Making the Case: Vick at Number One

I want to make two quick points before I launch into this article.

1) It seems Checkdown is evolving into a fantasy exclusive blog. I just haven’t had much to say on other topics as of yet, perhaps I’m in draft prep mode, perhaps the lockout threw me — either way, its all fantasy, all the time for now. Hope you’re enjoying.

2) The only people, in large part, who view this site with any regularity are those who I compete in fantasy leagues with in one case or another — so, the giving of advice is always a weird proposition, I hope I’m not screwing myself here.

With that, lets go.

Picking number one in your fantasy draft is always a tricky proposition. In great likelihood, you’re going to realize a lot of points and arring injury or catastrophe you’ve got a pretty safe pick no matter who you go after, but: what is the likelihood the guy that goes number one is actually the highest performing fantasy asset at the end of the season? Pretty slim, really.

So, I’m going to make an argument to take a bit of a chance with your first pick, break with conventional wisdom and go with Michael Vick.

Below, I’ve listed my top 12 overall ranked players, basically everyone who should go in the first round of your draft.

1. Arian Foster 2. Adrian Peterson 3. Jamaal Charles 4. Ray Rice 5. Chris Johnson 6. Michael Turner 7. Andre Johnson 8. Michael Vick 9. Darren McFadden 10. Aaron Rodgers 11. Rashard Mendenhall 12. LeSean McCoy

All top producers, and, while Mendenhall/McCoy would be huge reaches at #1, no one there will disappoint you at the end of the season.

You’ll see I’ve got 7 guys ranked ahead of Vick, but, I’m going to make the argument for leapfrogging him. The reality is, if I’m picking top 1/2/3 even 5 I’m probably going running back, but, I’ll definitely be thinking about MV.

1) Arian Foster – he was an awesome bargain in round 3 or 4 last season, and the value realized here likely made a big difference for his owners. He apparently played all of last year hurt, and still led all running backs in yardage and scoring. However, he’s got some things working against him that make him an iffy pick in spot number 1. He comes into this season hurt, again. If he played through it last year, I’m sure he can continue, but, being consistently hurt can’t help him and he may wear down before long. Last season, he had the league’s best blocking fullback running in front of him. This season he has a converted tight end. Gary Kubiak isn’t foolish enough to rotate Foster out of the top of the depth chart, but, he’s notoriously fickle with his running backs and knowing his injury status, he may try to work some others in in an effort to reduce Foster’s workload. He’ll still produce and could very likely lead the league in rushing, but, can he continue to score at the same rate as he did last year? Sadly, I can’t put my hands on the document that has this information, but the number of people who scored 18+ touchdowns in a season and repeated the following year is extremely slim. Expect a bit of a regression.

2) Adrian Peterson – it just feels kind of bland, doesn’t it. Peterson has been getting the job done for years on a consistent basis, but, I don’t see a massive upside with this pick. You know who you’re getting. If McNabb steps into the role and helps improve the Vikings’ offense overall, maybe there are more TDs in store, but, I’m just not amped on Peterson.

3) Jamaal Charles – this guy was a YPC monster last year, but, he did so largely because his touches were limited, and, given that fact his workload is unlikely to change in a massive way. Even if he surpasses Jones in total carries/touches this year he will be heavily spelled. Plus, the Chiefs schedule gets much tougher this season, and they’ll be hard pressed to match their total offensive output.

4) Ray Rice – I actually love Rice’s set up this season, with McGahee out of town, McClain as well and replaced by Ricky Williams who I see more of a great spell/compliment to Rice rather than McGahee as the consummate vulture. He also gets the aforementioned ‘league’s best fullback’ blocking for him. AND, he’s slated to receive a greater percentage of the goal line work. But, at the end of the day, is he a realistic top pick? Even with ‘some’ of the goalline work, he won’t be getting the garbage yards late in games that will fall to Williams and he only crossed the plane 6 times last year. Even if he doubles his total, he’s unlikely to score more than the backs above him.

5) Chris Johnson – He’s #5 right now. If the contract situation resolves itself in a timely manner I could argue to vault him up the list, but, if I’m drafting today and he hasn’t practiced/hasn’t reported/is well behind with a new coaching staff — and I don’t even know if he’ll play 16 games this season, I can’t waste a top pick in good conscience. In fact, if I’m drafting before he reports, I don’t know if I can pick him in the first round.

6) Michael Turner – he’s got no workload issues, though, Snelling could shoulder a bit more of the burden this season. Its actually the workload that scares me, while this is just Turner’s 4th year as starter, he’s had a massive amount of wear on the tires over the past few seasons and, you’ve got to worry that the yards per carry will have a hard time staying north of four if he begins to wear down. You’ll get a solid return on Turner, particularly if the Falcons aerial game opens things up as its supposed to this year, but, he’s a big stretch at the top spot.

7) Andre Johnson – the guy is a beast, I’ve got nothing bad to say about him. He’s the unquestioned number 1 receiver in a year where there are plenty of guys backed up at #2. But, you just can’t pick a WR at #1, if for no other reason, than the ridicule you’d take in the draft room.

So — that brings me to Vick, and brings me back to the point I made above about getting #1 value out of your #1 pick.

I know the whole injury discussion and the concerns everyone has about Vick’s durability, which certainly makes him a risk at #1, and, I’ll concede that I don’t really expect him to play a full 16 game slate either, but, provided he’s on the field for the week’s that count (14, 15, 16) and for most of the season otherwise, you can tolerate a 4 game stretch in the middle. He is the only player on the board that can simply take over a week for you. Vick delivered some absolutely monstrous stat lines last season, and because of his unique mix of arm and leg talent (yes, there are QBs who can run, and score, too but not to this extent) he’s a threat to post a big stat line every week and will almost always deliver solid results when he’s on the field. You’ve got a pretty low floor (in games that he starts and finishes) and a massive ceiling. He absolutely has the ability to be the top performer, and easily the top performer at his position each week/on the season as a whole.

There are some arguments that teams have had a full season to prepare to contain Vick, etc. etc. but, he’s also had an offense specifically crafted for him this year, to play to his strength’s rather than stepping into Kevin Kolb’s.

Imagine having an off week with the rest of your skill position guys, but watching Vick put up his 300 yard, 5 td game vs. the Redskins, or, his 4 total touchdowns 250/130 rushing performance in one of fantasy’s biggest weeks (15) against the Giants. The guy is a stat monster. He’s almost like some type of amazing Running Back/Quarterback statistical platter.

He finished 2010 in the top 10 in passing yards per game, while limiting his interceptions/negative plays, was a top 30 YPG rusher, and, finished tied for 9th in rushing touchdowns in the entire league – ahead of consensus first round picks LeSean McCoy and Darren McFadden.

He has the ability to be a complete game changer for your fantasy team, usually, you win the game by realizing value in the mid-late rounds, but Vick is the rare person who can (yes, he may not, but its a calculated gamble) win you your league in the first round. Go get him.

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