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OMG! Joey Harrington LOL!

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With the recent news that NFL Commissioner Goodell has banned Michael Vick from Falcons training camp, Joey Harrington will be the starting quarterback for the Falcons barring a surprise trade.   While Falcons fans are understandably worried about how badly the Birds will do this year, from a fantasy football perspective there is some reason for hope.

Fantasy football wise, Michael Vick was a risk even before the dog fighting allegations.  He was never a guy you could count on every game because of his unbelievable inconsistency.  He might win a fantasy game for you all by himself, but he might also lose a fantasy game for you all by himself.  He threw for fewer than 110 passing yards in 25% of his games last season.  Twenty-five percent!  

If you were in a large league you might need to rely on him, but smart fantasy football owners in 8, 10 or 12 team leagues would never count on Vick as their starting QB without an Alex Smith or a Matt Leinart-type as a steady backup.    When the dog fighting allegations came out -- luckily before FFL drafts began -- the uncertainties increased.   Even without the federal indictment, Vick was a great big question mark for fantasy owners.

Joey Harrington, on the other hand, is a known quantity and I don't mean that in a bad way.  Harrington has 66 starts under his belt and has (somewhat deservedly) taken a lot of abuse over that time.  But he's only 29 years old and he's in a situation with the Falcons completely different than any he's had before.  

Harrington's best season was in 2004 - 16 games, 3046 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 77.5 passer rating.  Now, I know what you're thinking: "That's his best season?!  That stinks!"  Well, yeah, it's not so good.  But using that as a baseline, let's see how Harrington's 2004 Lions squad match up with his new 2007 Falcons squad.

Running Game
2004 Lions - Kevin Jones, Shawn Bryson
2007 Falcons - Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood
Kevin Jones had a nice 1133 yard, 5 touchdown season, with Bryson chipping in 264 yards in spot duty.  The Falcons have Warrick Dunn coming off a near-identical 1140 yard, 4 touchdown season, but Norwood adds versatility to the running game.  He had 633 yards last year and is expected to be a bigger part of the offense in 2007.
Advantage - Falcons

Wide Receivers
2004 Lions - Roy Williams (R), Az-Zahir Hakim, Tai Streets
2007 Falcons - Joe Horn, Michael Jenkins, Roddy White
The Falcons wide receiver corps aren't the league's greatest, but at least there's Joe Horn.  Imagine having to face the entire season when your best receiver is a rookie.  And Tai Streets?  Are you serious?  (Hey, wasn't she in Cheerleader Sorority House 4?  No?)
Advantage - Falcons

Tight End
2004 Lions-- Stephen Alexander
2007 Falcons-- Alge Crumpler
You don't need me to tell you how this works out.
Advantage - Falcons

Offensive Lines
2004 Lions -- 4.4 yards per rush, 37 sacks allowed
2007 Falcons -- 5.5 yards per rush, 47 sacks allowed (2006 stats)
The Lions had a surprisingly stout offensive line that season which helped Harrington a great deal.  The Falcons' rush stats are inflated by Vick's running, and Coach Petrino is revamping the blocking system, which might not be a good thing.
Advantage - Lions

Coaching
2004 Lions -- Steve Mariucci (second season)
2007 Falcons -- Bobby Petrino (first season)
It's hard to gauge how good (or bad) Petrino will be since he hasn't even coached an NFL preseason game yet.  We do know that Mariucci's tenure with the Lions was a disaster though, ending in November 2005 with a combined record of 15-28.  Petrino can't be much worse than that, can he?
Advantage - Falcons

Conclusion - Joey Harrington has more weapons at his disposal now than he had during his best season.  Assuming he's healthy, there's every reason to believe that he can set career high marks this season with the Falcons.  Now "career high" may not set the fantasy world on fire, but he should be a serviceable #2 QB.  And there is real potential for 2007 to be a breakout season for Joey (the QB, not the TV show).  He's an interesting case and I'm excited to see how the Harrington-led "Petrino offense" performs in the preseason.