Once the NFL free agency market opens up on March 13th , Matt Flynn is going to be a very popular man. The first thing Flynn and his agent should do is drop a very nice Thank You note to Gunther Cunningham and the entire Detroit Lions defensive unit. Due to the ineptness of Gunther's boys and their wide nine (or is it wide open?) defense, Matt Flynn is going to be a very wealthy man. The vision of 480 yards, 6 touchdowns and hapless Lions defensive backs chasing Jordy Nelson is dancing in many a general manager's head. It is time for Flynn to start thinking about what sort of climate he wants to live in for the next few years. Miami, Washington, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City and Arizona will be dialing up his number come mid March. One thing is for certain. Whichever team Matt Flynn decides to sign with will anoint him their new starting quarterback. Whether or not that makes him a viable fantasy football starting quarterback is another matter altogether.
The obvious and easy way to look at Flynn's fantasy future would be to just look at what he has done to date in the NFL and extrapolate those numbers forward. We can toss out pre-season statistics and the few mop up duty appearances along the way and concentrate on the games in which Flynn had extensive playing time. That list consists of one half against Detroit, and a full game against New England in 2010 and last year's demolition of Detroit. In that two and a half game span Flynn put up over 900 yards, 9 total touchdowns and 5 total turnovers with an over 60% completion rate. Depending on scoring systems and how many points quarterbacks are awarded for touchdowns, Flynn averaged close to 30 fantasy points per those three games played (I am using 6 points for all touchdowns in my tabulations for this article). Nice, these numbers project out to over 45 TDs in a complete season and any fantasy owner would take that production in a heartbeat. Heck, we can even live with the over 20 possible turnovers that these numbers suggest. However, just like a Brett Favre retirement press conference, there is a bit of skullduggery afoot. Let's back up and examine the defenses that Flynn has put these impressive numbers up against. In 2010 the Lions' pass defense ranked 16th against the pass and actually shut Flynn out in their game. His numbers were a paltry 15 for 26 for 177 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. The Patriots of 2010 ranked 30th against the pass and it is that game where Flynn made his hay. The 2011 Lions pass defense ranked 22nd and we all know what Flynn did to them. So against two of the bottom ten pass defenses Matt Flynn put up very nice numbers with some very nice offensive weapons.
It is probably a very safe assumption that no matter where Flynn lands that he will not have a wide receiving corps that matches up to Greg Jennings , Jordy Nelson, JerMichael Finley and James Jones. Putting up the same numbers he did with the Packers receivers is an unlikely scenario even if he lands in the same system (hello Miami) as the talent level of his weapons is bound to be a lesser one. Simple extrapolation is obviously not the way to go. It is now time to look at some other quarterbacks who managed to parlay great numbers in limited experience into big paydays and starting gigs. It is an unwritten rule of journalism that any mention of quarterbacks who sign huge contracts and become a team's starter begins with one certain name. Scott Mitchell, come on down! Like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog day, Mitchell's name comes up when discussing over paying for free agents every March. However, we are only concerned with fantasy production for this article and need not concern ourselves with how much money Scott pocketed. So, in his years with the Lions (1994-1998), Mitchell managed to throw for more than 12,500 yards, with 86 total touchdowns and had 69 total turnovers. In 1994 Mitchell posted 36 total touchdowns and threw for over 4000 yards as the high water mark for his years in Detroit. That would have worked out to approximately 360 fantasy points and an absolutely nice year for his owners. However, the rest of his time in Detroit was an up and down (mostly down) rollercoaster that saw his final average fantasy points per game finish up at 15.8. That is definitely not what we are looking for from our number one fantasy quarterback.
OK, let's stop piling on Scott Mitchell as it is an old bit and has been done to death over the years. Also, being a native Detroiter and confessed Lions fan, it is getting hard to type through these tears. Actually, in all fairness to Mitchell, the NFL has changed quite a few rules in the years since his retirement that have helped quarterbacks put up much higher statistics. So what we need here is a contemporary of Matt Flynn for a more accurate comparison. Fortunately for us we have one in Matt Cassel. In 2008 Cassel had his best year as an NFL quarterback and took his talents from New England to Kansas City for the 2009 season and beyond. Much like the transition that Matt Flynn faces in the coming years, Cassel left Randy Moss and Wes Welker for Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley. Any fantasy owner who has been forced to try and ride Cassel to a league championship will not be surprised to learn that he has averaged approximately 15.3 fantasy points per game in his stint as the Chiefs' starting quarterback. Yep, those are Mitchell numbers my friends. Kevin Kolb and the debacle that was his first season in Arizona are also worth mentioning here as a cautionary tale of chasing potential fantasy points by a new starting NFL quarterback.
So what is the ultimate value of Matt Flynn in the pantheon of fantasy football? It is minimal at best in this humble writer's opinion. A possible late round pick as a low end number two quarterback. Let the NFL general managers fight over the services of Matt Flynn and avoid him come fantasy draft day. Grab someone like a Flacco, Dalton, or even a Freeman as your second quarterback before even considering Flynn. As always, in a dynasty league format it is a good idea to stash any starting quarterback on your bench if you have the space. In two starting quarterback leagues Flynn of course has value as do all starting NFL quarterbacks. However, in a re-draft format there is bound to be at least one of your league mates who buys into the pre season hype and bites on Flynn way too early. Do not be that owner. History tells us that the risk of mediocrity is too high and there will be plenty of proven fantasy point scoring quarterbacks we can get instead of Flynn.