Byron Leftwich not an exciting fantasy option

April, 13, 2009

Upon hearing that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had signed free agent quarterback Byron Leftwich to a two-year deal, my first thought had nothing to do with the perennial NFC South contenders: I wondered who would end up slingin' it for the New York Jets. Hey, that's just more interesting to me, and I doubt I'm the only one. The hunt continues for Brett Favre's replacement!

Leftwich is an NFL quarterback, an experienced arm who has proven he can, in times of health, lead a team to the playoffs and make the occasional play, but there's not a whole lot of upside there statistically. Leftwich doesn't make my initial top-20 at quarterback, but then again, neither did Luke McCown.

Are the Buccaneers so unexciting for fantasy football purposes that we merely overlook whomever their quarterback is? Well, in a word, yeah. Maybe that's not entirely fair, especially since the Buccaneers have new leadership with the Jon Gruden era over, but I can't assume Leftwich, even if he does win the starting nod, will be near a worthy fantasy starter. Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese weren't, and is Leftwich any better?

First of all, let's assume in the best-case scenario Leftwich wins the starting nod over Luke McCown if he has a strong training camp and preseason. By numerous accounts the Buccaneers were involved in the sad Jay Cutler sweepstakes, and while McCown might or might not be a legit starting NFL quarterback -- we might never know, really -- Leftwich certainly has more experience, and will make a lot more money. That generally translates to opportunity. Maybe this is a real competition, and if so, I say that's just wonderful, but I still won't be targeting the starter. I'd be more inclined to give McCown a chance in fantasy, seeing if there really is upside there.

When last we saw Leftwich he was getting into a few games backing up Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, winning a ring and throwing 37 passes, including the postseason. It was obvious Leftwich, who played well in glimpses of action, would bolt for a starting role. I guess I always expected it would be to the Jets, but hey, opportunity knocked in west Florida. It's not like Leftwich won't have weapons, after all. The Buccaneers already made major offseason news by showing Kellen Winslow the richest contract a tight end has ever received, and Antonio Bryant had a terrific season with little help. This isn't the Patriots, but hey, the Buccs do have weapons.

The best Leftwich, 29, did for years starting in Jacksonville was toss 15 touchdown passes and reach 2,941 yards. Durability was always a problem, and to be fair he never had the best weapons to throw to. The Buccaneers might have those weapons now, but I don't entirely trust their quarterback options. It doesn't make me downgrade Winslow, a potential top-5 tight end or Bryant, possibly top-10 at wide receiver, but at the same time it sure would have been nice had the team ended up with Cutler. Giving an ordinary signal caller like Leftwich, options to throw to don't change who he is.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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