Fantasy Debate: Andrew Luck vs. Matthew Stafford
By Pallazola, Rob
With so few high quality running back and tight ends to go around, many fantasy owners are opting toward drafting quarterbacks in the later rounds of their drafts. With this in mind, I wanted to explore two of the quarterbacks that have been slipping down the draft boards that can be useful to those implementing this strategy. One is a young veteran that’s coming off of a good year, though not the kind of year that was expected, the other is a rookie trying to prove there is no slumping in his second year.
Quarterback Andrew Luck had a very impressive rookie season in which he lead the Indianapolis Colts to a playoff game, after they had been all but written off during the offseason by many football analysts. The first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft had huge shoes to fill after Peyton Manning had left in March, ending an 11 year tenure with the Colts, one that is sure to secure him a future induction into the Hall of Fame. Now the knock on Luck is the dreaded “sophomore slump” tag that will be slapped on him if starts the season off on the slow side, much like Cam Newton did last year for the Carolina Panthers.
The good news for Luck is that the Colts decided to go out and get him more weapons to help the offense move the ball downfield, and they came in the forms of speedy WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and veteran RB Ahmad Bradshaw. With Heyward-Bey’s ability to get vertical and spread the defense, it should open up wide receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton in the middle of the field, as well as help tight end Dwayne Allen underneath. Ahmad Bradshaw only missed a two games for the Giants last season, but it was enough time to open the door for backup running backs Andre Brown and David Wilson to make an impression. He will now need to battle RB Vick Ballard to earn the starting roll and does have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but more importantly, Bradshaw’s running can help keep opposing defenses honest and will help in play action pass plays. Luck ended the season with 4,374 Pass Yds, 255 Rush Yds, 23 Pass TDs, 18 INTs, 5 Rush TDs, and he is primed to exceed those totals this season with a year under his belt and even more firepower to work with.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford was coming off a year in which he had thrown for 5,038 Pass Yds and 41 TDs in 2011, making him a high draft pick in fantasy leagues going into last season. Unfortunately, Stafford couldn’t fully live up to the lofty expectations set before him by so many fantasy analysts, but now that the bar is set a bit lower, is it possible that Stafford has a bounce back performance? The short answer is yes, but it would have nothing to do with anyone elses expectations, and is more directly related to the new addition to the Lions backfield.
The Lions have had a run of bad luck when it comes to the running back position of late, Jahvid Best has been sidelined by concussions, the Kevin Smith projects didn’t work out, and Mikel Leshoure wasn’t particularly spectacular. This prompted the Lions to sign versatile veteran RB Reggie Bush, and in an offense that is based on passing the ball, combined with Bush's ability to catch the ball, it’s nearly a perfect combination. With Bush in the mix, Stafford has a dual-threat running back that can help take some of the pressure off of his number one target WR Calvin Johnson. The question is if the addition of Bush enough to propel Stafford to being a second or third round pick in next year's fantasy drafts, or will he need another weapon or two?
Both Stafford and Luck had 276 Fantasy point last season, tying them for ninth for the quarterback position along with Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. So neither were particularly awful last season, and both have the potential to breakout and catapult themselves even higher this season. The only real question now is which one would you choose given the choice between them in the sixth round of a 12 team draft: the veteran looking to prove he belongs with the big guns, or the “kid” trying to break the sophomore slump title? For my money, I would go with Luck. Though he has what seems to be more to overcome after losing his offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (who is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals), he seems to have more of an advantage playing in the AFC South Division even with the Houston Texans becoming a formidable team in recent years. Stafford isn’t a terrible choice here, but with seeing the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings defenses twice, it makes it a tougher pill to swallow.
*Fantasy Points data was taken from Football.com 2012 Fantasy Scoring Leaders: QB