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Faceoff: Andrew Luck vs. Colin Kaepernick

Footballguys staff members pick between two excellent young quarterbacks.

Which of these young quarterbacks would you rather have this season? Why?

Matt Waldman: Andrew Luck. Although he only completed 54 percent of his passes and threw 18 interceptions last year, he also led his team the playoffs behind an offensive line that most quarterbacks have no business accomplishing that kind of feat. He also pushed the future NFL champions in that game and led a 21-point comeback against the Packers.

He's a smart, accuruate, and rugged quarterback with underrated athleticism. He knows how to run when necessary, but it's not a part of his game that he has to incorporate to make defenses respect him. I can't say the same for Kaepernick. I liked the 49ers quarterback last year and I thought his development from that of a raw prospect at Nevada was impressive.

However, one thing Kaepernick lacks that cost the 49ers a true chance to put the Ravens away in the Super Bowl and will dog him the rest of his career if he doesn't improve is his lack of touch as a passer. Randy Moss is no longer that dominant vertical threat that he was for most of his career, but I agree with his assessment that the 49ers underused him. The reason is that Kaepernick does not execute strong touch on throws against tight coverage.

It wasn't just Moss, but Manningham was also underused and he is also a solid fade-route player. If Kaepernick can learn to execute the fade routes, he'd be a much better. This is a common attribute that top quarterbacks possess once they get inside their opponents' 35-yard line.

If Luck gets a player or two to match and/or complement Reggie Wayne's skills he can become an elite fantasy starter. Darrius Heyward-Bey might be the free agent signing on most people's lips and it might signify that the coaches don't feel as confident in its young depth chart as it appears. Barring that possibility, I don't think Heyward-Bey will hurt T.Y. Hilton's production and LaVon Brazill went from late-round pick to second receiver behind Wayne over the course of the year, making some big plays on the field when he got playing time.

Brazill is at least gone for four games and could lose his roster spot because he couldn't play by the rules of the NFL's drug policy, but you get the point that Luck did a good job involving young and unproven players in the offense. I think Kaepernick demonstrated trouble involving veteran players in the offense at what they do best. It's enough of a difference for me to like Luck more.

Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are not big-play, vertical receivers. The 49ers can run the ball through a stone wall and leave a sculpture in its wake. The Colts don't have the same luxury.Kapernick may still be a potential QB1 this year, but I think Luck has all the tools and young weaponry to develop into a player with Matt Ryan-like production pre-Julio Jones as a mid-range QB1. I think Kapernick has low-range QB1 upside due his current scheme and minor, but important limitations as a passer.

Jason Wood: In leagues that reward fewer points for passing TDs than rushing TDs, I would give Kaepernick the edge. The 49ers offense is certainly conservative and Kaepernick won't be asked to throw 600-650 times, but the addition of Anquan Boldin and a full training camp as the starter argues for increased per pass productivity. Add to that a set of wheels that is the envy of everyone not named Cam Newton, and I have a hard time seeing Kaepernick falling outside of my top 8 this preseason. Luck has the brightest long-term future because I believe he profiles as the next elite pocket passer (rushing productivity for QBs erodes much faster), but in 2013 I view Luck as more of a fringe fantasy QB1.

Jeff Pasquino: I tend to agree with Jason here, especially with the scoring formats argument. Kaepernick has great wheels and the 49ers have added Anquan Boldin to the passing game, which will help him. A full training camp as the starter is a big, big deal and with Kaepernick entering his third season he should be ready to elevate his game even further.

I like both quarterbacks and Luck is a good passer, but the multi-dimensional Kaepernick is a huge fantasy uptick for a quarterback who can run. Remember Michael Vick in Atlanta? Rushing for a quarterback is such a big boost, and with Frank Gore winding down I like Kaepernick to get 500+ yards rushing quite easily this season. Luck is a solid passer, but that's his only dimension, and the Colts are a one-dimensional team without a solid tailback option (Ahmad Bradshaw is a shell of his former self and Vick Ballard scares no one). The Colts' top receiver is Reggie Wayne, who is in the twilight of his career and Indianapolis let Donnie Avery go, so it is just Wayne and T.Y. Hilton (along with Derrius Heyward-Bey at WR3) for Luck and his two big young tight ends. Decent options, yes, but to compete against other fantasy owners who will have Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, you have to have big game potential from your quarterback. Kaepernick offers this more than Luck, so that's my pick.

Ryan Hester: After being fortunate enough to have Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III in their respective rookie seasons on some of redraft teams that mean the most to me, I definitely have a fantasy affinity for running quarterbacks. Even when considering his higher ADP, I'd still choose Kaepernick here. My fantasy philosophy is to go big or go home. I want young players for whom it is within the realm of possibility to score me 40+ fantasy points in any given week. While that's not impossible for Luck, we saw Kaepernick have that type of game in the playoffs this past season. His low games might be lower, but his highs could dwarf those of Luck.

Heath Cummings: I'll take Luck for 2013 and beyond. Kaepernick isn't Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III (or even Russell Wilson) as a passer and I don't want to bet on a quarterback that must have success running the ball to be a QB1. Kaepernick topped 250 yards passing once in the 2012 regular season and I'm not sure the team will need him to do much more than that in 2013. Luck, on the other hand will continue to top 300 yards on a semi-regular basis and I would anticipate an improvement in his TD-INT ratio in his sophomore season. Kaepernick is a perfect fit in San Francisco, but I think he'll do much more for them than he will for his fantasy owners.

