At the end of the day, we need quarterbacks to take to the bank.
While the middle-tier of quarterbacks we looked at last week has major importance, the “fringe guys” are more frightening and impossible to deal with. This is not to say that taking the players below in drafts is a bad decision. They are all starters in most formats and have been known to supply plenty of offense in the right situation. The difficulty comes in picking that spot. There is an aspect to each of these players that drives fantasy owners up a wall.
Three quarterbacks are in that limbo range right now.
Michael Vick has proven himself to be an enormous talent. Yet owners are looking at him skeptically. Though Vick is the sixth quarterback off the board with an average pick around 47, he has a 50-pick range in going as high as 18 or as low as 67. Philip Rivers has a 40 pick range, falling between 33 and 71 with an ADP of 53. Rivers and the Chargers are two fantasy enigmas. How it plays this year could be anyone’s guess. Then there is Ben Roethlisberger. Many continue to laud his passing ability as the Steelers continue to try to focus on the ground game. With a range between pick 80 and 125, owners are not sure what to call him yet.
While the top quarterbacks are different than they were last season, these three have a consistent presence. Now, what does it all mean?
Has there been a more frustrating player to own in leagues than Rivers at the quarterback position? New Yorkers once chided the Giants for not drafting him, instead netting Eli Manning(!) Rivers has a cannon for an arm and has had the right talent surrounding him. With an elite tight end, strong running backs, and a top-flight wide receiver, he was never able to fully put it together. Only once in six seasons has Rivers had more than 30 touchdown passes. While his yardage has been steady and over the 4,000-yard mark in each of the last four seasons, there is an empty feeling when you look at the final stat line here.
And there should be. While Rivers will see a reduction in the 20 interceptions he threw over the course of 2012, the supporting cast along the outside is not as good as it has been in the past. Time to call a spade a spade and state that Antonio Gates is not going to carry a team (yes, we know this will be a statement of potential regret in December). With declining health, Gates has not been at the production level that we have seen in the past. Add in the loss of Vincent Jackson and this is a different team. Roscoe Parrish and Malcolm Floyd bring depth to the corps and a new setting for Eddie Royal gives a slot threat that has not always been there for Rivers. He should have a positive influence on Royal’s reception numbers for PPR leagues and Floyd easily should elevate to a true number one receiver given Parrish and Robert Meachem being able to take away complete double-coverage.
The running game with Ryan Mathews should be improved, but the young runner needs to prove he can stay on the field consistently and be more than a change of pace option. He needs to show that he can shoulder the load without Tom Tolbert around. Ronnie Brown brings a third-down option that can handle a major work load if needed and Le’Ron McClain has been a force when given the ball in the past.
But Rivers comes with baggage. Through Halloween last year he had just seven touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions. Overall, his performance against top defenses was not as strong. Some will see the 11 touchdowns and three interceptions over the final five games as huge progress. Note that six touchdowns came against the Bills and Jaguars and the story is slightly different.
Vick comes across as the definition of an impact player. There will be many that will argue how Vick killed their team last season. To be fair, he did. Missing three games and rushing for only one touchdown was not the expectation. When you factor in that he had 14 interceptions against only 18 touchdown passes, it gets worse. But we expected the world of him. Vick was coming off a campaign that made everyone think he was up to his old tricks.
Now, though, Vick may not be getting the credit he deserves. Fact of the matter is that he threw for 3,300 yards in 13 games last season. Three more and he closes in on 3,800-4,000. Does he run for nine touchdowns? Maybe not, but he should run for more than one. The supporting cast has not largely changed, for better and for worse. LeSean McCoy not only does the job between the tackles but has become a key cog and receiver out of the backfield, key for a running quarterback. With two top receivers in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson the Eagles are set. Depth from Jason Avant and Riley Cooper give them a complete outlook on the outside.
Vick scares many owners because of the injury potential. In drafting him you lock yourself into the need for a backup that could step in and start for a few games if needed. Still, with his stock lower than it was at this time last year, Vick can make a tremendous impact both at his position and to the players surrounding him. The threat of running opens up the field. McCoy creates havoc. The receivers are strong. No need to run away and hide from a bad season in this case.
To be honest, discussing this guy infuriates me. Everyone wants to say that “if it weren’t for an injury, he had an awesome year.” Color me skeptical, but 21 touchdowns over virtually any stretch does not do it for me (nor should it for anyone) in a pass-happy league. Take out three interceptions from the final two weeks but also his five touchdown performance against the Titans and he had 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over 13 games. And Big Ben is not quite the runner that Vick can be.
Leaving alone the personnel situation at receiver and running back for a second, the Steelers have an offense in flux. While most quarterbacks see stability in their offensive line, Roethlisberger will have another new player protecting his back. We also have a new offensive coordinator looking to put his own spin on what the Steelers do. While the bulk of the playbook should remain the same, this will be the first time someone has asked thePittsburghquarterback to learn a new scheme.
Now look at the Mike Wallace situation. When he is ready to go, this is a big player and one that the Steelers looked to involve every way possible. Outside of Wallace and Antonio Brown, the team will look to integrate Emmanuel Sanders more to the slot as Hines Ward’s replacement. Jerricho Cotchery will also mix in. But the Steelers have a run-first mentality that will be challenged by Todd Haley putting in a pass-happy mix without, potentially, the right group with which to do it. The ground attack will be looking at Isaac Redman to step in while Rashard Mendenhall continues to rehab and get back to playing form. Redman can be effective and the running game likely does not lose much in the primary attack. The reliance on Jonathan Dwyer at number two will be a change as he has a far different skill set.