Young quarterbacks took the NFL, and fantasy football by connection, by storm in 2012. Rookies Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were productive right out of the gate, and second-year man Colin Kaepernick looked great after becoming a starter around mid-season.
Two quarterbacks that still qualify as young, since they will both turn 26 during the coming season, are Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. Both set career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2012 and look to be on the rise, but is one a better fantasy option than the other this year?
The Case For Andy Dalton
The Bengals made adding talent around Dalton a priority during April’s draft, using their first two picks on tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Both rookies should see significant playing time immediately, but the veteran incumbents at both positions (tight end Jermaine Gresham, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis) remain in the mix.
A.J. Green is clearly the No. 1 wide receiver in Cincinnati, but Andrew Hawkins had 51 catches last season and a trio of young players (Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Cobi Hamilton) could make a push for playing time.
The Case For Sam Bradford
For the first time in his career, Bradford will have the same offensive system in back-to-back years with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer returning. That can only be good news for the former No. 1 overall pick, and the Rams focused on bolstering his supporting cast via the draft (wide receiver Tavon Austin) and free agency (tight end Jared Cook).
The loss of veteran running back Steven Jackson may hurt both in terms of on-field production and veteran leadership, but St. Louis has three young running backs vying for the starting job. Daryl Richardson looks like the front runner to start right now, and Isaiah Pead’s fumble in the preseason opener will surely keep things that way in the near-term. Zac Stacy, a fifth-round pick in April, may be able to carve out a role for himself if Richardson is not up to the task.
Bradford and Dalton are not among the elite fantasy options under center, at least for 2013, but both have the makings of a QB2 with upside in 12-team leagues.
Choosing between the two really comes down to who you draft as your No.1 quarterback. If you’re just looking for a solid, serviceable option that can be a bye week fill-in or an occasional starter if you can start two quarterbacks, I think Dalton is a good choice. But if you don’t end up with one of the elite signal callers and upside is what you seek, which you should in that situation, Bradford is the better option. Bradford should be throwing the ball more than Dalton and his schedule is more favorable, with a bunch of indoor games and no bad weather games during the fantasy playoffs.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.