SEE 2013 UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE!
Kudos to Joe Flacco who directed the Ravens to a 24-9 win at home against Indianapolis in the playoffs opening week, then went on the road to Denver and to New England, defeating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-backs weeks to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl. Pretty impressive. Joe Flacco then topped it off going 22 of 33 for 287 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs to win the Super Bowl MVP award. One thing is for certain, you win the Super Bowl MVP, you are getting a named Speed Bump. Congratulations, Joe. We aren’t making it easy on him however. Flacco is the highest ranked QB of the bunch in both magazine rankings and ADP, but he will have to defeat five competitors to win his named poll (UPDATE – the ADP was before the season-ending injury to TE Dennis Pitta). Good luck Joe.
He may not be the sexiest of fantasy QBs, but you have to give Joe Flacco his due. If he and Jim Harbaugh keep up their winning ways, Flacco has a very legitimate shot at the NFL Hall of Fame someday. In five NFL seasons, Joe Flacco has had a winning season all five times, he has never missed a start since coming into the NFL (starting Week 1 as a rookie), and Flacco now sports a 54-26 winning record. His 2012 Super Bowl run is the stuff of legends – he threw 11 TDs to 0 INTs, tying Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most passing TDs in a post-season in NFL history. Flacco also had an above 100 QB-rating in four post-season games last year, the first time that has ever been done in NFL history. Crazy. Flacco is also the only quarterback in NFL history to start and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. The Ravens opened up the checkbook for Flacco signing him to a 6-year, $120.6M deal making him the highest paid QB in NFL history (which Aaron Rodgers has since beat). This poll was slotted before the season-ending injury to Dennis Pitta so Flacco may be a complete underdog here now. The Ravens receiving corps has just one very good part and known quantity in WR Torrey Smith. Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Aaron Mellette, David Reed and Deonte Thompson come into 2013 with 47 receptions from last season and Ed Dickson becomes the next man up at tight end. Flacco will have his work cut out from him but he comes into 2013 having thrown 24 TDs to 4 INTs over his last 12 games and enters 2013 off a career-best 3,817 yard season.
Joe’s first competitor: Tennessee’s Jake Locker. Now entering his 3rd NFL season the time is now for Locker to put it together. The former 8th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft had an enticing rookie season with 4:0 TD/INT ratio as he got the call late in the season, but it did not extend to 2012 as Locker finished with a 10:11 TD/INT ratio. Locker is relatively flush with play-makers and receiving talent to throw to and he’s one of the league’s better running QBs as well, and there have been reports he will get to run more this year in read-option packages. Locker averaged 7.1 yards per rush last season, the best of any QB in the NFL last year, and only he and Michael Vick average 7+ yards per attempt as a runner.
Does Carson Palmer have some bad karma he is paying off to the universe? The former 1st overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner gets to play in the NFL, but his collection of teams are the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. Not exactly NFL’s murderer row. Palmer enters 2013 now 40th all-time in career passing yards (29,465) and will soon be a 30K man, but sports a 54-67 career win-loss record. Palmer though goes to an Arizona team with some exceptional receiving talent and Palmer managed 4,000 yards in Oakland with no run-game, and whose top receiver was TE Brandon Myers (806 yards). Arizona has re-worked its offensive line, and a competent QB will no doubt be a big difference, but Arizona did allow an NFL-worst 58 sacks last year.
It wasn’t too long ago that Matt Schaub was a bona fide sleeper and top-end QB in fantasy drafts. After his 4,770 yard passing season in 2010, Schaub was the 10th QB selected on average in 2011. He’s been viewed more of a “game-manager” however since and Houston has focused more on the run than average. Houston had the 9th highest ratio of run to pass attempts last year, although they did have 554 pass attempts, which was middle of the pack (18th). Schaub is off his third 4,000-yard season in the past four years and they finally welcome a talent at wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson with the 1st-round addition of DeAndre Hopkins who scored 18 TDs last year at Clemson.
