Fantasy Football 2012: Why You Should Be Cautious with Michael Vick

Chris PetersonAnalyst IJuly 13, 2012

Michael Vick could be an elite fantasy option in 2012
Michael Vick could be an elite fantasy option in 2012Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There is no question about it, Michael Vick is a dynamic player and at times he is capable of being the most dangerous weapon in the National Football League.

The problem with Vick is consistency and as we evaluate the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback for the upcoming fantasy football season, it is important to keep in mind that although he offers a tremendous reward in terms of upside, he will always be a risky selection for fantasy owners.

Despite his less then stellar 2011 campaign, Vick was still able to put together a decent fantasy season as he totaled 228 fantasy points and finished the year as the 11th ranked fantasy quarterback.

Yet, after the incredible performance in 2010, when Vick scored 300 fantasy points in just 11 starts, his draft stock soared and many fantasy owners decided to forgo the risk because his upside was so great.

It is hard to say that a player disappoints when he finishes 11th in scoring at his position, but in Vick's case that season should be considered a down year simply because so many fantasy owners invested so much into him in terms of premium draft picks.

There is a common misconception out there that Vick's numbers were down solely due to injuries that caused him to miss three starts in the middle of the season. However, Vick actually played in and started more games in 2011 (13 starts) than he did in 2010 (12 games, 11 starts) yet his production still decreased.

Digging a little deeper into Vick's 2011 season reveals that there are some reasons to be concerned about his fantasy value going forward into the 2012 NFL season.

The first thing that jumps out when comparing Vick's 2011 stats to his remarkable 2010 campaign is the decrease in touchdowns, both passing and running. In 2010, Vick accounted for 30 total touchdowns (21 pass, nine rush). Yet last season, while playing more games, Vick's touchdown total decreased to only 19 (18 pass, one rush). That is a significant drop.

Including his Atlanta days, Vick has a career touchdown pass percentage of 4.4 percent. In 2010 that number soared to 5.6 percent, only to fall back last season to 4.3 percent. His interception total also increased in 2011 to 3.3, which was up from the 1.6 percent he had in 2010.

Vick also saw his completion percentage fall by at fairly significant rate from 62.6 in 2010 to 59.8 in 2011. He did throw for more yards and increased his passing yards per game average by three yards but yardage will only get you so far in fantasy football. At some point your players need to produce touchdowns and Vick simply did not do that at a very high rate last season.

The most overlooked aspect of Vick's decline last season was the dramatic drop-off in rushing touchdowns he experienced. He scored just one in 2011 as opposed to the nine he scored in 2010.

Vick still ran the ball effectively and in fact upped his yards per carry from 6.8 to 7.8. However, in 2010 he scored a rushing touchdown once every 11.1 attempts. In 2011, he scored a rushing touchdown just once on 78 attempts.

For his career, Vick has a scored a rushing touchdown once every 12.5 attempts, so the lack of rushing touchdowns may have just been a fluke. 

On the other hand, his rate of touchdown passes per attempt was close to his career average. So do not expect much improvement in that area in 2012. In his nine-year NFL career, he has thrown a touchdown pass once every 22.8 attempts and last year he threw a touchdown pass once every 23.5. So it increased slightly, which is never good but in the end it amounts to about one less touchdown pass over the course of a season.

The big question that we now need to answer is what all these numbers mean for Vick's 2012 season and in particular for fantasy owners.

The good news is that even though Vick's number of total touchdowns fell last season from 30 to 19, according to his career statistics, he should be able to produce around 20 touchdown passes and nine rushing touchdowns.

Another key factor in Vick's production will be the amount of time he is actually on the field and since he has started all 16 games just once in his career, fantasy owners cannot expect him to do that in 2012.

More than likely, Vick will start 13-14 games in 2012 and if he does that fantasy owners can reasonably expect Vick to throw for approximately 3,500 yards as well as rush for approximately 700 yards.

In addition to the 4,200 total yards I also project Vick to throw 20 passing touchdowns and score eight rushing touchdowns as well as 15 total turnovers. That equates to approximately 308 fantasy points, which would amount to about 19.25 fantasy points per game.

Keeping in mind that Vick is a health risk and that those projections are based on Vick playing in 14 games this season, fantasy owners should look to take Vick somewhere in Round 3 or 4. Taking him in Round 2 is a bit of reach because others such as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Cam Newton have proven to be reliable and have more value. 

Yet, Vick should be in the discussion with Lions quarterback Matt Stafford as a top five fantasy quarterback and has as much upsides as any quarterback available. At this point it will be about risk/reward analysis for each individual owner. My advice would be to wait until Round 3 or 4 to nab Vick as your QB1. It mitigates some of the risk involved and makes him a much more sensible investment.