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Andy Behrens

So where do we draft Michael Vick in 2011?

Andy Behrens
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First of all, it's important to note that the question posed in our headline assumes two things: 1) That there will actually be an NFL season in 2011, and 2) Michael Vick(notes) will be Philadelphia's quarterback.

These issues aren't officially settled just yet. Without a new collective bargaining agreement, the 2011 regular season will obviously be threatened. Might be canceled, shortened, simulated, played elsewhere using foreign labor. No one knows. And Vick himself isn't signed beyond 2010, although no one seriously expects the Eagles to allow him to reach free agency. If there's a franchise tag in 2011, he'll get it. He's the biggest draw in any sport and he's coming off a phenomenal year.

So for the purposes of this discussion, let's just say that the 2011 NFL season will occur as scheduled, and Vick will be at the controls for Philly.

The Eagles' offense was basically an unstoppable terror in 2010. The team finished third in points per game (27.4) and second in total yards (389.4). In the 10 games that Vick started and finished, Philadelphia won eight times and averaged 31.7 points. Vick established new career highs in passing yards (3,018), passing TDs (21) and rushing TDs (9), despite appearing in only 12 contests.

Here's the essential stat, as far as the fake game is concerned: Vick averaged 29.7 fantasy points per week in standard scoring formats. That number is higher than the weekly production delivered by Tom Brady(notes) in 2007 (28.9), and by both Daunte Culpepper(notes) (27.8) and Peyton Manning(notes) (26.7) in '04. This year, Mike Vick was clearly the fantasy MVP. (Arian Foster(notes) receives a demerit for the dud performance in Week 15, and only partial credit for the monstrous line in Week 17).

But when your draft rolls around next August, you can't fall into the trap of assuming that the season ahead will look just like the prior year. For various reasons, Vick is a tricky fantasy asset to project. The injury risk is clearly elevated, his 2010 campaign was historically great (perhaps unsustainably so), and opposing coordinators will have a full offseason to scheme. Vick absolutely mauled the softer defenses on the Eagles' schedule this year; he accounted for six touchdowns against Washington in Week 10, and four against Jacksonville in Week 3. But it's not as if he ever really had an off-week, at least in fantasy terms. He was an elite passer (100.2 rating, 8.1 Y/A) and he also happened to finish third in the NFC in rushing TDs, 16th in rushing yards, and first in yards per carry. Ridiculous.

The QB pool will be deep next year and the top-tier is loaded — Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Brady, Rivers — but Vick's name will likely sit atop the ranks at his position. Here's a preview. Realistically, he'll almost never fall outside the top-five in fantasy drafts, no matter where Funston places him. There have always been Vick fetishists, even when his team context was uninteresting.

In fact, during the live chat edition of Sunday Scene, we polled the audience to determine next year's top overall pick. Twenty-nine percent of the mob selected Vick. He finished just behind Foster (35) and ahead of Adrian Peterson (25). This pretty much means I'll never land Vick in drafts, because I'll rate a few running backs before him — the two mentioned above, plus CJ, Jamaal, MJD, McCoy, Mendenhall — and I'm not likely to forecast a ton of separation between Vick and next five or six QBs.

But we don't need to sort out next season's player pool just yet. There's still data to be collected here. This weekend's Green Bay-Philly game could tell us something meaningful. The Packers have a top-five defense, and they've seen Vick before (following a week in which they'd prepared for Kevin Kolb(notes)). Back in the early years of Vick's career, defenses attempted to account for him by using a spy. In recent weeks, they've sent an assassin. Teams are pressuring, late-hitting, forcing quick throws, not allowing receivers to get 50 yards downfield. Minnesota corner Antoine Winfield(notes) was a menace in Week 16, recording nine tackles, two sacks, and forcing a fumble that was promptly returned for a TD. It's not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Charles Woodson(notes) gives Vick the same treatment.

Of course it's also not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Vick passes for 250 yards, runs for 80, and accounts for three or four scores. That's more or less what he's done all year. That game feels like a coin flip, and it can't kickoff soon enough.

This isn't supposed to be a Wild Card preview, however. It's supposed to be a place where you can tell us exactly why Vick will be a brilliant pick, or an idiotic pick. Or you can tell us why no Yahoo! fantasy blogger would ever — in a thousand million trillion years — win your league. Or you can simply promote your website, catering to wealthy single mature fantasy enthusiasts.

I would prefer that you discuss Vick's 2011 potential in comments, but I've learned that certain things are out of my control…


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