Regardless of the league, Quarterback is a make or break position. An elite, top-flight signal-caller can make Sundays easy on fantasy owners while holding low-end players at the position can give a guy (or gal) an ulcer. Everyone that has owned Donovan McNabb or Matt Hasselbeck can attest to the second portion of that sentence. While scoring is going to differ from league to league, at the end of the day the position is going to account for a substantial portion of the overall success of a fantasy team.
This year, there are plenty of players in new uniforms as well as some stalwarts that are major impact players. Each week leading up to the season, we will check out three of them. This week, three players that came off the draft board in April will be looked at as we examine Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck.
In some way, all three will have a material impact this season, but the question for each is simply “how big?” After all, the most touchdown passes thrown by a rookie is still only 26 and that was set by Peyton Manning in 1998. In fact, only five rookie starters since 1983 have thrown for more than 3,000 passing yards and only two (Dan Marino and Marc Bulger) have thrown for twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. So while we all went these three young players to succeed, the importance of understanding the net impact is highly important.
The biggest burden is being thrust upon Luck, so that’s where we will start.
The supporting cast for a rookie quarterback is equally as important as the quarterback himself. The good news here is that Reggie Wayne is back and Austin Collie has plenty of familiarity with the offense as it was in the old regime. Wayne is getting older, but can still catch a ball. Collie is a decent option on the other side of the field and could provide more benefit in the slot as Donnie Avery joins the fold. The weapons are there, even if this is no longer the premier receiving corps in the NFL.
The running game should be seen as a serious question mark. With Donald Brown never having averaged 10 carries per game in a season and only averaging 47 total yards per contest over his career, there is cause for concern. Bulger and Ben Roethlisberger each had major running games to help take away pressure. That will not be available here. Luck will have familiarity with his tight end, but Coby Fleener is another rookie and not one necessarily out of the Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski mold.
In keeper leagues, there should be no doubt that Luck will have a long-term impact. Short-term though this is an offense with more questions than answers. One that will introduce another head coach to the sidelines this fall. The level of impact? Think Andy Dalton-type numbers for this season. Luck throwing for 20 touchdowns with 15 interceptions to go with 3,300 yards should be a win.
Robert Griffin III
Have to say, for whatever reason, Griffin excites me more for this season than does Luck. That is not to say that he comes with no concerns. In fact, the big knock on the number two pick is that he spent the bulk of his time sitting back in the shotgun and letting it fly. No doubt he has the arm to continue to do that, but how he adapts to spending snaps under center will be key to watching his progress this season. Granted, we all said the same thing just last year about Cam Newton. It seemed to turn out ok for all involved there.
Griffin steps in to a more defined situation. This is a team with a decent running attack despite the ranking of last season. Roy Helu and Tim Hightower both return and Evan Royster showed his ability to produce. While it is far from the “Greatest Show on Turf,” these three provide Griffin with more of an outlet to keep a defense honest than what Luck would have.
Tight ends Fred Davis and Chris Cooley provide solid outlet receivers in addition to being major red zone scoring threats. On the outside, the addition of Pierre Garcon is a big deal and gives Washington a true threat that can stretch the field. Garcon needs to prove he can be the number one guy, but there is a track record here.
This is no time to start the comparisons to Newton, but there are parallels. Newton walked in with two high-profile running backs, similar to what is possible in Washington (though not the same historic production). There is a primary receiver like a Steve Smith and two strong tight ends. The stars line up here for what could be a better than average rookie season. His impact? Better than Dalton, but not quite Newton. Griffin should add a half-dozen or so rushing touchdowns to his ability to throw for 20-25. There are likely more yards to be found here than in Indy, but expect a few more interceptions as well.
Do not expect the world here. While Tannehill was drafted to be the quarterback of the future, the odds of him getting 16 games this season are relatively remote. Rumors are already surfacing that Matt Moore is the likely starter. The signing of David Garrard also calls into question if Miami will put Tannehill out or let him hold the clipboard for the bulk of his first season.
To be fair, Moore earned the right to this job. He went 6-3 over the final nine games of last season with a 15:5 TD:INT ratio. Given the changes in the overall offense and coaching staff, it might be smart to let him continue along this path. Tannehill has the advantage of knowing the offensive coordinator and potentially the bulk of the scheme, but it will not provide him the help with the speed of the game. He has a strong arm, but there is a growing consensus that his footwork and read progression (how he goes through a play) need more work to play at this level.
When he does get in the game, Tannehill will come in with a strong defense behind him and a decent running game with both Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush. There is less help at tight end than many would like and the loss of Brandon Marshall will loom large as Chad Johnson is not that elite receiver on the outside.
Expect Tannehill to play ten games at the most. Given that, a 2,000 yard season with 14 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The upside just is not there with this offense and Tannehill will not be asked to win games…simply manage them.