The common refrain amongst fantasy football aficionados in 2014 is that the best draft strategy is to not use an early pick on the quarterback position and to wait to grab your signal caller in the later rounds.
The assumption here is that the cost to acquire an upper tier quarterback, generally a selection in the top two rounds in 12 team leagues, comes at too great of a cost at other positions. Basically, the opportunity cost of using, say, a 2nd round pick to acquire a top three quarterback is not being able to acquire your RB2 or WR1 at that point in the draft, and forces fantasy owners to have a less talented starter, and later, lesser quality depth at those positions.
Of course, for every argument, there is a counter argument, and Peyton Manning owners from last season will note that they received a 3.7 fantasy points per game advantage over the number two ranked fantasy quarterback, or an even more ridiculous 10.5 fantasy points per game over the tenth ranked fantasy QB. That is a 105-yard day with no score from your RB.
Oddly enough, the trend of starting fantasy quarterbacks posting greater and greater production actually declined last season. The top 12 ranked fantasy quarterbacks last season actually produced 136.6 fewer total fantasy points than in 2012 (standard 4 points per TD performance scoring). Quarterbacks ranked 13th to 24th followed suit, scoring 118.4 fewer total fantasy points than in 2012.
As we noted above, acquiring a Tier 1 fantasy quarterback doesn’t come cheaply. We rate three players in our top tier and there is actually a significant discrepancy in the average draft position (ADP) of Peyton Manning as opposed to Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
While all three are capable of putting together a season with more than 5,000 passing yards and close to 45 touchdowns, Manning’s historic 2013 season coupled with his superior group of receivers makes him the top player in this tier.
While not typically our preferred choice to draft a QB this high, we don’t outright discourage the idea either. Any of these three quarterbacks provide an overall lower risk profile, higher ceiling and higher floor than the players behind them.
Plus, fantasy owners tend to overrate their own ability to start the correct quarterback each week when they use a later round committee approach. We definitely want a starting QB who qualifies as a, “set it and forget it” decision each week, no matter what defense they face, to avoid often agonizing start-bench decisions gone awry. Manning, Brees and Rodgers are no brainers in that category.
Mike’s Take: There are usually RB and WR I prefer to an early drafted QB where each of these guys are going in typical start-one QB leagues. If your fellow owners are RB, WR (and TE) obsessed however, you could do much worse than grabbing one of these guys if available at a slight discount (i.e. Manning in the 2nd round, Brees/Rodgers in the 3rd).
The second tier of quarterbacks get a little dicier as it is composed of a player who suffered a horrendous four game slump to end last season (Stafford), a 2013 breakout who didn’t even open the season in the starting line up (Foles), and a player who saw his PPG decrease by 3.2 in 2013 from 2012 (Ryan).
While it wouldn’t be fair to put the boom or bust label on Stafford, he is an inconsistent passer who should see his production increase due to an improved group of skill position talent in Detroit. While Foles was outstanding last season and is apparently the perfect fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, his history of solid production isn’t that long so a bust season isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Ryan rates as perhaps the best value of the three given that his drop of production last season is easily explained by the prolonged absence of Julio Jones and Roddy White‘s struggles as he played through a high ankle sprain.
Mike’s Take: Grab Stafford or Foles if they fall enough in your draft to represent good value. Target Ryan as a later drafted option as he is typically taken about the 9th QB off the board.
The third tier is occupied by an aging veteran and a pair of third year signal callers who possess vast potential. Brady brings some risk given the Patriots success running the ball at the end of last season and the injury risk that exists with his receivers, particularly Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. We all know about RGIII’s penchant for running the ball and how that increases his injury risk. Griffin has a big learning curve too with a new offensive coordinator/head coach, but he likely represents the biggest upside in this tier.
While Luck should continue to improve and the ingredients are there for the Colts to pass the ball more due to the addition of Hakeem Nicks and the return of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen, we still don’t know if the Colts will open up the passing game. Luck ranked 10th in pass attempts last season. They were stubbornly committed to the run even with a plodding, ineffective Trent Richardson (although admittedly, with a depleted receiving corps).
Mike’s Take: Realistically, I’m rarely drafting these guys because, while we have them a notch above the next larger group of QB, the potential payoff for the risk and earlier draft pick required to acquire them is not worth it.
At this point in your draft or auction, we would suggest sitting on your hands (to a degree) at the quarterback position. Tier 4 reveals just how deep the quarterback position is for fantasy purposes in 2014 with almost any one of these quarterbacks capable of finishing as a mid-tier QB1 – or better. Wilson and Kaepernick obviously present considerable upside given the trajectory of their young careers so far. Cutler seems poised for a career season provided he can remain healthy, and Romo should produce plenty given the sorry state of the Dallas defense.
Mike’s Take: At this point in your draft, hopefully you added Matt Ryan already, but if not you should be in great shape at other positions with the option to add one or possibly even two of these quarterbacks. There is some, “can they last for 16 games” concern with Romo, Cutler and Palmer, which would increase the desire to add a second QB from this or the next tier.
While Tier 4 possesses a bunch of quarterbacks we’re comfortable grabbing as a low end QB1, that isn’t the case with this tier. There is some upside here for the top half of these guys, but red flags exist and it could be a chore for any of the quarterbacks in this group to finish as a top 12 signal caller, even though Dalton, Newton and Roethlisberger have been there, done that, recently. We’re not advocates of spending big to acquire your QB2, but at the same time these guys look considerably more promising than the next group.
Mike’s Take: I don’t want any of these guys as my starter, nor do I want to draft with the intent of a committee approach at quarterback. However, Dalton is interesting as he has good weapons and always seems to exceed expectations. Fantasy experts seem reluctant to give him credit for what he’s accomplished to date in his career, although I understand our ranking is not a glowing endorsement either. I think Flacco has more upside with new OC Gary Kubiak plus a healthy Dennis Pitta, addition of Steve Smith and uncertain running game. He is my usual target to back up my starter.
We move on to the dregs of the quarterback position. Smith had a career season last year, which saw him finish as QB15. Ho hum. Some optimism remains for Bradford after an injury-shortened 2013 season, but now with 49 career games under his belt we are still waiting for him to turn the switch. While Tannehill and Manuel are clearly unproven but possessing upside, nobody is relying on them to be their Week 1 fantasy starter unless you had to attend a wedding on draft night and your grandma filled in for you.
Schaub doesn’t have enough weapons to succeed in Oakland while McCown has a pair of solid weapons in Tampa Bay but let’s not overlook the fact that one of them is a rookie, Lovie Smith will commit to the running game and McCown is a 35-year old quarterback being given his first chance to open the season as a starter since 2004.
Mike’s Take: If Smith’s upside is QB15 then he is just taking up space on your roster. Pass. It is backup city here. Draft one late because you need to have some insurance on your starter. Go for upside – which would primarily be the younger guys – but keep expectations low.
Only for 16 team leagues or those that start two quarterbacks. Otherwise, you are likely pulling these guys off the waiver wire if and when it becomes necessary. At this point we are advocates of grabbing quarterbacks that can supplement their point total with their running ability such as Smith and Locker.
Mike’s Take: This is a free flowing group thanks to job insecurity. Hoyer got knocked out of this tier last week when it seemed Manziel had a shot at the starter’s job. He (Hoyer) should be back in the mix the next update. Henne is now more threatened by Blake Bortles‘ impressive preseason appearances so far. Neither Vikings potential starting QB made the cut. Waiver wire fodder for most 12-team and under, start-one QB leagues.