For fantasy football owners that choose to wait to draft a quarterback this year, there are plenty of good options, but most have some question marks. Two of those options, Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears are in that next tier and since they are widely ranked in the same range many owners may be trying to choose between the two in a similar regular draft round or auction dollar range.
The similarities don’t end there, as both Schaub and Cutler both missed the final six games of the regular season last year with injuries. Schaub had a right foot injury, a Lisfranc issue that required surgery, and Cutler a thumb injury suffered while making a tackle after an interception.
Both guys are healthy and ready for the season at this point, but which one should fantasy owners hold in higher regard on draft day?
Schaub threw for 2,479 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2011 over his 10 games, and he also completed 61 percent of his passes and added two rushing touchdowns. He did not throw the ball a lot, with 292 total attempts, and the one time he had 40 or more attempts in a game he completed less than half his passes. The Texans will likely remain a fairly run-oriented team behind running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but a fully healthy Andre Johnson back in action assures the passing game will not go completely away. Schaub topped 4,000 passing yards in both 2009 and 2010 with a combined 53 touchdowns and 27 interceptions over those two seasons.
It should be mentioned Schaub is entering the final year of his contract, so he should be plenty motivated to have a big season and prove he is worthy of a big contract from the Texans or perhaps another team. He does have some durability concerns, as he has played all 16 games just twice in five seasons as a starting quarterback, so any fantasy owner that does draft Schaub would be wise to secure another reliable quarterback in case he suffers another injury that requires him to miss a few games. The likelihood of inconsistent passing numbers on a weekly basis and injury concerns combine to keep Schaub out of the discussion regarding elite level fantasy quarterbacks.
Cutler was having a solid season in 2011 (2,319 passing yards, 13 touchdown, two 300-yard games) prior to the aforementioned thumb injury to his throwing hand, and losing Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator stands to benefit him as he will not be left as vulnerable to the opponent’s pass rush. In Martz’s place is offensive line coach Mike Tice, and a couple of Cutler’s allies from his time with the Denver Broncos were added this offseason as wide receiver Brandon Marshall was acquired via trade and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates was added to the coaching staff. The drafting of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in April and the signing of running back Michael Bush in free agency adds a couple more weapons to Chicago’s offensive arsenal.
Despite being one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler has not had any major durability concerns prior to last season as he started at least 15 games in each of the previous four seasons. His injury last season and the circumstance that led to it has to be considered a fluke to a large extent, and thus not likely to be repeated or a sign of being brittle. A knee injury (sprained MCL) he suffered in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers after the 2010 season is worth mentioning, due to the public criticism he faced after not re-entering the game, but the injury itself does little to suggest Cutler is injury-prone.
Both Schaub and Cutler are worth considering as a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2 in all fantasy formats, but the choice really comes down to who offers the most upside. With that the choice is clearly Cutler, since the Bears have added things this offseason to make him more comfortable and hopefully more productive, while Schaub lacks proven pass catching options beyond Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels and it would take a significant injury to Foster to alter their offensive gameplan much in normal game situations. Schaub is not without value and a certain level of appeal depending on how the rest of your roster comes together on draft day, but give me Cutler’s upside any day.