Fantasy film study: Case Keenum or Nick Foles?

In the words of Ron Burgundy, "That escalated quickly." Depending on who you listen to in the sports media, it appears as if in a matter of weeks, both the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans have found their long-term answer at quarterback on their own depth chart. Nick Foles and Case Keenum have enjoyed some success -- OK, a lot of success if we're talking about last Sunday. But you didn't come to this column to read about their viability as a real starter in the NFL. You want to know if you should start them on your fantasy team this Sunday and beyond. So I'll do what the NFL pays me to do: have salon-quality hair and write about fantasy football.

Using Game Rewind, I can safely say that both Nick Foles and Case Keenum are viable starters this weekend, and thanks to favorable schedules, have the potential to be late-season waiver-wire steals. Below are three reasons you can trust them, and the reason why I'm trusting one more than the other down the stretch.

1) Play-Action Heroes

Every quarterback's best friend is a good running game, and both Keenum and Foles have the running game equivalent of a BFF that'd lay in traffic for them. The Eagles are fifth in the league averaging 147.9 yards-per-game, while the Texans are ninth (129.6 ypg) and likely would be higher were it not for the nagging injuries to Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Strong run games that command the respect of opposing defenses is what has allowed both of these young signal-callers to excel in the play-action passing game. Below, Keenum torches the Colts on the opening drive of Sunday Night Football last week.

The entire defense drifts left with the play-fake thanks to the threat of Ben Tate.

This puts Andre Johnson in one-on-one coverage with Vontae Davis. Johnson fakes the deep out route, juking Davis out of his shoes. When Johnson turns up field, Keenum delivers a strike. Easy pickings for six.

The Eagles love to use play action out of their read-option offense to freeze defenses. LeSean McCoy is incredibly dangerous in space, which often draws safeties out of position, like in the play below.

Brandian Ross crashes hard into the box to try and limit McCoy. Too bad for him, McCoy doesn't have the ball, and Ross just left rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden with no help against Riley Cooper. Foles places the ball perfectly and Cooper cashes in for his second touchdown reception of the day.

Fantasy impact: Both quarterbacks found a TON of success in their recent games off of play action. Both touchdowns above were over 60 yards, meaning each was more than a 10-point play in standard scoring fantasy leagues. In fact, over the last three weeks Philly has 18 explosive pass plays (15 yards or more) while Houston has 16 (in only two games, as they had a bye in Week 8). The running games in Philly and Houston aren't going anywhere, which means more big plays for Keenum and Foles. And as we know in fantasy, big plays = big points.

2) Swagger like Jagger (i.e. confidence)

There's a great scene in the film "Moneyball" where the scouts are discussing available players, and one of them dismisses a guy because he has "an ugly girlfriend" which means he has no confidence. While I'm not sure I 100 percent trust the scout's scientific reasoning, in terms of fantasy football you want your quarterback to be confident, so you can be confident starting him on Sunday. Thankfully, both Keenum and Foles showed somer serious swagger on film.

A good indicator of confidence in a young quarterback is their anticipation.

Below, Keenum is on the road in Arrowhead Stadium, a notoriously difficult place to play, against the undefeated Chiefs and their No. 1 ranked scoring defense. Keenum has rookie DeAndre Hopkins in single coverage against Sean Smith to his left.

Keenum gets good protection, and lets his pass fly before Hopkins gets open. He shows faith in both where he can deliver the ball and that Hopkins will beat Smith there. The result? Keenum drops a dime to Hopkins in the corner of the end zone. Touchdown.

Similarly, Buccaneers rookie Johnthan Banks is in man coverage against Riley Cooper below.

As you can see, Foles lets his pass fly when Banks was actually in better position. Foles trusted his arm, and Cooper, and zipped the ball to the goal line, where Cooper created separation and hauled in the pass for six.

Fantasy impact: I repeatedly saw both Foles and Cooper make confident throws against good defenses and coverages. Keenum, in particular, challenged the tough secondaries of the Chiefs and Colts, and often won. The ability to attack defenses in this fashion is a trademark of fantasy superstars like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. While Foles and Keenum are far from that level, this early confidence is a great sign for future fantasy success.

3) Creative Play-calling vs. Improvisation

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This is where the tape split, and ultimately where my decision between Foles and Keenum as the better fantasy starter was made. The primary difference in their play is that Foles has the inventive scheming of Chip Kelly to generate opportunities for him, while Keenum showed flashes of (please forgive the hyperbole) Brett Favre in his ability to create positive gains from broken plays.

First, let's look at Foles in the Eagles' offense. Chip Kelly's football IQ has never been in question since his days of lighting up the scoreboard at Oregon, but he's flexing it in clever ways in the NFL. Below, DeSean Jackson lines up in the backfield, and motions to the left before the snap.

While these plays are great, they can be shutdown by smart defensive scheming, as Monte Kiffin did when the Eagles faced the Cowboys in Week 7 (Foles had just 80 yards passing before being injured). Where I saw separation between Foles and Keenum was when plays broke down. Foles is an accurate passer from the pocket, but was erratic when forced to throw on the run. Keenum, on the other hand, continuously moved the chains while on the run, and was creative when plays broke down.

Below, Keenum is flushed out of the pocket to his right and all of his primary reads are covered. However, he sees Andre Johnson creating separation across the field.

Fantasy Impact: Kelly's inventive play-calling leads to loads of yards and points for Foles (and fantasy owners), but Foles leaves a lot of yards on the field with his inaccuracy out of the pocket. Keenum's offense isn't as flashy, but he consistently picked up yards and points for fantasy owners with his improv and accuracy on the move.


While it's a close race, and I'd be happy to have either of these quarterbacks on my fantasy roster down the stretch, I'd have to give the nod to Keenum. In addition to Keenum's ability to make something out of nothing, there's still a small risk that Foles cedes the starting gig back to Michael Vick before the end of the season. In Houston, it appears the Texans have a fever, and the only cure is more Case Keenum.

As for the rest of the fantasy season, Keenum has a tough draw in Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, but I'm joining Akbar Gbaja-Biamila on the Case Keenum bandwagon and thinking he performs regardless. You're welcome to join us. The ride might be bumpy but the destination should be a fantasy championship.

- Alex Gelhar writes features and fantasy pieces for, and constantly regrets not following his father's advice and becoming an NFL kicker. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

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