Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. Aaron Rogers.
Those are three quarterbacks who were at the top of every fantasy football players draft board last season. All of them turned out to be as good as advertised, but there was one guy, who for good reason, went largely unnoticed during many fantasy drafts. That player is Michael Vick.
I say for good reason because Vick was a backup heading into the 2010 season, with four-year quarterback Kevin Kolb slated to be a top 10 fantasy player. But in the first game of the season against the Green Bay Packers, Kolb went down with a concussion and Vick took off. No sooner than when he entered the game, flashed a few nifty jukes and scored a few touchdowns, did fantasy football players race to their laptops and snatch Vick off the waiver wire. That is, if they weren’t glued to their computer already at opening kickoff.
Vick was largely undrafted last season by almost every league, but by mid 2010 he had a %98.6 ownership rating. He turned out to be the best waiver pickup in all of fantasy football. He threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also throwing a career-low six interceptions. He also rushed for nearly 700 yards and scored on the ground nine times. That’s 30 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards for those keeping track.
Vick peaked statistically against Washington in week 10, where he threw six touchdowns along with over 400 yards combined passing and rushing. There’s no telling how many games he won for fantasy teams that night, but I am sure there were a lot of fans who jumped on his bandwagon after that game.
With such stellar numbers in 2010, Vick will likely go in the top 10 for most fantasy drafts in 2011. But if Vick is going to have any shot at repeating what he did in 2010, he’ll need to rely more on his arm. The hits he took started to wear on him as the playoffs approached, and he’ll need to learn to preserve himself better so he can peak when it matters most.
But how likely is it that he will repeat what he did last season? To answer that, we must look at the Eagles schedule and what they’ve done to help Vick this offseason.
The Eagles had one of the toughest schedules last season, as they played tough NFC North teams such as the Packers, Bears, and Vikings, as well as AFC South team’s such as the Colts, Titans, and Jaguars.
This year, things get a little easier. The Eagles rank in the middle of the pack in strength of schedule for 2011, and will take on a weaker AFC East division with the New York Jets and New England Patriots being the only tough opponents.
Despite an easier schedule than last season, there’s one downfall. The Eagles play two opponents that are coming off their bye weeks in 2011, something that rarely happens. Those two opponents are the Redskins in week 5, and the Bears in week 9. Two well-rested teams could really make things a lot more difficult, especially the Redskins, who are a division rival, and the Bears, a team that went to the NFC Championship year.
Also, the Eagles play the Patriots late Sunday night followed by a trip all the way across the country to Seattle on a Thursday, giving them little time to rest. So overall, this schedule may prove more problematic than last year despite playing more slightly weaker teams.
When it comes to getting Vick more help, the Eagles have done a decent job so far this offseason. Notice I didn’t say great job, because there’s still some holes in their offense, mainly on the offensive line. But they did address one big need in the draft.
That big need was their first round draft pick, Baylor guard Danny Watkins. A former firefighter, Watkins was an All-Big 10 selection and will provide an immediate impact on an offensive line that gave up 49 sacks last season. Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning called Watkins the safest pick in the NFL draft.
In the fifth round, the Eagles also got Vick another weapon, Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis. Lewis broke a series of current records while at Pitt, including current Eagle running back LeSean McCoy’s record for most yards as a freshman and sophomore.
McCoy was a pro bowl alternate last season, and his versatility in the passing game can only help Vick’s stats. If Lewis turns out to be half of what McCoy is, he’ll be a worthy backup. Also, if McCoy happens to go down, Vick shouldn’t see his stats drop too much.
At receiver, Vick already has two of the best in the NFL. DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive receivers in the game, and he and Vick showed great chemistry in 2010. Jeremy Maclin is also coming on, as he caught for 940 yards and ten touchdowns last season. It’s not out of the question that these two receivers could catch for over 1,000 yards in 2011.
With an improved offensive line, explosive weapons at receiver and running back, it’s not out of the question that Vick could notch 3800 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. He’ll probably throw a few more picks, and expect his rushing yards to dip a little bit, probably in the 300-400 range. But that’s a good thing, since he’ll likely avoid injury from taking hits while on the run.
Vick has all the tools and he proved a more competent passer than ever last year. While their schedule could pose a few problems, 2011 should be another great fantasy year for the 2011 comeback player of the year.