Fantasy Football Draft Guide 2014: Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks

Context

 Depending on how much ESPN you’ve watched over the past year, you’ve probably heard the phrase “it’s a passing league” more times than you can count. But that’s because it’s true. It’s always a smart idea to follow the money, and in an offseason where the Bengals threw a $115 million dollar bone to the mediocre Andy Dalton and top 5 RB Jamaal Charles took just $18 million guaranteed, something is amiss. Yet the good teams adapt with the times while the others are left searching for answers.

 Don’t search for answers.

 You need a productive quarterback. But that’s obvious and not very helpful. The trick is finding the right quarterback. To help, I’ve separated the position into tiers (as seen below):

Tier 1: 22.3ppg                             Tier 3: 15.4ppg

Peyton Manning                              Robert Griffin III

Aaron Rodgers                               Colin Kaepernick

Drew Brees                                    Tom Brady

 Tier 2: 17.25ppg                           Tier 4: 17.7ppg

Matthew Stafford                          Nick Foles

Andrew Luck                                 Matt Ryan

Cam Newton                                 Russell Wilson

 

My advice on quarterbacks this year? Either take a guy from tier one, or wait to be one of the last guys in your league to take a QB. The tier one crew averaged a whopping 22.3 points per game; 5 points per game better than any other tier. This means that if you had a QB from tier one, you had a significant advantage over your opponent every week (except when you faced another tier one foe). Otherwise? All the quarterbacks were relatively equal in terms of points per game, which means no advantage for anyone. Therefore, if Manning, Rodgers, or Brees are too rich for your drafting taste, then you are better off stocking up on extra RBs or WRs and waiting for a tier 3 or 4 guy to be your signal caller.

 

Top 3

  1. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos (no. 7 overall)

I mean, what can I say? After a 7-touchdown performance against the defending champion Baltimore Ravens on opening night, a memorable season was inevitable. 55 touchdowns, an MVP, and one horrific Super Bowl loss later, here we are. At 38 years old, Peyton is Troy Polamalu’s head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks in the league, and frankly, it’s not even close. His 406 fantasy points last season led all players, and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year.

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  1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (no. 9 overall)

As Packers fans can attest to, Rodgers’ 2013 campaign featured a tad too much Seneca Wallace. Now that the stud Packers QB is healthy, another typical (monster) season is expected. Green Bay deploys a potent supporting cast with a combination of Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb streaking the sidelines and Eddie Lacy patrolling the backfield. That arsenal of explosive options should serve Rodgers well and you can safely pick him in the late first or early second round and reap the benefits all season long.

  1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (no. 13 overall)

Drew Brees has four different 5,000-yard seasons in his career while no other quarterback has more than one. For that reason alone, Brees is annually worth a high fantasy pick. Yet with a mix of youth and experience in his receiving core (Colston, Cooks, Stills) and a mammoth of a TE (Graham), the Saints’ QB may be poised for his best season as a pro. New Orleans has a difficult schedule, having to face division foes with top defenses Carolina and Tampa Bay twice each, but that’s not a reason to shy away from the last quarterback in the top tier.

 

3 Sleepers

  1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (no. 71 overall)

We’ve heard this story before. It’s a new chapter every year, but the narrative is always the same: something is wrong with the Patriots. Last year it was injuries to the defense and inexperience on offense. This year ESPN is trying to tell the world the Brady is no longer an elite QB. Bullshit. Remember when Peyton Manning was setting records in Indianapolis by throwing to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison while Brady was merely “managing games”? But then the Pats traded for Randy Moss and Wes Welker and Tom Terrific broke all those records that Peyton set? A similar trend is taking shape now. Manning gets to chuck the pigskin to the likes of Demaryius/Julius Thomas and Welker while Brady is stuck with the runts of the litter. And therein lies the problem: the Pats’ QB just doesn’t have a comparable supporting cast. But times are changing. Julian Edelman is now a proven bell cow, Danny Amendola is finally healthy, Aaron Dobson showed flashes (repeat: just flashes) of brilliance last year, and Brandon Lafell is a big/reliable red zone target. And don’t forget about Gronkowski. After a rough beginning to the season last year where Gronk floundered on the PUP list and the rookie receivers dropped passes, Brady picked up his play in week 9 and finished as the 4th best fantasy QB from weeks 9-17. Don’t sleep on Tommy.

