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2012 Draft Prep: Vindication coming for Vick

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Last year, Fantasy owners were all in on Michael Vick.

It proved to be a costly decision as Vick was one of the biggest disappointments in Fantasy in 2011. He let a lot of people down and cost many owners a shot at the playoffs.

More positive Vick vibes ...
In 2010 Michael Vick averaged the second most points per game (30.45) in Fantasy Football history and I made my debut at CBS explaining why he was undraftable given his first round price tag in 2011. I'm back in 2012 to tell you that the pendulum has swung the other way and Vick is looking like one of the great Draft Day values.

Vick still finished as the 12th ranked quarterback last year despite missing three games, scoring only one rushing touchdown and dealing with down seasons for both Jeremy Maclin (illness and injury) and DeSean Jackson (attitude). Vick still averaged 21 points per game in 2011 and I know he has a ton of upside on those numbers. As I explained last year, there was no way that Vick would match the career highs he set in 2010 in completion percentage (62.6), yards per attempt (8.1) and rushing touchdowns (nine). In 2011, those numbers fell to 59.8 percent, 7.8 yards per attempt and only one rushing touchdown. What I like about those numbers is that Vick bested his career averages in both completion percentage and yards per attempt last year and they represented the second best totals of his career. Vick averages around five rushing touchdowns per season and I do expect to see his scores come up from one and land right around 4-6 scores, which is significant for his weekly production.

For Vick to still produce that efficiently in the worst years for both Maclin and Jackson as starters is extremely impressive to me and shows that Vick has really grown as a quarterback. I am concerned however that his rushes per game fell by 33 percent (although that could help to keep him healthy) and his ability to score up close completely fell off the map. After scoring a quarterback best nine rushing touchdowns in the red zone in 2010 on 21 carries, Vick took only 11 carries last year and scored the one touchdown. Both Vick and the Eagles wanted to limit his wear and tear in scoring situations, which is why we saw Vick score eight fewer times from inside the 20 last year while running back LeSean McCoy saw his red zone rushing scores jump from four in 2010 to 14 last year.

In 2011, Vick had an 18.7 percent red zone scoring rate, worst among the 15 busiest quarterbacks and his struggles inside the five-yard line were legendary. His 23.1 percent goal line scoring rate bested only Curtis Painter, Blaine Gabbert and Joe Flacco among the 28 quarterbacks with at least 10 goal line chances. He will improve on those metrics and was at 23.8 and 42 percent respectively in 2010 so look for Vick to average out those numbers for 2012, which gives him some nice upside.

With a healthy Maclin, a happy Jackson, McCoy out of the backfield and his rediscovery of tight end Brent Celek, Vick will pilot one of the most explosive and dynamic offenses in the entire NFL. How many games he will play remains the big question for Vick, who has missed seven games over the last two years. At 32 years of age, Vick is no spring chicken, but his Fantasy upside is as big as any quarterback's in the league and with a proper ADP in the late fourth round, he is absolutely a worthwhile gamble on Draft Day.

Unlike with the top quarterbacks, I would definitely recommend snagging a good backup (I think Robert Griffin III is the perfect compliment) with Vick because chances are you will need him for at least a few games. -- Nathan Zegura, Senior Fantasy Writer

To recap, Vick was drafted on average at No. 7 overall as the No. 2 quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. He finished as the No. 11 quarterback in standard leagues, 217 points behind Rodgers and just three points ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went undrafted in most formats.

But this year, Vick will rebound and prove to be tremendous value. The prediction here is Vick will finish as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback.

Heading into training camp, Vick is being drafted on average as the No. 6 quarterback in Round 4. He is being selected after Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.

That's totally understandable given the way all five of those quarterbacks played last year since they were Top 5 in Fantasy points. All have a positive outlook this season, and each one should do well. Just don't be surprised if Vick supplants one of them as a Top 5 quarterback with Brees, Stafford and Newton the likely candidates to slip.

Brees could suffer with Sean Payton suspended, Stafford could see a decline in production with an improved running game and Newton could endure a sophomore slump. But this isn't about one of those quarterbacks dropping out of the Top 5 -- it's about Vick bouncing back.

Now, why should Fantasy owners trust Vick this year? Has he done enough to earn back your trust after what we saw last season? Does he deserve consideration as a Top 5 Fantasy passer?

We know injuries will always be a risk with him based on his smallish frame (6-foot, 215 pounds) and running style. He has played 16 games once and 15 games three other times since coming into the NFL in 2001, and he's missed at least seven full games with the Eagles as their starter the past two seasons. Last year, Vick missed three games with broken ribs.

But you have to look at what Vick is capable of when healthy, which is why he is worth drafting as your starting quarterback. The potential is there for him to be the No. 1 Fantasy passer if he can play close to a full season. Vick averaged 19.8 Fantasy points a game last year in standard leagues, which includes three games where he was in single digits. One of those games was in Week 10 against Arizona when he first broke his ribs, and DeSean Jackson was benched for that outing due to disciplinary reasons.

A better example of what Vick is capable of is looking at his final three games of the season against the Jets, Cowboys and Redskins when he was healthy with Jackson active. Vick averaged 24.7 Fantasy points over that span, which would have given him 394.6 points over 16 games and put him at No. 5 overall among quarterbacks, just ahead of Newton (394.0).

It is obviously difficult to count on Vick for a full season even though he's saying all the right things about staying healthy. He recently said his motto is to "get the next yard on the next play" so he can avoid needless hits, but instincts will likely take over in a game. Still, it's nice to envision what Vick could do if he stays on the field all year.

He had seven games with at least 23 Fantasy points in 2011. By comparison, Rodgers (14 games with at least 23 points), Brees (12), Brady (10), Newton (nine) and Stafford (nine) all had more, but they all played at least 15 games.

Vick should have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Jackson happy now that he got paid, Jeremy Maclin at 100 percent, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy. Vick also has a lot to prove after getting a $100 million contract last year and not living up to it.

The biggest thing for Vick is staying on the field, and none of us can predict that. We can only draft him in the appropriate spot and hope he stays healthy. It's why you should draft a capable No. 2 quarterback; I like pairing Vick with Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III or Jay Cutler since each could be starting Fantasy options and good replacements should Vick go down.

But we don't want to talk about Vick injuries this year. We want to talk about his success, and hopefully he produces as we expect, which should mean Top 5 production at his position. He should be considered a steal in Round 4, and we expect a big year for Vick in 2012.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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