2012 Fantasy Football Preview: What Sort of Year Will Matt Schaub Have?

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Year after year in the fantasy universe, thousands begin their quest to find one of the most precious relics of fantasy football, the bounce back player. The bounce back is often like a four leaf clover: you think you finally picked one, but in the end, it’s just nothing. Just another three leaf…just another never was…

One potential candidate is Matt Schaub. Schaub has to be one of the most peculiar players in fantasy football. I actually drafted Schaub for the first time ever last year, only to trade him away a day later for Peyton Manning. You might think this doomed my season, but it actually saved me. It was a keeper league and I ended up having to move for a young quarterback because of Manning's injury and acquired the young Cam Newton. So, instead of not winning a championship and hovering in mediocrity for years, the Schaub deal put me in a situation in which ended up acquiring a valuable asset.

But that is neither here or there…

Well a little bit Schaub moments after spending some significant value on him for a player who at the time could have potentially not played another game in his career should indicate how I felt about  Schaub. This year, it is no better.

The first thing to do with a bounce back candidate is to identify what he will bounce back to. Schaub, since he was injured for most of last season, would have to bounce back to his 2009 and 2010 seasons where Schaub averaged a bit over 4500 yards passing and 26 passing touchdowns.  Owners would prefer his 2009 (4770 passing yards and 29 TDs), however that may be difficult in the new Texans design.

Back then life was good for a Schaub owner. A healthy Andre Johnson, pre-Arian Foster and Ben Tate  (and their  450 plus attempts) and a Schaub who finally played his first full season and was brimming with confidence. Times have changed. Last year saw Schaub miss a significant portion of the season with another injury, and his back up, TJ Yates, marched the Texans into the playoffs.  In 2009 Houston had a dysfunctional backfield and a defense which performed on a level significantly lower than what you saw from them last year which required the Texans to air the ball out.  But 2011 showcased a different Houston team, one which won with defense, running the ball and controlling the tempo.

Although this year’s defense doesn’t look like it can match its performance of last year with Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans departing, Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has upgraded the functionality of the unit as a whole. The Texans no longer need to go to the air to make up for their defensive woes. In addition, Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s storied zone blocking scheme, perfected in the last decade as Offensive Coordinator with the Denver Broncos, has finally been established in Houston and is shredding opposing defenses to the tune of 4.5 yards a carry (with 546 (!) rush attempts last year).

Finally, Andre Johnson is already hurt in training camp. In 5 games without Johnson last season, Schaub threw for more than 300 yards just once and only passed for more than 2 touchdowns once (he did run for a couple of touchdowns, but that is way too unpredictable to factor in with a player like Schaub). These factors carve a much different Texans landscape for this upcoming season in comparison to 2009.

Another key point is that the division is not what it was three years ago. Schaub and the Texans offense aren’t required to keep up with the likes of Peyton Manning anymore. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans offenses, led by Maurice Jones Drew and a Chris Johnson who eclipsed 2000 yards rushing, were better than they are this year. It will be smart for Head Coach Gary Kubiak to lean on Foster and Tate in that impressive zone blocking scheme to run the ball, control the clock and not need Schaub to go out there and win games.

He is not a bad quarterback. He boasts impressive accuracy displayed in his constantly strong completion percentages. He also doesn't fumble a ton or throw an absurd amount of picks, but the situation Schaub is in does depresses his value more despite his actual skill.  If you couple this factor with the meteoric rise of passing offenses throughout the league, even if Schaub could or does potentially bounce back to his 2009 season, it won't be the top five fantasy finish that we saw then.

This concept from a fantasy owner’s perspective shouldn’t be overlooked. Schaub bouncing back to his numbers does not necessarily bounce him back to his rank amongst quarterbacks.  And that is what really matters, his value over replacement. Schaub must bounce back to the top 5 to duplicate his 2009 and bounce back to the top 10 to repeat his 2010, and  it appears in this NFL and on this version of the Texans it probably won't happen.

From a fantasy perspective, there are guys with higher ceilings and more potential.  Jay Cutler has upside with newly acquired Brandon Marshall as does Josh Freeman with his running capabilities and new toy named Vincent Jackson. Or if it means reaching for a more reliable guy that has a greater ceiling like a Matt Ryan or Robert Griffin III (depending on how your league and owners tend to be enticed by the flashy RG3 pick), go for that.

Schaub most likely will lead his team to a division title and perhaps another playoff win. He will more than likely play thebest out of his fellow AFC South quarterbacks. What Schaub will not do is bounce back to a top 5, or even top 10, fantasy quarterback. Owning Schaub is not a move to be made for an owner to win the championship; either pay for the stud who gives you the consistent twenty five points a game or the high ceiling player who pushes you over the top. Do not just hover in mediocrity.

Written by Matthew Martins exclusively for For more great fantasy football advice, follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_Martins.

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