Monday, August 17, 2009 PTI: Who is the better fantasy quarterback: Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton?

This week Chris and Adam give their take on the Kyle Orton/Jay Cutler trade and the implications on fantasy football. Last year Jay Cutler was a fantasy stud while Orton was mediocre. Is Cutler just that much better than Orton? Or were they each a product of their environment last season?


I think Kyle Orton will have a better year than Jay Cutler in terms of fantasy football value. I like both Cutler and Orton and I think they are both good players. However the situation in Denver is much more quarterback friendly than the situation in Chicago.

While a lot of people have been talking about Cutler this off season, it seems that Orton has flown under the radar.

Both players struggled in their team’s first preseason game. Cutler went 5-10 for 64 yards and a pick. He ended up with a poor 30.8 quarterback rating. The Bears were without starting running back Matt Forte and starting tight end Greg Olsen, so these numbers can’t be viewed with much weight. However, the Bears offense looked as flat as ever with Devin Hester being the one real threat for Cutler.

Orton looked bad as well in the Broncos’ first preseason game going 9-16 for 89 yards and 3 interceptions. He ended up with a similarly poor 32.6 quarterback rating. Like Cutler’s preseason debut, Orton’s should not be given much weight. He was lacking his number one threat in Brandon Marshall.

So both quarterbacks started off with a flop for their new team. The difference between Orton and Cutler is supporting cast. Orton will have at least 4 viable options to throw to during the year, while Cutler will only have 2-3 at best and no real WR threat.

First, both quarterbacks have a running back to dump off to. Last season Forte got a lot of catches and he has proven to be effective out of the backfield. Forte will also look to take some pressure off of Cutler and the weak passing game. Similarly, Orton has a committee of solid running backs who can catch passes and move the chains on the ground. The platoon in Denver includes Knowshon Moreno, Lamont Jordan, Correll Buckhalter and Peyton Hillis. Hillis is particularly intriguing because he doubles as a tight end. Each quarterback has a nice running back option to dump off to, but the advantage on the ground clearly goes to Orton and Denver. The Broncos ranked 12th in rushing yards per game last year despite an injury plagued season. The Bears finished 24th and there is no reason to believe that this will change. Advantage Orton.

Second, both Orton and Cutler have viable options at tight end. However Tony Scheffler in Denver is a better receiving tight end than is Greg Olsen in Chicago. Last season Scheffler had 645 yards receiving compared to Olsen’s 574. This is really a close call, but I give Denver the edge on this category as well. Once again, advantage Orton.

Next, and most important, Orton has proven receivers to throw to while Cutler has a corps of question marks. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal proved last year that they are capable of making big plays and both are quality NFL receivers. Devin Hester has shown that he is an explosive player with ridiculous open field moves. However Cutler doesn’t need a return man, but a number one receiver. Is Hester a number one? I don’t think so. Brandon Marshall ranked 7th last season for receiving yards among WR with 1265 yards to go along with 6 receiving touchdowns. The number 2 option in Denver, Eddie Royal posted a solid 980 yards receiving to go along with 5 receiving touchdowns. Hester put up mediocre numbers last year with 665 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. And the number 2 receiver in Chicago? Not a receiver, but a TE. That’s right Greg Olsen ranked number 2 in receiving yards in Chicago and Matt Forte ranked 3rd in receiving for the Bears. This clearly demonstrates a huge advantage for Kyle Orton in Denver.

Finally the Broncos finished 3rd in passing yards per game last season while the Bears finished 25th. That is a HUGE gap between passing offense from last year. I don’t think Cutler has a chance to make that up even if he did have a true number 1 receiver. Without a true number one, he has no chance. Look for Kyle Orton to have a much better year in Denver than Cutler has in Chicago as far as statistics are concerned.


Jay Cutler is going to have a better year than Kyle Orton this year and you have to look beyond the numbers to understand why. I agree with Chris that what has happened in the preseason thus far is irrelevant because neither played an entire game and neither had all of their weapons available for the game.

The running game- Matt Forte for the Bears is a better back than anything the Broncos have this season. Knowshon Moreno should be an upgrade over what the Broncos had last season, but I felt that Moreno had a disappointing season last year at Georgia and I am not sold on him having a huge season. Chris points out that the Broncos had the 12th best rushing offense in the league last season, but I think this is more due to Cutler’s arm than the backs the Broncos have. Cutler threw over 600 passes last year because Denver used the pass to set up the run. Because Cutler is a Pro Bowl quarterback, this strategy worked and the running game rode the Bronco’s prolific passing offense to a respectable season. Kyle Orton does not have the passing ability to command the attention of the defense and open up the running lanes. With Orton at the helm of the Denver offense, Forte won’t have to face 8 in the box all season and could make the Pro Bowl.
Additionally, Forte is a better receiver than Denver’s backs. Peyton Hillis has shown that he can be a good receiver out of the backfield, but he will not be the feature for the Broncos. Forte showed last season that he is as effective receiving as he is running, and he will be on the field every down, unlike Hillis. Moreno is adequate as a receiver, but he has not proven that he can succeed like Forte did last season.

Tight Ends- Tony Scheffler may have had more yards than Greg Olson last season, but it is not because he is a better tight end. Olson is one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFC and Scheffler was a product of an offense that attacks through the air as much as the Royal Air Force. Scheffler should have a good season again as a safety valve for Orton, especially because he will struggle to hit Brandon Marshall downfield, but Olson will blossom finally playing with a top-tier quarterback. Orton was solid on the intermediate routes that tight ends generally run, but Olson’s game will really open up with Cutler’s ability to throw downfield and stretch the defense as well as his accuracy in threading the needle. Cutler will also be more effective than Orton in the red zone where a big target like Olson could pick up some easy touchdowns.

Receivers- The Broncos have a better corps of receivers than the Bears in theory. Brandon Marshall is the best receiver on either team when he has a good attitude and he stays out of trouble. However, that is far from a sure thing. It will also be interesting to see if Orton will be able to hit Marshall on the deep routes that make him so dangerous. Cutler has the arm strength to take the top off the defense and make a receiver like Marshall dangerous. Orton, however, showed last season that he does not have the top shelf arm to fully utilize a receiver like that. In Chicago last season, Devin Hester’s productivity was greatly reduced because Orton could not throw it deep enough to utilize Hester’s speed. Frequently, Hester would beat the defense only to have Orton underthrow the pass allowing the defense to break it up. I think that Marshall may experience a dropoff in his effectiveness downfield without Cutler throwing him the ball. If this affects his attitude, it could be a very disappointing season as he pouts about his stats and his lack of a new contract. In Chicago, Hester should see a big spike in his statistics as he finally has a quarterback that will be able to connect on the home run with him. Hester will finally be able to realize his full potential as a wide receiver. I do agree with Chris that Eddie Royal could have a big year as an underneath threat for the Broncos because Orton will be forced to throw the short dump-off passes when defenses learn he can’t complete passes downfield. This happened last season in Cincinnati as Ryan Fitzpatrick could not throw the ball downfield. Chad Ochocinco’s production tumbled while underneath receiver T.J. Houshmanzedah has a huge season.

Overall, the Bronco’s offense last season was created by Cutler’s passing ability opening up opportunities for the skill players on the roster. He will bring this ability to get his teammates involved to Chicago. On the other hand, Orton will bring his mediocre skills to Denver where he should put up decent numbers, but nowhere near the numbers Cutler put up in Denver, or what Cutler will put up in Chicago this season. Cutler has the ability to make people better with his skills while Orton simply has limitations to his skills that prevent him from doing the same.

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3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

agree with Chris

Orton should pass the ball more