Debate Series: Matt Ryan vs. Kevin Kolb

by Tim Heaney and Cory J. Bonini on August 6, 2010 @ 17:30:00 PDT


Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Sexiness doesn't always sell, but fantasy footballers are still frequently fickle. Looking at the mid- to low-range No. 1 slingers for 2010 drafts, many are pointing to the Philadelphia Eagles' Kevin Kolb as the next upward-moving option. Why have so many forgotten about Ryan, who as a rookie in 2008 laid the groundwork for a promising fantasy career?

  • Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
    Matty Ice warming for growth
    Matty Ice isn't skunky anymore. He appears fully recovered from the toe injury that knocked him out for a couple of games and caused him to stumble late last year. He has spent this offseason tinkering with his footwork and studying the mannerisms of Peyton Manning and other elite throwers.
  • Even with the general step back in his sophomore year, Ryan found the end zone once in every 12.0 completions to pass for six more touchdowns (22) than his rookie campaign. It doesn't hurt to have Pro Bowl targets in wideout Roddy White (a top-notch deep threat) and tight end Tony Gonzalez. The latter was a huge red zone target in his first Atlanta season. Maybe the Falcons will have another weapon if the talented Harry Douglas (knee) can open up the underneath game.
  • Kolb held a clipboard for three seasons. Heading into his third year in the league, Ryan is also entering his third year directing Mike Mularkey's balanced offense. The O still leans to the run, but Atlanta wants to take some burden of Michael Turner's shoulders; sticking to this plan puts Ryan in place for statistical growth. The OC has been focusing on improving the vertical department with more deep-pass and no-huddle setups during offseason workouts.
  • Andy Reid's offense is kind to its quarterback's fantasy numbers. Problem is Kolb only started two games last season. In Week 2, he threw 51 times and compiled 391 yards but was picked off three times while playing catch-up against the New Orleans Saints. In Week 3, he went 24-for-34 with 327 yards and two scores ... against the always dangerous Kansas City Chiefs. This is a sound argument for your fantasy QB1? Kolb might have more weapons, but does he have the arm and awareness to take advantage of them? That isn't bankable this year. What about Michael Vick? Ryan's only PT threat is injury.

Closing argument: Ryan and Kolb are being drafted in the same tier of upside quarterbacks. Despite his essentially run-first system, Ryan has a shorter statistical bridge to cross for approaching 4,000 yards. There's probably slightly more upside to Kolb because of Philly's aerial attack, but his value looks more system-oriented than talent-based. Give me the QB with enough starting experience to make a leap based on a better combination of talent and scheme.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy owners are opting for the first-year Eagles' starter in the seventh round, on average, which illustrates Kolb's potential. Entering his fourth year, the Houston product gets his chance to shine, and fantasy leaguers have taken note of his upside. When looking for a breakout quarterback, potential can't be the only attribute to lean on. Kolb also has talent - and a lot of it.

  • Philadelphia Eagles QB Kevin Kolb
    Kolb has more pop potential
    While he hasn't had much starting experience in his short career - two games to be precise - Kolb's limited body of work is hard to ignore. He passed for 391 yards in his first start while playing catch-up against the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints. He followed up that performance with a Week 3 thumping of the Chiefs (70.6 percent, 327 yards, three total touchdowns).
  • Kolb gained valuable knowledge of the system in his three years as a backup to veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb (Redskins). The fact Philly traded McNabb to a division rival speaks - screams - volumes of the level confidence the brain trust has in Kolb.
  • Accuracy is his biggest strength. Ryan posted a respectable 61.1 completion percentage as a rookie but regressed last year. It could have been do to his toe injury, but Ryan was never very accurate in college (62.1 percent was his best). Philadelphia's West Coast offense is centered on the accuracy of its quarterback.
  • The Eagles boast more weapons than the Falcons; wideouts DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant top the list. Don't forget 2009 breakout tight end Brent Celek, who Kolb has a great rapport with, and running back LeSean McCoy's hands are far superior to those of Turner.
  • Philly's system is designed to pass and pass a lot. You can't say the same about Atlanta's conservative approach without chuckling.

Closing argument: If you want a fairly safe, low-upside No. 1 fantasy quarterback, choose Ryan. He isn't flashy, and there isn't much to be excited about. Why? System limitations and individual talent restrictions will probably hold Ryan back most of his career. He'll be a fine NFL quarterback - win a lot of games - but doesn't have a snowball's prayer in you know where to take his game to an elite fantasy level in this current system. Kolb may throw more interceptions, but he should easily out-toss Ryan in yardage and probably in the TD column.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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