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Spotlight: Michael Vick

posted by Mike Brown on Jul 29th


Mike Brown's thoughts

Vick's up-and-down career took an unexpected downward turn in 2011. Just when it looked like he was getting his life back together and really making strides both on the field and in his personal life, he endured a rough season - at least regarding the 'on the field' part.

The Eagles were seemingly loaded heading in the 2011 season. They were coming off an impressive campaign which saw them lose a playoff game late to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Vick had returned from prison a changed man and once again he statistically took the NFL by storm en route to one of the most impressive and shocking fantasy performances in recent memory. Philadelphia then went out during the offseason and added several pieces to the puzzle in an attempt to build almost a dream team of talent. As is often the case, however, the collection of talent fizzled. The Eagles staggered through much of the regular season, with Vick taking a large step back in his development. Just one year removed from thirty total touchdowns in just twelve games, Vick put up only nineteen scores in thirteen games. He also turned the ball over a whopping eighteen times in those contests. The good news is that eight of his scores came in the season's final four games, suggesting he's got something to build upon for 2012.

Vick is an extremely interesting player to study this year. He's the kind of player who, if healthy, can singlehandedly win games for you and possibly even win your league championship. He's also a guy who can go out and get injured on a game's opening series and cost you any shot at a victory - and he might do that more than once.

Is Vick worth pursuing in drafts this season, or should he be left alone for other owners willing to roll the dice?

Positives

  • Vick is one of the most naturally gifted players the league has ever seen. He doesn't even necessarily need to improve as a passer in order to improve as a fantasy asset
  • There is explosiveness within this offense everywhere you look. Between LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and even a resurgent TE Brent Celek, Vick is certainly not lacking for weapons
  • It seemed at times last year as if the Eagles were always just that 1-2 plays away from winning or competing in a particular game. The dream team scenarios never materialized, but if they can turn a few of those close losses into close wins, the perception of Vick will swing towards that of a winner

Negatives

  • Vick is always going to be injury prone, no matter how much he talks about being smarter and protecting his body. The fact that he runs the ball so often means he leaves his body open for punishment. There's a reason he has only played a full 16 games exactly once in his pro career
  • Speaking of being smarter and protecting his body, he has said he's going to make a conscious effort to be smarter when he's running and not try to score a touchdown with every play. While that's probably the smart long-term move, it won't help him to pick up additional yards and scores if he's willing to step out of bounds sooner
  • Vick was not very adept at reading defenses in 2011, particularly blitzes. At 32, he's still young enough that he can do a lot of damage with his legs. But at 32, he's also old enough that his legs aren't going to carry him throughout an entire game and fifteen more just like it. He'll need to be more efficient as a passer, something he did exceptionally well in 2010 but pretty poorly in 2011

Final thoughts

Vick, and to a lesser extent the Eagles in general, are in line for some big things in 2012. They return the offensive skill guys pretty well intact from the 2011 season, which bodes well for continuity. All of the offseason reports regarding Vick's commitment and focus have been exceptional, and he's keeping his personal life in order as well which is arguably the biggest key to his success.

Vick was clearly not worth a first round fantasy pick last season, and a lot of people knew it going in. Nine rushing touchdowns from the season prior inflated his fantasy point total to an unsustainable level. He almost HAD to be all-world again just to live up to the hype. That said, if he's on the field for a reasonable number of games, we should also expect that one rushing touchdown will represent his absolute floor. Somewhere between the two seasons would probably be a pretty safe bet.

Furthermore, last offseason his top three receiving options were all dealing with various issues. TE Brent Celek was constantly banged up, WR Jeremy Maclin was dealing with a mysterious illness, and WR DeSean Jackson was more concerned about his contract than he was about going over the middle. This time around, Celek has had a couple of cleanup procedures, Maclin looks like a top ten wideout option, and Jackson got paid. The Eagles are going to have explosiveness AND continuity, a recipe for success under just about any quarterback let alone one as talented as Vick is.

