Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Charlie in Charge?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


In a previous blog post I was asked my thoughts on the Charlie Whitehurst trade and what it means for his Dynasty value. Specifically, how should he be valued versus incoming rookies Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen?

Any examination of Whitehurst has to start with his preseason stats because he has no regular season passing experience whatsoever. Through four years in the league, he's been unable to leapfrog Billy Volek as the primary backup in San Diego. His NFL game is truly terra incognita right now.

About those preseason numbers? They're ugly. In 14 games Whitehurst has completed just 52.8 percent of his passes at 5.2 yards per attempt, a 5:7 TD-to-INT ratio, six fumbles (three in one game) and a 61.5 passer rating. If you're looking for a silver lining, Whitehurst did show modest improvement in 2009, upping the numbers to 56.7 percent, 6.4 yards per attempt and a 2:2 TD-to-INT ratio.

For comparison's sake, let's take a look at the pre-season numbers of Aaron Rodgers and Kevin Kolb before they ascended to starting jobs. Unfortunately, NFL.com does not carry preseason data before 2006, so Rodgers' first season is missing. In his next two years, Rogers completed 60.7 percent of his passes at 7.3 yards per attempt, a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and a passer rating near 100. Kolb completed the same 60.7 percent of his passes at 5.8 yards per attempt with a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and a passer rating in the mid 80s.

Preseason data isn't available for Matt Schaub's Atlanta years, but we do know that he completed 52.2 percent of his passes at 6.4 yards per attempt with a 6:6 TD-to-INT in a handful of regular season starts with the Falcons.

Whitehurst's preseason stats pale in comparison to those of Rodgers and Kolb, and Schaub outperformed him while playing against superior defenses. In short, Whitehurst's numbers inspire little confidence that he's ready to take over an NFL offense.

Is it all negative for Whitehurst, though? The Cardinals and Seahawks both pursued him in a bidding war this offseason, so the two teams obviously saw something they liked on film. Whitehurst has ideal size (6'5/220), good bloodlines (his father David was an NFL QB with the Packers and Chiefs from 1977-84), and a pro arm. Seahawks GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll both liked him at Clemson and have spoken highly of his intangibles, "swagger," and work ethic.

For a refresher on Whitehurst's pre-draft scouting report, he threw better than any quarterback at the 2006 NFL Combine not named Jay Cutler (and actually outplayed Cutler at the Senior Bowl). He ran a forty in the mid 4.7s, showing above average speed and athleticism to go with his NFL arm. The bottom line was the same then as it is now: an enigma with plenty of talent lacking in consistency.

Whitehurst's two-year, $8-$10 million contract all but guarantees that he's the starter of the future -- possibly as soon as mid-season in 2010. While Schneider and Carroll have staked their futures to the unproven quarterback, Chargers GM A.J. Smith reacted like "the cat who ate the canary" after exchanging 2010 second-round picks with the Seahawks and picking up a third-round pick in 2011.

"We just fell into it," Smith said of landing a relative windfall for his third-string quarterback. "I presented a package to them that I thought was attractive to us, and it's accepted. They wanted the player. And that's how it went down." As SI.com's Don Banks pointed out: "It feels like the words 'lo and behold' should be in that quote somewhere, but I checked, and they're not." When Banks informed Smith that he seemed to have gotten the better end of the deal, the Chargers GM smugly laughed and replied, "Your words, not mine."

Smith has seen Whitehurst up close and personal for four years. In this circumstance, I trust his judgment over that of Schneider of Carroll, who have seen him in limited action on film. Frankly, it's hard for me to get excited about the Charlie Whitehurst era in Seattle.

Fantasy-wise, Whitehurst's potential is extremely limited the next two seasons even if he plays beyond his underwhelming preseason stats. His offensive line is well below average, and his best weapon is an aging possession receiver with little playmaking ability. He comes in at No. 28 in my latest Dynasty rankings, sandwiched between Alex Smith and Kyle Orton -- two unreliable quarterbacks with job security issues beyond 2010. For comparison's sake, Sam Bradford will likely debut in the No. 17-20 area while Clausen's is unlikely to break the mid-to-late 20s, pending his NFL landing spot.

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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
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