Finally, a fair fight. Today we're looking at two quarterbacks who are separated by 4.5 picks in terms of ADP, and both are coming off 4,000-yard seasons. Neither player will fall beyond Round 5 on draft day. Our experts each have 250 words to settle the debate. (Evans always cheats a little on the word count, but whatever).
Paying fruitful dividends in his first full season as a starter, Green Bay’s A-Rod, like everyone’s favorite narcissist, deserves to smooch himself in the mirror. Arguably the finest QB bargain in drafts a year ago, Aaron Rodgers(notes) was a consistency king. He posted nine games of 250-plus yards and 10 multi-TD efforts. Overall, he showed tremendous poise, command over the spread offense and, most importantly, durability, a quality many pundits questioned. His 22.4 fantasy points per game mark ranked second only to Drew Brees(notes) in standard leagues. Anticipate a similar yield in 2009.
With premiere weapon Greg Jennings(notes) back, dependable veteran Donald Driver(notes) still viable and emerging talents James Jones(notes) and Jordy Nelson(notes) expected to take a step forward in their development, Rodgers has plenty of suitable targets to excel. Also, his scrambling ability should not be underestimated. Last season, he averaged 12.9 rushing ypg and splashed four TDs, the best ground total of any QB. Plus, Green Bay’s transition to a 3-4 defense likely won’t be seamless considering the current personnel’s general inexperience with it, meaning Rodgers will again be pressed into several comeback attempts, increasing his opportunities to rack points.
Rivers is a dependable No. 1, but with LT2 expected to tote 300-plus carries, his 478 attempts from ’08 likely will diminish. Throw in his infinitesimal contributions on the ground, and Rodgers, who is going almost a round later than Rivers in early drafts, is the wiser choice.
Fearless Forecast: 16 games, 255 passing ypg, 30 passing TDs, 15 interceptions, 223 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs.
Last year, at age 26, Philip Rivers(notes) turned in one of the greatest single-season passing performances in NFL history. His ascendance to elite status went largely unreported, but fantasy owners shouldn't ignore the numbers. Rivers finished with the 13th highest QB-rating of all-time (105.5) in 2008, and he led the NFL in touchdown passes (34). Only 15 quarterbacks have ever thrown as many TDs.
Rivers became the centerpiece of the Chargers' attack in '08, and you can't reasonably expect him to return to a supporting role. LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) isn't a 400-touch RB at this point in his career. In fact, LT2 is covered in red flags. He's suffered three serious injuries over the past 16 months (MCL, toe, groin), his contract was recently restructured, he turns 30 next week, and his team just franchised Darren Sproles(notes). Let's not assume 320 carries for Tomlinson just yet. The Chargers threw more often than they ran in '08 (29.9 pass/game vs. 26.3 rush); expect a similar split in '09.
Still, it's not an either/or situation with Rivers and Tomlinson. The Chargers offense has finished in the top-five in scoring in each of the past five seasons. There's no shortage of fantasy points in San Diego. Rivers can continue flinging TD passes to his outstanding receiving corps -- Gates, Jackson, Floyd, Chambers -- and LT2 can still get all the work he can handle. Rivers is surrounded by talent, he's in his prime, and he's coming off a brilliant year. He won't disappoint.
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