  1. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (no. 123 overall)

The hate for Cutler has reached almost Romo-level proportions at times throughout his career, and some of it is actually justified. The man hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2009 and he hasn’t ever thrown more than 27 touchdowns in any given year. Peyton Manning threw more than twice that last season. So why can one almost hear a quiet buzz surrounding Cutler this year? A few reasons: head coach Marc Trestman is an offensive savant that turned a mediocre Bears’ offense into one of the most formidable attacks in the league; Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are the unquestionable top receiving duo in football; and Matt Forte is a threat both on the ground and through the air. If Cutler can’t figure it out this year, he never will. The fruit is ripe for the picking; let’s just hope Cutler can lay off the picks.  

  1. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (no. 190 overall)

As the last 1st overall pick before the rookie wage scale, Bradford’s huge contract has classified him somewhere comfortably between bust and Jamarcus Russell. Compounding the problem of his less-than-elite skillset, the man just cannot stay healthy. He’s missed almost 25% of possible games throughout his career. But last season (before a torn ACL) there were very visible signs of improvement. His 16.2 fantasy points per game in 2013 were the 12th best in the NFL and the Rams offense was actually watchable with Sam at the helm. I don’t suggest wagering your fantasy season on this reclamation project by any means, but as a backup with high upside, you could do a lot worse.

Buyer Beware

  1. Cam Newton, QB, Lions (no. 51 overall)

2014 has not been kind to the Panthers thus far. After an uninspiring playoff loss to the 49ers, Carolina had to endure months of team-building style suffering. First, news of a serious ankle injury caused super-human (some might even call him Superman) QB Cam Newton to opt for ankle surgery. Next, stud senior offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who might have been the teams’ best offensive player, retired somewhat abruptly. And finally, an already much maligned receiving corps consisting of a worn down Steve Smith and unexciting Brandon Lafell somehow got even worse. Now the only “weapons” Newton has to throw to are Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant (career No. 3 receivers at best) and first round pick (and long term project) Kelvin Benjamin. I’d much rather a player of similar value (say Keenan Allen or Joique Bell) instead of Cam, and then waiting on a quarterback for someone like Tom Brady or Matt Ryan many rounds later. Just because Superman resides comfortably in tier 2 doesn’t mean he’s a good fantasy pick.

  1. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles (no. 80 overall)

I don’t need to waste a lot of words telling you that Nick Foles had a good season last year, 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions speak for themselves. But, as you can probably figure out, there is no way in hell he repeats those kind of numbers. His BDR (bad decision rate) was historically low at 0.6 in 2013. That means that Foles made a bad decision on less than 1% of his throws last year. That figure is sure to rise just by the law of averages alone (unless Foles is the best quarterback of all time). And with an increased BDR, an increase in interceptions is almost guaranteed. Sure, Chip Kelly’s offense is conducive to big fantasy numbers from all positions, but defensive coordinators now also have a year of film to work with. Philly wont catch anyone by surprise this year. But that’s not all; Foles also lost his top target DeSean Jackson to division rival Washington Redskins this offseason. Jeremy Maclin (coming off a torn ACL) will certainly make up for a lot of the lost production, but 82 catches, 1332 yards, and 9 touchdowns is a lot to replace. The negatives outweigh the positives with Foles this year so just make sure you do your research before drafting him. Or just re-read this paragraph again.

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  1. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (no. 116 overall)

For all the vitriol thrust upon the Cowboys’ QB, Romo has actually been extremely productive for three straight seasons. Since 2011, the Eastern Illinois product has missed just one game while averaging 4,305 yards and 30 touchdowns per year. Yet in week 15 against Washington last season, Romo toughed out a gutsy performance at the expense of his back. After offseason surgery, all reports out of Cowboys camp have been negative. The team seems to be taking their time with the franchise QB (the right move) but let’s be real; you’re not getting 16 games out of Romo in 2014. And at 34 years old, it’s very possible his best days are behind him. Let someone else be foolish enough to take the gamble.

 

QB Ranks: Top 20

Tier 1       Tier 2

Tier 3       Tier 4

  1. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
  2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
  3. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
  4. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
  5. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
  6. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
  7. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
  8. Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers
  9. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
  10. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
  11. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
  12. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
  13. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
  14. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
  15. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
  16. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
  17. Eli Manning, QB, Giants
  18. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
  19. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
  20. Josh McCown, QB, Buccaneers
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