PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

July 31, 2013

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Gang of Four taking over QB position

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

— Do you know what may be the best nickname in the NFL right now?

The Gang of Four.

That’s what some are calling the impressive (almost) all-rookie quarterback class from last year of Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Indy’s Andrew Luck, San Fran’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

It’s pretty great, as it evokes a new wave of joined names, as well as rolling off the tongue pretty easily. Both are absolutely important in nicknames.

Okay, so why am I talking about this in a fantasy football column? Well, if we’re going to preview the quarterback market for 2013, we have to start there. The Gang of Four are absolutely game-changers in the fantasy landscape for a number of reasons.

Every one of those guys has a chance to be a monster in fantasy terms. They may not all four live up to that, but can’t you see Luck, Kaepernick, Wilson and RGIII all being some of the best QBs in the league for fantasy purposes? Certainly, their dual threat ability puts them above some of the pure passers.

But, when you factor in the leap they all should take this season, it may necessitate a shift in draft strategy.

For years, I’ve been a proponent on waiting for a quarterback. No sense drafting Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady in the first round when I can load up on running backs or the odd Calvin Johnson instead and get a guy later on who will provide 90 percent of what Brady does.

This year, though, that may not be true. The difference between the top six (Gang of Four plus Rodgers and Brady) may be too big to ignore.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that if you don’t get a top five QB in this year’s draft, you’ll be hard pressed to win a league. Last year, I waited around, had the duo of Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers haunt me early on, before engineering a trade for Peyton Manning and riding him all the way to my league’s title.

This year, though, I’d be hesitant to keep Manning, even though he’s still a top 10 QB. He’s added Welker and should only get more comfortable in the offense. However, he’s only going to get you passing yards. How can he compete with the rushing TDs that someone like RGIII or Kaepernick can put up?

If you’re a Packers fan, you might have blocked the playoff game with San Francisco out of your memory, but fantasy players can’t forget it. Kaepernick lit up the Pack for 263 passing yards, two passing TDs, 181 rushing yards and two rushing TDs. That would be worth 45 points in most standard scoring leagues.

Maybe that’s an outlier for Kaepernick, but with his skills both with his feet and his arm, he’s absolutely got a better chance to average 25 points per game this year than Manning or any of the pure passing QBs.

The Gang of Four is here to stay and it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Don’t end up with Rivers as your only option each week. Think of the children.

Top 8 QBs

1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay – The best of the best. No one in the Gang can compete with him. Yet.

2) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis – Oh, no big deal. Dude just had one of the best rookie seasons ever. He’s a volume passer, though and didn’t show the same wheels as others in the Gang. But, Luck can wing it with the best of them and will run for a TD when he needs to. Should evolve in Year 2.

3) Russell Wilson, Seattle – Check out Wilson’s numbers from the final 13 games of his season last year, courtesy of excellent NFL writer at Grantland.com Bill Barnwell: 2,875 passing yards, 24 TDs, five INTs. If you take his rushing production from Week 10 through  the playoffs and pro-rated it over 16 games, Wilson would have rushed for 820 yards and nine TDs. So, he potentially could be a 1,000 yard rusher and a 4,000 yard passer with a little luck. That’s why he’s here.

4) Robert Griffin III, Washington – As Bob West pointed out in his Sunday column, RGIII has been compared by a Washington Post writer to Bill Bradley for his poise, intelligence and skill. He’s an explosive player who could easily throw up a huge week sometimes, but the injury risk is scary.

5) Tom Brady, New England – He’s missing his top 7,867 receivers and yet, I still have more faith in him than Kaepernick. Remember when he dragged a Pats team to a Super Bowl with Deion Branch and a cornerback-turned-receiver as his second-best option? Don’t count him out.

6) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco – For the reasons mentioned above. Kaepernick has the chance to be the best running QB of the Gang, is a very efficient passer in a great offense led by Jim Harbaugh. He could easily end the year much higher than this.

7) Peyton Manning, Denver – This is where the dropoff begins. Manning may be on a tier of his own here, but he’s still a step down based on his age, the potential of injury and the lack of a clear running threat for the Broncos right now.

8) Jay Cutler, Chicago – He’s got a real tight end in Martellus Bennett and a better offensive line. That should lead to better results this year, especially since Smokin’ Jay is in a contract year.