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Is Flacco top 10?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Coming off a Super Bowl title and one of the greatest playoff performances by a quarterback in NFL history, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is about to become a rich man. But how much should fantasy owners pony up for him in 2013 drafts?

Is he even a top-15 fantasy quarterback?

If you're going strictly by his playoff numbers, then the answer is yes. Flacco's 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero picks were good for 88* fantasy points, or 22 fantasy points per game (fppg). *Standard scoring leagues (25 passing yards per point, four points per touchdown, minus-2 for interceptions)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees led all signal-callers with 337 fantasy points last season, which comes to 21.1 fppg, so Flacco's playoff pace would have ranked him first among all QBs in fantasy points in 2012.

But fantasy owners are going to have to decide which set of numbers will better predict Flacco's future performance: four playoff games or the 89 games (regular and postseason) that preceded them.

Flacco had Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator for the first 82 games of his NFL career before he was fired and replaced by Jim Caldwell. Flacco's performance under Caldwell was astoundingly better.

Not including Week 17 against Cincinnati, when most of Baltimore's starters were rested after a couple series, Flacco threw for 284 yards per game, 15 touchdowns and one interception in six games under Caldwell.

With Cameron as his OC, Flacco averaged 221 yards per game and had 98 touchdowns and 55 picks in 77 regular season contests. Even if you only focus on 2011-12, when the team removed the restrictions and allowed Flacco to throw more than 530 passes both years, he only averaged 235.6 yards and threw for 38 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in 29 games under Cameron.

So there's reason to believe that Flacco will continue to improve his numbers with a full season of Caldwell calling the plays.

One thing that might hold him back is reduced talent around him. Baltimore may be forced to release Anquan Boldin to sign Flacco, so by taking Flacco you are gambling that Torrey Smith will step up and become a No. 1 receiver and that Baltimore can find a consistent No. 2.

Even if Boldin is cut, it's highly likely Flacco will have the best statistical season of his career, but it's still going to be difficult to justify taking him in the top 10, or even top 12 given the proven fantasy talent ahead of him.

Flacco won't go ahead of Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan or Super Bowl XLVII loser Colin Kaepernick. That's eight right there.

Tony Romo has long been an underrated fantasy quarterback, and he is coming off a career-high 4,903 yards with 28 touchdowns. And even with a touchdown drop-off, Matthew Stafford still exceeded 4,900 yards for the second straight season. Those two are near-locks to reach the 4,500-yard plateau next season, and you have to think Stafford's passing touchdowns will increase back to the 25-27 level.

The earliest he should go is 11th at the position, and even then there will still be players like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger available. And Andy Dalton and Josh Freeman aren't sexy names, but both of them just had better fantasy seasons than any Flacco has produced in five years.

I'll be interested to see where Flacco goes in early mock drafts this spring. If it's anywhere higher than 11th, he'll be overvalued.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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