Colin Kaepernick Vs. Andrew Luck: The Next Elite QBs

In 2012, quarterbacks were drafted earlier in Fantasy drafts than any year in recent memory. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and even Mathew Stafford were all routinely taken in the first round of standard single QB league drafts because of their monstrous yardage totals, high numbers of touchdowns and a lack of depth at the position. Nobody wanted to be stuck with a scrub at QB, so they took the best of the best early in drafts. Just one year later, the NFL has been reinvigorated at the league’s most important position. In this season’s drafts there is not a single quarterback that has an average draft position in the first round of standard leagues according to FFtoolBox.com. The reason for that is depth, and that depth is because of the emergence of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. There is no reason to draft the elite QB’s because you can get a well above-average QB much, much later. Here are the 2012-2013 stats for these four young signal callers:

 

Player

Passing Yds.

Passing TDs

Rushing Yds.

Rushing TDs

Fantasy Points

Colin Kaepernick*

1814

10

415

5

193

Russell Wilson

3118

26

489

4

303

Andrew Luck

4374

23

255

5

387

Robert Griffin III

3200

20

826

7

370

*13 games

 

These four quarterbacks are the future of the position in the NFL. Which of these four talented quarterbacks will build on their strong 2012-2013 seasons, and which of these QB’s may fall a step behind the rest? In this week’s Point/Counterpoint, Brandon C Williams and Chris Mitchell will rank and debate the bona fides of four of the most exciting rookie quarterbacks to enter the league since Dan Marino, John Elway, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien. We are going to separate the leaders from the followers. #WhoYaGot

Brandon C. Williams – Point
We are in the midst of the most transformational change at quarterback in National Football League history. Gone are the days where big-armed, statuesque field generals like Dan Marino, Troy Aikman and Drew Bledsoe put up solid numbers despite having all the running ability of a beached whale in Galveston Bay during mid-summer.
The 2012 season saw the evolution of the league’s new breed, as 49ers second-year QB Colin Kaepernick and Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson emphatically proved that the phrase “dual-threat quarterback” was no longer limited to Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. Along with the presence of Cam Newton of the Panthers and the arrival of rookies E.J. Manuel (Bills) and Geno Smith (Jets), the old guard has been overthrown by top-end athletes whose skills and mental aptitude have combined to make them and their future ilk the rule rather than the exception.
Face it: the days of true pro-style quarterbacks is slowly eroding. In a Fantasy sports sense, it’s like watching how pitchers have become more valuable in the post-PED era, or how you can win a Fantasy NBA title without a true center. The latter a mere impossibility 20 years ago, when you had the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing as sure-fire first rounder’s that provided the foundation of success. As long as high school and college coaches continue to emphasize the read option offense, the “traditional” guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are going to slowly go the way of the Beta. Take a gander at the numbers, if you will:

Player

Fantasy Points

Total TDs

Passing Yds.

Rushing Yds

Ranking

Cam Newton

335.46

27

3869

741

4

Russell Wilson

285.62

30

3118

489

11

Colin Kaepernick

177.06

15

1814

415

26

Before you pooh-pooh Kaepernick’s numbers, his prorated numbers over 16 games would have led to 332 Fantasy points and 27 total touchdowns, placing him right behind Newton and just in front of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. Wilson was pacified for much of the first half of the season, as coach Pete Carroll methodically turned him into a Fantasy horse, who performed at a Top 10 QB level for much of the second half.

We know that RG III and Andrew Luck are both future Fantasy lynchpins, but this season will see both evolve more into pocket passers with the ability to run, much along the maturation lines of Donovan McNabb from 2004 on. On the flip side, Kapernick, Newton and Wilson are just the opening wave that will also see Terrelle Pryor of the Raiders get an opportunity to display his wares; Jake Locker (Titans) and Christian Ponder (Vikings) have shown moments of potential, while a Michael Vick injury could lead to either Nick Foles or Matt Barkley showing up. Versatility is a beautiful thing in Fantasy football, and the age has arrived when quarterbacks are giving their owners points not just by passing, but running as well (or in the case of Joe Webb of the Vikings, receptions).

The Revolution is being televised, so why not take advantage of the benefits that change has presented you? When it comes to answering, if you can feel safe having a new breed of quarterback lead you to a Fantasy title, well, to paraphrase POTUS 44, “Yes, you can.”

