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Aug 21

Michael Vick named Eagles starting quarterback: a healthy O-line may do wonders for his fantasy game

Not much of a surprise here – Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly named Michael Vick his starting quarterback yesterday. This is something we figured was coming, but now that we know for sure it’s No. 7 should we consider him a solid fantasy football option?

In 2010, Vick finished the season with a 100.2 QBR, averaged 251.5 passing yards per game with 21 TDs and six picks on the year, while also piling up 676 yards and nine score on the ground. He was a fantasy monster and it made many consider drafting him with the first overall pick the following season – or at the very least as the first QB off the board.

Well, if you did make him your top pick you don’t need me to tell you it didn’t work out as planned. In 2011 Vick saw his QBR drop to 84.9, and while his passing yards per game went up, so too did his interceptions (they more than doubled to 14) – and he threw for three fewer TDs. He still ran for a respectable 589 yards, but managed only one rushing touchdown. Vick was a pretty big fantasy disappointment, surely not worthy of a first overall pick, and not a first round choice even.

Things didn’t get any better for Vick last year. He missed time with yet another injury and that limited him to only 10 games where he put up 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions; his ratio fell from 3.5 TD per pick in 2010 to 1.2 in 2012. He was a fantasy risk going into the season, and we knew that, yet there were those in the community that gambled on him who were once again were left disappointed.

The 2001 former first overall pick is no stranger when it comes to missing games – suffering a seemingly endless amount of injuries and hasn’t made it through a full 16 since joining the Eagles. In fact, it’s entirely likely given his history to suggest that perhaps we’ll see Nick Foles under center again at some point this season. However, it’ll have to come by said injury or extremely poor play because Kelly has made it clear Vick is his guy, and he’s not going to be swapping him and Foles – he isn’t the starter on a ‘trial basis.’

(Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT)

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick with one of his rushing touchdowns on Nov. 15, 2010 against the Redskins. He became the first NFL player with at least 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game. (Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT)

So why should fantasy owners expect Mike Vick’s downward trend come to an end? Is it possible that he could really get back to his 2010 form? Eagles’ fans and soon-to-be fantasy owners will hope that it is an omen that Philadelphia’s season opens in a Monday Night Football tilt against the Redskins; during Vick’s quality 2010 year in a game against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football he went 20-for-28 through the air for 333 yards and four touchdowns while adding 80 yards and two scores on the ground, giving him a quarterback rating of 150.7 (and giving his owners a historical performance: the first player in NFL history to throw for 300, run for 50, and score 4 through the air and 2 on the ground in a single game).

Of course, historical numbers probably won’t be repeated and we won’t hold our breath that we’ll see that kind of game from Vick again – but that’s the kind of video-game-like performance that he’s capable of that makes him an intriguing fantasy play.

This year is different for Vick, and not just because of Chip Kelly and the up-tempo-run-heavy offense he brings from Oregon to Philadelphia. A big part of Vick’s struggles last year came because of his depleted O-line… the Eagles couldn’t block a Dirk Nowitzkione-legged fadeaway.

The offensive line is a Quarterback’s life line and when it falls apart like it did in 2012 for the Eagles, then it usually means bad news for the QB (especially an injury prone one). Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce all missed time with injuries and Danny Watkins was bothered much of the season with an ankle injury.

Jason Peters was forced to watch at home for the entire season because of not one, but two Achilles tears. He’s yet to play in the two Philly preseason games but hopes tosuit up and get in the game’ against Jacksonville on Saturday. With a healthy Jason Peters out there (of course it’s not certain he’ll remain healthy), Vick shouldn’t have to worry about his left side (his throwing side) at all and it should open things up for LeSean McCoy who had 21 touchdowns and 1309 rushing yards in 2011 with Peters in the lineup. It’ll give Vick more time than he had last year, and it’ll open up room for screen plays and whatever other creative gems Kelly has in that fancy lil’ playbook of his.

So with the left side taken care, how about his blindside on the right? That’s where this year’s fourth overall pick Lane Johnson comes into the picture. Yes, he’s a rookie, but he’s shown no signs of playing like one. So Vick will head into the season – barring preseason injuries – with a healthy offensive line.

Although it was only a preseason game, the Eagles O-line passed a major test last week in a game against the Carolina Panthers. Philadelphia’s first-half offense averaged 7.4 yards per play against Carolina’s top-10 defense from last year that consisted of a lot of sacks (23.5) from Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Vick or Foles weren’t pressured at all, suffering just one sack for four yards during 18 total passing plays.

(Getty Images)

FantasyPros currently has Vick as the 116th ranked player overall in terms of ADP. If he stays that low, potential owners may be getting a steal. (Getty Images)

So far under Kelly, Vick is 13-for-15 with 199 yards and a QBR of 133. In his second pass in the first preseason game Vick aired out a gorgeous 47-yard strike to DeSean Jackson, and his only interception came the following game with a Hail Mary to close out the half (he’s also added 2 carries for 20 yards and hasn’t put the ball on the ground). Vick and the Philly offense have looked powerful and explosive, averaging a play every 24 seconds; with the defense most likely shaky all season, Vick and the offense will have to try and keep up.

Even with all this I don’t think the 32 year-old Vick can be considered as a safe QB1 on your fantasy team – at least I don’t recommend going into your draft with that strategy. Of course the Jeremy Maclin season ending injury will hurt Vick, but he still has the upside to be a top five fantasy quarterback if he stays healthy and produces the numbers he’s been shown to be capable of. Let him be your back up plan, or if you insist on having him to start at the very least have someone you can fall back on if he misses time or struggles enough to allow Foles in the game.

He’s currently being drafted late in round nine according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com and even earlier from those who love him and expect a return to form. Given his upside Vick is a perfect QB2, and I would much rather have him than Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, or Jay CutlerI’d consider picking him over Eli Manning as well. It’s the huge fantasy ceiling that Vick has that makes fake football enthusiasts drool over him; if he does return to a form we saw from him not so far in the past, they’ll be well rewarded.

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