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Fantasy football 2014 draft preview: Quarterback position primer

Fantasy football 2014 draft preview: Quarterback position primer Photo: Al Tielemans/SI

New rules and offenses have made supersonic passing games the must-have thing in football. That starts with the quarterback position, and if you’re going to get a QB early in your draft or highly priced in your auction, make sure it is one of the great triumvirate of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Those three are truly worthy of your greatest draft capital. They are all at the helm of potent, pass-heavy offenses and all bring the consistency that fantasy owners so value.

FANTASY FOOTBALL POSITION RANKINGS AND PROJECTIONS:

Taking a quarterback in the first round used to be the true mark of a fantasy football newbie. Now it might be that of a savant.

New rules and offenses have made supersonic passing games the must-have thing in football. That starts with the quarterback position, and if you’re going to get a QB early in your draft or highly priced in your auction, make sure it is one of the great triumvirate of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Those three are truly worthy of your greatest draft capital. They are all at the helm of potent, pass-heavy offenses and all bring the consistency that fantasy owners so value.

POSITION PRIMERS:
QB | RB | WR | TE | K | DST

Once Rodgers, Manning and Brees are off the board, the old adage of waiting on a quarterback once again reigns supreme. You’ll likely have to invest a fourth-round pick on Matthew Stafford, but you can wait until the eighth round to get Tony Romo. Over the last three years, Stafford has averaged 4,885 yards, 30 touchdowns and 17 interceptions per season. Romo has averaged 4,305 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in that same time. That’s a difference of 1.2 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues. Enough to rank Stafford comfortably ahead of Romo on cheat sheets? Yes. Enough to warrant grabbing Stafford 40 picks before Romo? Absolutely not. If you miss out on the top of the position, you’ll want to be one of the last people to fill your quarterback slot.

There is a lot of value to be had when you get into the No. 9 to No. 13 range. Matt Ryan, for example, could slip here in some leagues. Ryan, of course, has one of the league’s best receivers in Julio Jones, and another strong receiver in Roddy White. Jay Cutler, who has arguably the best weapons cache, will certainly go in this neighborhood, as will the aforementioned Romo. All have top-five upside, but will come at a significantly cheaper price than the fifth quarterback off the board.

In short, the passing renaissance has increased the value on both ends of the starting class of quarterbacks, while putting the squeeze on the guys in between.

Elite

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers -- Manning and Brees also fall in this category, but it's Rodgers who warrants further examination. He earns this distinction for a few reasons. First, Rodgers is as consistent as they come. He’s the only quarterback in the league with at least 7.8 yards per attempt in each of the last five seasons, and in four of those years he has been north of 8.0 YPA. Second, he has two top-10 receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and the best running game of the three top-tier quarterbacks. Finally, Rodgers supplements his numbers on the ground in ways that Manning and Brees do not. You can’t go wrong with any of these three, but Rodgers could prove most valuable.

Reach

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts -- Luck carries an average draft position of about 52 overall, which places him fifth among quarterbacks. The real-life quarterback virtues Luck possesses, however, have not yet translated to the fantasy game. He has completed 57 percent of his career pass attempts, gotten just 6.85 YPA (Geno Smith had 6.88 YPA last year) and thrown for 46 touchdowns against 27 interceptions. He does add value with his running ability, but nowhere near enough to consider taking him alongside guys like Shane Vereen, DeSean Jackson and Chris Johnson when so many other quarterbacks are on the board.

Steal

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears -- Cutler is coming off the board right around the 100th pick in an average draft. Just one team in the league has three non-quarterbacks selected in the first 25 picks in typical drafts, and that’s the Bears. With Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at his disposal, not to mention Marc Trestman designing schemes and calling plays, Cutler is poised for the best year of his career. He has true top-five potential, and will be a regular weekly starter, at worst.

Injury Risk

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins -- By time the season starts, Griffin will be about 19 months removed from the gruesome knee injury he suffered against the Seahawks in the 2012 playoffs. Fantasy owners should trust that he is over that malady, but Griffin is still at his best when running is part of his game. Even when he doesn’t actually advance the ball with his legs, he does a lot of scrambling to extend plays. That also exposes him to more hits.

Rookie

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings -- Johnny Manziel gets all the attention from the media, but if one rookie quarterback is going to make an on-field splash this year, the bet here is that it is Bridgewater. Recall that the Louisville product was widely considered the best quarterback before the famously flawed combine process degraded his stock. With weapons like Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph in the passing game, and a back like Adrian Peterson behind him, Bridgewater is in a great environment. He may not start right away, but Matt Cassel probably isn’t leading the Vikings to the playoffs in the loaded NFC. Bridgewater will get his shot this year.

Quarterback Tier Explanations

All stats below represent projections for the 2014 season.

First Tier -- Rodgers, Manning and Brees are easily the best fantasy quarterbacks in the game. The dropoff after them is steep.

