Fantasy footballers, I have a question for you. If you had to choose between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as your fantasy quarterback, which player would you select?
To some, the answer is easy; but is it that easy?
What you have are two dynamic talents, playing the same position after being drafted first and second in the 2012 NFL draft.
They are actually walking into similar scenarios with their teams rebuilding.
One clear difference is Luck is replacing an iconic quarterback in Peyton Manning. RGIII, on the other hand, is replacing not-so-stellar Rex Grossman.
Both Luck and RGIII will have big expectations this season, although not many are predicting a playoff appearance for either team. They will have to produce and overcome the growing pains, which comes with being a rookie quarterback in the NFL. The problem for fantasy footballers is figuring out which rookie quarterback will have the greater fantasy season.
To make a case for Luck, I will start with his aptitude, or his quarterback I.Q.
Luck had an outstanding second season as the starting quarterback of the Stanford Cardinal two years ago. Many, including myself, felt that he was an NFL quarterback stuck on a college team.
During his sophomore season, Luck threw for 3,338 yards, connecting on 32 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. Those are NFL-like statistics against Pac-12 teams.
To prove that it was not a one-season fluke, Luck opted to return for a third season as Stanford's starting quarterback. The results were great: 3,517 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Which quarterback would you choose?
Just from judging him in the preseason, Luck looks poised in the pocket. He has shown that he can read the opposing team’s defense, never allowing the defense to rattle him. It's clear that he is already one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL, although we'll find out for sure over the next four months.
What Luck has in aptitude, RGIII has in play-making ability.
During his final season with the Baylor Bears, RGIII kept plays alive with his feet. He also threw for an impressive 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions. He proved that he could pass the ball just as well as Luck.
Some believe that much of RGIII’s plays will be made with his feet, thus giving him an advantage over Luck. Not so fast, as Luck actually was the second-leading rusher for the Cardinal in 2010, just as RGIII was for the Bears in his final season.
There are no major advantages here. But there are two factors you should consider when trying to decide who has the edge: the strength of schedule and the supporting cast of each team.
Luck will play a more forgiving AFC South schedule. Looking at his divisional opponents, the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans loom as threats. The rest of the schedule includes the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC North. Each team presents a considerable challenge.
Luck's weapons include receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie as well as his college tight end Coby Fleener. Running back Donald Brown will look to take pressure off the rookie.
RGIII not only has a more difficult road, but he also has a supporting cast with few proven players beyond receivers Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss and tight end Fred Davis.
Receiver Josh Morgan is coming back from a broken leg he suffered last season and running back Roy Helu has only one NFL season to his credit. This gives RGIII a few question marks going into the season.
The biggest question mark is will this be the year that Garcon proves to be a No. 1 receiver?
Luck has Wayne, who has an NFL Pro Bowl resume.
So when looking at the teams' schedules and rosters, an advantage has to go to Luck.
But there is one more factor that I would base my decision on: coaching.
Indy's Chuck Pagano is in his first season as an NFL head coach. He is bound to have some growing pains, no matter how good the talent around him may be. The Redskins have head coach Mike Shanahan, winner of two Super Bowls.
Shanahan knows how to coach up a quarterback. He had an NFL Hall of Famer in John Elway and was credited for grooming current Jay Cutler.
Pagano may turn out to be an excellent coach, but he does not have the body of work of Shanahan.
I'd give RGIII the slight edge because of Shanahan's experience.