It turns out the NFL's value on former New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett was extremely low, but that is not the case in the realm of fantasy football now that he enters a Houston Texans depth chart to battle Ryan Fitzpatrick.
On the hunt for a new franchise quarterback, Bill O'Brien went out and spent a lowly 2016 conditional seventh-round pick on Mallett, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. While some of this value was birthed thanks to New England's unwillingness to roster three signal-callers, much of it has to do with the little Mallett has shown in an even smaller amount of opportunities behind Tom Brady.
In Houston, Mallett is sure to see plenty of opportunities this season, especially if Fitzpatrick falters. After all, he has not been horrific in preseason action through the years:
Even better, O'Brien spent a large chunk of his NFL tenure to date with the Patriots and helped to oversee quarterback and coordinator responsibilities, so he understands where Mallett is when it comes to development and what makes him comfortable under center. O'Brien was the team's offensive coordinator during Mallett's rookie year.
As Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus puts it, "raw" is perhaps the best word to use:
Mallett was rumored to be a first-round pick in 2011. Fell to the third. Considered raw. Hasn't had a real shot to play yet.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 8, 2014
With all due respect to Fitzpatrick, he did not have a registered average draft position in the top 18 this year for good reason. He hardly scored in the top 25 at his position a year ago, and while efficient with the football, he has never really stretched the field vertically enough to produce meaningfully to make him anything more than a waiver-wire option on a week-to-week basis.
Case in point—the journeyman threw a career-high 3,823 yards in 16 games back in 2011, but he threw 24 touchdowns to 23 interceptions.
The addition of Mallett only furthers the notion that owners will want to steer clear. Most, including DraftTV's Shane P. Hallam and Jeff Pearlman, agree that the job is not Fitzpatrick's for long:
Woah Ryan Mallett finally going to the #Texans. Wouldn't expect him to start immediately, but feels like it would be the plan eventually— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) August 31, 2014
Ryan Mallett is starting for the Texans by week 6.— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) September 1, 2014
If owners are so inclined to take a gamble on a Texans quarterback to stash, it should be Mallett.
It makes sense, too. The environment is ripe for a productive quarterback to step in the fold and thrive. Arian Foster is in the backfield, and while he missed eight games last year, he averaged a minimum of four yards per carry and 1,224 rushing yards in each of the three seasons before that.
With defenses focused on Foster, Mallett can get the ball to veteran Andre Johnson, who has shown no signs of slowing as he heads into his 12th season. He has tallied at least 1,200 receiving yards in five of his last six seasons. Across from him is promising sophomore DeAndre Hopkins, who as a rookie caught 52 passes for 802 yards and two scores despite a horrible situation under center.
Is Mallett worth a roster spot?
Don't forget O'Brien, either. He has found offensive success at all levels and was brought on by Houston to do just that with an elite defense already in place.
Fitzpatrick can take advantage of these factors as well, but we have seen what he has to offer on an offense that included Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson. Ditto for an offense with Chris Johnson and a host of talented wideouts.
The point is, owners can do much worse in terms of a quarterback to stash for a rainy day. Mallett is unproven, but the potential, coach, system in place and talent around him have a certain allure to it that is hard to ignore.
Make no mistake, both Fitzpatrick and Mallett should be widely available. But while the veteran is a known commodity at this point (as in, he's a fantasy non-factor), the career backup who was once thought to be Brady's successor has a ceiling that makes him worth a gamble, should owners have their ducks in a row at other positions and a roster spot to fill.