June 07, 2010
If you want a hearty, endless debate at your local tavern, start arguing over a pair of quarterbacks. Montana vs. Marino had a long run, Manning vs. Brady can start a fight just about anywhere, and now we've got a new conundrum to sort out: Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees. When it comes time to grab an elite signal-caller for your make-believe franchise, which way are you going to go?
Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski are here to sort through these two quarterbacks, using a writer-friendly, relaxed word count. We invite you to read the arguments, cast your votes, contribute your comments, and sign-up for Yahoo! Fantasy Football 2010. The season is only three months away; no time to waste, amigos. Get your game face on.
Noise To Open: Legend says Aaron Rodgers(notes) was conceived when Bart Starr wedded a Johnsonville brat (a very legal union in Wisconsin). The stories may be true. Not only has he reigned over the Sausage Kingdom, but also Fantasyland. Over the past two seasons, no player has amassed more points than Farve's former understudy.
Functioning brilliantly in Mike McCarthy's high-flying spread system, Rodgers has established himself as one of the league's premiere vertical assassins. Dependable targets Greg Jennings(notes), Donald Driver(notes) and emerging sensation JerMichael Finley(notes) have greatly enhanced his overall performance. The trio is arguably the most productive receiving corps in the NFC. Their chemistry is impeccable.
Last season, Rodgers bested Brees by 32 fantasy points in standard formats. Considering how disheveled Green Bay's offensive line was – he was sacked a league-high 50 times – it's amazing the quarterback's bodily organs remained intact over 16 games. Just think what he could've accomplished with more time. With the O-line on the upswing, owners may soon find out that answer.
Truly, the clear-cut disparity between Brees and Rodgers rests in the latter's scrambling ability. In '09, the opportunistic runner finished with 305 rushing yards – second only to David Garrard(notes) – and five touchdowns. His increased accuracy (64.7 completion percentage in '09) and cautiousness with the football (seven interceptions) were also sings of continued maturation. Brees was equally superb, but, at 31, he's likely reached his statistical peak. Still just 26, Rodgers has yet to tally his career year.
Shaky arguments about A-Rod's proneness to injury and weather concerns will mistakenly be made. He's actually played more games than the perceived ironman since 2008 and in 11 career cold weather games (temps below 40 degrees) he's averaged a solid 228.7 passing yards per game with a 19:7 TD:INT split. Meteorological influence on player performance is the biggest misconception in the virtual game, especially when discussing a multidimensional QB in a fabulous offense.
Unless the injury imp bites, Rodgers and Brees will be the pacesetters at quarterback for the third consecutive season. But based on the Packer passer's youth, weapons, scrambling ability, reinvigorated O-line and outstanding off-the-field accomplishments (photo evidence here) fortune favors the junior quarterback.
There's no denying the monster stats Brees keeps giving us. He's been a top-5 fantasy quarterback in any scoring system in the last four years (averaging an obscene 4,574 passing yards and 30.5 touchdowns), and he ranked second and first in most groups over the last two seasons. The skill players almost don't matter in New Orleans – a surprise receiver seems to emerge here every season (Marques Colston(notes), Lance Moore(notes), Robert Meachem(notes)). Put Emeril Lagasse into the Saints offense and bam, you might see 6-7 touchdowns. Brees just throws to whomever is open.
Selecting Brees early in your draft buys an extra roster spot – you won't need a backup quarterback. Brees hasn't missed a game of consequence in five years (Week 17 last year doesn't count) and that's directly attributable to his pocket smarts and the style of offense he's in. Brees makes his read, throw's made, ball's out, pass rush never has a chance. The Saints have allowed the least amount of sacks in the league over the last three seasons; contrast that to the 50 sacks Rodgers absorbed in 2009.
Brees won't give you much as a scrambler but that's a good thing – less chance for him to get hurt. And be careful with the rushing production Rodgers put up in 2009 (316 yards, five TDs); that part of his game might evaporate as he becomes more experienced.
Mother Nature can't stop Brees either – the Saints play 11 games indoors in 2010 and some of their outdoor games look safe weather-wise (Tampa Bay, Carolina, San Francisco). Conversely, the Packers have 13 outdoor games coming, including trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, New England and New York. It's never windy in a dome; can you say the same about those cities on the Pack's itinerary?
There's plenty of time to think upside in the middle and late stages of your draft, but don't try to be a hero with the early choices – follow the consistency and play it safe. If I'm going to take any premium quarterback in the early part of my 2010 drafts, it's going to be Drew Brees.