Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
I last talked about picking between Mr. Thomas Brady and Mr. Drewseph Brees. You can click away if you want to know who I chose or don't if you really couldn't possibly care any less.
Today, I'm looking at two perennially second tier quarterbacks, who have both shown glimpses of first tierness.
I have been a fan of both throughout the years, but they unfortunately have had trouble reaching the top five best fantasy quarterbacks list at the end of the season.
As you can see below, Tony Romo has done it once and Philip Rivers has achieved this distinction twice. But on the whole, when healthy and both played 16 games, Romo has out-fake-footballed Rivers three out of four years. Of course, the whole "when healthy" phrase has held Romo back in two of the last four seasons.
Philip Rivers and Tony Romo both had improved second halves last season.
However, it wouldn't take much to improve for Philip Rivers, after throwing more interceptions (14) in the first half than he had thrown in any of his three previous full seasons.
As you can see, the overall numbers weren't a huge increase for Rivers, but the increase in touchdowns and decrease in interceptions helped him up his fantasy points per game—the same is true for Romo. Rivers went from the 11th ranked quarterback in the first eight games to the ninth in the second eight, and Romo went from the 10th to the seventh. Those aren't huge increments, but in the NFL, quarterbacks are king, and Romo and Rivers are competing with some big numbers.
When you take a look at the two quarterbacks' numbers during their seasons, where they played all 16 games, they look awfully similar.
But one trend that I like for Romo is the trend in quarterback rating. As you can see, Romo has gradually moved his numbers up, while Rivers has been moving in the opposite direction.
So, at least we know they were both improving their game as the 2011 season went on. But will that continue into this season?
The questions for Rivers are, was his poor decision making and interception woes due to an undisclosed injury, or was he just showing a decline and the fact that he's never going to become the consistent fantasy quarterback that many envisioned? Will the loss of Vincent Jackson hurt him? Will the offense be run through Ryan Mathews?
When I started writing this article, I wasn't completely sure who I would end up choosing. I wanted to believe that Rivers' second half of the season was a big enough step forward to keep him moving back to his former fantasy football self, but when I went to answer the above questions, I realized they put more risk on picking Rivers than I had wanted.
I worry about the new emphasis on Ryan Mathews as the go-to back, the loss of Vincent Jackson and the injury concerns of Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd. But mainly, I worry that Rivers wasn't hurt last season, like he said, and that he just wasn't good enough. Whereas when watching Tony Romo, I saw glimpses of greatness still hiding under that news-boy cap.
Of course, I do worry about Romo getting hurt again, but I don't see the odds of that being much greater for him than for others. His previous injuries aren't results of some glass-bones disease. They could have happened to any quarterback.
Dez Bryant's immaturity is worrisome, but he still scored 10 touchdowns last season while not playing up to his potential. His ceiling is too high not to feel good about him, even if he misses a game or two to suspension.
And Romo still has Jason Witten, Austin Miles (hopefully not hurt this season), and two running backs who are good receivers in DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. The Cowboys' offense is intact, while the Chargers are bringing in part-time player in Robert Meachem and relying on a running back for a bulk of their offensive yards.
I don't hate Rivers this season. I think he is a good quarterback who can work with just about any receiver, as he did in 2010 when thirteen Chargers had over 100 receiving yards.
But his chance to crack the top five quarterbacks this season seems slim in comparison to Romo's.
You have to pick Romo a little earlier—usually in the fifth round, compared to Rivers in the sixth—but I think his upside is worth it.