You want a fantasy argument, we promise you a doozy here. Today's assignment is a Battle Royale at Quarterback (okay, maybe it's a Royale with Cheese), four Yahoo scribes going at each other.
Andy Behrens is free from the morass; the other Original Five Yahoos go to post. The QBs: Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. Pick your winner in the comments (or at least give us your best Wooderson quote, related to fantasy football).
Start spinning, spinners. Sign the commitment to your team.
Big Noise leads off: At this point last year, RGIII commercials depicting the QB’s expedient and yet triumphant return to football just months removed from major reconstructive knee surgery were unavoidable. I for one believed he, like Adrian Peterson before him, was bionic, a quick-healing superhero who was bound to save the fantasy day.
Although his 2013 wasn’t a complete fantasy disaster – he finished top-12 in per game average – his run-ins with the Shanahans, flawed mechanics and garbage time-only usefulness proved he was incredibly human. Now 20 months post-surgery, playing for a new regime and with an uninhibited offseason under his belt, RGIII is poised to rekindle the magic from his rookie year (4,044 combined yards, 833 rushing, 27 total TDs).
Jay Gruden has made it no secret he wants RGIII to be RGIII, permitting the passer to extend plays and tuck-and-run when warranted. That freedom along with the additions of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts should reestablish him among the fantasy elite. Recall last fall, outside Pierre Garcon and, for eight games, Jordan Reed, he had no dependable receivers, especially deep. Jackson's presence will fix that. Recall in 2013, the QB was a miserable 12-for-46 on pass attempts beyond 20 yards, awful when compared to his rookie campaign (18-for-36).
Seemingly thrilled with Gruden's system (Sidebar: He should be after the numbers Andy Dalton piled up last year) and upgraded receiving corps, RGIII is the slinger to target for those employing a patience approach at QB. Going on average at No. 73.2 overall he's a bargain in the middle rounds. I fully expect him to outpace Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck (barely) this year, flirting with the position's top-five.
B-Fun stumps for Cam: How can this debate not go to the guy who in three seasons has yet to finish lower than No. 4 among QBs in Yahoo! standard scoring formats. That's right, Cam Newton is a perfect three-for-three in top 4 fantasy finishes at the QB position. Drew Brees is the only other quarterback that can make an equal claim. And Cam's only 25 years old, a time when we should expect him to really start hitting his stride as an NFL signal caller.
Of course some worry about his (lack of a) receiving corps this season, to which I say you can make an argument that rookie monolith Kelvin Benjamin and vet Jerricho Cotchery might actually be an upgrade over Old Man Smith and Brandon LaFell. Others will point to his offseason ankle surgery as an ominous development for the most prolific fantasy rusher at the QB spot. But if his own head coach isn't going to worry about it — Ron Rivera is on the record as saying that the team does not plan to dial back his rush attempts — then I'm not going to sweat it.
Even if the team does, in fact, try to make Cam sit in the pocket a bit more, the trend shows that he is growing as a passer, last season setting a career-high with 24 TD passes and a 61.7 completion percentage despite the woeful aerial talent around him save tight end security blanket Greg Olsen. But when Carolina gets down in point blank range of the end zone, don't count on anything changing. That's Cam's territory, and he's led all QBs in red zone rushes each of his three seasons, helping him amass 28 rushing touchdowns in that span. With his size and speed, he's one of the game's most lethal weapons inside the 20. As Rivera said, "We don't want to take away a weapon."
Cam Newton was a top 4 fantasy QB the first game he ever played in the NFL, and he hasn't looked back. Don't over think it — he's the smart money here.
D3 sides with Brady: Based on ADP, I’m apparently going way out on a limb here, but while Brady is aging, this is an inner circle Hall of Famer, and we just saw an older Peyton Manning put up the best QB numbers ever. The Patriots dealt with injuries and players unfamiliar with the system when it came to weapons in the passing game last year, resulting in a six game stretch to start the season that was among the worst of Brady’s career.
However, over the final 10 games, he completed 66.2 percent of his passes while getting 8.24 YPA with a 21:6 TD:INT ratio. If you prorate that over a full season, you get 5,195 passing yards and 34 TD passes.
During this stretch, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Dobson missed half of the games, while Danny Amendola was badly compromised with a groin injury. It shouldn’t be underestimated just how much upside each of these three players have if they can stay healthy, not to mention how beneficial a full year of Shane Vereen out of the backfield would be.
Betting against Brady and Bill Belichick (call me crazy, but if Belichick was worried about the team’s WR options, I’m guessing New England would have spent an earlier pick than the seventh round to address the position in this year’s draft) sure seems silly to me, but as I recommend every year, wait on the QB position. This is especially worth taking advantage of considering Brady is currently a borderline top-60 pick.
Pianow closes with Luck: I tried to talk you out of Brady last year, and I hope I can do it again (and remember I'm no New England hater; I grew up in New England). Gronkowski's health is as variable as ever. The wideout group is pedestrian. The Pats always have a solid running game and score their share of rushing touchdowns. And it's not like Brady does much on the ground.
Wait, I'm supposed to be the pro-Luck guy. Well, that's an easy argument. Luck was the No. 10 fantasy quarterback as a rookie, and he moved to No. 4 last year despite a series of unfortunate incidents. Reggie Wayne midseason injury, check. Ahmad Bradshaw injury, check. Trent Richardson disaster, check. Pep Hamilton play-calling mess, check. Dwayne Allen early-season injury, check.
Mind you, the Colts do have some fun toys for Luck to work with. T.Y. Hilton is ridiculous and Wayne and Allen and Bradshaw are all back. Maybe Hakeem Nicks can find his past form, freed from the stench of New Jersey. And look how young so many of the players are here: Hilton, Fleener, Allen and (ahem) Richardson are all entering Year 3 in the NFL. Young players can improve.
Luck, certainly, remains on the escalator. You want improvement, you got it in just about every area. Completion percentage, TD rate, interception rate, sack percentage, QB rating, they all went forward in 2013. A mild YPA dip also came into play, but see the big picture here. Luck is already very good, and well on his way to stardom. (Ask a Chiefs fan, he'll tell you.)
Luck's arm will drive most of his value, but he's not afraid to tuck it in run, too (632 ground yards, nine touchdowns over two years). Best of both worlds. Meet me in Naptown. We're up all night to get Lucky.