2013 Fantasy QBs: Romo Or RGIII? The Answer May Surprise
By Jake Ciely
Aaron Rodgers, GB – Since he became the Packers starter in 2008, Rodgers has finished either first or second for all QBs. It’s not just the 21,332 passing yards or 170 TD passes over those five years that make Rodgers the top QB, it’s his rushing ability. Rodgers leads all QBs in that span in yards (1,383) and TDs (18). A healthy Robert Griffin won’t let him keep that rushing title, but no other quarterback combines the elite level of passing numbers with top-notch rushing like Rodgers does.
Drew Brees, NO – If not for Rodgers’ rushing ability, Brees would blow him away... and everyone else. Over those same five years, Brees threw for 24,730 yards and 190 TDs. The man is the best rock slinger since David took down Goliath. In fact, Brees overcame the added rushing from Rodgers to lead all QBs in fantasy points. In truth, Brees is more of a 1B than a true No. 2.
Tom Brady, NE – It says something about you when 4,827 yards and 34 TDs are a sign of you slowing. Brady is still one of the premiere QBs in the league, and he’s found a knack for short-yard rushing TDs late in his career (seven the past two seasons after seven in his first nine). Don’t be fooled into the “aging and slowing” talk, Brady is still the easy choice after Rodgers and Brees.
Cam Newton, CAR – I can admit when I’m wrong, as I didn’t believe Cam would repeat as a Top Five QB. Mostly, I expected a dropoff rushing wise. While Cam’s TD total dropped from 14 to eight, his rushing yards actually improved a small amount with 741. To be fair to me, Cam would have finished outside the Top Five in 2011, as scoring was down for QBs in 2012. Nevertheless, I can’t ignore how much value Cam’s rushing brings. It’s simple. Even without improving his passing – less yards, TDs and fortunately, INTs in 2012 – Cam will find himself in the Top Five yet again.
Peyton Manning, DEN – I was off on Cam, but I can also admit when I call ‘em pretty well. I had Peyton as my seventh highest QB behind Matt Ryan. Manning finished tied for fifth with Robert Griffin, so not far off. Neck worries? Pfft! Manning laughs at such a waste of time. Picking up where he left off, Manning nearly matched his 2010 passing yards (4,659 to 4,700) and eclipsed his TD mark (37 to 33). Now you want to tell me he’ll be 37 this year? Puh-haa! How about tell me what’s stopping Peyton from yet another Top Five campaign?
Matt Ryan, ATL – And here we have the other QB that neared my prediction for 2012. To quote myself, “Matt Ryan will be this year’s Eli Manning – taking that next step to elite-level numbers.” What I didn’t know was that Ryan would take Eli’s numbers, as Manning dropped off quite a bit. Ryan posted career bests in yardage (4,719), TDs (32) and QB Rating (99.1). There is no reason that Ryan can’t do the same again in 2013. Julio Jones and Roddy White present the best WR duo in the league, and I believe Tony Gonzalez will return. The man is simply too good! Add in an offense that may need Ryan to pass more with Michael Turner’s inevitable release, and you have a QB with all arrows pointing up.
Matthew Stafford, DET – No quarterback disappointed fantasy owners more than Stafford in 2012. A second-round pick and the fourth QB selected, Stafford finished in 11th place behind Andrew Luck. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as Stafford set the NFL record for attempts with 727. It was the huge drop in TDs that doomed Stafford (41 to 20). Split the difference in TDs and Stafford checks in tied for fifth at QB. When you think about it too, how much can you blame Stafford? The Lions again searched for any option at WR to take pressure off Calvin Johnson with Titus Young (done in November), Ryan Broyles (season ended the first week of December) and desperation time with Mike Thomas and Kris Durham. Add in a questionable running back situation again for 2013 – Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell are good, not great, and there is no elite RB in the draft – and there is no reason not to expect a bounceback for Stafford. No offense passes more, no team has a better No. 1 WR and no QB outside the Top Five has more potential with his associated draft cost.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – The most common question/statement I receive about Kaep is, “What if he started the full season?” Since I seem to be the only one not too lazy to do the math, Kaep would have been the eighth-highest scoring QB if you projected his eight starts over a full season. That is also IF defenses don’t study their tails off on how to stop him, or the Read Option in general. With the explosion of the Read Option and Pistol formation, every team’s defense and coaches will spend their sleepless offseasons planning against it. Even so, it’s hard not to get excited about CK’s potential. In eight games, Kaep rushed for 415 yards and three TDs, then another 264 yards and three TDs in three playoff games. All tolled, Kaepernick’s 11 starts equate to 2,523 yards and 14 TDs passing with 646 yards and six TDs rushing. That’s good enough to surpass Josh Freeman as the 13th-best fantasy QB last season... just on 11 starts. I’ve made cases against and for Kaep, and it’s because uncertainty surrounds Kaep heading into 2013. Will he have a sophomore slump? Will defenses figure out a way to slow down the Read Option? Will Kaep maintain this success, or even improve? That is why Kaep cracks the Top 10, but only narrowly, as he is the biggest risk/reward QB for 2013.
Tony Romo, DAL – Romo is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy football. You don’t need to win playoff games to lead a Fantasy team to a championship. In fact, Romo led me to two titles in 2012. In every season since 2007, outside 2010 where he suffered a season-ending injury, Romo has finished in the Top 10 for fantasy QBs. That includes his 13-game 2008 campaign. You know how many QBs can say the same thing? Four: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Brees is the only one to do it every year since 2007, as Brady and Manning both missed a season due to injury, and Rodgers has only been starting for five years. That is elite company, and consistency I’d love to have from my QB. In every 16-game season for Romo, he has thrown for at least 4,184 yards and 26 TDs. You chase the upside/risk options, and I’ll be happy to snag Romo a few rounds later.
Andrew Luck, IND – Everyone was surprised at Luck’s amount of success in his rookie year. Yet, just like the QB he’ll be forever linked to, Luck cracked the Top 10 just as Peyton Manning did in his rookie season. So why isn’t Luck ranked higher, even near Peyton? The concern lies with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who plans to run more of a West Coast offense than Bruce Arians. That’s going to cut into Luck’s terrific 12.9 yards per completion in 2012, and it should give you pause when expecting Luck to top, or even near, those 4,374 passing yards. The area that keeps Luck in the Top 10 is his rushing. Like Rodgers, Luck brings decent mobility and found the end zone five times. Even with a hit to his yards, Luck has enough upside with his rushing and continued development of T.Y. Hilton to match his fantasy points in 2013.
Why is He Missing?
Robert Griffin, WSH – There is no question about it, if not for RG’s knee exploding in the playoff game against Seattle, Griffin would easily make the Top 10. If healthy, and I mean 100-percent healthy, put him back… but where exactly? Add in a 16th game with RG’s average fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG), and he finishes fourth overall. I’m not putting him there for two reasons. First, as I said when the Skins took him, Griffin is too much like Michael Vick and is a threat to miss time. Second, Griffin was inconsistent: four 28-plus FP games and four games with 13 FP or less. RG3 has tons of upside and risk, and I would slide him in behind Ryan if he’s 100 percent by season’s start.