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Weekly Insights: Wk 5

Rookie quarterbacks are fantasy killers.

This week, three rookie quarterbacks are starting – Matt Leinart in Arizona, Vince Young in Tennessee and Bruce Gradkowski in Tampa Bay. This news should make fantasy owners that have any player on those three teams nervous.

With the exception of Peyton Manning, no first-round rookie quarterback since Dan Marino in 1983 has been an effective fantasy player. Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway and Troy Aikman struggled in their first seasons. Drew Bledsoe, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick were ineffective. And recently, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Eli Manning and Alex Smith had rookie troubles.

Seventeen rookie quarterbacks have seen significant action in games in the last 10 years. How have they performed? They have averaged 173 yards, 0.9 touchdowns and 1.2 interceptions a game. That translates to a season of 2,768 yards, 14.6 TDs and 19 interceptions, which are horrible fantasy numbers.

Leinart has by far the best chance of this week’s starting rookie quarterbacks to beat the odds and succeed, while Young and Gradkowski should only be considered emergency fill ins.

Leinart is supposed to be one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks in years, and he has the weapons around him to succeed. However, with the Cardinals having a horrendous offensive line, keep Leinart on your bench until he proves he can succeed.

With Leinart in the lineup, owners of wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin should consider trading them, because if Leinart struggles like rookie quarterbacks historically have, their value may never be higher.

As for Young’s and Gradkowski’s wide receivers, drop or trade them now. The Buccanneers’ Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton and the Titans’ Drew Bennett and David Givens now have very little value.

The rookie quarterbacks also could have an affect on Edgerrin James in Arizona and Carnell Williams in Tampa Bay. As for Tennessee, it doesn’t have any starter-worthy fantasy running backs, even if Young isn’t starting.

If Leinart and Gradkowski perform just well enough to keep defenses from stacking against the run, James and Williams should play as well or better (because they may get more carries) as they did before. But if the quarterbacks struggle badly, expect the running backs to also play poorly, because defenses only will worry about stopping the run without the threat of the quarterback beating them.

Hot Read
WR Doug Gabriel, New England: In the last two weeks, Gabriel has emerged as a favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady’s with a touchdown catch in each week. Brady sounded confident in his new No. 1 receiver when he said, “He’s going to be a great asset for this team, a big part of our passing game each week. We have to continue to find ways to get him the ball.” If Gabriel is available in your league, snatch him up and use him as a No. 2 or a solid bye-week fill in receiver.

Broken Play(er)
QB Daunte Culpepper, Miami: The last two weeks was Culpepper’s fantasy-starter-worthy test, and he failed miserably. Against two of the worst defenses in the league (Houston and Tennessee), he only could manage 417 yards and one touchdown. Whether it’s due to getting used to a new offense, not having confidence in his repaired knee or still missing his catch buddy, Randy Moss, it doesn’t matter – just bench him.

Off The Bench
RBs Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis: Addai and Rhodes splitting carries won’t slow them down against Tennessee and its last-ranked rushing defense that has allowed 177 yards per game and eight touchdowns. Indianapolis will light up the scoreboard and both have a good chance to put up good yardage numbers and reach the end zone.

Safe Bet
TE Chris Cooley, Washington: The tight end will record 75 yards and/or score a touchdown against the New York Giants, who have been friendly to the pass (281 yards allowed per game, 29th in the NFL) and to tight ends. Philadelphia’s L.J. Smith (seven catches, 111 yards) and Indianapolis’ Dallas Clark (39 yards, touchdown) had solid games against the Giants. Also, last year in the Redskins’ second meeting against the Giants, Cooley caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Extra Point
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be in for a few rough weeks. The Steelers take on the top two pass defenses in the league (San Diego and Kansas City) this week and next before taking on Atlanta, which has yet to give up a passing touchdown. If you own Roethlisberger, make sure he’s on your bench in the next three weeks.