The Great Tony Romo Debate: Is He A QB1?

Tony RomoWhile I was on for my weekly segment with Scott Engel and Adam Ronis on the RotoExperts Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio show this morning, we were talking about 2-QB leagues. And when the name Tony Romo came up, I mentioned he’s a solid QB2 (assuming we were talking about a 10-12 team league).

Well, that opened the floodgates.

Ronis took a few minutes to stew while The King continued to pepper me with Romo stats to try illustrate why the pair think Romo is a QB1. When I did get the Ronis Rant, my good friend didn’t understand how Romo could be out of the Top 10 in any league.

Welcome to the fiercest debate in the pre-season: Where do you rank Tony Romo?

Here are the areas of agreement, I believe, between Team Ronis and Team Mayo (fellow RotoExpert Pat Mayo held the same belief as I, so I was the second voice in the choir):

– Tony Romo is always undervalued, based on his reputation for choking.
– Tony Romo has been a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback in recent seasons (other than 2010 when he broke his collarbone).

I have actually owned Tony Romo in one league or another in the last four seasons. I know he’s not respected the way he should be.

But this is the year reality catches up with value.

Here’s what we know:

– Tony Romo had off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his back, keeping him out of the Cowboys OTAs this spring;
– Tony Romo has reported to training camp six pounds heavier than at any time in his career (even after a 10-day “boot camp” designed to kick his butt). The Cowboys insist they are not worried.
– Tony Romo signed a six-year $108 million contract extension ($55 million guaranteed).
– Tony Romo led the league in interceptions in 2012 with 19.
– Tony Romo is 33 years old.

I always say this about draft day: Draft like it’s December, not September. That means you rate guys not on any expert’s ranking list, or their ADP. Take the player, give me his stats at the end of the season (and compared to all other at his position) and draft accordingly.

Yes, Tony Romo technically IS a QB1 in a 12-team league today (he is #12 on just about all ADP lists). What I’m telling you is at the end of the year, he will be more like #15 or #16. I can see several QBs jumping ahead of him this season, possibly including: Eli Manning (whom I would draft one slot ahead of him today), Carson Palmer, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, and Ryan Tannehill. I’m not saying they will all jump Romo, but I’m saying some will.

Romo was in the top 10 in most of the QB statistical categories last year, including: Pass Attempts (#2/670), Completions (#3/425), Passing Yards (#3/4903), Passer Rating (#10/90.5), and Passing Yards Per Game (#4/306.4). Truly outstanding stats.

Here are some categories where he failed to make the top 10: Interceptions (T-#31/19), Int% (#23/2.9 percent),Yards per completion (#19/11.5), and TD% (#15/4.3 percent).

Okay, so Tony Romo “compiled” his counting stats by throwing the ball more than anyone not named Matthew Stafford. And he was good, okay very good, last season. This I will give you.

But let’s look a little deeper:

– Romo was the only of the Top 10 rated QBs last season (remember he was just #10) whose team was outscored on the season. He played from behind an awful lot (see those 19 interceptions)
– The Cowboys, as a team, only scored eight rushing TDs, good for 27th in the league. Clearly that’s a number they want to improve, but do they add TDs or do they take away from Romo’s 28 TDs (good for eighth in the league last year)?
– Only the Arizona Cardinals (barely) attempted fewer rushes (352 to the Cowboys’ 355).

What you have in Tony Romo is the 10th-rated passer who threw a boatload of passes last year, in part because they were losing so often and because they didn’t rush well (which also has to do with them losing so often). The Cowboys almost certainly will look for more balance on offense and will try to cut down Romo’s passing attempts. If that happens, and we know he’s not the most efficient passer, he’ll end up on that QB1/QB2 line. Regression will happen simply by lessening his workload. The question is: how far back can (and will) he fall?

Romo may very well end up in the Top 10 QB rankings again this season, but you have a bunch of young QBs who hope to improve and some of the QBs I mentioned (Eli Manning, Palmer, Philip Rivers) who could push Romo out of the Top 10/Top 12. In addition, Alex Smith (who was the league’s top-rated passer before he lost his job last season) returns and (I would bet) finishes ahead of Romo.

In a one-QB league you can possibly wait until round seven and snatch Romo as value QB1 in the seventh round. I would rather already have my QB and take Romo ahead of the guy who doesn’t have a signal-caller just yet. He will stay on the board longer than he should, and you can win with him on your roster, but your skill positions will need to be much better than average.

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