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Aaron Rodgers is Still Fantasy Football’s Top QB

It takes more than one injured season for Aaron Rodgers to lose his throne.
It takes more than one injured season for Aaron Rodgers to lose his throne.

Taking over for a legend in 2008, for 5 years it seemed Aaron Rodgers was locked and loaded as fantasy football’s most dominant quarterback. Yet here we are in 2014 and Rodgers is often spoken about and drafted as the 2nd or even 3rd best fantasy QB. What changed in a year’s time? Well, nothing, really. We strongly feel that Rodgers is still the best fantasy QB on the planet.

No way! What about Peyton Manning?

The most common argument against Aaron Rodgers as the #1 QB is that Peyton Manning is unstoppable coming off a historic season. If you think Peyton is going to throw 55 touchdowns and nearly 5,500 yards again then go ahead and take him as soon as you possibly can. The cold hard truth is that’s not going to repeat.

The last 3 quarterbacks to set the single-season touchdown record all predictably crashed down to earth afterward. In 1984 Dan Marino threw 48 touchdowns, but came back and only threw 30 the next year. That record stood 20 years until Manning threw for 49 scores in 2004. The next year that number was nearly cut in half as he only threw 28. In 2007, Tom Brady one-upped the record again at 50 TDs. He missed the entire next season due to an ACL injury suffered early in week 1 before coming back and throwing 28 touchdowns in 2009. These guys averaged nearly a 40% regression in passing touchdowns.

A similar regression would put Manning at 32 touchdowns, which is almost exactly his career average. Being perfectly honest, due to the way the game has changed in recent years (very interesting related article on this here) and the weapons he still has at his disposal, Manning will probably top that number relatively easily. But the point is everyone expects players to repeat outlier seasons and it just never happens. How many people got 2,000 rushing yards out of Adrian Peterson last year?

Refresh your memories: Aaron Rodgers is damn good.

Aaron Rodgers Top Fantasy Football QB in 2014NFL fans and people that cover the league have an incredible level of recency bias that they don’t even try to hide. To many, the only season that matters when forming their opinions of players is the last season that transpired. This is being applied two-fold to Rodgers: one because of Manning’s 2013, and two because Rodgers is coming off a season where he missed 8 games to a broken collarbone and finished as the #22 fantasy QB.

How quickly people forget that from 2008 to 2012 Aaron Rodgers was the undisputed king of fantasy quarterbacks. Since he took over the starting job from Brett Favre, Rodgers had finished as a top 2 fantasy QB for 5 straight seasons, including a pair of 1st place finishes. He missed one game due to injury in that span. In fantasy football no one has matched that level of production and consistency at that position.

As jaw-dropping as Manning’s numbers were last year, people also seem to forget Rodgers has just as much upside and arguably even more. In fact, Rodgers’ 2011 season was better than Manning’s 2013 in terms of fantasy points. Manning scored 409.98 fantasy points in 16 games for a 25.62 average. In his peak year, Rodgers put up 397.42 points in 15 games, an average of 26.49. The Green Bay Packers sat Rodgers in the season finale as they had playoff seeding locked up. For those of you that don’t play week 17, Rodgers outright had the better numbers. If you did play week 17 you likely could have picked up Rodgers’ backup, Matt Flynn, who had an epic 39.2 point game. Even if you plugged in a guy who had 13 points that week, you got a statistically better season out of Rodgers.

Another Aaron Rodgers misconception is that even before the injury he was having a down year, but that’s simply not true. In the 8 games Rodgers started and finished he scored 167.4 points (20.93 average). Over 16 games that’s 334.8 points which would have made him the #3 fantasy QB. A step below his then-perfect streak of top 2 finishes, but still great numbers and maybe they could have improved as the season progressed. Ultimately, Rodgers had one disappointing year due to a fluke bone break and all of a sudden people think he’s been knocked off the mountain. I don’t buy that.

But now Eddie Lacy is here to drain Rodgers’ production, right?

Wrong. Lacy had 284 carries for 1,178 yards in 2013. This was a giant increase from what the Packers had the previous 3 seasons, but in 2008 and 2009 Ryan Grant averaged 297 carries and 1,228 yards for the team while Aaron Rodgers was delivering fantasy championships. He can co-exist with a strong running game. Just in case that isn’t enough to satisfy concerns, let’s take Rodgers’ career numbers as a starter and compare them to the numbers he put up in limited action alongside Lacy. They played 7 games with each other.

Rodgers’ average pass attempts per game from 2008-2012: 33
Rodgers’ average pass attempts per game in 2013 with Lacy: 34

Rodgers’ average yards per attempt from 2008-2012: 8.19
Rodgers’ average yards per attempt in 2013 with Lacy : 8.84

Rodgers’ average touchdowns per game from 2008-2012: 2.18
Rodgers’ average touchdowns per game in 2013 with Lacy: 2.0

Most importantly, the additional commitment to the run did not take away passing attempts from Rodgers. His attempts have been extremely steady over his career. Rodgers’ yardage efficiency was up a little and his touchdown efficiency down a little – more or less a wash. Those two figures have been more likely to vary year to year and Lacy may have had no major effect on either of them.

Yep. Aaron Rodgers is still the man.

I’m not much of an advocator of spending an early pick on a QB in single QB leagues, but if you’re going to do it I can’t see any reason not to take Aaron Rodgers, especially if you can get him after someone else takes Manning off the board. Of the big three candidates – Manning, Drew Brees, and Rodgers – he’s the youngest, most talented player that has demonstrated the highest ceiling and up until he broke his clavicle he showed the highest floor and consistency level. He has it all.

Which fantasy QB would you rather have this season?

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