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Russell Wilson became the first member of the vaunted '12 QB draft class to win reality's ultimate prize, a Super Bowl title. But in the fantasy arena, he finds himself behind three others from that class in the Yahoo rankings heading into the '14 campaign. Robert Griffin III clocks in the highest, but Andrew Luck and '13 upstart Nick Foles aren't too far behind. Of course, those rankings are only a consensus. Personally, I'd take Foles first among them. Meanwhile, Scott Pianowski picks Luck as his favorite horse in the race. And Andy Behrens believes that neither can compare to RGIII.
Alright, with the obligatory preamble out of the way, it's time to fire up the Spin machine and let the doctors debate the merits of this trio ...
Funston demands respect for Foles: I'm talking to you, Mr. Behrens, you with Foles sitting at No. 15 on your ranks. You've talked a lot about Foles as a fluke (or insanely lucky), and I grant you I'm not expecting another 27-to-2 TD:INT ratio. Heck, nobody is. But let's be realistic about what kind of regression we are talking about here.
Going in to the season, we were all excited about what Chip Kelly's break-neck offense was going to do for Philly. And guess what, we were right to be excited. The Eagles finished with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL - the season prior, under Andy Reid, the team finished fourth-worst in scoring, 10 points fewer per game than what they scored under Kelly (from 17.5 to 27.6).
As for Foles, all he did once he took over from Michael Vick in Week 5, was average the second-most fantasy points per game at QB the rest of the way, behind Peyton Manning, but ahead of Drew Brees and every other NFL signal-caller. To reiterate, that's 11 games played at a pace that eclipsed Drew Brees. And that was Foles' first season under the Kelly offense. We talk about regression, but we don't talk about the fact that Foles should be much more comfortable running this system this year.
Sure, Foles loses DeSean Jackson. But he gets Jeremy Maclin back, and Maclin thrived while, most forget, Foles was closing out the final month (Weeks 14-17) of his rookie season with the eighth-best fantasy points per game average among QBs. He also gets one of the most prolific running back receiving weapons in the league in Darren Sproles. And we can't exclude promising rookie wideout Jordan Matthews, who has been the buzz of camp.
There's plenty of tools in place, not to mention (again) a system that oozes fantasy production, for Foles to take down Luck and RGIII in this fantasy faceoff.
Behrens gushes about Griffin: This is not the time to bail on RG3, you guys. Here's a partial list of things that should work in Griffin's favor this season:
• He'll be working with the best collection of receivers — D-Jax, Garcon, Jordan Reed, Andre Roberts — that he's had at his disposal since his Baylor days;
• When opening week rolls around, he'll be 20 months removed from knee surgery, which means...
• Griffin should again be a dynamic, dangerous ball-carrier. Even if we see fewer designed runs from him this season, his improvisational carries will be special, and profitable;
• The Shanahans are out, and Jay Gruden is in. If Gruden can guide Andy Dalton to a top-five fantasy finish, then we shouldn't worry about Griffin's ceiling;
• In case you'd forgotten about RG3's skill set, here's a video reminder.
Seriously, we're dealing with a unique talent in an excellent situation. Griffin has a huge arm, and he's now paired with D-Jax, one of the NFL's premier vertical threats. We're going to love this offense for fantasy purposes.
If you're partial to Andrew Luck, fine. I get it. Griffin and Luck aren't separated by much in my ranks. Two very good young quarterbacks, leading promising offenses. But if you're banking on Nick Foles to duplicate (or even approach) last year's production ... well, I'd like to invite you to join a league with a modest buy-in. Foles enjoyed more than his share of good luck last season, and his two best receivers are running backs. I'm not a fan. I won't fight you for him.
Pianowski is up all night to get Luck: Andrew Luck should be a bookcased argument by now, no new tale to tell. I hope some people keep doubting him. This is a star, and certainly a player on the escalator.
Do people remember the 2-14 mess of a team Luck inherited? The Colts have gone 22-10 since he arrived, not to mention last year's epic comeback win over the Chiefs in the playoffs. And Luck's continually succeeded despite chaos around him. Crummy offensive line? No problem. Trent Richardson stinking up the joint? He'll work around it. Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen get hurt? He'll throw to other guys.
Okay, fantasy football isn't a case of anecdotal arguments, fine. The numbers are in Luck's corner. He was the No. 9 fantasy quarterback in Yahoo! default scoring two years ago, and he jumped to No. 5 last year. Most of his efficiency stats also improved in Year 2: higher completion percentage; picks cut in half; fewer sacks taken; a healthy rating jump. Yes, there was a small YPA hit, but given all the problems around Luck last season, I'll give him a pass there.
Luck also supplements his fantasy game through timely rushing - he's collected 632 ground yards and nine spikes as a pro. Given his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame, we shouldn't worry about the extra punishment. He takes a licking, keeps on ticking.
The Richardson Show hasn't been canceled, unfortunately, but Luck's supporting cast nonetheless looks improved. Wayne, Allen, and Ahmad Bradshaw are healthy again. T.Y. Hilton seems to get better every time you watch him - he was superb in the preseason opener. Rookie Donte Moncrief has impressed in camp, and maybe Hakeem Nicks has something left. This is the best group Luck has been around.
Let's not make this more complicated than it needs to be. Luck was good as a rookie, very good as a sophomore. A repeat of last season would be fine by me, but if Luck's supporting cast answers the bell, maybe the numbers will keep climbing. It's a lovely thing when upside meets floor.