Fantasy football 2014 draft preview: Quarterback position primer

Wednesday August 6th, 2014

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.

YDS

TDS

INTs

Rush Yds

Rush TDs

bye

Value

5,329

45

15

-10

1

4

$45

YDs

TDs

INTs

Rush yds

Rush Tds

BYE

Value

4,978

43

10

273

2

9

$43

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.

YDs

TDs

INTs

Rush YDs

Rush TDs

BYE

Value

4,995

34

17

55

1

9

$25

YDs

TDs

INTs

Rush YDs

Rush TDs

BYE

Value

4,632

33

14

43

0

9

$22

YDs

TDs

INTS

Rush YDs

Rush TDs

BYE

Value

4,486

32

12

38

1

10

$21

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.

 

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

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.