Josh Freeman was among the best surprises last year when he shook off a preseason thumb injury to defy expectations and finish as the No. 8 quarterback in standard leagues. The Tampa Bay passer was a breakout Fantasy option.
Now Fantasy owners want to know if he can do it again, and we think he can. The prediction here is Freeman will repeat as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback.
There are many people who doubt Freeman will be a starting Fantasy option in the majority of leagues. His Average Draft Position has him as the No. 11 quarterback, and he is being selected at No. 76 overall in Round 7.
But in several drafts I've done -- including our latest 12-team standard draft -- Freeman was selected as a backup quarterback. Not everyone is ready to trust him as the starter for their Fantasy team despite last year's performance when he had 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and 68 carries for 364 yards and three fumbles.
The knocks on him are that last year was a fluke, he plays in a tough division in the NFC South, his weapons are overrated and his stats, while good overall, were marginal week to week. Those are all fair points.
But if you look a little closer, you'll see Freeman was almost a Top 6 Fantasy quarterback. He had 291 Fantasy points, and the No. 6 passer in standard leagues last year was Drew Brees at 327.
Freeman was one of four quarterbacks to have at least 60 rushing attempts (Michael Vick, David Garrard and Aaron Rodgers were the others). Each had at least four rushing touchdowns with an average of six. Give Freeman the average and he matches Brees at 327 points.
Now, no one is suggesting Freeman is as good as Brees or should be considered a Top 6 quarterback on Draft Day. But we like his weapons with Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn in the receiving corps and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. They are only going to get better after last year's success.
Freeman also did a great job this offseason organizing workouts during the lockout, and he has proven to be an accurate passer. His touchdown to interception ratio of nearly 5:1 was second in the NFL to only Tom Brady at 8:1.
His confidence is also high. Warren Sapp, the former Bucs standout defensive lineman and current Inside the NFL analyst on Showtime, said Freeman is "an MVP candidate this year." Freeman is taking all the accolades in stride, but he's ready to go this season. And he's 100 percent healthy now as compared to last year when he started off dealing with a thumb injury.
"I feel a lot more prepared," Freeman said recently. "Last year at this time I could barely even grip a football. It was definitely a nervous time, very anxious going into that first game. This year everybody's healthy, everybody's ready to rock and roll."
We're looking forward to Freeman making plenty of noise with his game. And he could be an outstanding Fantasy option on Draft Day. So let the other owners in your league pass on him because they're not sold on him being a starter.
You should have confidence that Freeman is ready to repeat as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback in 2011.