Don’t Overlook The Average Joe
July 23, 2014 | Joe Siniscalchi
Joe Flacco. This might in fact be the unsexiest name in all of fantasy football, and his ADP of 92.5 (QB21) in 2QB fantasy leagues (hat tip to Salvatore Stefanile for giving the world 2QB ADP data) shows that he isn’t being drafted as anything more than a fringe QB2/backup. But should he be more than that? Below are Joe Flacco’s season averages from 2009-2012, via Rotoviz’s game splits app. I decided to not include 2008 because A) He wasn’t relied upon much his rookie year and B) I’ll be comparing him to another quarterback in a bit, and wanted to keep the stats across a consistent amount of time. I also left out the dumpster fire season for the Ravens offense in 2013 for the same reasons as above. These numbers are hardly inspiring, but luckily Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens offense got a much needed face lift this offseason. First and foremost, Gary Kubiak was brought in to be the offensive coordinator. Between his time in Denver and Houston, Kubiak has established himself as one of the league’s brightest minds. Another shrewd move by the Ravens was bringing in Steve Smith to become the team’s second wideout. Throw in a healthy Dennis Pitta, and suddenly the Ravens have a nice set of weapons in a fantasy friendly system. Kubiak’s gameplan thrives off the play action, an area where the Ravens have struggled in the past. While the offensive line has only marginally improved, the play actions and bootlegs Kubiak loves to call should help take some of the heat off Flacco, allowing him to have an easier time throwing the ball downfield. Kubiak’s history and playcalling can’t be emphasized enough here when making a case for why Flacco should outproduce his draft position and finish as a solid QB2 over the likes of Andy Dalton and Alex Smith. Kubiak was able to thrust Matt Schaub into one of fantasy’s elite signal callers between 2009 and 2012, as you can see by the game splits below: During those seasons, Schaub finished as the 3rd, 10th, 22nd (he missed time with injuries), and 19th ranked quarterback. I left out 2008 since Schaub missed time in his first season with injuries and 2013 out because of Kubiak’s firing and the team’s awful play. The decline in finishes can be attributed directly to the improvement in Houston’s rushing attack, as in 2011 Arian Foster became the centerpiece of the team’s offense. Schaub’s season average of 4,300 yards along with 25 TDs isn’t exactly something to be overlooked, however. There’s reason to believe that the Ravens may be forced to rely on Flacco more than they’d like to in 2014. Similar to when Kubiak first had Schaub in Houston, the rushing attack was good enough, but not what it was once the team got Arian Foster. Ray Rice has plenty of tread on his tires and will almost certainly miss time due to suspension, Bernard Pierce didn’t look special last year when given opportunities, Justin Forsett is a JAG, and Lorenzo Taliaferro is someone who needs a lot to go right in order to be a big time contributor. Flacco may be relied upon more in the air to move the chains using Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta, while setting up the big play to Torrey Smith (who by the way has shown major strides every season).
My main argument for drafting Flacco isn’t that I see him finishing in the Top 10 or anywhere near it, but that his ceiling this season appears to be much higher than the guys he’s being drafted around. Alex Smith and the Chiefs will surely regress unless Smith throws the ball to someone other than Jamaal Charles, Andy Dalton lost the man who made him successful in Jay Gruden, Teddy Bridgewater may not even win the starting gig, and Sam Bradford..well…that doesn’t need any explanation. We know Flacco’s floor. At worst? He produces pretty much where he’s being drafted as a fringe QB2. If he hits? He’ll be a solid QB2 with high QB2 upside if he has a career year. If you’re looking for a streaming option, why not roll the dice on Flacco? This might be the time when taking your average Joe isn’t a bad idea.