Most seasons you might feel silly drafting Alex Smith in your fantasy drafts, but perhaps he deserves another chance? Excluding 2008 (Smith broke a bone in his shoulder just before the season started), the former #1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft averaged 2,040 passing yards and 11.6 TDs per season in eight years with the Niners. That’s ugly. Even on a per game basis, as he missed some time with injuries or being sent to the bench, Smith’s full 16-game average as a Niner was just 2,856 yards per season with 16.2 TDs. However, Smith gets a fresh start with the Chiefs and HC Andy Reid’s track-record of turning QBs into stars is remarkably lengthy (he suckered the league into seriously over-paying for A.J. Feely and Kevin Kolb as examples – Feely fetched a 2nd round pick while Philly landed a 2nd round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in exchange for Kolb). Smith actually ended 2012 with a 70.2 completion percentage, the highest in the NFL last year (minimum 200 attempts). Smith is also entering the age historically where QBs tended to peak (before the more modern-passing era where college QBs come ready to sling). Rich Gannon, as an example, was a complete journey-man and bum QB until age 34, yet he won the NFL MVP award when he was 37.
Last up to square off with Joe Flacco is Ryan Tannehill, who sports a ton of new passing weapons to throw to this season with the additions of WR Mike Wallace, WR Brandon Gibson and TE Dustin Keller, while the Dolphins also paid handsomely to retain free agent Brian Hartline. Tannehill has a chance to make the 2012 QB class even greater if he can play up to his amazing cohort of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Tannehill is certainly the franchise QB with Miami having selected him 8th overall last year. Miami wasted no time starting the Tannehill era and they threw him out there week one, despite Tannehill only having 20 career starts in college (after he had switched from wide receiver to quarterback). Tannehill ended 2012 strong with 5 TDs to 1 INT over his last five games.
We have reached the half-way point and with the six-player free-for-all here, the odds of getting all 15 polls spikes from 1 in about 32 million to 1 in about 191 million (randomly guessing).
UPDATE 01/05/2014: Shout out to the 15% of folks who got this one right – the correct answer was: Ryan Tannehill. It was the slimmest of margins. Tannehill edged Alex Smith for the W 299.45 to 297.35.
Year 2 of the Joe Philbin / Ryan Tannehill era finished with enough optimism for Dolphins’ fan to be looking forward to 2014. Tannehill increased his yardage total from 3300 as a rookie to 3900 and the team upped its’ record from 7-9 to 8-8 and they had a shot for the playoffs in the final week of the season. Tannehill also improved his TD/INT ratio to 24:17. You do have to wonder though if Tannehill has a high enough of a ceiling, but so far, so good, for the second year player.
Year one in Kansas City ended great for Andy Reid and Alex Smith. The team instantly improved from 2-14 a season prior to 11-5 this year, although they have since lost in the playoffs. Still, what a great turnaround. Smith had his best season with 3300 passing yards and a 23:7 TD/INT ratio but Smith really had some nice moments leaving you to think he could do more still here down the road. The highlights for Smith fantasy-wise was a 5-TD game in Week 15 (who knew he had that in him?!) and then Smith had 378 passing yards, 4 TDs and another 57 on the ground in the playoffs.
Year one for Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer in Arizona ended very well, although the team missed the playoffs. The Cardinals were very competent this season and improved their record to 10-6. Palmer actually had the most passing yards of his entire career (4,274), although he also had his most INTs (22). Palmer is signed in Arizona through the 2015 season.
Joe Flacco finished not too far behind (270.70 fantasy points) but he has turned into the definition of fantasy mediocrity and offers no upside. Through six NFL seasons Flacco has yet to throw for 4,000 yards. Baltimore sure did give him a lot of money. Flacco’s 6-year, $120.6M deal is right up there with the Aaron Rodgers’ of the world.
Another season for Jake Locker ended on IR, this time a fairly serious Lisfranc injury. We’ll need to see if he can rehab in time for the 2014 season. Tennessee will also have a new head coach. Then there’s Matt Schaub. Oof. Horrible season – Schaub at one point set the NFL record for the most games in a row with a pick-six. Houston dropped to 2-14 this year and have the #1 overall pick with most expecting they will be selecting Teddy Bridgewater as their new face of the franchise and new starting QB.