BY DAVID KOMER
Derek Anderson: Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI
One of the quietest off-season NFL free agency moves made late last week might end up being one of the biggest for this fall.
The Arizona Cardinals added some quarterback insurance by signing former Cleveland Brown Derek Anderson to a two-year deal, giving the team, as well as Larry Fitzgerald fantasy owners in dynasty and legacy leagues, an interesting insurance policy at one of the biggest unsettled positions in fantasy land.
The Cardinals have always been a fantasy football destination team on draft day but with Kurt Warner's retirement and Matt Leinart's (lack of) a track record, Arizona didn't look as good heading into 2010. Despite the loss of Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, Arizona's receiver trio of Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet as well as the two-headed backfield of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower remain one of the best offensive cores of draftable fantasy talent on teams not named Saints, Colts or Vikings.
Enter Anderson, who has one of the strongest arms in football and would be a perfect play-action quarterback in the pocket for the Cards. But on the downside, is coming off two rough years as the Browns' organization cratered. Bottom line: I love his upside as either a late-round flier or as a Leinart handcuff.
Leinart most likely is a late-middle round pick probably going in rounds 6-8 and in many cases will probably be a QB2. Anderson would be a cheap insurance policy with a chance of paying off big.
Leinart will have the inside track going forward according to this report and this report, but the Cardinals are paying him first-round money and have to see what it has in the former USC Heisman winner.
My bold prediction is that Anderson could wrest the job by the beginning of the season or at the latest, midway. The results would be a massive fantasy football aftershock that would be felt far and wide not the least because: A) the position is at the helm of one of the league's top 10 offenses, and B) Anderson's draft position will be late at best and he'll be a low-risk gamble on draft day.
Since his rookie year in 2006, Leinart has not only lost the starting position to Warner three times, but also has been injured twice. First in 2006 he suffered a sprained left (throwing) shoulder, then in 2007 was felled by a collarbone fracture.
While Warner's eventual renaissance was met with stops and starts on the depth chart behind Leinart the past few years, the position was his for good after a rough three-interception outing in week three of 2008's preseason.
Lastly, Leinart has struggled when in the lineup. For his career, he's completed 57 percent of his passes for roughly 2,500 yards, 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Anderson's stay in Cleveland started out well enough, as the Oregan State alum was a waiver-wire wonder picked after getting cut by the Ravens. In 2007 he broke out to the tune of nearly 3,800 yards and 29 touchdown passes as he and Braylon Edwards became two of fantasy football's biggest breakout stars.
But in 2008 the drafting of then-quarterback of the future Brady Quinn, and a concussion that wiped out that preseason was just the beginning of two rocky years and an ugly parting of the ways in which he called out the city of Cleveland and later apologized in a messy breakup last week.
The past two seasons he's passed for 2,500 yards, 12 touchdowns and 18 interceptions being shuffled in and out of the lineup for Quinn while the franchise underwent massive changes.
It also didn't help that top target Edwards led the league in 2008 with 16 dropped passes and that by last season after he was jettisoned to the New York Jets, Anderson was throwing to a makeshift collection of rookies, castoffs and projects.
Both quarterbacks turn 27 this year and unlike Leinart, Anderson has had his breakthrough once before, and is looking at a chance at redemption. He'll also be playing with the most talented surrounding cast trumping anything he had with the Browns, so be prepared to watch the position battle and keep a late draft pick handy for one of this year's biggest sleepers.
With so many March Madness brackets now reduced to rubble, fantasy college tournament basketball marches on. For scoring purposes, I used a common fantasy basketball formula of points scored + free throws made, rebounds and assists x2 and three-pointers, steals and blocks x 3.
Using an old-school fantasy sports recipe (calculator, box score, pad of paper and elbow grease), I introduced last week the possibility to stretch one's tourney enjoyment past the point of bracket predictions into player predictions, tabulating drafted players' totals as the tournament wears on, with the highest team total of points winning.
Here's the top 20 overall in scoring according to my method through two rounds.
1. Wes Johnson, Syracuse, 150
2. Jordan Crawford, Xavier, 145
3. Jimmer Fredette, BYU, 144
4. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, 141
5. Evan Turner, Ohio State, 138
6. Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia, 137
6. Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 137
8. Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's, 134
9. D.J. Cooper, Ohio, 132
10. Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, 123
11. Armon Bassett, Ohio, 122
11. Andy Rautins, Syracuse, 122
13. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, 119
14. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky, 118
15. Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest, 115
15. Shelvin Mack, Butler, 115
15. Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary's 115
18. LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, 114
19. Louis Dale, Cornell, 113
19. Kyle Singler, Duke, 113
For those who missed the chance last week or felt that the drafting from such a large field was daunting, one can also try a Sweet 16 draft and still enjoy the last two weekends of college hoops, fantasy style.