May 3, 2011
I am participating in my first fantasy draft of the year tonight for MyFantasyLeague.com, so I am starting to think about my overall draft strategy for this year.
My first inclination, as I’ve conveyed a bit in this blog already this year, is that 2011 is not a year to mess around with for obvious reasons (the lockout). I’m not going to try to be a hero, and I’m going to play things a little conservatively. At least I’m going to try to. It might be tough because I’m a play-to-win guy, but I think it would behoove fantasy players to focus on as many stable options as possible, at least in the first 4-6 rounds of a draft. That means eliminating as much risk as possible.
And that’s why I think Michael Vick should not be drafted as the #1 QB in 2011. In fact, I don’t think he should be the second or even the third fantasy QB drafted. At some point, likely any time in the 2nd round, he is too flashy and exciting to pass up on, but pass on him I might because I think it’s more important to avoid downside this year than it is to go for upside. Vick’s upside is insane, as he proved last year, but he also showed some downside.
Obviously, I’m talking about the injury factor. While Vick has actually been fairly durable over the course of his career for a guy who runs so much, he’s clearly someone who’s a good bet to miss some time at this point in his career. Last year, Vick missed 3 of 14 possible starts. Back in 2006, his last full season before 2011, Vick didn’t miss a game. But he missed a game in 2005, 2004, and 2002. In 2003, he broke his leg and played in only 5 games.
Vick took a pounding last year, which is a concern. I actually interviewed him by phone earlier in his career and asked him if he was hurting every Monday after taking all the hits he was taking, and he said he was not and felt fine. Not only was he probably lying, but he was also a 22-year old guy at the time. He’ll be 31 next month, so it’s going to get harder and harder to bounce back from those hits. He’ll almost certainly miss some time, and no one’s going to be surprised if he missed 2-4 games this year. The nature of the Eagle offense only compounds the injury risk Vick always presents.
On the other hand, people are going to be shocked if Peyton Manning misses just a single game, and pretty darn surprised if Drew Brees does. They may not be floored if Aaron Rodgers misses a start because of his concussion issues, but Rodgers has made 47 of 48 possible starts the last three years. All totaled, this trio has officially made 143 of 144 possible starts the last three years, with Rodgers’ game missed this past year due to a concussion the only missed start. Going back to 2004, Manning and Brees have made 223 of 223 starts, which is insanely reliable (Brees missed one game because they had locked up their playoff positioning in 2009). I’m not worried about Manning or Brees missing time, that’s for sure.
I am a little worried about Rodgers, but the guy’s obviously fantastic, and his offense is absolutely loaded. Rodgers, of course, can do serious damage with his legs and augment his already great fantasy value, but his passing skills are incredible. Considering he’s in a great situation and does most of his damage throwing the ball and plays on a team that will commit to the run somewhat regularly, his downside doesn’t appear to be significant. That leads me back to Vick. Vick clearly improved greatly last year in terms of setting his feet and looking to pass after scrambling, and he was more relaxed and composed, and pretty darn decisive and accurate. He was clearly receptive to coaching, and that was the difference. However, his accuracy and touch in the middle of the field was still shaky, and by the end of the season he was starting to overreact to pressure. He was too quick to throw or move, and he started to be more erratic with his accuracy, plus he started missing big plays that were on the field. It seemed like he started to revert to previous form, and his instincts started taking over, which isn’t really a good thing for Vick. Finally, he didn’t handle the blitz very well. One needs to look no further than that pivotal Week Sixteen loss against the Vikings for proof of that. The mediocre Viking defense put a lot of pressure on Vick, and while he still put up numbers, his level of play dropped, and at times he even looked a little overmatched. They lost the game, their crack at home field advantage, and the rest is history (the Packers also handled him well in the post-season).
So there were some warning signs from Vick the player on the field later in the season, which is disconcerting. We know Rodgers, Manning, and Brees won’t have any serious issues as long as they’re on the field – and we’re pretty sure they’re going to be on the field.
I’m not so sure Vick will be on the field all 16 weeks, and in fact I’m pretty sure he won’t be, so I’ll probably be passing on him unless most in my draft feel the same way as I do. If so, then Vick’s upside may be too good to pass up in the 2nd round. But I’m pretty comfortable ranking him at “only” #4 at the QB position this year.