As a winner of two Super Bowls, most people think fairly highly of Ben Roethlisberger as a real life quarterback. They still may not realize how good he’s been. Since the NFL merger, only Aaron Rodgers (8.1), Steve Young (8.0), Kurt Warner (8.0), and Tony Romo (7.94) have averaged more than Roethlisberger’s 7.93 yards per attempt. Players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Dan Marino all trail him in this important category. Roethlisberger is a reality star.
Of course, that doesn’t matter to us in fantasy. Roethlisberger has always been held down by low attempt totals. He’s never thrown 525 times in a season. He’s only thrown for 4,000 yards twice. He’s only reached 30 touchdowns once.
All that would have changed in 2012 had he remained healthy. Roethlisberger was on pace for 550-plus attempts. Despite being on poor terms with his offensive coordinator and getting shoddy play from his supposed star No. 1 receiver, his touchdown percentage and interception percentage were both better than his career averages. It’s easy to forget Todd Haley was the man who revived Kurt Warner as a fantasy star.
Precisely because of that injury, Roethlisberger is going off the board as QB16, just outside the top 120 picks. It might come as a surprise then to discover Big Ben’s 2013 RotoViz projection puts him squarely on the QB1 radar. In fact, he’s right there with some of the highest profile quarterbacks. To give you a taste of what the Sim projects, consider Roethlisberger when compared to one of the up-and-comers and one of the established stars.
His year-over-year change plot helps illustrate why this is the case.
In Haley’s offense, Roethlisberger’s N+1 comparables become a Who’s Who of the greatest fantasy quarterbacks in recent memory. Peyton Manning shows up four times, including the GOAT’s dominant 2009 season and his paradigm-shattering 2004 campaign. Matt Ryan and Tony Romo show up twice. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees make an appearance.
The five worst comps are Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, and Billy Volek, guys who aren’t going to be mistaken for Roethlisberger any time soon.
Mike Wallace and Heath Miller
The app doesn’t know that Roethlisberger has definitely lost Mike Wallace or that Heath Miller may not be full strength for most of the season. The loss of Wallace is massively overrated. He was terrible in 2012, averaging 1.53 yards per route. (For comparison purposes, that’s almost exactly half of what Andre Johnson managed.) In the short term, Emmanuel Sanders might be a better fit for the offense. If Markus Wheaton plays at all like T.Y. Hilton did a year ago, he’ll bring far more value to the table than Wallace right away.
The loss of Miller certainly won’t help, but the veteran tight end’s rehab is supposedly ahead of schedule. These peripheral issues are helping to create almost unfathomable value in Roethlisberger on draft day.
2013 Redraft Strategy
A lot of people are piling on the late(r) round QB bandwagon as we head into 2013, but few will have the courage to employ the Hydra strategy. Most will form a committee out of guys in the Round 12-13 range. This is precisely the wrong way to fill your QB position. Although draft value falls off sharply in the Round 10 area, if you take advantage of the RotoViz apps, you should feel confident enough in your projections and your strategy to make those picks more valuable to you than they might be to your league mates. Dropping a second pick at QB wipes out a lot of the value you gained by waiting that long in the first place. If you select Roethlisberger, you do not need to select your QB2 until the late rounds.
And if all of that isn’t enough to convince you to select Roethlisberger, consider this: he plays at Green Bay in Week 16. Some of Big Ben’s loss of fantasy value can be traced to the Steelers holding a lot of second half leads. It never hurts to have your quarterback’s fantasy title game project as a shootout.