Mike Vick and the Purpose of Late-Round Picks

Everyone else is taking backup running backs in the 10th round. You could get a real gamechanger in Mike Vick.

Yesterday, Leo wrote about lottery tickets and safe bets. He used Jamaal Charles as his example of a lottery ticket, although he admitted it was an imperfect example. I agree. Jamaal Charles is a clear first-round pick. He’s an investment. A lottery ticket should cost very little, have the potential to pay off big but more likely flame out, and it should cause your friends to make fun of you when you get it.

Mike Vick is a lottery ticket.

I have an embarrassing secret, and it’s that I kinda sorta like Mike Vick this year. This is a guy who’s coming off the worst year of his professional career and who hasn’t even been named the starter yet.

But he’s also a guy who’s playing for his career, playing for a new coach who might bring an offensive system that maximizes his talents, and most importantly, he’s a guy who costs almost nothing in fantasy.

Vick By The Numbers

Everyone knows about the train wreck that was the Eagles last season. The team was wracked with injuries, Andy Reid should’ve already been gone, and the defense was a mess. Vick put up the worst full season of his career. But that was just one season in which basically everything that could’ve gone wrong did. Let’s step in the WayBack machine and travel all the way back to… 2011.

2011 was the year after Vick’s triumphant re-emergence for the Eagles, when fantasy owners were drafting him in the first round and expecting big things. A lot of people view that season – when he threw for 3,303 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 picks and ran for 589 yards and one score – as a disappointment, especially given how high he was getting drafted.

But our numbers say different. We think he was still pretty darn effective that year.

He put up .33 Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush that season, which is a better mark than the .31 Russell Wilson put up in 2012. (Two things: NEP is the number of real football points a player adds to his team on any given play. Second, quarterback rush NEP is significantly higher than running back rush NEP, partly because quarterback runs are typically unexpected.) Vick was getting it done with his arm too: his .11 NEP/pass that year ranked ahead of guys like Cam Newton and Jay Cutler.

It’s easy to look at Vick’s TD-INT ratio and declare that season a disaster, but he really wasn’t that bad. Fantasy owners were just disappointed because they drafted him so high.

And his 2010 was a deadly combination of great raw numbers and wicked efficiency. In 2010, Vick threw for over 250 yards a game, 21 touchdowns and ran for 676 yards and nine scores. He did all that while putting up .53 rushing NEP/carry and .14 passing NEP/attempt. For some points of reference, that rushing mark is better than RGIII’s last year, and his passing efficiency was better than 2012's Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Eli Manning. Basically the advanced numbers just back up what we already knew: Mike Vick was really, really good in 2010.

The Purpose of Late-Round Picks

Here’s why I like Vick so much this year: He costs almost nothing to acquire. Per, his average draft position is the second pick of the 10th round. That’s crazy late! For reference, here are some of the guys taken in the 10th round of last night’s numberFire staff mock draft: Brian Hartline, Bryce Brown, Vincent Brown, Fred Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon Myers, Ben Roethlisberger and the Seahawks D/ST. (That last one was an autopick casualty, but still.)

Are any of those guys going to win you your league? Extremely doubtful. Could a healthy Vick, in a comeback year, playing in an uptempo offense that utilizes his speed win you your league? Sure! Maybe it’s not likely, but that’s what lottery tickets are for.

Plus, thanks to the influx of talented young passer, there are plenty of solid, if uninspiring fantasy quarterbacks out there on the waiver wire just waiting to be picked up. Guys like Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers are either going in the very last rounds or undrafted entirely. It makes a lot of sense to draft Vick as a backup quarterback, stashing him in case he blows up this season, and just pick up someone else if he totally bombs. Assuming you play in a single-quarterback format, fantasy backup quarterbacks aren't exactly a vital position.

That’s the point of late-round picks: You’re already past the safe haven of sure-thing guys. Now you’re just taking fliers on rookie wideouts and backup running backs. Why not take a flyer on a passer, who, when everything breaks right, can be one of the most dynamic fantasy football players in the NFL?