Fantasy Football 2011: Why Drafting Michael Vick Will Kill Your Fantasy Season

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Fantasy Football 2011: Why Drafting Michael Vick Will Kill Your Fantasy Season
Michael Vick's hard-nosed style of play leads to some impressive fantasy scoring, but also additional punishment by the league's hardest hitters.

A young man comes across a large sum of money and decides to treat himself to a nice new car. At the dealership, the salesman helps whittle the options down to two.

The first car is a brand-new, fire-engine-red Lamborghini. It’s the fastest thing on the market, complete with all the bells and whistles that one could ask for, and then some. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag, and the salesman shares just one warning: the car, for some reason, breaks down at least once per year for several weeks. You can’t predict when, but it does have this one unexplainable flaw.

The second car is a shiny new Ford Mustang with a number of good accessories of its own. The price tag is considerably less, meaning the young man could spend some extra money on some of the other frills he’s always wanted. And, the salesman promises, the Mustang is as reliable as they come.

Which car do you take? The ultimate sports car with a history of, at times, letting its owner sit? Or the super-reliable muscle car that will cost less and allow for some other new “toys?” 

This is the fantasy dilemma surrounding Michael Vick, the Eagles quarterback who is a fantasy “Lamborghini” when on the field, but whose style of play leaves him open for injury and regular missed time.

ChinStrapNinjas.com writer ep, recently declared that Vick is worth the risk, knowing you will have to blow a first-round pick on him (an early one in more and more leagues). His article is very good. You should read it before going any further. Then come back here so I can talk some sense into you.

I don’t have a problem with Vick as a person. He has shown a lot of maturity in his comeback from the dogfighting mess. He proved he can be a dynamic threat both on the ground and through the air.

I was impressed while watching the Week 1 game vs. Green Bay in person, where Vick made much better “football” decisions instead of running out of the pocket every time someone looked at him funny.

And when he was on the field, he helped fantasy owners win games like nobody’s business.

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The mantra among many fantasy veterans time and time again has been to not overspend on a quarterback. The main logic being that the difference in pointage from QB1 to QB15 or so is much less steep than that between RB1 and RB15.

Last year in standard scoring where QB gets six points per TD, one for every 10 yards rushing and one for every 25 yards passing, Tom Brady was actually the top scorer. Vick was surprisingly fourth behind Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. In that same scoring, Jay Cutler was QB15 last season, scoring 120 points less than Brady—or 7.5 points per contest over a 16-game season.

Meanwhile, among RBs in the same scoring (with PPR and one point per 10 yards receiving), Arian Foster topped the list with 379 points in 2010. LaDanian Tomlinson was 15th among RBs with 201 points, a difference of 178 or 11.13 points per game.

Now, before we go any further, Vick’s value changes in leagues that score differently. For example, he has more value in leagues where passing TDs are four points each and rushing TDs six. Still, the same general philosophy holds true—QBs trail off in points slower than running backs.

Considering that most every league has a premium on elite running backs, the top 15 RBs typically get gobbled up quicker than a bag of Chips Ahoy at a daycare center. According to FantasyCalculator.com, the 15th running back in ADP, LeGerrette Blount, is going, on average, 25th overall.

At that point in overall ADP, only three quarterbacks are off the boards: Vick, Brady and Rodgers. Manning, who is coming off what many consider an “off” year (although he still outscored Vick in the settings listed above), is going 35th overall in current ADP.

So, when you draft in the early first round, you have a choice—take one of the elite running back options or take Michael Vick, as many are now suggesting you do.

If you do take Vick, you are looking at drafting guys like Peyton Hillis, Matt Forte and LeGerrette Blount as your top back. Or DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace or Reggie Wayne as your top WR. This is all per current ADP.

On the flip side, if you take one of the big running back options in the early first round, you have your choice of running backs or receivers listed above at your next pick—or any quarterback not named Michael Vick or Aaron Rodgers.

This means you could anchor your team around either Vick and Hillis (or Forte or Blount or one of the receivers) or perhaps a Chris Johnson and Brady. Which pair gives you the best chance to succeed?

Going even further, you could wait until the third round to take your QB and still have plenty of options. Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning would all be available there according to ADP.

Of course, this is all based on Vick scoring about the same as last season. We know he missed time due to injury and didn’t play the entire first game because Kevin Kolb technically started.

However, don’t try to convince yourself that Vick will stay healthy. There is a chance, for sure, but players who tote the football on a regular basis get hammered more than other players. It is simple logic.

Last season, Vick ran for almost double the next two QBs on the rushing list, Rodgers and Josh Freeman. He carried the ball 100 times in 2010. Tom Brady had 31 carries over the course of the season. Vick ran the ball three times as much as Brady. Peyton Manning ran the ball 18 times, meaning Vick rushed more than five times as many times as Manning.

There is a reason running backs, on average, have a significantly shorter shelf life in the NFL than QBs, and that all hinges on the number of smacks received during their careers.

Ep makes a great point in that the Eagles had a full offseason (minus lockout roadblocks) to re-plan their offense around Vick—something that didn’t happen last season since Kolb was planned to be under center.

However, that also means that opposing defenses have had extra time to game plan for Vick. When I saw Vick take over in Week 1 last year, my Packers were dumbfounded on how to handle the threat. Other defenses during the season were equally unprepared to take on the dual threat. Don’t expect coordinators to be as naïve this time around.

Looking at Vick’s overall stats, it is also possible he’ll take at least a small hit in a couple of the categories. For example, his six interceptions last season are only half of what he averaged during his tenure with the Falcons. His nine 2010 rushing-TDs were nearly double his average during the Atlanta campaign. I fully expect LeSean McCoy to get more carries out of the backfield than the measly 200 he had last season. That would potentially cut into Vick’s rushing TDs and yardage.

However, even if Vick doesn’t decline in any of the stat categories this season, I’m still personally more comfortable with a more reliable QB. I would be majorly surprised if Vick doesn’t miss time in 2011, and when he does, how will it cost your team? Will you be in the middle of a late-season playoff push? Will you be playing for all the fantasy marbles?

Call me old-fashioned or a wimp or whatever, but I’d rather hitch my wagon to a quarterback who will produce similar (if even a little less) stats at a fraction of the draft-day cost, and who will be there when I need him most.

Fantasy football drafting is all about investments. The bigger the money you put out, the more reliable you want that item to be.

Your first-round pick is your biggest investment. Spend it wisely.

Don't miss my 2011 redraft rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE

For all your hard-hitting 2011 fantasy football advice, you'll want to check out our free online draft kit.

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