Waldman: I can see the go big or go home argument, but as a Cam Newton owner last year I'd rather have a player at quarterback who is consistently good rather than high-low. Big games from a player with this kind of ebb and flow can be overkill on good weeks and you wished you could bank those points for another week. If I know I have quarterback that is going to score 18-25 per week with the occasional 30-point outburst, I can build around that. However a quarterback with 40+ weeks some games and less than 18 others, can detract from solid performances of other players on your roster and be the difference between winning 10 games and hoping your team wins a total points tiebreaker just to get in the playoffs.

Does that scenario sound familiar w/my team in FESL last year, Wood?

Chad Parsons: I am higher than most on Andrew Luck according to the Footballguys rankings for 2013, so this is a rather easy call. Luck is the ideal blend of passing prowess and rushing ability, much like Aaron Rodgers. Luck will have the offense on his shoulders with even more responsibility than he showed as a mature rookie in 2012. Luck had five rushing touchdowns, all inside of the red zone, last year. Ahmad Bradshaw is an upgrade to the pedestrian Vick Ballard in the running game, but Bradshaw's health at this point will limit his ultimate help to the offense. With two rookie tight ends having a year of experience under their belts, Reggie Wayne showing little sign of physical decline, and T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill upside young receivers, Luck is surrounded with talent in the passing game.

Kaepernick does not offer those same benefits. His value has seen a spike this offseason because of a strong playoff stretch, much like Joe Flacco. Kaepernick is on a run-first, run-second offense that does not need to light up the scoreboard to win. San Francisco has a strong defense, which affords them the luxury to play towards the strength of the team on offense - ball control. With a quartet of solid running backs and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, in addition to Kaepernick, there is little reason to air the ball out regularly on offense. The substraction of Michael Crabtree at least for most of 2013 with his Achilles tear is another reason for San Francisco to take the air out of the ball on offense. While Kaepernick will have some top-5 weeks at the position when his rushing numbers are there, his other weeks will keep him safely behind Luck overall.

Jeff Haseley: For this year I am more interested in Colin Kaepernick as a fantasy option than Andrew Luck. Last season I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out of Kaepernick's rise to fame, only to watch him average 25 fantasy points over the last 11 games, including postseason. His rushing ability, strong accurate arm and surprising touch nearly catapulted him to a Super Bowl championship. The 49ers may have lost Michael Crabtree for 2013, but Kaepernick's pedigree and talent will still run the show. Luck may have better fundamentals and a better overall command of his team's offense, but Kaepernick's additional athleticism and previous fantasy high points puts him over the top of the more consistent, but less prolific Luck.

Dave Larkin: This is one of the tougher calls to make from a dynasty perspective, but talking strictly 2013 here I would give Kaepernick the edge. San Francisco's offensive line is one of the dominant units in the league and in Joe Staley in particular Kaepernick has a top-tier left tackle protecting him. I believe offensive line play is often underrated when discussing offensive skill position players' production. In this case Andrew Luck's band of merry men - despite upgrades in Gosder Cherilus and the productive but unproven Donald Thomas - simply do not inspire the kind of confidence necessary to trust him over Kaepernick.

Both players are surrounded by capable offensive weapons, but for now Kaepernick has a slight edge in my book.

Andy Hicks: My gut feel is that Andrew Luck will find the NFL a tougher proposition in 2013 than he did last year. Call it a sophomore slump, but the Colts look like they are undergoing a complete revamp of their offensive line and these units don't usually gel overnight. Luck already had a low completion rate and high turnover rate, not unusual for a rookie, but until the Colts get cohesion and a better running game, then Luck will force the ball more as a means of necessity.

Kaepernick on the other hand has a great line, solid running game and playmakers at receiver. He doesn't have to do it all and will get more time to pass, more room to run and as demonstrated so far will hit it big on more than a couple of occasions. I, like Ryan and some of the others mentioned would rather a guy with highs and lows than consistency most of the time. Obviously your whole squad can't be like that, but as long as you can mix your side up with guys who are steady and guys who are capable of a huge day, then you'll do alright. If I build my side around Kaepernick, then I adjust accordingly.

Will Grant: The injury to Michael Crabtree makes Colin Kaepernick an interesting option now. I tend to agree with the guys who like Luck more than Kaep, but with Crabtree possibly gone for the season, Kaepernick looks like the better choice. In general, I think that opposing defenses are going to scheme more against Kaepernick's running style, and he'll be forced to make critical throws rather than beat him with his feet. However, his tendency to run will increase a bit if he doesn't have Crabtree to look for every down. Anquan Boldin will be counted on more, but it won't be a one for one. Kaepernick may simply pull the ball down and run more this season. I think that Kaepernick is the better play now this season, but not by a lot.

Mark Wimer: I think Luck is a sure-fire QB1 prospect for 2013 (eighth), while I have Kaepernick on the cusp of QB 1 production (13th).

Obviously, the loss of Michael Crabtree for most (if not all) of regular season has degraded Kaepernick's prospects, though there is still enough talent among Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, and Vernon Davis to pick up the slack there. The main reason I'm not as enthusiastic about Kaepernick is that his team plays tough defense and runs the ball a lot, while the Colts have a weaker running back corps and rely on Luck's passing arm more than the 49ers do. Kaepernick is a good scrambler but rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position are notoriously hard to predict.

Bottom line - I think Luck will be the higher-scoring fantasy quarterback and also the more consistently high-scoring fantasy quarterback this year, given the situations both players find themselves in as of May 2013.


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