Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fantasy 2012 - The Great Quarterback Debate

Will Aaron Rodgers Lead Leagues in Fantasy
Points Again in 2012?

Where and when do you draft your fantasy quarterback (especially your #1 if you are in a two quarterback league). This is a debate I have with myself almost every year before entering my fantasy draft. Over the last two seasons, quarterbacks have put up amazing fantasy numbers. In fact, unless you have a completely custom scoring standard, last year's scoring leader was either Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers depending on your league. Here is a look at my fantasy league from last year. To start, I will give you guys the scoring categories for quarterbacks:
  • Every 25 passing yards was worth 1 point 
  • Every interception throw was worth negative 3 points 
  • Every touchdown thrown was worth 4 points 
  • Every 300-399 yards thrown was worth 3 points 
  • Every 400+ yards thrown was worth 5 points 
  • Every rushing touchdown was worth 8 points 
Furthermore, I want to provide you with the top five fantasy scorers in my league and where they were drafted in parentheses. You will notice that all five are quarterbacks:
  • Aaron Rodgers had 411 fantasy points (8th overall - 1st round) 
  • Drew Brees had 407 fantasy points (11th overall - 2nd round) 
  • Tom Brady had 383 fantasy points (10th overall - 1st round) 
  • Cam Newton had 372 fantasy points (98th overall - 10th round) 
  • Matthew Stafford had 341 fantasy points (61st overall - 7th round) 
Normally, the argument is you should select a running back in the first round and possibly even in the second as well. I want to take a look at the top five running backs in my league last year. You will notice I have added their overall draft selection as well:
  • Ray Rice had 333 fantasy points (7th overall - 1st round) 
  • LeSean McCoy had 328 fantasy points (9th overall - 1st round) 
  • Maurice Jones-Drew had 289 fantasy points (12th overall - 2nd round) 
  • Arian Foster had 289 fantasy points (3rd overall - 1st round) 
  • Marshawn Lynch had 247 fantasy points (108th overall - 11th round)

Is taking an elite back like Ray Rice a smart
decision? He lead all runningbacks in
fantasy points in 2011.
Last year's fantasy leaders seem to show that grabbing either a quarterback or a running back in the first round or early second is a smart choice but I tend to disagree. The top running back was selected 7th overall. The top quarterback was taken a pick later but scored 78 more points throughout the season. Aaron Rodgers only had one week with less than twenty fantasy points (week 14 against Oakland). He also had four weeks over thirty points (weeks four, nine, thirteen and sixteen). Finally, Rodgers also scored 53 points week four against Denver.

Ray Rice's numbers were lower overall and a lot less consistent. He scored under twenty points eight weeks of the season (weeks two, three, six, seven, nine, ten, twelve and fifteen). His season high was thirty-eight points which came in week seventeen, well after fantasy playoffs had ended. LeSean McCoy's number were a bit more consistent but still not the same compared to Rodgers. McCoy scored under twenty points seven weeks out of the season (weeks four, five, nine, ten, eleven, twelve and sixteen). 

Another argument for drafting a quarterback earlier than later is the offensive systems of a number of teams. Green Bay, Detroit, New Orleans and New England all rely heavily on the pass. You know these teams, and their quarterbacks, are going to deliver several big games throughout the year. When hitting on all cylinders, these teams can easily go over 300 passing yards. For example, Aaron Rodgers broke 300 passing yards in eight games last year. In addition, Drew Brees hit the 300 yard plateau thirteen times in 2011.

Drew Brees threw for over 300 yards thirteen
times throughout the 2011 season
A majority of leagues award extra points for throwing for more than 300 yards. Leagues often also give points if a running back rushes for 100 or more yards. Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy went over 100 yards six times last year. In my league, if you drafted Drew Brees over either of these backs, you would have received 21 "bonus" points throughout the season as Brees often threw for over 300 yards.

The next reason I normally choose a quarterback over a running back is because of the quarterback's role. In a pass happy offense such as Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is easily going to throw the ball thirty times. In 2011, Rodgers attempted thirty or more passes in 12 games. The numbers for Drew Brees are even more staggering. He threw thirty or more passes in all sixteen games. Furthermore, Brees broke forty attempts in nine games last year. In offenses that rely on the pass, quarterbacks are going to throw the ball often and as a result rack up the fantasy points. A top running back is only going to rush twenty times a game. Ray Rice ran twenty times or more, eight times in 2011. More opportunities to move the ball (in this case with the quarterback) lead to more chances to score fantasy points.

Conclusion: With the pass oriented offenses of the NFL, I am likely to select an elite quarterback in the first round of my fantasy football draft.

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