In many circles, the 1983 NFL Draft class is considered the best ever. This draft included such Hall of Fame players as John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, along with the likes of Tony Eason, Todd Blackledge and Ken O’Brien. The class of 2004 wasn’t bad, either. That draft featured Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, along with journeyman JP Losman.
This year is shaping up to be one of those historic years as well with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and others all entering the league. In today’s article, I’ll take my own look at the class of 2012 and project their future.
Andrew Luck, QB IND (#1 overall)
I was personally called crazy by more than a few people when I said Luck was the #1 overall pick in dynasty rookie drafts this Summer. While I didn’t feel owners could go wrong with Luck or Trent Richardson, I was confident that Luck was going to be a very special player and one who could be plugged into lineups for a decade as a “plug and play, no brainer” type of QB1 – he hasn’t disappointed thus far and has even exceeded my own personal expectations.
Luck has been simply phenomenal this season with 4,183 passing yards (topping Cam Newton’s rookie record) and 21 touchdowns. He moves around the pocket with relative ease and shows the poise of a player who’s been in the league for years. When you consider the lack of weapons at his disposal, his leading of a dreadful team to the playoffs has been an amazing story. While the turnovers need to be minimized (18 INTs, nine fumbles), you have to consider Luck has been forced to throw the ball a ton as he is actually fifth in the league in attempts – for a rookie, that’s insane. His running and athletic ability are still vastly underrated as well. On the season, he has 254 rushing yards and five more touchdowns to add to his dynasty resume.
Luck’s ceiling is as high as it’s ever been as a bona fide QB1 and possible top five option down the road. We’ve likely already seen his floor.
Robert Griffin III, QB WAS (#2 overall)
Remember when people thought the Redskins were taking a huge risk by sacrificing so much of their future for RGIII? Well, there aren’t too many people still in that boat now. Griffin has been spectacular this year as he’s posted 3,100 passing yards, 752 rushing yards (a rookie quarterback record) and a total of 26 touchdowns. The most amazing stat from Griffin has to be his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 20:5. Twenty to five!
Griffin is what many thought Michael Vick once could be – a dual threat quarterback who can beat you in every way imaginable. His skill set has been fantasy gold this year as he’s spent some time on top of the charts for quarterback production. There is some risk with Griffin as he still needs to learn to get down and avoid taking hits, but the risk is well worth the reward for RGIII.
Griffin will enter 2013 as one of the most coveted players in dynasty leagues and worthy of consideration within the top five quarterbacks taken in start-up dynasty drafts. If he continues to mature, he could lead all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in any given year for the next decade or more.
Ryan Tannehill, QB MIA (#8 overall)
It’s easy to look at the two quarterbacks taken above him and say Tannehill has been a disappointment, but that would be a mistake. When you look at the skill players Miami has, it’s been a solid season for him. He’s had his ups (a 431 yard performance) and his downs (two different games with no touchdowns and three interceptions), but 3,059 passing yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12:12 isn’t an unsuccessful year at all for a rookie in his situation.
Tannehill should be a target of dynasty teams looking for a young quarterback this off-season. Savvy owners may not realize just how special some of these rookie quarterbacks have been and could look at him as an average player – it’s way too early to say that. People tend to forget quarterbacks used to sit and wait for a year before being thrown into the fire, but times have changed. For quarterbacks who are starting this early, any success in a rookie season is a good sign.
The ceiling for Tannehill is likely has a high-end QB2, but he has the tools to be a low-end QB1 if the Dolphins do the smart thing and surround him with talent on the offensive line and the skill position front. It’s a stretch, but he could hit that status one day. If not, he should be a solid backup on a dynasty team.
Brandon Weeden, QB CLE (#22 overall)
The Browns were desperate for a quarterback of the future in the 2012 Draft, so they took the 29-year old Weeden as the 22nd overall pick. At this point, it looks like a reach.
Weeden has struggled for much of the season and currently boasts a decent stat line of 3,385 passing yards, a 57.4% completion rate, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. While those numbers are too far off Tannehill’s, this is a clear case of numbers being deceiving as Weeden hasn’t come close to showing the potential of Tannehill. He’s shown some accuracy and decision making issues that are pretty troubling so far.
