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Fantasy Football Mystery Man

If I told you there was a quarterback who averaged over 275 passing yards over the last ten games and threw at least one touchdown in all but two of those games, would you be interested?

If I told you that he did all that without any prior practice with his wide receivers and teammates would that impress you any more?

If I told you this quarterback has four wide receivers in the top 100 wide receiver rankings and is currently being drafted in the QB22-QB27 range would you think there is some value to be had?

The player I’m talking about is none other than Carson Palmer.

After finally having enough of Cincinnati, Carson Palmer went head-to-head with Mike Brown and refused to play another down for the Bengals, even if it meant having to retire and leave millions behind. Brown had said multiple times that Palmer could retire, but he would not give in to his demands. All that changed when Jason Campbell went down in week six. The relationship between Mike Brown and then Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson paved the way for a blockbuster trade. The Raiders gave a 2012 first round pick and what turned out to be a second round pick in 2013 for Palmer.

The intention was not for Palmer to play before the team’s bye in week eight. Unfortunately for him though, Kyle Boller was the guy starting the game in week seven. So, after only a couple of practices and a couple of days off the couch, he entered the game in relief of the always ineffective Boller – it wasn’t pretty unless you were a Chiefs fan. Palmer threw three interceptions that day and just 116 passing yards. Of course, everyone overreacted and destroyed the Raiders for making the trade. Truth be told, Palmer has never played with the type of speed the Raiders are built on. Chad Ochocinco, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Jordan Shipley – none of them have the speed of Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Jacoby Ford. Only the late Chris Henry had “Raiders speed.” Expecting Palmer to step in day one and be the 2007 version was ridiculous and unfair.

The knock on Palmer is the fact he threw 16 interceptions in nine and a half games last season with three coming in the first two games each and another stinker in week 14 against the Packers where he threw four more. Palmer has always had a habit of throwing picks, that isn’t anything new. At least he’s not afraid to give his wide receivers a chance to make plays.

He also threw for more than 300 yards five times (week ten was actually 299, yards but I’m trying to make a point here) including a 417 yard effort in week 17 against the Chargers.

Considering the Raiders’ wide receiving corps was only truly at full strength with Palmer once (the week 17 game he threw for 417 yards), it’s all the more impressive to me. Moore, Heyward-Bey, and Ford all flashed with Palmer under center. This group of young receivers has the potential to be one of the very best in the league. Moore is electric and entering just his second year. The much debated skills of Heyward-Bey finally showed up last year in his third season and Jacoby Ford, if he can stay healthy, has shown the ability to be a gamechanger with the ball in his hands. Now you add fifth round rookie Juron Criner who has shown up to play in training camp and you can argue that Palmer has the strongest group of pass catchers he’s ever had.

Oh yeah, did I mention the Raiders have a guy named Darren McFadden to keep defenses honest? There is no arguing that RunDMC is the most talented running back Palmer has played with in the pros. When on the field, the guy is lightning in a bottle – a true threat to take to ball to the house with every touch. McFadden and Palmer will benefit from each other in ways the other has never experienced. McFadden will see wide open running lanes and Palmer will see safeties eyeing McFadden instead of Heyward-Bey and Moore streaking down the field.

If you ignore the week seven game against Kansas City that he entered halfway through and you compare his rest of the year stats of week nine through week 17 against the field, you will see that Palmer actually finished as the QB10. That’s right between Eli Manning (23.2*) and Mike Vick (19.5*) with a 20.4 point per game* average. Given the circumstances, that impresses me.

Palmer is coming off the board anywhere from the QB22 to QB27 range. In a 12 team league, that is a low end QB2 or completely undrafted. Guys like Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Sam Bradford, and Matt Schaub are all being drafted in front of Palmer and in my opinion none of these guys offer the ceiling of Carson Palmer.

I’m not suggesting you build your team around Palmer but he is the perfect guy to pair with a quarterback that carries an injury risk like Mikael Vick, Matthew Stafford, or Ben Roethlisberger. If you draft one of the big name rookies, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, or if you miss out on the top tier quarterbacks and end up with Flacco, Dalton, Bradford, or Schaub, I strongly urge you to get a guy like Palmer. Teams that draft Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham in the first round usually fall victim to this scenario unless they really neglect the wide receiver and running back position. Running backs are so scarce this season that I see a lot of people turning the clocks back to the old strategy of going RB-RB-RB with their first three picks. That scenario too brings guys like Palmer into play.

Of all the quarterbacks being drafted in the 16-30 range, Carson Palmer has the best chance, in my opinion, to crack the top ten this season. Barring injury, I cannot see how he won’t crack 4,000 yards passing and at least 25 touchdowns. Unfortunately, I can’t convince myself he won’t throw 15+ interceptions either, but you have to take the good with the bad. Simply put, he’s a great guy to have if you’re a competing dynasty team or need a veteran to pull you through while you groom a young stud like Luck or Griffin.

 *Points were based off a scoring system of 1 point for 20 yards passing, 1 point for 10 yards rushing, 6 points for all touchdowns, and -2 for all turnovers.

 Hit me up on Twitter @OlingerIDPGuru.

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