Many position battles will take place during training camp and preseason across the NFL that fantasy football owners should have on their radar prior to draft day. One that may not be toward the top of that list, but still looks likely to have residual impact on multiple players, is the Arizona Cardinals quarterback battle pitting Kevin Kolb against John Skelton. Recent news has suggested the team does not know who will win the job at this point, which sets the stage for a truly wide-open competition that could easily extend deep into the preseason.
Kolb was Arizona’s marquee acquisition prior to the 2011 season, as they traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for him and then signed him to a six-year, $65 million contract prior to the season. Kolb’s first season in Arizona was derailed by a concussion, limiting him to nine games, and the team’s pursuit of Peyton Manning led to speculation he would not have his $7 million bonus for 2012 picked up. But Manning ultimately chose the Denver Broncos and the Cardinals retained Kolb.
Kolb was not particularly impressive when he was on the field in 2011, with only one 300-yard game (his first start) and three multi-touchdown games in his nine starts. It’s fair to mention he was injured early in his ninth game and only attempted one pass, but Kolb’s overall body of work-1,955 passing yards, nine touchdowns, eight interceptions, 57.7 percent completion percentage-was still not outstanding. Having a lockout-shortened offseason on a new team in a new system certainly didn’t do him any favors, so there’s a fair chance he can rebound in 2012. Kolb has mentioned his concussion issues lingered into the offseason, but that does not appear to be a significant concern now.
Skelton had a 5-2 record in games he started in 2011, as the Cardinals made a late-season run at a playoff spot that fell short. He was very productive at times, with five games with at least 271 passing yards (including the final four games of the season), but he also had five games with multiple interceptions as well. Skelton does not have a high career completion percentage in his two NFL seasons (52.6 percent), but his physical tools appear superior to Kolb’s and if he can win the job may have more fantasy potential despite his shortcomings.
Kolb has to be considered the front runner to win the starting job right now with the substantial investment the Cardinals have made in him, and he may have to completely fall on his face during the preseason or get injured to open the door for Skelton. Keep in mind he has only started 16 games during his career, so he still has a lot to prove as a long-term solution under center for the Cardinals. If Kolb does win the starting job, a fairly tough early season schedule (Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles) could lead to him struggling and a very short leash.
Skelton is likely to have to really outshine Kolb during training camp and preseason games to win the starting job, which is not out of the question at all. At the very least, he should get an equal opportunity to work with the starters and give everyone a solid look at what he can do. If Kolb struggles at any point this season, due to injury or otherwise, Cardinals’ head coach Ken Whisenhunt should have no problem making the switch to Skelton.
Whoever wins the starting job will have some talent at their disposal, with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, running back Chris Wells and 2012 first round pick wide receiver Michael Floyd all likely to play prominent roles in the Cardinals’ offense. Some of the team’s less prominent players, like wide receivers Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, running back Ryan Williams and tight end Rob Housler also have the potential to emerge this season and perhaps make the Arizona offense a source for under-the-radar production for fantasy owners.
When it comes to which Arizona quarterback fantasy football owners should target on draft day, whoever wins the job should only be regarded as a low-end QB2 in all league formats. Owners who are targeting Fitzgerald should not be too concerned about who winds up under center, but those who are considering the other receivers besides Floyd (who can be considered a WR3 or WR4 in single-season leagues and a top keeper league option) should leave those guys on the waiver wire unless you’re in a very deep league.