Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
"I assume everybody thinks they're a top- five quarterback. I mean, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top five, I think I'm the best."
Fair enough, Drew Brees. Wait ... it wasn't Drew Brees who said that?
Was it Aaron Rodgers? No?
It must have been Tom Brady then.
Wrong again. These were the words uttered by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco earlier in the week.
You cannot be serious, Joe (where's John McEnroe when you need him?).
The best quarterback in what, the Baltimore recreation flag football league? NFL Europe? And is that even a league anymore?
This is crazy talk. Heck, this is beyond crazy talk. Flacco's recent declaration makes Mike Tyson look sane. And Tyson tattooed his face and threatened to eat Lennox Lewis' children.
Even from a purely fantasy perspective (because clearly Flacco is living in a fantasy world), Flacco truly was just an Average Joe last season (yes, pun intended). And until they start giving out fantasy points for facial hair (because Flacco did rock a pretty amazing Fu Manchu moustache last season), don't expect that to change.
Forget about top five, Flacco was barely in the top 15 for fantasy QBs last year. In my ESPN league, he registered just 195 fantasy points. That was just ahead of Tim Tebow (who didn't make his first start until Week 5) and 32 points behind interception-king Mark Sanchez. Aaron Rodgers nearly doubled Flacco's total, outscoring the Baltimore QB, 385 to 195 (24.1 ppg to 12.2 ppg), in 2011.
In the league I played in last year, passing stats were weighted more heavily than rushing and receiving stats, so QBs were the highest scorers. To put it in perspective, Matthew Stafford, the fifth-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy last season, posted 20.8 fantasy points per game compared to 17.7 for fantasy's top running back, Ray Rice.
Even with this huge statistical advantage, Flacco still finished behind six running backs, four wide receivers and a tight end (Rob Gronkowski) in fantasy points per game. Flacco even had a kicker (David Akers at 11.4 ppg) hot on his heels.
There really wasn't anything that Flacco excelled at in 2011. Flacco's 20 touchdown tosses was 13th in the NFL. To crack the top five, Flacco would have had to throw for at least 31 scores (Tony Romo's 2011 TD total).
Flacco finished 12th on the NFL leaderboard in yards (3,610), but he was still nowhere near the top five (Rodgers was fifth with 4,643 yards)
Flacco's 80.9 QB rating was 18th in the league, placing him behind journeyman Matt Moore (87.1), the ancient Matt Hasselbeck (82.4) and often-injured Kevin Kolb (81.1). He was just barely able to beat out perennially mediocre Tavaris Jackson (79.2) and the NFL's interception leader, Ryan Fitzpatrick (79.1). To place in the top five, Flacco would have needed a 97.2 QB rating.
Flacco's most disturbing deficiency a year ago was his lack of accuracy. His completion percentage was only 57.6 percent, good for 26th-best in football. Even Washington's Rex Grossman (59.9 percent) did better than that.
What's even more troubling about Flacco's awful completion rate was that his yards per attempt was only 6.7 last year (24th in the league). Going deep on a regular basis can sometimes hurt a quarterback's completion percentage, which is pretty understandable. But clearly, that wasn't the issue for Flacco.
Surely, it must have been an off-year for Flacco. Well, not really. His 2011 stat line (20 TDs, 12 INTs, 3,610 yards) was nearly identical to his career averages of 20 TDs, 11.5 INTs and 3,454 yards per season.
You could make the case that Flacco's passing stats suffer because the Ravens, led by All-Pro running back Ray Rice, run the ball more effectively than almost anyone else in the league. But Baltimore's offensive tendencies aren't as drastically skewed toward the run as you might think.
The Ravens were 18th in pass attempts and eighth in rushing attempts last year. But the difference between eighth and 18th really isn't that much. Baltimore's 459 carries was just 21 ahead of New England's 438. And the last time I checked, the Patriots were one of the most pass-oriented offenses in all of football. Flacco still had plenty of chances to put up big passing numbers in 2011. He just didn't do it.
Of course, Flacco doesn't have the star-power in the receiving corps that other quarterbacks benefit from. Flacco's best receiver last season was Anquan Boldin, who finished just 32nd in the league in receiving yards (887 yards).
Last year, Boldin reeled in just 54.3 percent of the passes that were intended for him, while Baltimore's second-best receiving option, rookie Torrey Smith, caught even fewer passes headed his way (52.6 percent). New England's Wes Welker, on the other hand, caught the ball 70.9 percent of the time he was targeted, and Green Bay's Jordy Nelson was at 70.8 percent.
So why exactly were Boldin's and Smith's success rates so slow? Are they poor route runners or was Flacco just inaccurate? It's probably a little bit of both. Either way, it certainly doesn't help Flacco's fantasy prospects.
Another factor to take into consideration is dropped balls. Boldin and Rice each dropped seven passes last season, tied for 10th in the league. Those drops hurt Flacco's completion rate through no fault of his own. So if we factor in these 14 drops, Flacco's completion percentage improves, but not by much. If the drops had been catches instead, Flacco would have completed 60.1 percent of his passes, 18th-best in the NFL.
I don't see a lot of fantasy promise in Flacco, but, remember, Eli Manning made a similarly bold claim last offseason. Manning said he was in the same category as Brady and the rest of the NFL's best. And he didn't disappoint, vastly improving his fantasy value (career-high 4,933 passing yards) and leading the New York Giants to the Super Bowl.
Now it's time for Flacco to deliver. Your move, big guy.