Would it be Wacko to Play Joe Flacco?
"To the victor belong the spoils." - William Learned Marcy, American Statesman
Is Joe Flacco a disappointment? I have 120.6 million reasons that say he is.
After an outstanding playoff run which led to a Super Bowl victory and game MVP honors, Flacco cashed in to the tune of $20.1 million per year. To put things in perspective, he makes approximately 32 times what Russell Wilson brings in this season. Fair? I think not, and I suspect, however, that "Flaccowners" (past and present owners of Joe Flacco) have valued Baltimore's prize quarterback quite differently.
To borrow from Winston Chuchill, Flacco has been something of "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, swaddled in a Ravens jersey." Standing at 6'6'' and 245 pounds, Flacco resembles Paul Bunyan, but with a rifle for arm instead of the customary axe.
A first-round pick out of Delaware (he started his college career at Pittsburgh), Flacco has shown glimpses of becoming an elite fantasy quarterback, but he has not gotten there. Unfortunately for Flaccowners, he put up his best fantasy numbers in last year's NFL playoffs, with an excellent average of 285 yards, 2.75 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions per game. In the regular season, however, Flacco is far less consistent and far more maddening.
Flacco by the Numbers
|Year||Attempts||Yards||Touchdowns||Interceptions||PNEP/Pass||QB Fantasy Rank|
Flacco's career numbers tell us something Flaccowners have known for years: Joe Flacco is in the middle of the pack-o at quarterback-o. His counting stats (yards, touchdown, and interceptions) from 2009 to 2012 are almost identical, so you can't say you didn't know what was coming in 2013.
Flacco had an impressive rookie season and a sophomore season that warranted great expectations. His highest Passing Net Expected Points Per Pass of .11 came in year two of his career, and he looked as if he just needed time and experience in order to take the next step towards the elite. However, his career hit the proverbial wall after 2009, and his NEP numbers have taken a nosedive since that season.
This brings us to the 2013 version of Joe Flacco, the model that seems to be running on fumes. Flacco is on pace to have possibly his worst statistical season in his career, mostly due to a high volume of interceptions; he had a career-worst 13 picks through only 10 games entering Week 12.
For a majority of 2013, the Ravens offensive line has been as bad as a Star Wars prequel. Even including last week's fine performance by Ray Rice, the Raven's running "attack" has been putrid. Rice, who averaged over 4.5 yards per rush coming into this year, averages only 3.0 yards per attempt this season. Without a viable running game, teams have been able to get to Flacco more easily, and he is "forcing" passes more often than ever.
What about Baltimore's receivers? Well, we can't fault Torrey Smith. Smith is on his was to recording season highs in receptions and yards this year, and his Receiving NEP per target entering this week's tilt against the Jets of .75 is just about on par with that of Wes Welker. But two pieces of the Raven's passing offense are conspicuously absent: Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
Boldin was dealt to San Francisco in the offseason, and his presence has been missed by Flacco. Boldin has a combination of size, speed, route running, and pass-catching ability not found his his replacements, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones. Boldin had a Receiving NEP per Target of .73 last year, and although Brown has put up the same Receiving NEP per Target this year, Flacco is not as comfortable with his as he was with the veteran Boldin.
Tight end Dennis Pitta has been out all season, but could be active in Week 13. And boy could he help. The Ravens have gotten a solid workman-like effort out of Dallas Clark in Pitta's absence: 311 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, Pitta, at 6'4'' and 245 pounds, was on his was to a larger role this year after going for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. The possible return of Pitta this year to the Ravens would tremendously help Flacco in the passing game.
Would it be Wacko to play Joe Flacco?
We had Flacco ranked number 13 at quarterback for his game this week against the Jets. He managed to put up 273 yards, one touchdown, and one interception - middle-of-the-pack numbers for a middle-of-the-pack quarterback.
Flacco can, however, be targeted in Week 14 against the Vikings and Week 15 against the Lions. I wouldn't jump Flacco ahead of Brees, Newton, or the like, but I do see his numbers improving against these inferior pass defenses. Look to see if Pitta is activated - it could lead to an uptick for Flacco. And consider playing him in Weeks 14 and 15 ahead of players like Ben Roethlisberger and Case Keenum. Just understand that you'll never get your money's worth if you think of him as a 120.6 million dollar man.