With the regime change in Cleveland, predicting Weeden’s future is very difficult. The Browns could elect to keep him as the starter and add pieces around him, or just blow everything up and just build the offense around a younger quarterback. At the very least, it’s very likely the Browns bring in a younger quarterback with a higher pick in the draft or a player like Matt Flynn or Alex Smith to compete with him next season.
Weeden is still roster worthy in a deeper league, but the leash on him is going to be very short as the “Dawg Pound” surely wants more.
Russell Wilson, QB SEA (#75 overall)
Most teams passed on Wilson given his relatively small stature and it’s looking like a mistake many teams in both reality and fantasy will regret for years to come. While much of the talk this year revolves around Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Wilson has been equally impressive. After beating the odds and earning the starting job over Matt Flynn in the pre-season, Wilson has made Pete Carroll look like a genius by leading the upstart Seahawks to the playoffs.
It’s not an overstatement to say Wilson is revolutionizing the position and making every owner in the NFL re-think the argument of size over leadership and heart. The numbers Wilson has put up have translated perfectly to fantasy football as well. On the season, Wilson has thrown for 2,868 yards, rushed for 431 more and accounted for 28 touchdowns, all while throwing just ten interceptions and having a quarterback rating close to 100. What’s even better is that his last seven games have featured 15 passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and just three interceptions. For any player (rookie or not), that’s just ridiculous.
Wilson has simply had an historic first season. He currently sits just one touchdown pass away from Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 and has tied Andrew Luck’s record for most wins by a rookie quarterback with ten. The way the Seahawks have been playing, that’s likely to hit 11 this weekend.
The upside for Wilson is obvious at this point. He may not put up the gaudy passing yards that other quarterbacks could, but he’s been incredible at using his feet in the pocket, finding passing lanes and throwing accurate passes as indicated by him posting a quarterback rating of over 100 in six of his last seven games. He’s the future in Seattle and has the upside of a true QB1 in dynasty leagues. It may seem unfathomable, but Wilson is one player who you just can’t doubt any longer. The passing yards are sure to rise now that the leash the Hawks used earlier in the season has been taken away.
Nick Foles, QB PHI (#88 overall)
Foles was never supposed to see the field this year, but the Eagles also weren’t supposed to be this bad, either. He’s fared pretty well this season with 1,699 passing yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, with a completion percentage of 60.8%.in seven games played before landing on the injured list this week with a broken hand.
Much like Weeden, the future is tough to predict for Foles. We’ve never been a huge fan of his here at DLF, but he’s shown us much more than we thought he had already. With a new Coaching staff imminent, it’s tough to say what’s in store for 2013. It’s highly unlikely the Eagles retain Michael Vick, but it’s not impossible (especially if they get Oregon’s Chip Kelly as their new Coach), so stay tuned.
The Eagles are a team in total flux, but Foles is worthy of a spot in just about every dynasty league as a player who could be a future low-end QB2 – he certainly has the weapons to help him out.
Other Quarterbacks of Note
Brock Osweiler (#57 Overall)
It’s nearly impossible to judge Osweiler thus far. He stands to inherit a nice situation in Denver, but Peyton Manning is showing everyone he’s far from done. When you add the creepiness factor of him (did you see him with Jon Gruden?), he’s worth a spot in only the deepest of leagues.
Kirk Cousins (#102 overall)
Of the developmental quarterbacks in this year’s class (Osweiler, Ryan Lindley, BJ Coleman, Chandler Harnish), Cousins has shown to be the best so far. He’s played well in spot duty and holds value as more than just RGIII’s caddy. At some point, the Redskins could spin him to a needy team for some much needed draft picks they gave up in the trade for Griffin. He’s roster worthy as a “wait and see” type of commodity in most leagues.
Ryan Lindley (#185 overall)
Lindley is the classic example of a quarterback put into action way too early. Unfortunately, his poor accuracy and footwork were exploited this year as he simply looked overmatched in the NFL. While he’s headed back to the developmental role next year, it’s hard to see much to like so far. He’s really not worth a spot on any rosters at the moment.
This year’s class is doing a massive disservice to future classes as we’ve seen three quarterbacks (Luck, Griffin and Wilson) emerge as elite to near-elite options in both fantasy and reality. Future quarterbacks taken highly are going to be expected to hit these nearly impossible heights at a relatively quick pace. We can hope they’re ready for it, but Coaches, owners and dynasty enthusiasts need to be aware of one thing – this group is special.