Last year was something special.
Rookie quarterbacks played nothing like the part. They took the league by storm and proved that they belong in this league. Three of those rookies led their respective teams to playoff berths and, of course, were very fantasy relevant, which is obviously all we care about. Four rookie signal callers finished the season with more than 200 fantasy points, one of the main reasons why the position is so ridiculously deep this season. Having said all of this, can fantasy owners expect similar production from these guys as they enter their sophomore seasons? Let’s break it down.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: How incredibly awesome was he to watch last season? RG3 made an immediate impact for the Redskins in his inaugural season, leading them to an NFC East title and becoming a top tier fantasy quarterback in the process. Griffin finished the season as a top-10 fantasy signal caller and for a long period of time, was the number one scoring quarterback. Despite being a mobile quarterback, Griffin was incredibly accurate, posting a 65.6 completion percentage while only throwing four interceptions all season long. Speaking of that mobility, Griffin makes for an elite fantasy option with his legs, rushing for seven touchdowns and a whopping 815 yards (5th most in NFL history). He rushed for more than 50 yards in eight games, making for an always dangerous threat in that department. RG3 also averaged the most fantasy points per drop back (0.70) so he clearly has that elite skill level and upside. I’m sold that he is a top-five fantasy option… when healthy. Yes, of course RG3, being a running quarterback, had to get hurt. He tore his ACL during January’s playoff game and has been recovering all offseason. It still isn’t set in stone whether or not he will suit up for Week 1, but Griffin is a competitor, so I personally think he will. That being said, I do think the Redskins pull the reins back a bit, at least on his rushes. This team wants to run the football (32.4 attempts per contest) and Alfred Morris clearly proved that he is capable of carrying the load. I don’t expect the rushing numbers to duplicate, but RG3 is a strong and accurate enough passer to finish as a top ten guy, but I’d have a hard time putting him anywhere higher than that heading into the season. The injury concerns me just a little bit, but perhaps we are simply in a new era of ACL recoveries.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Oh trust me. Luck certainly was no slouch himself last season. He led a previous 2-13 Colts team to the playoffs and provided some memorable moments. It was simply a magical season for Luck and the Colts, despite being eliminated in the first round. From a statistical standpoint, Luck threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also provided some fantasy value with his legs, rushing for five touchdowns as well. Despite finishing as fantasy’s number nine quarterback, I think we may see a bit of regression from Luck in 2013. First of all, although he is a very underrated scrambler, I don’t see him rushing for five scores this year. In 2012, the Colts really had no rushing options in the red zone, but now they have brought in a proven, capable guy in Ahmad Bradshaw who is strong in short yardage situations. However, the most important aspect is the change in offense. Bruce Arians is no longer calling the plays. Instead, it’s Luck’s former college coordinator Pep Hamilton, who is historically a west coast guy. This means that Luck’s 627 attempts (5th in football) will certainly lower a bit. I also fully expect Luck to lower his deep balls. In 2012, he led the league in aDOT (10.8) and also led the league in passes traveling 20 yards or more. That’s as a rookie! This season, Luck will not chuck the ball that often and will lower his interception total (18) and raise his completion percentage because of the short passing style Hamilton is likely to implement. Luck will continue to be an incredible real life quarterback for ages, but may take a step back in fantasy.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: I think if any of these young guns are to take a statistical step forward, it’ll be Wilson. Last season, he finished just shy of an impressive 300 fantasy points, despite tying for 25th in total pass attempts. Keep in mind, he didn’t really produce awesome fantasy numbers until the second half of last season, and I expect him to be consistently productive in 2013. Wilson looked to make the most of every play last season, averaging 0.61 fantasy points per contest, tying for third in football. That’s ahead of guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. And while Seattle may want to run the ball more with powerhouse Marshawn Lynch, I feel that this offense will be a bit more aggressive in 2013, especially with shiny new toy Percy Harvin. You can bet that they will want to utilize Harvin as much as possible, whether it be bubble screens, slants or handoffs. Also, keep in mind that Wilson isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run either. He rushed for four touchdowns and 489 yards last year, the third most rushing yardage among quarterbacks. Wilson has the potential to crack the top-five among fantasy quarterbacks this season, and wouldn’t be surprised if he did.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: With the above three studs making all the headlines, Tannehill flew under the radar as a rookie last year. The statistics didn’t help, throwing for 3,294 yards 12 scores and 13 interceptions, but from watching him, I think there is still some upside here. The kid showed some flashes last year and has a solid arm, but it’s more about the additions that could help him take a little step forward. Of course, the Dolphins were heavy spenders in free agency, bringing in Mike Wallace, a guy who can stretch the field and beat corners deep. They maintained Brian Hartline, who will be a solid number two. They also added a strong pass-catching tight end (when healthy) in Dustin Keller. This Dolphins team has the potential to be an explosive offense and Tannehill has the weapons to take a step forward this year. Consider him a QB2, who is a bit more attractive in dynasty formats.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.