the accuracy and excuses that his right arm has been shredded numerous times. Put Quinn in a West Coast offense, and maybe he'll work out. In this one, he hasn't. Don't tell me a wide receiver can't be affected by his quarterback's play; next to Terrell Owens, Edwards might be the poster boy for underachievement that isn't really his fault. Quinn didn't throw the ball downfield. Anderson does. So be reactive and use Braylon Edwards this week.