Playing fantasy football is all about maximizing value. This is a common theme and widely understood. However, unlike fantasy baseball, where a solid, well-performing team of no stars can work its way through a season and finish in first place, fantasy football is more about maximizing potential than actual value. Owners want upside and high-caliber players because those are the athletes who swing championships.
The reason for the difference lies in the uncertainty of fantasy football. Any player, no matter how unbreakable, can be out for the season any given week, on any given play. Just ask anyone who owned Tom Brady a few years ago. Because of unpredictability of injuries and missed time, the smartest option is to aim for the stars as it were.
Consequently, the smartest and best option for the No. 1 overall selection in fantasy drafts is Michael Vick.
No other player in the league, at any position, has the upside that Vick does coming into this season. He has the ability to finish near the top of the quarterback charts while also submitting a reasonable example of an average running back’s season at the same time. Last year, in just 12 games, Vick threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also contributed nine more touchdowns on the ground and ran for nearly 700 yards.
With just some pedestrian math, a full season would have put Vick on the cusp of 4,000 yards passing and 900 yards rushing while accumulating roughly 35 total touchdowns (i.e. one of the greatest fantasy seasons of all time). It would be as if you could have started both Matt Ryan and Mike Tolbert in your quarterback slot, right around 400 fantasy points for the season (depending on league settings of course).
Now the obvious and only argument against selecting Vick No. 1 is the doubt that he will play a full season under center. This is a genuine concern yet shouldn't be factored in to the decision any more than whether you want to play out your season hoping to finish in first place or in fourth place.
Passing on Vick and going the vanilla route will set a team up nicely to make the playoffs if some waiver additions pan out and injuries are avoided. However, taking Vick puts a team in prime position to win the championship. He has the capacity to score so many more points than all the other quarterbacks. After all, he was the leading scorer last season, playing in just those 12 games.
Of course, if Vick does go down for an extended period of time, the season is not lost. He can be replaced just like any other star. If you were to lose Vick, replacing him with the 13th-rated quarterback (assuming a 12-team league) would not be the end of the world. Last year, that player would have been Carson Palmer or David Garrard, someone in the area of 200-225 fantasy points scored.
This is yet another reason to go with Vick No. 1: the “replacement level” quarterback is much better than any comparable running back. If Adrian Peterson is your first selection and he goes down (not inconceivable), then you are stuck with the best running back on the waiver wire; a player who will score nowhere close to 200 fantasy points. For some comparison, not even the great Maurice Jones-Drew reached the 200-point plateau last year.
The only other reason to pass on Vick would be a fear of missing a top running back. However, with the way the league is progressing these past few years, “top running back” is going the way of the dodo. There are fewer than 10 players who could be considered legitimate No. 1, three down backs. Even top pick Jamaal Charles is in a time-share these days. Thomas Jones put up a respectable 896 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, good for top 25 among running backs even though his back-mate was a first-round value.
If you are lucky enough to be awarded the No. 1 pick, there will be options abound for your back-to-back picks in Rounds 2 and 3.
(Please note: If you play in an auction league like a real man, this is not applicable. Just spend as much money as it takes to haul in Vick. Fill in the holes later.)
Some of the players currently projected to go around that time include the likes of stud wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Mike Wallace and “No. 1 backs” Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden or Matt Forte. It is not like taking Michael Vick No. 1 leaves you with a bunch of scrubs.
Maximizing potential, ignoring the unpredictability of fantasy football; those are the mantras to leave with. Drafting a team should be with the goal of accumulating the players able to put up the most points. Don’t draft banking on something going poorly. If that is your attitude, fantasy football might not be the game for you.