PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If 2011 was ‘The Year of the Tight End,’ 2012 is certainly the year of the quarterback. While there hasn’t been one guy who has jumped ahead of the pack as there usually is (Aaron Rodgers last year), this season the replacement level at fantasy quarterback has skyrocketed. The emergence of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, along with much-improved seasons from signal callers like Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer and others has led the position to be both very balanced and strong in the top tiers.
Today, we’re going to look at some of the more notable great seasons in ‘The Year of the Quarterback,’ as well as some of the few dissenters who have disappointed in the wake of the position’s success.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins (Preseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 13)
As in Nate Silver’s PECOTA system or his election-predicting software, the most effective way to prognosticate future results is through projecting a weighted range of outcomes. In this year’s fantasy football preseason, RG3 was one of the players with the largest range of possible outcomes, largely based on his unique style of play along with the fact that he was a rookie. Well, this season Griffin proved he is not only a force to be reckoned with in this league for years to come, but also that he may be the most dynamic fantasy quarterback we’re going to see over the next decade. Everyone knew Griffin could run, but I don’t think anyone expected him to lead the NFL in Yards Per Rush at a phenomenal 6.7. Passing-wise, RG3 has exceeded even the most optimistic projections, leading the NFL in Yards Per Passing Attempt as well at 8.27 Y/A. If the trends hold, Robert Griffin III will be the first player in NFL history to lead the NFL in both Yards Per Attempt and Yards Per Rush. Oh, and did I mention he leads the NFL in fantasy points this year? This is his freakin’ rookie season, people.
Michael Vick, Eagles (Preseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 5)
Vick entered the season fifth on our preseason rankings and has obviously disappointed, although we did suggest having another highly rated quarterback to back him up if you took the gamble on him. While Vick was clearly an injury risk heading into the season, he also failed to score more then 21 points in any game this year for his fantasy owners. Vick will almost certainly get one more shot in the NFL, probably not in Philadelphia, but it likely won’t be fantasy relevant wherever he goes. Once known as a guy who had the ability to beat you with both his arm and legs, Michael Vick failed to rush for 60 yards one time this season and only reached the end zone on his own once. Vick looks a few steps slower and the ball is coming out of his arm a bit slower as well, suggesting his best days are long behind him especially after the disappointment his fantasy owners experienced this year.
Cam Newton, Panthers (Preseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 4)
If you looked at Newton’s preseason rank (fourth) and where he’ll end up (anywhere from 2-4), you’d probably imagine he didn’t have a very eventful year. However, you’d be very wrong. It took Newton until week 13 to have back-to-back weeks in which he threw multiple passing touchdowns. Yet, in weeks 12,13, and 14, he posted an incredible 34 fantasy point per game average. Newton’s ability to make plays with his legs as well as his arm have helped turn around his early disappointing fantasy season. It’s nearly impossible for a quarterback to go from a ranking of 14 one week to the top of the ranks the following week, but Newton has done so recently on our RotoAnalysis.com rankings and I expect he’ll be right at the top of the leaderboard this week as well. Newton will finish the season strong with good matchups against Oakland and New Orleans and head into the offseason with plenty of momentum and have a good case to be a top 3 QB drafted next season.
Peyton Manning, Broncos (Preseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 10)
Peyton had a preseason rank of 62nd on CBS, and has clearly performed as well as many of the guys ahead of him drafted in the first and second rounds. While we were definitely on the low side on him in our draft kit, Peyton came out firing this season – he scored 20 or more points in 6 of his first 7 games. Peyton has also been remarkably consistent. Tom Brady and him are the only quarterbacks to have at least one touchdown pass in each game this season. He is back to his old self as the 6th quarterback this year, and one who has eschewed all injury risk to take both the Broncos and fantasy teams to the playoffs this season.
Eli Manning, Giants (Preseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 8)
It is simply unacceptable for a guy who ranked ahead of his brother at 48th overall on the CBS preseason rankings boards to put up four games of 5 or less points. While he still may pull out the postseason magic that makes him “elite” as a 2-time super bowl winner, his fantasy season has definitely been a disaster. Eli ranks 19th among all quarterbacks so far this season in fantasy points and has dropped down to a lower-tier option. Even though it is The Year of the Quarterback, Eli should have outperformed guys like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Sam Bradford. C’mon Man!
Philip Rivers, Chargers (Preaseason RotoAnalysis QB Rank: 7)
Offensive lines matter. That’s what I’ve learned from watching the Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, Eagles, and especially Chargers this season. And while a great offensive line can accentuate a team’s strengths, a bad offensive line is most certainly a detriment to all aspects of offense, particularly in the downfield passing game. Even if you have DeSean Jackson, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Denarius Moore or someone as talented as Larry Fitzgerald, none of it matters if the quarterback is lying on the ground. I don’t think Phillip Rivers went from being a top 10-talented quarterback in this league to a bottom 5 one. Talent doesn’t just disappear that quickly, particularly at the QB position. Instead, Rivers has just had a slight talent regression combined with a cavalcade of unfortunate personnel losses. Losing Vincent Jackson by itself hurts, but Antonio Gates seems to have lost almost all of his talent, and the team has also lost two offensive linemen this year with basically nobody to replace them. Rivers may never re-ascend to the level of ‘fantasy stud,’ but a change of scenery could do him some good. The Year of the Quarterback may not have been a good one for Rivers but the good news for him is it probably isn’t totally his fault.