What impact will Tarvaris Jackson have on the Seahawks' offense?
When Brad Childress drafted Jackson in the second round of the 2006 draft, he thought he was playing genius. Jackson had attended Alabama State and was projected to be something between a fifth- and seventh-rounder, but Childress traded away two third-round picks to move up to grab Jackson, who at the time was the first FCS quarterback to get drafted since Spergon Wynn in 2000. Whoops.
In his five seasons with the Vikings, Jackson went from developmental prospect to starter to bust to pariah. He threw 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and never passed for even 2,000 yards in a single season. But Jackson is still only 28 years old, and the Seahawks are hitching their 2010 wagon to him. They hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to install the exact system with which Jackson is already familiar, setting up a "camp competition" which wasn't really a competition at all: Jackson will beat out Charlie Whitehurst and start Week 1 for Seattle.
Don't mistake this for good news. Jackson is a tease, a good athlete who by all accounts grasps the team's offensive concepts just fine. But when live game action hits, he perpetually seems just a half-tick off. He jumps around in the pocket when he feels pressure. He picks a bad moment to throw off his back foot. He gets too quick with his reads and throws into coverage. Jackson isn't a disaster of a quarterback; we're not talking Derek Anderson here. His career completion percentage is a respectable 58.7 percent. But he's the guy who banged knees with Adrian Peterson late last year, sending All Day to the bench during the fantasy playoffs. It's always something.
Methinks Seahawks fans are going to thirst for later-days Matt Hasselbeck, and soon. Not that Hass was particularly good even last year, when Seattle shocked the Saints after winning their division at 7-9. But he offered more stability than Jackson will. So while nobody outside Seahawks-only leagues is considering drafting Jackson onto a fantasy team, the question begs asking: Will there be anyone on this offense who can overcome what might be one of the NFL's two or three most-disastrous-looking QB situations? The best offensive talent on this team is Sidney Rice; Zach Miller is certainly capable of producing nice numbers; Marshawn Lynch can vaguely recall some past glory days; and Mike Williams came from nowhere to catch 65 balls last year. Can you start any of them?
Uh, nope. Hey, the NFC West looks pretty lame again, so I can't rule out the possibility that Jackson & Co. produce a couple random nice results in what amount to JV scrimmages. But this quarterback -- and perhaps more importantly this offensive line -- is going to throttle any chance at weekly excellence. Sure, Rice comes over from the same system as Bevell and Jackson, so he knows the playbook. And Miller has been a beast in the middle of the field with the Raiders. Somebody will score the occasional touchdown. But the discombobulation this offense has shown in the preseason inspires no confidence. Jackson and Whitehurst have been on the run nearly every time they've dropped back. Last year's first-round left tackle, Russell Okung, appears set to battle ankle problems for the second straight year, and all the moving pieces on the rest of this O-line makes the whole operation extremely shaky. Rookie right tackle James Carpenter was a reach in April's draft and has been burned repeatedly in pass protection. The right guard (John Moffitt) is also a rookie. Left guard Robert Gallery has a great pedigree but can't stay healthy. And center Max Unger missed almost all of last season with a toe injury.
I believe Rice's hip is probably OK by now, so injury risk isn't the reason I don't believe in him. No, it's all about the surrounding cast. Miller, too, would be an obvious fantasy starter in most situations, but should be drafted well outside his positional top 10 this year. Lynch had that one great pinballing run against the Saints in January, but otherwise is 48 rushing yards per game waiting to happen. And Big Mike Williams has told reporters he doesn't understand his role very well now that Rice is around. The long-term good news for Seahawks fans is that Jackson signed in Seattle for very short money, meaning as long as the team stinks badly enough this year (and it should), Andrew Luck could be coming aboard in '12. If that happens, the arrow would point up on all these skill players. For now, though, don't draft any of these guys to be fantasy starters.
Christopher Harris is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.