Fantasy Football Value of 2012′s NFC Playoff Quarterbacks
Last month, we took a look at the 2013 fantasy football value of the 2012 AFC playoff quarterbacks. Here, we look at their NFC counterparts to see who could be the right passer to lead your fantasy roster this year.
As noted in the AFC quarterback piece, a playoff appearance may or may not have bearing on your fantasy football decisions. More goes into reaching the postseason than just the performance of the quarterback, just like in fantasy football. But just as in fantasy football, what the quarterback accomplishes can often have a huge impact on that outcome. It’s therefore important to weigh whether or not a real-life playoff appearance was based on a strong quarterback performance or despite a weak one, especially if you are using it to inform your fantasy drafting decisions. With quarterbacks accounting for a vast chunk of your fantasy points in any given season, making the right choice matters. Having enough information is important. Let’s look at the six NFC playoff quarterbacks from last year and see which of them might be worth your fantasy time this year.
Last year, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers had the second-most fantasy football points among quarterbacks, with 357.7. He completed 67.2 percent of his 552 pass attempts for a total of 4,295 regular-season yards and had 39 passing touchdowns to a mere eight interceptions. No quarterback was better at completing deep passes (those of 20 or more yards), with 26 completions and 11 touchdowns on 62 attempts. Clearly, there are few safer, sure-bet fantasy football quarterbacks you could draft in 2013.
There are a few concerns to keep in mind about Rodgers, however. There are the league-leading 51 sacks he took last year, the result of an offense that leaned too heavily on the pass and a questionable offensive line. There are also injury issues to consider regarding some of his most productive receivers. Jordy Nelson recently underwent a knee procedure that will sideline him for the entire preseason, the effects of which could carry over into Week 1 and beyond, while Randall Cobb is nursing a shoulder injury. Starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga is also out for the year with a torn ACL and former favorite target Greg Jennings has moved on to the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are also trying to jump-start their run game this year, having drafted both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in April. All of these issues could affect Rodgers’ regular-season production.
However, this is still Rodgers we are talking about. Just as few are truly worried about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s ability to have a successful season despite having lost all of his major receivers from last year, these setbacks in Green Bay’s offense shouldn’t negatively affect Rodgers enough for you to be considering dropping him off of your fantasy draft board. Cobb should be fine by Week 1, Nelson will be back at full health this year and the emergent run game, if it works, should help Rodgers take fewer sacks. Without question, Rodgers is a top-five fantasy quarterback heading into the 2013 season, if not top-three. Keep these concerns in mind, of course—Rodgers could have a slight dip in points production or throw more picks this year—but they aren’t enough to make Rodgers a risky choice. If anything, they could result in Rodgers being available later on, like the middle of the second round, which makes him a value. You can focus on another position in Round 1.
From 2011 to 2012, Atlanta Falcons quarterback went from 291.5 fantasy points to 322.9, after finding the perfect balance of chemistry between his wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and especially running back Jacquizz Rodgers. His 4,719 yards last year is 1,000 more than he had in 2010, which was the main reason for such an increase in fantasy relevance—in terms of touchdowns and interceptions, Ryan has mostly remained steady over the past three years, with 32 scores to 14 picks last year, 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2011 and 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2010. He’s clearly benefited from an improved receiving corps than anything he’s done to get better as a quarterback.
Ryan is a very safe fantasy football choice. Barring a long-term injury to one of his key targets, Ryan is likely good for at least 4,000 yards this year and somewhere between two- and three-dozen touchdown passes. Further, because he’s not a high-profile fantasy option like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady, he can be acquired in a middle round in your draft, freeing you up to snag as many top-tier receivers and running backs as possible before selecting a quarterback. Ryan was the sixth-most accurate quarterback last year according to our data and he completed 68.6 of his regular-season passes, partially because his receivers dropped only 28 of them. Ryan is a good quarterback in a great situation and it makes him a perfect fantasy football option this year at a bargain price relative to his projected production.
Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins’ second-overall draft pick last year, certainly lived up to his billing as an entertaining and effective dual-threat quarterback, with 258 regular-season completions for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 120 rushes for 815 yards and seven more scores, all while throwing a mere five interceptions. However, the risks inherent with a heavy-running quarterback also came to light with Griffin last year—he tore both his ACL and LCL in his team’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks and underwent surgery three days later.
Griffin has thus been limited in training camp, participating only in seven-on-seven passing drills and not full-contact practices with the full team. His training camp workload is expected to increase to 11-on-11 drills soon, though there is no clear timetable for that, and he won’t play a single preseason snap as a precaution. As such, if your fantasy sights are set on Griffin this year, you’ll need to take proper precautions in case he starts out slowly after seeing no live in-game action during the summer or if he suffers a setback once his practices get more physically demanding.
Further, with Griffin’s injury history combined with the fact that he’s not going to stop running—though he may start running smarter—if you want him as your fantasy starter this year, you’ll need to make sure you get a serviceable backup. The need for a contingency plan if Griffin is your fantasy quarterback is much greater than if you had a more traditional pocket passer like Peyton Manning or a mobile passer like Russell Wilson who doesn’t have the same injury history as Griffin. Though Griffin’s fantasy upside is extremely high, just as it is for him on the actual football field, there are significant risks to drafting him that you must account for if you really want him on your roster.
The other thing to keep in mind with Griffin is the supporting cast around him. Receivers Pierre Garçon (who missed time with a toe injury last year), Leonard Hankerson, Devery Henderson and Josh Morgan are all No. 2 or 3 types who have been thrust into more important roles with the Redskins. He also has an unproven crop of tight ends to work with, all while running back Alfred Morris will be trying to recapture his rookie-year success. Clearly, Griffin’s presence and his powerful, accurate arm has elevated the performance of all of these receivers, but their collective underwhelming nature could also serve to bring Griffin’s numbers down in 2013, especially if the knee injury results in a slow start.