 

Chris Mitchell – Counterpoint

Does Colin Kaepernick have the goods to become an elite Fantasy QB? Photo Credit: nflravens

Does Colin Kaepernick have the goods to become an elite Fantasy QB?

Whenever an up and coming quarterback comes into the league blessed with the ability to run like a running back but pass like a quarterback, we hear the grumblings, “He is going to revolutionize the game.” We are enamored by super-human athleticism, and rightfully so.  When a player comes into a league loaded with amazing athletes and separates from the pack, we can’t help but imagine the potential. We saw it with Steve Young and Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and even Daunte Culpepper. On this list of four, you see that one of them is a Hall of Famer while the other three have some great highlight reels but never quite reached the lofty heights that we thought they may elevate the NFL game to.

This list of four is a good comparison to this year’s big four of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.  All of these quarterbacks have shown that they are going to have careers in the NFL, but a couple of these guys are going to be stars and a couple of these guys still probably won’t. Luck and Griffin III are going to be the former while Wilson and Kaepernick are going to be the latter, and here is why.

Let’s start with Russell Wilson, a talented signal caller with great running ability who had a completion percentage of 64.1 percent, throwing 252 completions in 393 attempts in 2012-2013. What we have learned in the sabermetrics world we live in is that one of the most important stats in evaluating the viability of a quarterback is his completion percentage. If you don’t complete passes in the NFL then you don’t consistently move the ball down the field, and you don’t win championships. Wilson’s 64.1 percent is very respectable and well within the range necessary to win games. It was better than Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger Eli Manning and even Andrew Luck in 2012.

But when you look a little deeper you also see that Wilson completed only 252 passes, 170 less than Drew Brees, 87 less than Andrew Luck and only six more completions in 90 fewer attempts than Mark Sanchez. Yes, I threw Mark Sanchez into this column. With a defense like the Seahawks had in 2012, and a workhouse running back like Marshawn Lynch, you can win games while completing less than almost every other full time starting quarterback in the NFL. But you don’t become one of the elite players in the game when your coach’s priority is ball control, field position and forcing teams to drive eighty yards against a suffocating defense. I understand Wilson was a rookie and most offensive schemes are limited when you have a young signal caller, but if fans can get all hot and bothered over how great a season Russell Wilson had in 2012, then let’s look at some of the things he didn’t do regardless of whether he was given the opportunity or not.

Can Russell Wilson become one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL? Can he have a long career as a 5’11 QB? My answers are: probably, and yes. Can he revolutionize the game or become one of the elites of the modern game? My answer is no. In Russell Wilson, I don’t see a consistently dominant pocket passer who can also run when necessary a la Steve Young. He did nothing to prove or disprove it in 2012. He was drafted outside the first round for a reason, and in 2012 while throwing from the pocket he didn’t do anything to change your evaluation of him now. It doesn’t mean he won’t prove me wrong in 2013-2014, but he hasn’t come close to doing it yet.

Colin Kaepernick. Pure freak. He’s a 6’4, 230 pound quarterback that ran a 4.53 forty yard dash and had a 32.5 inch vertical leap at the combines, who also throws a baseball 90 miles per hour. He may be the best all-around pure athlete in the NFL, and the NFL is not exactly a place where athleticism is rare. He has size, speed and strength while also being able to play the mostly highly skilled position on the field. Lawrence Taylor throws like a girl and Tom Brady lost a foot race to a fire hydrant in 2009.

Reconcile that with what Kaepernick did against Green Bay in the 2013 playoffs. You can see why fans are grumbling, “He is going to revolutionize the game,” and why Ron Jaworski said he has the potential to be the best player to ever live. I get all that, but I also don’t see it happening. The NFL is and always will be a passing league, and to do that you need to be a pocket passer like… Andrew Luck for example. The jaw-dropping athleticism is all a distraction from what is important. Can Colin Kaepernick make the proper reads and quick decisions followed by consistently accurate passes from the pocket? With a 62.4 percent completion rate in 2012, he ranked at the bottom of the league. Passing the ball in 2012, he compared almost exactly to Matt Hasselbeck to give you an idea. To revolutionize the game he is going to need to do much better and he is going to need to do it in 2013 without Michael Crabtree and the deep ball decoy that Randy Moss represented in 2012.