At his current ADP, you can either take a bottom tier running back or wide receiver...OR you can take the one guy available after Round 3 who can win your league for you all by himself. Pretty easy call if you ask me.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

TheDirtyWord said:

Vick, even back in his Atlanta days, was and is always about the upside potential. The 'what if' equation with him has always been mind-blowing because of the potential for his run/pass combination ability. In Atlanta, he simply could never justify that upside potential because his passing stats were so anemic. While his rushing stats could make up for that deficiency - it was never really an added bonus. But under Reid, Vick has actually been able to combine his rush/pass ability into a FF force that with the exception of Cam Newton and perhaps to a lesser extent Aaron Rodgers, could not be replicated. 2010 represented the actual fruition of upside potential, but his pullback seemed justifiable given the awkward off-season of 2011.

Did Vick's performance decline from 2010? Yes. But to be fair, Vick's top 2 WR's were not operating at 100% peak efficiency (Maclin struggled with his mysterious illness and faded badly in the 2nd half of the season and D-Jax sulked his way through not having his contract demands met throughout the year). Do I want to pin Vick's decline only on that? No. But consider that the 4th leading WR on the Eagles was Jason Avant with 679 yards and it would be tough to argue that despite Vick's 'down' year, he hasn't made drastic improvements in his ability to incorporate multiple and diverse elements of the passing game.

For me, Vick presents close to the same value proposition as he did last off-season. His upside simply hasn't changed. Do you have to worry about him missing games? You do, but I don't recall the QB2 market ever being stronger so you can really minimize the risk if Vick does go down. For all of the worry about Vick's ability to stay healthy, he's really had but one serious injury in his career. If you can navigate around 1-2 game absences from him, his upside is still Top 3 QB level. But given the increase in overall QB production over the last 2-3 seasons, perhaps he doe not have quite the unique upside he once had. But he still has big time upside.

Vick will always be a polarizing player. I think that's why his value has gotten as low as it has. If you were to compare Cam Newton & Vick, I'm not sure you could come up with an argument that could persuade me that Newton represents 2 full rounds of value over Vick. To me, it's a toss-up between the two. I think with the Eagles disappointing last year after visions of 'dream team', all Eagles with the exception of McCoy seem to be undervalued. In Vick's case though, I think the potential is there for him to provide 1st round production. I'll be targeting him in Round 3 if his current ADP holds.

fightingillini said:

Vick is a type of QB that I will try and draft in every league. He was grossly overvalued in 2011, but now you can draft him 3 rounds later with his ADP at QB6, which is around the 4th round. He can still dominate. Last year was a anomaly in that Lesean McCoy had a an inordinate amount of 1 yd TD runs. I see Vick picking up a few more rushing TDs this year. Vick can still produce 1st or 2nd round numbers due to his rushing ability as well as he has 3 very good targets in Maclin, Desean Jackson, and Celek. Only negative is his injury history, so if you draft Vick, you need a solid backup. Luckily, there are quite a few good ones in the 12-18 range.

Bayhawks said:

I have him as QB3. I was surprised to see that both he and Cam were ahead of Brady and Brees, despite the fact that I projected Brees and Brady for between 600-800 more passing yards and 9-14 more passing TDs. Shows how valuable those QBs are in a league that rewards rushing yards and TDs more heavily than passing yards/TDs. Also, when INTs aren't penalized, that increases their value, as well. I would expect Vick to be closer to QB 6-8 in a league that does penalize INTs and/or doesn't value rushing stats more heavily than passing stats.

fatkid said:

I think Vick's INTs 2 years ago represent his career best, so I have him back to his average in the mid teens as well.

I think Vick's lack of rushing touchdowns had more to do with playcalling than with durability or talent. They didn't call his number near the goal-line very much. However, I don't see that changing this coming year either. I think Andy Reid has adjusted his goal-line plans to attempt to keep Vick healthier. I think that caps his upside significantly.


Michael Vick projections

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