The fantasy value of Matt Leinart started to rise the very second Kurt Warner announced his retirement from the National Football League. I don’t think it falls with the addition of Derek Anderson.
Outside of a tremendous 2007 season, Anderson has shown little reason to think he can be an impact player in fantasy leagues. Over the last two seasons, he’s thrown for a combined 2,503 yards with 12 touchdowns and 23 turnovers (18 interceptions, five fumbles lost).
OK, he was part of an offense in Cleveland that had a limited passing game. But I would still argue that Leinart has far more upside from a fantasy perspective.
He also seems to have the support of his coach, Ken Whisenhunt.
“I feel very good where Matt is right now,” Whisenhunt told a Phoenix radio station. “Matt’s ready to take the reins and be the quarterback that we all feel he can be.”
Whisenhunt isn’t about to hand Leinart the top spot on the depth chart, though, either. In fact, Anderson will be allowed a chance to win the starting job. But when asked about an imminent competition, the coach did like Leinart’s response.
“After it was reported where I said, ‘Matt’s going to compete for the job,’ his response to that was he’d look forward to that competition,” Whisenhunt said. “Matt said he was going to show us that he was ready to play. To me, that was a great sign of maturity and that’s the kind of thing we’ve been looking forward to seeing from Matt.”
Admittedly, I still have my reservations about Leinart. He’s been anything but consistent at this level and is an obvious fantasy downgrade from Warner. But he’ll be motivated to prove his critics wrong, and the presence of Anderson should light a fire under him.
Leinart also has the advantage of an offense loaded with talent. The backfield has an up-and-coming duo of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the elite wide receivers in the league.
Leinart has also been able to learn from Warner, and the NFL’s evolution into a passing league has become a positive for fantasy quarterbacks. That’s not to say that you should take Leinart as your fantasy starter, but he is worth a reserve spot in the late rounds with the potential to be a matchup-based starter.