Favre spin: Rodgers not top-20 QB
Goodbye, Brett Favre. This time, I think he means it. Is it any coincidence that hours after Randy Moss did not become a member of the Green Bay Packers, instead opting to stay with the New England Patriots, Favre decided to finally hang it up? I think not.
Without question, Favre leaves the NFL -- and the fantasy football world -- as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in history. While he wasn't much of a fantasy star in 2005 and 2006, Favre rekindled the memories of yesteryear in 2007 with arguably his finest season of this decade, reaching 4,155 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He was the No. 17 quarterback selected in ESPN average live drafts for 2007, so obviously the return of value was significant for those who took the chance on him.
For the record, in my January blog ranking players by position for 2008, I placed Favre outside the top 10 for quarterbacks, at No. 11. Since he finished the 2007 campaign ranked No. 7 among quarterbacks in standard fantasy points, and No. 10 overall, it might seem odd that I didn't have Favre even among the top 10 at his position moving forward. Well, the guy is 38. A lot of things went right for Favre and the team in 2007. Time to move on.
It appears it's finally time for Aaron Rodgers to get his shot at a regular quarterback gig, though the Packers could always acquire some older guy as insurance. Brian Griese just got dealt to Tampa Bay for a draft pick. Expect the Packers to reach out to a Griese type to join up and ease the transition.
As for Rodgers, we were starting to wonder who would retire first -- Favre or the guy young enough to be his son? Don't even look at what Rodgers has done in his ever-so-brief action on the field during the past three seasons. It's not relevant. He's thrown 59 passes. That's six quarters for most quarterbacks. But Rodgers was drafted in the first round in 2005 for a reason. He's got the arm and size to be a successful NFL signal-caller, it just took a bit longer for him to get the opportunity. Brady Quinn, are you taking notes?
My initial reaction, and one likely to hold true as the months go by, is that Rodgers is not a top-20 quarterback for 2008 drafts, no matter what weapons he has at his disposal. The players I have at the back end of the teens are relatively safe veterans who have proved themselves in the past: Jake Delhomme, Jon Kitna, even Eli Manning is back there. Rodgers might seem an attractive fantasy option today because he has no negatives, but there are no official statistical positives, either. For me, he's preliminarily ranked No. 23 at the position until he proves himself in September.
The others around Rodgers are also affected by the loss of Favre, who wasn't always the most precise passer but was quite the leader and threw often enough to get others involved. The Packers could opt to take it easy on Rodgers initially, relying on the run game that got them to the NFC championship game. As good as Favre was in December -- and in throwing five touchdowns in two playoff games -- Ryan Grant had his moments as a workhorse, as well, garnering 27 rushes in the playoff win against Seattle. Grant and Brandon Jackson could see more carries to ease the pressure on Rodgers. I have Grant ranked at No. 13 among running backs for 2008, and while I was tempted to move him up to the top 10 after the Seattle playoff game, now I'm thinking about dropping him a bit. With an unproven quarterback, defenses will be able to key on the running game. I've dropped Grant to the middle of Round 2 for now, No. 15 at running back.
I wasn't the biggest fan of wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in the first place. The former didn't catch enough passes, and the latter didn't produce enough touchdowns. How is this going to get better with a green quarterback? In early February, I ranked Jennings No. 17 for wide receivers for 2008 and Driver No. 24, and in each case I'd presume other fantasy football experts thought I was too harsh on both guys. Jennings, who had 12 touchdown receptions but only 53 catches, now leaves my top 25. Driver, who led the Packers with 82 receptions and 1,048 yards, actually doesn't drop much for me. He's not in my top 25 either, but I'd prefer him over Jennings. Rodgers should be able to get his possession receiver the ball, but with his deep threat, it's presumptuous to expect good things there.
Of course, there will be many observers who think Favre's retirement will just be a temporary thing. Hey, I can't blame you for thinking this. Regardless of what ends up happening, it was clear I had reservations about the Packers having the same type of season in the first place.
Eric Karabell is an ESPN.com senior writer, specializing in fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association writer of the year. You can e-mail him here.
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