Fantasy week: The quarterback debate

Fantasy week here on the NFC East blog is about much more than just linking to the excellent roundtable videos our fantasy staff has put together. It's about thinking about our own upcoming fantasy drafts and what we might do, who we might take, which players we think are going to have the big years.

To that end, I thought it'd be fun to look at the four quarterbacks in the NFC East from a fantasy perspective. I even threw in a poll so you can pick which one you like the best -- again, from a fantasy perspective. As you can see in this list, our ESPN experts have three of the four very tightly bunched in the preseason rankings:

6. Eli Manning, New York Giants

7. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

9. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (still looks weird, right?)

10. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

11. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

15. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

I did a whole post Monday on Griffin's fantasy value, with the help of those knights of the fantasy roundtables. He could be in the class of the other three someday. Could be this year. Could be better than all of them down the road. But he's a rookie, and we don't know, so it's highly unlikely you're taking him over the other three if you're drafting fantasy quarterbacks in the next couple of months.

But man, it doesn't get a lot tighter than those Manning/Vick/Romo rankings, now does it? That's so close, it's got to come down to personal preference. And I know you guys have those.

For me, if I were at the point in my draft where I'd decided I needed to take a quarterback and the choice was between these three, I'd go with Vick. Yes, you run the risk of injury and having to fill in on weeks when he misses games (so maybe I take Griffin a little early as my backup, no?). But my thinking is, if I'm not getting someone from the Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady/Drew Brees tier, I'm willing to take a little risk for a potentially big reward. And Vick's ability to put up numbers by running the ball in addition to throwing it gives him something that Manning and Romo don't offer their fantasy owners. If you're only talking about passing numbers, you'd take either Manning or Romo over Vick. But assuming my league awards points for quarterbacks' rushing numbers as well, I'm taking the guy who can bring that extra element into the picture. There were weeks in 2010 in which having Vick on your team was like having an extra (and a very good) running back in your lineup. That makes you hard to beat. And while he didn't run like that last year, he still averaged 45.3 rush yards per game. And you can use that.

How do we order the other two, then, from a fantasy perspective? Clearly, after last year, the real-world debate about Manning vs. Romo is tilted heavily in favor of Manning, who beat Romo twice in the final weeks to win the division and then rolled on to his second Super Bowl title. But if you're picking a fantasy quarterback, the fact that one has the other's number in real life doesn't factor in. This is about numbers, and they're close. Manning averaged 308.3 yards per game in 2011, much better than Romo's 278.9. But Romo actually threw more touchdown passes (31 to 29) and doesn't throw as many interceptions as Manning does, which matters in leagues that penalize for interceptions.

For me, Romo's the slightly better fantasy option than Manning, and the interception numbers may well be the tiebreaker. They're both blessed with great receivers. They both play behind offensive lines full of question marks. They are so close from a statistical standpoint that our real-life Eli-Romo debate was still a toss up as of New Year's Day, before Manning salted it away. If I were picking a fantasy quarterback, both of these guys were on the board and the guy right in front of me took Romo, I wouldn't be crushed to settle for Manning. Would feel pretty good about it. Would be telling myself at least I know he'll play all 16 games, and that matters too for purposes of these comparisons. But if I were picking between the three, strictly for fantasy football, I'd go Vick. And if Vick were gone and I were picking between the other two, I believe I'd take Romo.

Your thoughts?