2012 Fantasy Football: Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees
Just like the great Aaron Rodgers–Drew Brees debate over who should be the 2011 NFL MVP, fantasy owners are surely going to be at an impasse when picking between Rodgers and Brees as their quarterback for the 2012 season. But instead of waffling between the two a la Brett Favre and second-guessing yourself right after you’ve made the pick, I’m here to settle this dispute and show why one is a (slightly) better pick than the other.
For starters, let’s be honest here: both Rodgers and Brees are the top two fantasy quarterbacks for 2012, and getting either of them will give your team a fighting chance every week. Both of their respective team’s offenses revolve around them, and as long as they are in the game, they will be throwing the football.
That being said, let’s look at the numbers and breakdown why one is a (slightly) better pick than the other:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
The Green Bay Packers quarterback and reigning MVP produced insane numbers in the 15 games he played in 2011, dazzling everyone week-in and week-out with his consistency and efficiency. At the end of the season, Rodgers completed 343-of-502 passes (68.3%) for 4,643 yards, throwing 45 touchdowns to just six interceptions, and an NFL-record 122.5 quarterback rating.
But let’s take a closer look at those numbers; especially the ones that appeal to us fantasy owners. In Rodgers’ 15 games played last season, he threw for 300+ yards in eight (coming close twice, with games of 297 and 299 yards, respectively), while tossing 2+ touchdowns in all but one. Additionally, Rodgers threw 3+ touchdowns in 10 games, including four games with four touchdowns, and one game with five. Equally important, was the fact that Rodgers never threw more than one interception in a game, and five of those six picks happened in games where he had 3+ touchdowns. Lastly, Rodgers’ mobility not only helps him extend plays in the passing game, but add some stats to his running game. Last season he ran for 257 yards and three touchdowns on 60 attempts.
All in all, Rodgers put up solid numbers on a weekly basis, garnering plenty of fantasy points in return. Though the odds are against him of producing the same kind of season in 2012 that he did in 2011, you can just about guarantee that, barring injury, Rodgers will be one of the top fantasy quarterbacks. With a plethora of weapons at his disposal, including wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, along with tight end Jermichael Finley, you can expect 4,000+ yards and 40+ touchdowns, with single-digit interceptions, out of Rodgers in 2012.
Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
The New Orleans Saints signal caller and emotional leader had a special season of his own in 2011, putting up ungodly stats on his way to shattering Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards mark. By season’s end, Brees completed 468-of-657 passes (71.2%) for 5,476 yards, with 46 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, producing a 110.6 quarterback rating.
But let’s take a closer look at those numbers; especially the ones that appeal to us fantasy owners. In 2011, Brees threw for 300+ yards in a whopping 13 of 16 games, while throwing 2+ touchdowns in that same amount. Additionally, Brees threw 3+ touchdowns in nine games, including two games of four scores, and three games with five. Brees also added one touchdown rushing in his 21 attempts for 86 yards, losing his only fumble as well. Brees’ one flaw in 2011 was his 14 interceptions that, when compared to 46 touchdowns and 657 attempts, doesn’t seem bad, it’s when they occurred that was the problem, especially for fantasy owners. His interceptions occurred in eight games, including four games with two picks and one game with three. In those five games with multiple turnovers, Brees threw more interceptions than touchdowns in three.
Nonetheless, Brees’ numbers in 2011 were outstanding, and the emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham was a big help to his success. Though the Saints lost wide receiver Robert Meachem in free agency, Brees still has Marques Colston as his go-to-guy, as well as Devery Henderson and Lance Moore to share the wealth with in their shotgun spread offense. Running back Darren Sproles proved to be a perfect fit in the Saints offense, and his role should be increased this season. As long as Brees either signs the franchise tender or reaches a new deal with the Saints, he will once again put up numbers that are among the best in the league. You can easily expect over 4,000 yards passing (if not 5,000 yards) and roughly 40 touchdowns from Brees in 2012.
Like I said earlier, having either Rodgers or Brees on your fantasy team in 2012 will be a blessing, and you can pretty much expect that they will put up solid numbers on a weekly basis. But if you have a choice between the two in your fantasy draft, I would have to advice you to go with Rodgers, and there are two big reasons for this decision.
The first is turnovers; Rodgers is simply more efficient at not turning the ball over than Brees. Rodgers had a total of six turnovers in 2011, compared to 15 for Brees. Rodgers never threw more than one interception in a game, while Brees had five games with 2+ picks. Actually, the last time Rodgers had a multi-interception game was Week 7 of the 2010 season. Additionally, since taking over as the Packers starter in 2008, Rodgers has thrown fewer picks than Brees in every season.
The second factor in this is the current situation with Brees and the Saints. No, I don’t mean the contract situation because that will eventually get resolved; it’s how Bountygate has already affected the Saints 2012 season. The loss of head coach Sean Payton will resonate throughout the entire team, and Brees, as smart as he is with coaching the offense at times, will feel the effects as well.
Even though it will be extremely hard for either Rodgers or Brees to follow up magical seasons in 2011 with the same (or better) numbers in 2012, I feel that it will be harder for Brees than for Rodgers. For the Saints, defenses will focus in on Graham more, and Colston can be single-covered. For the Packers, defenses key on Jennings and/or Finley, leaving Nelson single-covered that, as we saw last season, is a battle Nelson will win more times than not. Again, you can’t go wrong with picking either Rodgers or Brees for your fantasy team, but Rodgers is the (slightly) better quarterback to go with in 2012.
photo credit – Grantland.com