Take a Knee on RG3
Hollywood could not have scripted the start of Robert Griffin III’s career any better. Averaging 267 passing yards, 63 rushing yards and two TDs per game for an average of 30 fantasy points, RGIII did not only lead QBs, he led all fantasy players in fantasy points scored after four weeks. The first time anyone questioned RG3 in fantasy football was during week 5 against Atlanta. After an uninspiring first half and start of the third quarter, RG3 met Sean Weatherspoon near the sideline, and RG3 left the game with concussion-like symptoms. This would be the first of three injuries Griffin would suffer during the 2012 campaign.
Herein lies the nightmare of all fantasy owners. Are mobile quarterbacks at a higher injury risk because they more frequently leave the pocket? The mobile QB is a risk vs. reward proposition, but the upside of a mobile QB is higher due to the potential rushing yards and rushing TDs that the QB can gain versus those of a traditional pocket passer. In RG3′s case, he is a rare combination of great pocket presence, an accurate deep ball, and the ability to make defenders miss when he pulls the ball down and runs. Although it seems he was injured often last season, RG3 missed only one full game. Over the course of the season, RG3 averaged 24.3 fantasy points per game and finished as the 7th ranked QB. Using extrapolation and giving RG3 his average for the game missed, he would have finished as a top four QB behind Brees, Rodgers, and Brady.
*RG3 Finished the 2012 season winning Offensive Rookie of the year
*Broke Cam Newton‘s rookie rushing record by week 13
The Knee Injury
After injuring his knee in week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, many questioned when RG3 would return. The diagnosis as a Grade One lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain would sideline RG3 for only one week. Upon his return, the injury limited Griffin’s mobility and ultimately affected his stat line. Over the final four games, including the playoffs, RG3 would average only 17.65 fantasy points per game. His lack of mobility made him one dimensional and it allowed teams to game plan primarily against the pass. Prior to the knee injury, RG3′s averaged 8.5 carries/59 yards per game and fell to 4.3 carries/29 yards per game following the injury.
The injury to Robert Griffin’s knee cost him approximately half of his rushing production per game. In a retrospective look, if RG3′s rushing numbers were cut in half for the entire 2012 season, he would have finished with 416 rushing yards and 3.5 TDs. Including his passing stats this would have ranked RG3 at 14th amongst QBs, ahead of Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, and Jay Cutler.
Fantasy Factors to Consider
RG3 finished as the 7th ranked QB while missing 1.5 games with a knee injury and half a game due to a concussion. These injuries did cut into his overall production. Prior to the knee injury in week 14, RG3 was the leading scorer in fantasy football with 326.3 with an average of 25.1 points per game. After the knee injury RG3 finished the season at 360.9 points with an average of 17.65 points.
RG3 played much of the season without his top WR option Pierre Garcon. Garcon played seveb games in 2012, averaging 9.8 points per contest. Garcon played very few games healthy in 2012, having his best outings in week 1 and 13 with over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. His presence for an entire season would help RG3 in the passing game.
RG3 had a great backfield complement in rookie Alfred Morris who was a diamond for fantasy owners. Morris finished behind only Adrian Peterson in rushing yards and 5th in standard (7th in PPR) in total scoring for running backs. Morris’s production increased from 19.5 carries/94 yards rushing per game prior to the injury to 24.5 carries/114.5 rushing yards after the injury. Morris’s production could see a boost if RG3 is limited in the running attack to start the season.
On January 9th, 2013, RG3 had surgery on his ACL and LCL. Using my professional expertise (I am a certified athletic trainer), this is a different knee injury than that of Adrian Peterson (ACL, MCL). RG3 did have multiple ligaments involved which will typically take more time to heal than a single knee ligament. The Peterson and RG3 injuries did happen at similar points during the season and they did have the same surgeon (Dr. James Andrews) who performed the surgery. In this situation, we cannot expect similar results due to different knee ligaments being involved and the fact that all athletes heal at different rates. What we can prove is that the rehabilitation process is both mental and physical. RG3, like Adrian Peterson, is young, motivated, and understands that there are mental barriers that need to be broken in the rehabilitation process. The mental process in rehabilitation and motivation is critical for recovery from that injury.
In an interview by NFL Network’s Ian Rapport, Dr. James Andrews said RG3′s knee was “way ahead of schedule.” In fact, the biggest challenge has been keeping the QB from overdoing it. “We don’t have to do much except try to hold him back. Our whole mode is to do what’s best for him for his career, not necessarily what’s best for the first game next season,” said Dr. Andrews. Although this statement points out that RG3 may not be ready at the start of the season, it certainly gives dynasty and keeper owners something to smile about.
Based on his current injury status it is fair to believe that RG3 may not be ready the first few games of the season. His possible lack of lateral movement (due to ACL and LCL damage) may limit his production as a running-QB early in the season, but expect the Shanahan’s to make adjustments to the offense to allow RG3 to be successful. I would definitely monitor his situation close before spending a high draft pick on him in redraft leagues. As an owner in a keeper or dynasty, I wouldn’t be looking to trade him away. In fact, if I didn’t own him, I would be seeking out owners of RG3 and finding out their value in him. Use his injury as leverage and with what is considered to be a “weak” draft class, I would be willing to trade a first round pick for RG3 if your current roster is weak at the QB position. Currently in mock drafts that I have been a part of, RG3 is going in the first three rounds in dynasty formats and after round five in most redraft leagues. If owners can get RG3 in round six or later in redraft leagues and in round three or after in dynasty formats, call victory formation and take a knee on RG3.