  • 1
    Peyton Manning
    QB | Denver Broncos
    YDS TDS INTs Rush Yds Rush TDs bye Value
    5,329 45 15 -10 1 4 $45
  • 2
    Aaron Rodgers
    QB | Green Bay Packers
    YDs TDs INTs Rush yds Rush Tds BYE Value
    4,978 43 10 273 2 9 $43
  • 3
    Drew Brees
    QB | New Orleans Saints
    YDs TDs INTs Rush yds Rush TDs BYE Value
    5,008 39 12 24 0 6 $39

Second Tier -- This group may actually be the worst to draft from, unless they come at a significant discount. There just isn’t enough difference between them and the guys in Tier 3.

  • 4
    Matthew Stafford
    QB | Detroit Lions
    YDs TDs INTs Rush YDs Rush TDs BYE Value
    4,995 34 17 55 1 9 $25
  • 5
    Matt Ryan
    QB | Atlanta Falcons
    YDs TDs INTs Rush YDs Rush TDs BYE Value
    4,632 33 14 43 0 9 $22
  • 6
    Tom Brady
    QB | New England Patriots
    YDs TDs INTS Rush YDs Rush TDs BYE Value
    4,486 32 12 38 1 10 $21
  • 7
    Nick Foles
    QB | Philadelphia Eagles
    YDS TDs INTs Rush YDs Rush TDs BYE Value
    4,355 32 12 38 1 7 $19

Third Tier -- This is the sweet spot for late-QB value. Tony Romo and Jay Cutler make for especially great targets.

Fourth Tier -- While the guys in this group enter the year as backups, all have the chops to end the year among the starting class.

Fifth Tier -- This is where things really take a turn. You’re trying to hit on upside guys or going cheap with your second quarterback in two-QB leagues.

Sixth Tier -- Michael Vick, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Fitzpatrick. In other words, very deep sleepers who are low-risk, high-reward picks.

Seventh Tier -- You shouldn’t have to go this deep unless you’re in a 20-team league that requires you to carry a backup quarterback.

Quarterbacks
 
  Player Team Bye Auction YDs TDs INTs RUSH YDs RUSH TDs TIER
1 Peyton Manning DEN 4 $45 5,329 45 15 -10 1 1
2 Aaron Rodgers GB 9 $43 4,978 43 10 273 2 1
3 Drew Brees NO 6 $39 5,008 39 12 24 0 1
4 Matthew Stafford DET 9 $25 4,995 34 17 55 1 2
5 Matt Ryan ATL 9 $22 4,632 33 14 43 0 2
6 Tom Brady NE 10 $21 4,486 32 12 38 1 2
7 Nick Foles PHI 7 $19 4,355 30 11 186 1 2
8 Andrew Luck IND 10 $14 3,915 27 11 379 3 3
9 Robert Griffin III WAS 10 $13 3,400 29 14 603 3 3
10 Cam Newton CAR 12 $12 3,310 24 13 584 6 3
11 Tony Romo DAL 11 $10 4,217 31 12 37 0 3
12 Jay Cutler CHI 9 $10 4,007 32 17 60 0 3
13 Philip Rivers SD 10 $8 4,265 28 16 12 0 4
14 Colin Kaepernick SF 8 $8 3,229 23 10 520 4 4
15 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 12 $7 4,350 27 14 76 0 4
16 Russell Wilson SEA 4 $7 3,679 24 11 475 2 4
17 Andy Dalton CIN 4 $6 4,102 26 13 123 0 4
18 Eli Manning NYG 8 $5 4,017 26 18 19 0 5
19 Ryan Tannehill MIA 5 $5 3,845 25 14 203 1 5
20 Josh McCown TB 7 $5 3,214 23 10 93 1 5
21 Sam Bradford STL 4 $4 3,781 25 16 74 0 5
22 Carson Palmer ARI 4 $4 3,887 25 19 17 0 5
23 EJ Manuel BUF 9 $4 3,232 21 16 441 3 5
24 Joe Flacco BAL 11 $3 3,989 22 15 83 1 5
25 Alex Smith KC 6 $3 3,284 20 10 274 2 6
26 Johnny Manziel CLE 4 $3 2,839 18 14 512 4 6
27 Jake Locker TEN 9 $3 3,313 20 12 325 2 6
28 Teddy Bridgewater MIN 10 $3 2,547 14 9 84 0 6
29 Geno Smith NYJ 11 $2 2,457 16 11 194 1 6
30 Matt Schaub OAK 5 $2 3,154 16 12 24 0 6
31 Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU 10 $2 2,934 18 15 151 1 6
32 Michael Vick NYJ 11 $1 1,213 8 6 200 1 7
33 Brian Hoyer CLE 4 $1 735 4 2 10 0 7
34 Derek Carr OAK 5 $1 652 3 5 15 0 7
35 Matt Cassel MIN 10 $1 1,325 8 7 40 0 7
36 Chad Henne JAC 11 $1 1,825 7 10 105 0 7
37 Blake Bortles JAC 11 $1 1,358 7 9 43 0 7
38 Mike Glennon TB 7 $1 843 6 7 22 0 7

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