A rookie last year, Skelton only saw time as a starter after week 13 due to particularly poor play from Matt Leinart, Derrick Anderson and Max Hall. A 5th round selection out of Fordham, Skelton did have some hype entering the draft as a strong armed, intelligent and high character prospect. Eventually seeing the field in 2010, Skelton looked very much the rookie, with stats to match.
But always one to take great interest in a long-shot quarterback getting his first starts as a professional, I watched a large majority of Skelton’s snaps. What I saw was enough for me to suggest an immediate addition to your roster.
Skelton’s stats, 60/126, 662 yards and a TD/INT ratio of 2/2 leaves much to be desired but one can’t expect stellar numbers out of the gate, especially for a rookie. For a quarterback, the game doesn’t begin to slow down until late in their first season as a starter, and many times, well into their second season. Each quarterback is different based on intelligence, time under center and a myriad of intangibles, but rare are those that have great success in a short number of starts.
What particularly intrigued me about Skelton was the comfort and poise that he exhibited. He never looked flustered, out of control or overly confused – You might say he resembled the polar opposite of Matt Leinart. On display was Skelton’s strong arm and nice ball, he simply spins it very well. It’s no coincidence that following the insertion of Skelton, all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald returned to form catching 21 balls for 276 yards and 1 TD in his final three games. Prior to Skelton, Fitzgerald’s last 100 yard game came in a week 9 tilt vs. MIN.
But what does the future hold for John Skelton?
Much like Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen, Skelton finds himself in a tough situation. Skelton showed enough to provide hope for the future but head coaches and veteran players don’t often bank on hope, they need results. It’s been reported, and denied, that Larry Fitzgerald has lobbied for a veteran signal caller. Fitzgerald isn’t a malcontent and certainly is justified in his desire to have veteran leadership or ability at the quarterback position. A team will only go as far as their QB can take them. The question is now whether Arizona’s brass believes that Skelton can provide enough ability and leadership to be that quarterback in the near-term.
In short, it’s too much to ask for Skelton to put the Cardinals on his shoulders with only four games of experience, even with an entire off-season to prepare. Unless the team is willing to lower expectations for 2011 and give Skelton a full year to gain experience, they must bring in a veteran. Names such as Donovan McNabb, Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Hasselbeck could all provide near-term leadership and production. Beyond veteran ability, the Cardinals also possess the 5th pick in the 2011 NFL draft and have been said to like both Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert.
But there is another scenario that could play to Skelton’s benefit.
If veteran leadership is desired, then another rookie QB selection with their fifth pick may not be in the cards (no pun intended). It is possible that coach Whisenhut has seen enough from Skelton to believe that he could be the long term answer given more time, either behind a veteran signal caller or as the starter. Arizona has also been linked to OLB Von Miller with their first pick, who would be an immediate upgrade to their defense. But I would also advise our readers to consider the possibility that with two high profile receivers quickly rising on draft boards, that the Cardinals could opt for an immediate upgrade to their offense with a selection of A.J. Green or Julio Jones. One of these receivers is nearly certain to be available when the Cardinals are on the clock. An offense with Fitzgerald and A.J. Green/Julio Jones would be very intriguing for any quarterback in the system, veteran or not.
For Skelton, the odds are stacked against him for being the starter in 2011. It’s far more likely that the Cardinals will bring in a veteran (my money is on McNabb) and allow Skelton to gain experience as his understudy. But there does exist enough potential that Skelton must be rostered in every dynasty league. If he is a free agent and you are in need of a QB, Skelton can be added in the late first round or early second round of your rookie/free agent draft should the Cardinals not select a QB in the first two rounds. Be sure to rank him appropriately with the incoming crop of rookie QBs this year based on situation.
For John Skelton, the 2011 NFL draft will be the key to his future career. It’s my belief that the last four games of 2010 were enough to dissuade the Cardinals from spending a high draft pick on the position. We’ll update the situation further after the draft.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff