In Week 1 of Point/Counterpoint, Brandon C. Williams and I debated the bright young NFL futures of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. This week we will debate the Fantasy relevance of these four young’uns and what we learned in the first three weeks of the NFL season.
POINT – Brandon C. Williams
Stop. I know your pain. Don’t feel like you’re the only person who has been in the frozen dairy section of the supermarket, turning around milk cartons in hopes of finding out where the hell Colin Kaepernick’s game disappeared over the last two weeks. Of the three teams in which I started Kaepernick in that span, my record is 1-5, and the victory needed the miracle of Darren McFadden’s touchdown pass on Monday night to avoid a smooth goose egg.
Be mad. Get fidgety and begin to stray around for the likes of Terrelle Pryor and Brian Hoyer, thinking that the grass will be greener on the other side of the fantasy QB fence. Do so, and watch how that quick infatuation melts faster than a seventh grade love affair. In fact, I guarantee you’ll be further hacked at me when I say the following:
Keep calm and keep Kaepernick.
His performance has been affected by a foot injury that has kept him from being as effective as he was during the Week One masterpiece against the Packers. Add that to the fact the 49ers have not used the read option more frequently thus far this season, and what you have is a special talent whose value is temporarily neutered.
Kaepernick has also been hampered by a receiving corps that is about as new to him as the new TV shows that are beginning this week (note: The Blacklist will be far and away the best of the bunch. Can’t go wrong with James Spader’s talent, and the female lead is kinda hot). Michael Crabtree is out for the season, Mario Manningham’s status is unknown and Randy Moss is making straight cash as an analyst for Fox Sports 1, homey. Ask Tom Brady what it’s like to break in new faces at wideout. It’s not easy, kids.
In short, be patient with Kaepernick. Yeah, his 44 Fantasy points put him in the low-rent district with Christian Ponder, Carson Palmer and Josh Freeman, but that will change eventually. Bench him for a week or two until you see him reverting back to his expected numbers, but don’t dump him for the first mediocre offer that hits your email. Four of his next five games (Rams, Cardinals, Titans, and Jaguars) present golden opportunities to see a Kaepernick revival, and the fifth game against the Texans may not be the iffy play it once was.
Heading up northwest, the issue of Russell Wilson’s Fantasy value has come into question. Yes, the Seahawks are 3-0, but Wilson’s 59 Fantasy points are a cause for concern as well. He was drafted to be right outside the Brees/Rodgers/Manning range, but is currently sitting in with the likes of Jay Cutler and Jake Locker, not necessarily the elite of Fantasy football.
Like Kaepernick, there’s a sense of patience required with Wilson, who is probably more of a QB2 at this stage anyway. The Seahawks don’t throw the ball often, and his yardage numbers are tempered by the fact that Seattle’s defense does a great job of putting their offense in very good field position.
One also has to keep in mind that Wilson’s value is greatly enhanced by his running ability. He has yet to score a touchdown this season, but his projections will pan out with him visiting the end zone 4-6 times this season. He’s certainly not a must-start this week at the Texans, but Wilson’s production will be better as the season goes on.
Both Kaepernick and Wilson are second-year players, and while the ceiling is high for both, you have to keep in mind they will hit a speed bump or two. Much like our parents were when they were teaching us to drive, we also have to maintain a bit of “grin and bear it” when it comes to their performances. Just remember to buckle up.
COUNTERPOINT – Chris Mitchell
In the premiere article in the Point/Counterpoint series, I assumed RG3, Wilson and Kaepernick would rush less often in 2013, but would always be productive. I also argued that Luck and RG3 could be expected to make advances in the passing game while I expected Wilson and Kaepernick to have some struggles that could limit their Fantasy value. While this should have posed some serious concerns about whether Kaepernick (63rd) or Wilson (85th) deserved their high annual draft position according to fftoolbox.com rankings, it actually gets worse than that for Kaepernick and Wilson, while it looks like even brighter days ahead for Luck and RG3.
After three weeks we see RG3 in the top five in passing yards, Andrew Luck in the top five in rushing yards, Colin Kaepernick tied for fourth in the league in INTs with zero rushing touchdowns, and Russell Wilson 12th (followed by 13th ranked speedster Jay Cutler) in total rushing yards and also zero rushing touchdowns. If you had concerns going into the season about Wilson and Kaepernick, I can fully understand why you’re wondering if it’s time to jump ship and sell on Wilson and Kaepernick. In fact, my email box is filled with panicked Fantasy owners wondering the same thing. I hate to advocate for panic but I think it may be justified to flee for the exits and look to the trade market or waiver wire for potential security blankets and replacements for your high-priced QB’s.
Let’s look at some numbers and see if things aren’t quite as bad as they may seem. Kaepernick has 818 total yards from scrimmage (689 passing 129 rushing), four INTs, and three TDs (none of them rushing) for a total of 44 Fantasy points. Russell Wilson has 718 total yards from scrimmage (664 passing 54 rushing), two INTs, and six TDs (none of them rushing) for 49 Fantasy Points. When you look inside those numbers it actually gets uglier, so let me warn you now; for those of you who get squeamish please be advised that what you are about to see is too objectionable to reveal to children and pregnant women and I hope for your sake you are reading this before lunch. If you eliminate the Green Bay game, Kaepernick has 277 passing yards, 107 rushing yards, zero TDs, four INTs and two lost fumbles in the two remaining games. If Kaepernick didn’t rush for over 100 yards vs. Sea and Indy then he would have a two game total that puts him in the negative scoring zone, depending on your leagues penalties for turnovers. This is a MUST START quarterback according to post Green Bay game hype. Russell Wilson’s distorted numbers aren’t quite as morbid as Kaepernicks but they show reason to be cautious and potentially nauseous as well. Wilson has four turnovers and six touchdowns, four of which came in one game against the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars. Take away one game in which Marshawn Lynch didn’t get 90 percent of the goal line opportunities vs. the Jags and you have a QB with more turnovers than scores, no rushing yards to speak of and ranked 25th in the NFL in yards passing behind Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder. The future of Fantasy football may be bright but the present looks pretty gloomy.
RG3 has 975 passing yards, 62 rushing yards, five TDs and five turnovers for 59 Fantasy points. That ranks tied for 10th overall at the quarterback position (with Andrew Luck) and this from a player that most people are complaining is having a bad season. Andrew Luck has 658 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, five TDs and one turnover for 59 Fantasy points as well.
RG3 is getting healthier, which should mean more rushing yards and better overall play. While his play keeps getting better the Redskins defense keeps getting worse which means blowouts and garbage time scoring. RG3 has thrown for 300-plus yards in every game and I see no reason for that to change. The media is clamoring about RG3’s bad season? Fantasy owners should be licking their chops at the idea that this is the bad side of RG3, because if this is bad, then bad ain’t so bad, and what could good actually be?? Matthew Stafford passing yards and touchdowns with top five rushing yards? That’s a lot of potential upside for RG3, so owners should be excited.
Andrew Luck has not passed as well as I would have hoped, but he just got help in the form of Trent Richardson, which should open up some passing lanes and the play action. The rushing yards are probably a bit high but the passing yards are probably low so you can expect increases overall there. Luck doesn’t have the upside potential for improvement that RG3 doe,s but he is much more likely to improve his Fantasy points than Wilson or Kaepernick are.
As far as Russell Wilson goes, I see no reason to expect significant improvement in the passing yards. Other than by design, on Pete Carroll’s part, I can’t explain why Russell Wilson isn’t running the ball, so I can’t see any reason to believe those stats will increase either, and that is crucial for Wilson’s Fantasy value. If he doesn’t run and run a lot more then he needs to sit for your Fantasy team.
Colin Kaepernick is the true disappointment on this list so far. In fairness to him, he has no weapons. Crabtree and Vernon Davis are hurt. Frank Gore isn’t the stud Frank Gore, and even Randy Moss left to run for the Fox studios. Kaepernick is running, something Wilson is not doing, which shows some reason for optimism, but if not for a gigantic break out game that cemented his must-start status in Week 1 vs. Green Bay and that Swiss Cheese defense, then Kaepernick would be having a worse season than Brian Hoyer, who started only one game and plays for the Cleveland Browns folks. Its been that bad for Kaepernick so far. At this point you have to sit him except in the best of match up situations.
Luck is solid and reliable while RG3 is showing signs of being an elite must start QB in 2013. Wilson and Kaepernick aren’t doing anywhere close to enough to justify the designation as “Fantasy Relevant” at this stage and I don’t see a lot of reason to believe that 2013 is going to get much better for Wilson. I usually win these debates with Brandon but I will give him this, Seattle is winning games and Colin Kaepernick can’t really play any worse, so if you’re a Seahawks fan or an extreme optimist there is some reason for smiles on his side of this losing fence. It’s another winning week for Team Mitchell and another Debbie Downer for Brandon C. Williams. Better luck next time Washington Generals; the high-flying Harlem Globetrotters saying good bye until the next Point/Counterpoint.