Still, Griffin was the fifth-highest scoring quarterback in the NFL last year, with 326.3 total points. There’s a reason he’s intriguing this year despite the knee injury and its potential residual risks. You just must make sure you have a starter-worthy backup on your roster to provide insurance, should anything happen to Griffin. If you’re wary of holding onto a backup quarterback in a spot that could better hold a receiver or running back, then perhaps shift your interest away from Griffin and towards Cam Newton, who has many of the same positive traits as Griffin (and drawbacks, like questions in the receiving corps) without as much worry about injury.
There’s a lot to like, fantasy-wise, about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but there’s also much to be wary of. In 2012’s 13 regular-season appearances including seven starts, Kaepernick completed 136 of his 218 passes for 1,814 yards with 10 passing touchdowns to three interceptions. He also rushed 63 times for 415 yards and five additional scores, cementing his spot as yet another electrifying young NFL quarterback with skills on the ground to match those he has in the air.
However, Kaepernick goes into the 2013 season lacking his favorite target, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who tore his Achilles’ tendon in May. Though Crabtree could be on the reserve physically unable to perform list to start the season, opening the door for a potential return in Week 6 or later, that means at least six weeks in which the 49ers and Kaepernick must find someone to fill the receiving void.
Though veteran Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis will do much to help Kaepernick’s passing numbers until (or if) Crabtree returns, behind them there are nothing but questions. A.J. Jenkins hasn’t broken out as hoped, Kyle Williams is coming off of a significant injury of his own, and receiver Quinton Patton and tight end Vance McDonald are both rookies. Further, Kaepernick wasn’t the most prolific passer. Unlike dual-threat Robert Griffin III, passing is secondary to the 49ers offensive approach; the run game is the primary focus, with Kaepernick, Frank Gore and LaMichael James doing the heavy lifting in that area.
Kaepernick, therefore, might be a better option as a backup quarterback, albeit one you may be able to promote to starter if his receiving weapons can step up. To rely solely on him might be a problem, from a fantasy perspective, however you may be able to make it work if the rest of your roster are strong, proven performers. There is also the upside of being able to take Kaepernick in your draft later than other quarterbacks, which provides the opportunity to get those kinds of receivers and running backs to support him on your roster. Though Kaepernick has been much improved as a passer in training camp this year, raising his fantasy ceiling, the team’s all-around issues with receiving weapons may hold him down. If you can draft and start him on a pitch-hit basis and then roll with him should Crabtree come back, that may be the best approach, though it may not be realistic for every fantasy general manager in every league.
Yes, the Minnesota Vikings went 10-6 last year, leading them to a Wild Card playoff berth. And yes, their quarterback during that campaign was second-year player Christian Ponder, who was much improved from his rookie year, completing 62.1 percent of his passes (up from 54.3 percent in 2011) and throwing more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (12). However, he had just 2,935 regular-season passing yards and averaged a mere 6.1 yards per attempt and produced only 214.7 fantasy points last year. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that in most 10- or 12-team single-quarterback leagues, there’s no reason for anyone to draft Ponder with an eye towards starting him every week.
Percy Harvin is gone, and though he’s been replaced by not just Greg Jennings but also rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, that doesn’t magically turn Ponder into Aaron Rodgers. Yes, Kyle Rudolph is much-improved as a tight end, giving Ponder a good complement of targets, but don’t kid yourself—the reason why the Vikings offense had any success last year and will this year is running back Adrian Peterson. Ponder might be worth rostering up as a backup, or picking up for a week if your starter is on bye and Ponder’s matchup looks good, but unless you’re in an extremely deep league there’s no reason to use a fantasy draft pick on a quarterback as marginal as Ponder this year.
Like Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a dual threat, with good passing skills to pair with his elusive and effective running. Unlike Griffin (and like Kaepernick), Wilson is more dangerous as a runner than a passer, but it still doesn’t heavily damage his value as a fantasy starting quarterback.
Wilson, who played a full season last year as Seattle’s starter, graded out to be tied for our fifth-best overall quarterback of the year. He completed 64.9 percent of his 393 passes for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and also added 94 rushes for 489 yards and four scores to his stat line on the season. His 291.6 fantasy points on the year were the 11th-best among quarterbacks, which easily makes a case for why he should be an effective fantasy starter this year.
Like other quarterbacks we’ve discussed here, there are caveats you must consider about Wilson before committing to drafting and starting him. The receiving corps is an issue, with recent addition Percy Harvin undergoing hip surgery, that, like Crabtree above, will have him missing part of the year if not all of it. Fellow receiver, Sidney Rice, continued to deal with knee soreness that sent him to Switzerland for treatment and his history of injury doesn’t make him terribly reliable. Doug Wilson, Golden Tate and tight end Zach Miller will have to pick up the slack.
Still, Russell elevated the Seahawks offense last year and his deep ball is one of the best in the NFL. He’ll again be splitting rushing duties with Marshawn Lynch and, barring injury, should again produce nearly 500 yards, if not more should Harvin’s knee continue to bother him and Harvin not return. Russell has even more upside than Kaepernick this year though his situation does echo the 49ers quarterback in terms of receiver issues. He can be had at a value and can easily be a highly-productive, every week starter. However, there are risks involving his receiving corps as well as those inherent to a running quarterback (i.e. injury), so be sure to select a backup quarterback you would be confident starting if the need arises.