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Going Deep: Running QB 'fad' could be here awhile

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  • By Marcas Grant NFL.com
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Gather round, kids. Let me tell you a tale from the early 1990s. The world was getting used to the idea of a re-unified Germany. A team from Canada won the World Series. The Internet was just becoming a thing.

And laserdisc was the wave of the future.



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What is laserdisc, you ask? Well, it was going to be the thing that made videotapes obsolete. Its proponents raved about its superior picture and sound quality. It was the greatest thing that happened to movies since popcorn.

Except for the part where it wasn't. Movies certainly looked great on laserdisc, but the cost of laserdisc players and the movies themselves was higher than most people cared to consider. Most video stores ('memba them?) didn't carry a large selection of them for people looking to rent a Friday night flick.

But most irritatingly -- you couldn't fit a full movie on one disc. Even a two-hour feature included an unintended intermission to switch the plates. The final straw was having the picture go black in the middle of Aliens, just as Ripley was coming face-to-face with the big, bad ugly. Eventually laserdisc was replaced by DVD and that particular wave of the future crashed against the rocks of progress.

That brings us to this week's Going Deep. We've yet to touch on quarterbacks, which is a little bit odd since they seem to be the NFL's wave of the future. Especially the ones that mix a little running in with their throwing.

As always, we'll set some ground rules. "Running quarterback" is any QB who averages four or more rushes per game during consecutive 16-game seasons. Doing it once could mean you have a poor offensive line. Doing it twice makes you a weapon.

Enter a new generation of quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are names that induce equal amounts of titillation and trepidation when discussed by fantasy owners. There is plenty of upside in the form of added fantasy points through rushing stats. But there's always the looming fear of injury.

Call it Michael Vick Syndrome.

Michael Vick: 2010-12
Season
Games
Rush Att.
Rush Yds.
Pass Yds.
2010
12
100
676
3018
2011
13
76
589
3303
2012
10
62
332
2362

The Eagles signal-caller was the original poster child for running quarterbacks in this new pass-happy era of the NFL. While he enthralled fantasy owners with his ability to pick up points with both his arm and his legs, he's always had problems staying healthy -- and was inconsistent when he was.

It's interesting to note that Vick's rushing attempts dropped in each of the three years and, ultimately, his yardage totals as well. Similarly, after a career-high nine rushing touchdowns in his magical 2010 campaign, Vick had just one rushing score in each of the next two years. During that same stretch, his passing TDs fell from 21 in 2010 to just 12 last season.

But Vick hasn't been alone in recent seasons. David Garrard was known to get out of the pocket a time or two.

David Garrard: 2008-10
Season
Games
Rush Att.
Rush Yds.
Pass Yds.
2008
16
73
322
3620
2009
16
77
323
3597
2010
14
66
279
2734

Garrard was a bit more durable than Vick, playing 16 games in back-to-back seasons. But he wasn't immune to a decline in production. By the end of the three-year stretch, Garrard's attempts, rushing yards and passing yards had all taken a serious dip.

The odd thing is that Garrard seemed to get better at finding the end zone. He was never renowned for vast amounts of rushing scores, but over that period, he went from two rushing TDs to five. His passing TDs rose even more dramatically -- from 15 to 23.

All that seems well and good ... until you realize that he never played another down of professional football after that 2010 season.

Just judging by those two examples, it seems like the third time isn't the charm with QBs who like to venture out of the pocket. But every rule needs an exception, right? In that vein, we present Aaron Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers: 2010-12
Season
Games
Rush Att.
Rush Yds.
Pass Yds.
2010
15
64
356
3922
2011
15
60
257
4643
2012
16
54
259
4295

As anyone who's watched any football at all over the past few seasons can attest, Rodgers is about as productive as quarterbacks come. While most of us marvel at his efficiency throwing the football, you don't have to watch very long to realize that he's not too bad with his feet, either.

In that respect, he combines the best of Vick and Garrard -- with his own individual strengths to boot. He might have run a little bit less in 2012, but there was no severe dropoff. In fact, his 54 attempts wasn't far off from the 58 attempts/year he's posted since becoming a full-time starter in 2008. And his passing TD numbers? Those speak for themselves.

Which brings us back to the new kids on the block.

Newton becomes a player to watch closely. No quarterback of recent vintage has run as often or for as many yards as Newton has in his first two seasons. Does that mean he's due for a step back in 2013? Not necessarily. Newton's ability to produce through the air isn't exactly on par with Rodgers, but it's not far off. More importantly, it's more than enough of a threat to allow him to still take off as a devastating runner. If his third season totals can approximate what he's accomplished in his first two years, then all bets are off.

That might be the defining factor among this new breed of running quarterbacks. They possess a combination of running ability and passing efficiency that the NFL has rarely, if ever, seen. That even extends to a player like Andrew Luck, who rushed 62 times in his rookie campaign.

Of course, no quarterback is bulletproof. But with a new set of quarterbacks flashing an advanced skill set, maybe this group is a lot less laserdisc than we fear.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a guy whose Netflix recommendation list is littered with B-movies. You can follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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