The book coming out of the combine on Kaepernick was freak athleticism and raw ability, needs to improve passing accuracy, needs to tighten up his throwing mechanics to improve his consistency and learn how to make NFL-style progressions. All of these concerns still exist and I see no reason to change a 2nd or 3rd grade on a QB just because he flashed deer-like, awe inspiring speed running from the pocket. Pocket passers dominate the league, and Kaepernick is still very much a risk to ever be able to do that consistently. So, revolutionize the game? I say no.  Go Dolphins.

Now let’s get to the two guys I think will prove to be the best of this impressively talented group of four, and that’s RG III and Andrew Luck. Both of these guys have the pedigree to be special pocket passers, and that is why I believe these are the two that become the NFL’s biggest stars at the league’s most high profile position.  Andrew Luck is the one player with a slightly different profile than the rest of this group. He doesn’t run, or at least he doesn’t run well enough to be recognized as a running, athletic QB. He is agile enough to be considered mobile, but not mobile enough to use running as a meaningful part of his style at the position. That’s fine, because you win from the pocket in the NFL, and this guy is the safest bet of the four quarterbacks to dominate the league going down field through the air.

At Stanford he ran a pro-style offense, making all the necessary reads and progressions, and he continued that with Indy, where he led the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012.  His completion percentage and interception totals were not as good as you would like to see, but that is explained away by the fact that he had no restrictions. Bruce Arians believes in a down field attacking-style passing game, and he opened the entire playbook and pulled no punches with a rookie under center. Rookies make mistakes, and Luck made his share but a lot less of them than most rookies do. Wilson, RG III and Kaepernick were coddled and protected in the passing game. Luck was thrown into the deep end of the pool head-first with no life raft, and Reggie Wayne had a huge season because of it. This kid is the real deal throwing the ball, is the second best potential of the QBs on the list and is the safest bet to be the best. The next QB has the higher ceiling but a bit more risk; RG III.

RG III had completion percentages of 67 and 72.4 percent in his final two seasons at Baylor. That is ridiculous. Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers threw for 68.6 and 67.2 percent respectively, to lead the NFL. In his last two years, RG III passed for 59 TDs with only 14 INTs, and in his senior year he had a QB rating of 189. Peyton Manning led the NFL in QB rating in 2012 at 105.8. Yes, 105.8!!

Did you notice I am not even talking about the fact that RG III rushed for 815 yards, which was good enough for 20th in the league, not 20th amongst quarterbacks? That’s 20th in the entire NFL. As a rookie, RG III was held back much like Russell Wilson was, but RG III has a history of being an outstanding pocket passer. He makes his reads, he makes the progressions, he makes quick decisions and he throws extremely accurately. This is the diagram of how to be one of the league’s best, and if he can stay healthy, which will mean less running, less read option and more drop back passes, then he is significantly more likely to get there than Wilson or Kaepernick. The Redskins have, potentially, the best QB in all of football beginning in 2015. He even led the league in passing yards per attempt. He is a riskier bet to be the best passer in the NFL. The odds go to Luck there. But he is a high percentage bet with the overall profile to be better than Luck.

Hall of Famer Steve Young proved that you can survive on the ground, but that you win through the air. The 2012-2013 seasons by Wilson, Kaepernick and RG III proved to us that they are long-term starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but it didn’t really show us much more than that. The playbooks were limited and the schemes designed to protect and limit mistakes. Wilson and Kaepernick are the two of this group with the most to prove and very little of it was accomplished last season.

There is no more reason to change your opinions on the future greatness of these guys now than the day they were drafted. All we’ve learned is that they belong behind center in the NFL, not that they are destined to dominate it. We didn’t get any real insights into that crucial aspect of their games. Andrew Luck’s season was much more telling about what we can expect in his future, and he had the worst season statistically of the three. He had a lower completion percentage (54.1), more interceptions (18) and a lower QB rating (76.5). Of these very talented quarterbacks, Wilson and Kaepernick will be good but they will fall short of becoming the next Brady and Manning of the NFL.  Sorry Brandon, but once again, even though this is our first Point/Counterpoint, I am right. See you next week, when I will also be right.

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Colin Kaepernick Vs. Andrew Luck: The Next Elite QBs by

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