This is the one for which many of you have been waiting. Every day, I get questions about whether Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III can have a rookie year like the one Cam Newton had for the Carolina Panthers in 2011. I would venture to say that most of these questions are fantasy-rooted, since no Redskins fan would want Griffin to have the same win-loss record Newton had in 2011. So here's the fantasy football roundtable discussion on Griffin, in which that very question is raised.
Lots of differing opinions. Ken Daube cautions that "this is still a rookie quarterback, and I don't believe this rookie quarterback is worth a roster spot in fantasy leagues." K.C. Joyner says Griffin was actually more productive at Baylor when he threw to receivers other than Kendall Wright, and therefore thinks Griffin is a guy who makes his teammates better and can be productive no matter the situation. Avowed Redskins fan Matthew Berry thinks Griffin is a good fit for the Shanahan offense, but admits that he can't speak on this topic without bias.
But the key point in all of this is about what potentially makes Griffin different from other fantasy options at his position -- his foot speed. He's a passing quarterback first, yes, but he has the ability to make plays with his legs. The extent to which he does this in games will determine whether he's a difference-making fantasy quarterback. Newton's fantasy value last year was obviously tied to his legs and the extent to which Carolina used him as its goal-line running back. Without the rushing numbers, Newton was a fine fantasy quarterback, especially for a rookie. With them, he was one of the very best options.
Michael Vick is another example of a guy who goes from good to great as a fantasy option because of the rushing numbers. Not as much last year as in 2010, but still enough to overcome his turnovers to a fair extent. And the guy Matthew brings up toward the end is maybe the best example. Tim Tebow is one of the worst passing quarterbacks in the NFL. But add in his rushing numbers, and he becomes a very helpful starting fantasy quarterback (assuming he's the starter).
Griffin's going to have rookie growing pains as a starting NFL quarterback. He's going to make mistakes, and he's going to lose some games. I believe he's also going to do some spectacular things that hint of the great player he might someday be. But as for transforming the Redskins from doormat to contender in his first year? Hard to imagine. His real-life value is long-term.
But as a fantasy quarterback, it's entirely possible he'll gain enough yards on the ground to outperform his No. 15 preseason ranking. And if you're thinking about whether to draft him late as a backup with upside, that's the reason to take a chance. Having a quarterback who runs is like having an extra running back in your lineup on certain weeks. It can make all the difference.