May 13, 2010
Granted, this is an extreme example, but here’s a benefit to not doing the print magazine this year: we no longer have space limitations. This is a hardcore example, but check out Aaron Rodgers’ massive player preview. I almost think this can be expanded, but this is nearly 1000-words, which is out of control. We’re going to have all the player previews up in early-t0-mid June. As you can see from this sample, they’re going to take a little while.
Note: This has not really been edited for grammar, spelling, etc.
Aaron Rodgers (GB, 26) – As expected, Rodgers made significant improvements in 2009 after a solid 2008, his first year the starter for Green Bay. He hit a bit of a rough patch in which his shaky OL caused him at times to lose his comfort level and mechanics, causing him to perceive pressure and break down on his own and hold on to the ball, but Rodgers worked through those issues and avoided a sophomore slump. The guy really had only 1-2 bad games all year and he proved for the second year in a row that he’s on the verge of being an elite player, although we think he’s there already. His arm strength is much better than it was coming out of college, his mobility and ability to extend plays is extremely helpful, and he’s probably the best 3rd-down QB in the NFL. He may not be a true carry-the-team QB, but he’s a very good passer who throws as good a deep ball as anyone in the league, and he has toughness to his game. His 4434 yards ranked him 4th in the league, as did his 30 TDs (4th). He threw only 7 INTs all year (11 games without a pick), and his 25.1 FPG was tops in the league in a standard scoring system. Rodgers was also the #2 QB in points per game in 2008. But it won’t be a surprise if he goes behind both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning in most drafts, and in some leagues maybe even after Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. He was very good in 2008 and improved in almost every meaningful stat in 2009: completion percentage (64.7% vs. 63.6%); yards per attempt (8.2 vs. 7.5); TDs (30 vs. 28 and TD rate (5.5% vs. 5.2%); INTs (7 vs. 13) and INT rate (1.3% vs. 2.4%); and yards (4434 vs. 4038). He puts up numbers with his legs as well as his arm, leading all QBs with 5 rushing TDs and 2nd in rushing yards with 304. He’s only going into his 3rd year as a starter, so he has more room to improve than the other highly regarded QBs, and his team favors passing over running, throwing on 58% of their plays, ranking him 11th. The problem is, he got sacked 50 times – most in the league – and not only does that look bad, it can lead to injury, which makes Rodgers a riskier fantasy pick than those other QBs. But when you look at Rodgers’ splits for the first eight games vs. the last eight, his sack numbers dropped substantially, from 37 to 13, even though he threw more passes in the final eight games. When his line was healthier, his sacks dropped to a manageable number. Also, it appears the Packers were running shorter routes as the season wore on, as Rodgers YPA went down (from 8.7 to 7.8) and his completion rate went up (63.1% to 66.2%), both signs of throwing shorter passes. This did hurt his fantasy production as his yardage totals dropped by about 175 yards and his TDs by two. The team dictated that he got rid of the ball quicker, and Rodgers was able to adjust, and since then he hasn’t looked back. Not many QBs are capable of going through that and coming out better for it. If the second half of his season were extended to a whole year, he would have had 4354 passing yards and 28 TDs, still excellent totals. In that regard, there is no reason for to go lower than the 2nd QB drafted in 2010. One thing that may lower his fantasy value is a projected drop in his rushing TD total. Since 1988, QBs with five or more rushing TDs in one year averaged only 2.6 the next season. Of the 32 QB seasons in this group, only 4 times did they match or exceed 5 TDs (Daunte Culpepper and Kordell Stewart both did it twice). Ten times those QBs who had rushed for five or more TDs scored only zero or one TD the next year. However, there’s no denying the fact that Rodgers’ rushing production, even if lowered from 2009, gives him advantage over his peers for fantasy purposes. Rodgers also remained fairly healthy through most of 2009, despite taking those league-high 50 sacks. Luckily, he’ll have OTs Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher back at 100% to start the 2010 season in addition to 1st-round draft pick OT Bryan Bulaga, who is the LT of the future. His receiving corps might also be the most underrated in the league. Starting WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were both solid again in 2009, but TE Jermichael Finley broke through in a big way and enters 2010 as a legit Top-5 player at the position. In addition, guys like WRs James Jones and Jordy Nelson are able to make teams pay when there is too much focus put on the big names. Rodgers’ schedule also looks decent; it’s not incredibly easy, but it doesn’t look particularly prohibitive, either. In short, we think this guy is elite, and the Packers are a team on the rise and loaded on offense. Entering his third season as a starter, we expect Rodgers to only get better and cement his status as a top-flight fantasy QB.