Fantasy football debate: Michael Vick vs. Aaron Rodgers
by Cory J. Bonini and Nicholas Minnix
on June 28, 2011 @ 00:34:54
Fantasy footballers coming off a championship year may very well have enjoyed the rewards of the clinic that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick put on in 2010.
The convicted felon returned to his pre-prison form on the ground after showing how rusty he was the prior season for the Eagles. While that may not be a surprise to many, what he accomplished through the air is hard to ignore. There is no doubt that Vick is a supreme talent and has freakish athletic abilities, but does he deserve to be the first quarterback chosen in fantasy football leagues this summer? To many, this decision is a no-brainer. I'm not in the camp that suggests you shouldn't at least consider another quarterback, such as the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers, but a compelling argument for Vick exists.
The Eagles boast an explosive receiving corps and a productive running game behind LeSean McCoy. DeSean Jackson is as formidable a deep threat as any, and Jeremy Maclin was a remarkable red zone presence by scoring seven of his 10 touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek are capable weapons, as well. Green Bay has an array of targets for Rodgers, but tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) may be slow to contribute, and wideout James Jones is likely to defect in free agency.
- Philly drafted versatile offensive guard Danny Watkins in the first round to help protect Vick. The Eagles' offensive line depth is about as good as it gets in today's NFL.
- Vick set a career high in completion percentage in 2010 (62.6 percent). He showed poise and decisiveness in the pocket, typically taking off only if the checkdown wasn't available. You can't measure comfort and confidence, but Vick appears to have grown significantly in these areas.
- In seasons with at least 100 attempts, Vick set a career mark with a touchdown pass every 17.4 attempts (5.6 percent of his throws). The Eagles' vertical passing game allowed him to average a personal-best 8.1 yards per attempt - Rodgers' average over the past two seasons.
- Everyone knows what Vick can do with his legs. For the sake of fairness, Rodgers is no slouch in this department. Nevertheless, he can't hold a candle to the points you gain from Vick's ground work. He finished with 676 yards and a career-best nine scores last year (one every 9.1 attempts); offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg loves to call Vick's number near the stripe.
- Perhaps the most impressive stat coming from Vick's 2010 campaign is that he led the NFL in fantasy points having played just 12 games. In fact, he averaged 28.0 points per game to A-Rod's 22.3 in standard fantasy scoring. To put that into perspective, Tom Brady's record-breaking 2007 season didn't even live up to Vick's 2010 per-game average. The former Atlanta Falcon posted nine games with at least 25 points and five with 30 or more in '10. Let's not forget his eye-popping 52-point Week 10 effort, either.
- Green Bay could focus more on the run than in recent seasons with the healthy return of Ryan Grant (ankle), the late-season emergence of James Starks and draft addition of Alex Green.
- Vick's critics point to only one healthy season in his eight-year career, but Rodgers also has not been a complete stranger to injury. Vick's style of play indeed leaves him open to a pounding, yet it also is the same style that so generously grants fantasy points. Besides, your fantasy season is likely doomed if you lose your starting quarterback, regardless of what his nameplate says.
Closing argument: Clearly, the decision is a close one. Rodgers may be a steadier choice, but No. 7 deserves the nod because of his explosive ability to break open games for fantasy owners. Rodgers, the better quarterback in real life, will keep you in it each week, but Vick is the better bet to dominate any given fantasy football matchup.
In 2010, Michael Vick had the kind of NFL season that single-handedly won matchups for fantasy football players in multiple weeks. I'm sure you haven't forgotten. Is one monstrous season enough for you when you evaluate the top fantasy signal-callers in the following year?
Not if the alternative - nee, alternatives - also promises elite production and is as rock-solid as the Super Bowl XLV MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre's heir (and now superior) has mastered the execution of his coach's aggressive game plans. Each of these men under center is a phenomenal talent with a plethora of weapons at his disposal, but only one of them makes you feel comfortable enough to select him so highly on draft day.
- Vick apologists can drone on about how, now that he has improved in the passing, the rushing numbers he compiles - 676 yards and nine TDs last year - make all the difference. That's super. When he takes off, it only increases risk of injury and the size of the bull's-eye on his chest - which is exactly the body part that crumbled in Week 4 and caused him to miss the next three games. Vick has missed a game here and there for one reason or another, except in 2003, when he missed three-quarters of the season. A-Rod has missed just one game since becoming a starter, in 2008.
- In his first three seasons as a starter, Rodgers averaged more than 4,100 yards and more than 29 touchdown passes, with 10.67 INTs, per season. He also rushed for nearly 300 yards and 4.33 touchdowns a year in that stretch. His production is spread pretty evenly across those three campaigns. In short: Rodgers put up a lot of fantasy points - every season (and nearly every week). Prior to his revelatory 2010, Vick was an anomalous, unreliable fantasy producer. Although he appears to have found the ideal environment for his talents, he can never be comfortable.
Defenses frequently find ways to disrupt the timing of a Vick-run offense or take away his scrambling opportunities. In Week 7 of last season, the New York Giants provided a blueprint for defending Vick. They maintained a wall to the 6-foot, left-handed passer's left, forced him to his right and blitzed the target area often. Vick rarely escaped the pocket, which limited his chances to improvise by taking off or hitting one of his speedy receivers on a deep pass. Although no future Philly opponents could reproduce that shutdown job, they coaxed Vick into throwing all six of his interceptions in the next five games. In Week 15 (as many fantasy semifinalists recall), the Minnesota Vikings reduced Vick's output to merely ordinary, too. The Eagles' 2011 opponents will attempt to employ some of the same elements to slow Vick.
- Like Andy Reid's offense, Mike McCarthy's attack is designed to take advantage of an intelligent, strong-armed quarterback's abilities to generate plenty of yards and points. Rodgers continues to improve at deciphering defenses. We have yet to see how Vick will respond to serious adjustments his opponents have made to him in Philadelphia's dangerous design.
- The Packers boast more depth at multiple positions. Jordy Nelson, who in many editions would have been the 2010 Super Bowl MVP, is ready to replace the aging though still reliable Donald Driver to complement Rodgers fav Greg Jennings. Green Bay might be better off if the talented but unreliable James Jones departs, since the team drafted the explosive Randall Cobb in the second round. Dynamic tight end Jermichael Finley is returning from a torn meniscus, a knee injury that's not as severe as a torn ACL. If any of the Eagles' stars - Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy
Maclin, even Brent Celek - goes down, the players behind them represent a clear downgrade. The Packers' well-oiled machine has practice withstanding blows to its core.
- The Packers have no spectacular running game to speak of, with Ryan Grant (returning from an injury again), James Starks, Brandon Jackson, et al. But those players form a solid backfield that merely has to be a complement to an aerial show that hits on multiple cylinders no matter whom they plug in. McCoy can help to carry the attack for the Eagles and, should Vick perform on a more ordinary level this season, may be asked to do so more often.
Closing argument: For the point at which you have to draft Vick, he essentially has to reproduce his 2010 campaign in order to pay dividends. There are too many things working against him to feel comfortable about making that leap. The risk is ridiculously unnecessary if you're considering a QB that early in a draft and the venerable Rodgers - or one of a handful of other passers, frankly - is available.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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