Fantasy impact: Kurt Warner retires
In many ways,
Kurt Warner's NFL journey represents the American
Most of you know his story by now. The guy went to a no-name college and didn't play at all until he was a senior. He unsurprisingly went undrafted in the NFL, didn't catch on with the Packers in a tryout, worked in a grocery store, spent some time in the now defunct Arena League before finally catching on with the Rams ... only to be shipped off to the also defunct NFL Europe for a year before getting the opportunity to go back to St. Louis, sit on the bench for yet another year and watch the Rams finish a crappy 4-12.
Then, when finally given the opportunity (only because of a season-ending injury to the incumbent QB1 Trent Green), he and the perennially sorry Rams blindsided the entire NFL. Warner amassed one of best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for 4,353 yards, 41 touchdown passes and led the team to a highly unexpected Super Bowl victory. It was like watching a novice golfer suddenly sink not just one hole-in-one, but several of them on a single round.
Really, what's not to like about that? Some athletes are simply born with an absurd amount of talent and seem to effortlessly find their place, while others (like Warner) have to scratch and claw every inch of the way. How many of us can relate to the latter a little more than the former?
Because he was already 28 years old when he played his first full season for the Rams, Warner was only a few years away from being a journeyman. After leaving St. Louis, he struggled with injuries for a few seasons, didn't make much of an impact and seemed to be riding off into the sunset.
Then, with Matt Leinart not catching on to the Arizona offense as consistently as he should, the Cardinals turned to Warner as a full-time starter. He surprised everyone again by clicking with the loaded Cardinal arsenal and was within minutes of leading a historically inept and luckless franchise to a Super Bowl victory. He finally called it a career after this season. Matt, you've got some shoes to fill, buddy!
Leinart, a prodigy quarterback at USC who some pundits thought possessed traits similar to those we've seen in the greatest to ever play the position, will presumably take the reins of this offense yet again.
As recently as last year, Warner was ranked among the top three or four fantasy quarterbacks. Considering the Cardinals have such an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver, a strong rushing attack and solid offensive line, you'd have to imagine the majority of quarterbacks in the league could light up the scoreboard.
We don't have a lot of data to work with on Leinart; he looked somewhat promising as a rookie in 2006, but hasn't shown much besides injuries and inconsistent play since. He'll no longer have Warner as a crutch to lean on, so it's now or never for him to produce.
I don't envision he'll do so at the same level Warner did since we haven't really seen it from him often enough. That means the fantasy value of Arizona's big three wideouts ( Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston) takes a temporary downtick.
I think Ken Whisenhunt may try to run the ball a bit more, which increases the value of Beanie Wells and possibly means Tim Hightower will do more than just catch passes out of the backfield. At least until Leinart shows a little more consistency, the Cardinals may - gasp - become more of a run-oriented team. Stay tuned.