Should Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers Be the First Quarterback Selected in Fantasy Football Drafts?
Two of the most efficient offenses in the league last year were the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts, as they both finished in the top nine within our Adjusted (for strength of schedule) Net Expected Points (NEP) per play data. The passing offenses were even better, too, finishing in the top six.
Luck improved greatly for fantasy football owners in his third season, averaging nearly 22 points per game last year in standard leagues (after 17.3 and 17.8 per game the previous two years). Rodgers has only had two seasons as a starter under 20 fantasy points per contest, and has a career average of 20 fantasy points per game.
So which quarterback should be the first one taken in your draft? Tyler and I debate below.
Note: all scoring is based on standard scoring leagues, with data from FFToday.com (omits scoring from Week 17).
The Argument for Andrew Luck
If I'm looking to build my fantasy squad around one of the top signal-callers in the league, I'm looking to draft Andrew Luck. And I have no doubts about it.
Luck has the consistency, volume, and the high ceiling that fantasy owners covet at the quarterback position. Finishing last year nearly as the top overall fantasy quarterback at the ripe young age of 25, we still have yet to see the best of Luck. Now, after an offseason of upgrading the talent at the wide receiver, running back, and offensive line positions, optimism should continue to run sky-high in Indianapolis.
Andrew Luck's consistency last year at the quarterback position provided fantasy owners both a high ceiling and an even higher floor. He had eight different top-six (high end QB1) weeks in terms of fantasy points scored, trailing only Aaron Rodgers' nine weeks. However, Luck edged out Rodgers providing 13 weeks of top-12 performances (QB1), leading all quarterbacks in this category (Rodgers had 11). Luck also had the most 300-plus yard passing games in the league, as he routinely beat defenses piling up both the yardage and the touchdowns (his 40 touchdowns led the NFL.)
Ranking in the top-12 in passing play percentage each of the last three years since Luck entered the league, the Colts have soundly identified the passing attack as their means of productivity. With the third-most passing attempts in the league last year, Luck will once again become a high-volume passer in Pep Hamilton's offense. After upgrading their offensive skill players this season adding Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, and dual threat Frank Gore, if Luck can capitalize on improving his efficiency, this offense could really be something special.
Luck's high ceiling is also of note, but something we may have only caught a mere glimpse of in 2014. These new additions to the offense should only help as Luck has arguably one of the best and deepest set of offensive weapons he's had in his career. Facing a favorable schedule with eight matchups against bottom-12 defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, the blueprint is already laid out for Luck to have another successful fantasy campaign as the top fantasy quarterback.
The Argument Against Andrew Luck
There's no doubt that Andrew Luck is an elite quarterback in terms of fantasy production. He's finished as the eighth-, sixth- and second-best quarterback in fantasy football in his first three seasons. However, the one thing that has limited him in finishing higher in his first and third seasons -- interceptions.
Luck threw 18 interceptions in his rookie season, cut that in half his sophomore season, but threw another 16 last season. Rodgers threw double-digit interceptions in his first (13) and third (11) seasons, but has stayed under eight interceptions in each of his other seasons, including just five of them last year. One fewer interception by Luck would have meant he would have been the top quarterback in fantasy football in 2014, not Rodgers.
Interceptions come in bunches for Luck as well. While he had zero picks in four games (through Week 16), he also had five games with two interceptions, including six total in Weeks 13 through 16. Consequently, Weeks 14 and 15 saw him barely hit QB1 status and in Week 16, his two interceptions (as well as being pulled from the game with no touchdown passes), caused him to lay a goose egg in fantasy football in what may have been your league's championship game.
It's not as Luck is bad in fantasy football -- he's capable of throwing another 35-40 touchdown passes this season within the Colt's offense. But until he proves he can limit his interceptions, I am not taking him as the first quarterback off the board.
The Argument for Aaron Rodgers
As mentioned in the intro, the Packers and Colts are two of the most efficient passing offenses in the league. In fact, the Packers were the most efficient passing offense in the league in 2014 on a per play basis. That resulted in Rodgers being one of two quarterbacks to have two receivers within the top-10 of our Target NEP (how a receiver does on all targets, not just receptions) metric, with the other being Peyton Manning. Luck's primary target, T.Y. Hilton, just missed out on the top 10.
But it was just efficiency for Rodgers' receivers -- Nelson finished in the top three in both standard and PPR leagues, while Cobb was a top-10 fantasy receiver in both formats. Again, only Manning's receivers could claim the same success. Rodgers also has an efficient teammate in the backfield in Eddie Lacy. Lacy was the second-best receiving running back within our Target NEP last season and was a top-five running back fantasy-wise in PPR formats.
Aaron Rodgers has options, and we only touched on his top ones. Davante Adams will have another offseason with the team and could see more involvement as well. Richard Rodgers and Jeff Janis may have an impact, too. With Rodgers' efficiency and insane depth of options, I am all-in on Rodgers as the first quarterback off the board.
The Argument Against Aaron Rodgers
Finding fault in Rodgers' game is no easy task, as the 31-year-old just finished earning his second league MVP in 2014.
However, from a fantasy perspective, there are a few things that should cause fantasy drafters to hesitate when thinking of pulling the trigger on Rodgers.
While Rodgers efficiency is unparalleled, his volume significantly handicaps his fantasy output. The Packers have rushed the ball the sixth-most in the league over the last three years, consequently leading to Green Bay throwing for the 20th most attempts in 2014, 18th in 2013, and 16th in 2012. If I'm investing heavily in a top quarterback, I want someone that will routinely be dropping back to pass the ball on a weekly basis -- and the associated fantasy points that follow.
Rodgers is also generally credited with providing viable rushing fantasy points, and while this is true, Luck has outperformed him substantially. Since Luck has entered the league in 2012, he has rushed for 905 yards and 12 touchdowns compared to Rodgers' 648 yards and 4 touchdowns over that same time span. Sure, Rodgers is a fairly efficient rusher, but as Father Time catches up with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, Rodgers now has to contend with this new hybrid of quarterbacks vying for top fantasy potential.
Despite finishing last year as the top fantasy quarterback, Rodgers owners may have been left desiring more from a consistency perspective. Tough road games saw Rodgers struggling at Seattle (QB28), at Detroit (QB27), and at Buffalo (QB26). That said, Rodgers still offers incredible upside with five weeks ranking as a top-three quarterback. If I'm spending serious draft equity in a quarterback, that week to week inconsistency is a big determining factor in whether or not the selection is worth it to me.
Rodgers could very likely continue his running streak of QB2 or better finishes, but with volume concerns, lack of rushing potential, and matchup inconsistencies, the draft equity required to acquire Rodgers at his current ADP makes it tough to justify the selection.
What the Projections Say
If you're still undecided on which quarterback to take, check out our free draft kit to aid your decision-making. By looking at the draft kit, we see both quarterbacks are top-three material, and the algorithm likes Aaron Rodgers as the top quarterback in fantasy football season.
Rodgers is "only" projected for over 4,700 passing yards compared to Luck's near-5,000 passing yards, but the point difference for the seasons swings back to Rodgers thanks to his insane projected 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The numbers aren't totally in love with Luck, who's projected to throw 16 interceptions to go along with his 33 touchdowns, making him actually the third quarterback off the board after Drew Brees.