Fantasy Football Grade for Every Starting NFL Quarterback

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIOctober 10, 2012

Fantasy Football Grade for Every Starting NFL Quarterback

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    Now that every team has played at least four games in the 2012 NFL season, we know a lot more about fantasy quarterbacks than we knew in early August.

    As the season matures, quarterbacks who are consistently highly productive from a statistical standpoint are likely major contributors to winning fantasy teams.

    Guys who have been less consistent or less productive are not going to be looked upon quite as favorably as fantasy producers in the future.

    Lastly, players who have failed consistently to carry fantasy teams to success will earn just that—a failing grade in my fantasy quarterback report cards.

    I’m grading on a curve and disregarding matchups. It’s all about the fantasy production relative to the competition so far.

    And someone is going to fail.

    ESPN.com reports that a stat correction has taken place involving the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was credited with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Mendenhall. These rankings reflect that correction.

32. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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    Average Rank: 22.8 

    Letter Grade: F

    This one should come as no particular surprise. The Seahawks are committed to the run, and that comes at the expense of their rookie quarterback putting up numbers.

    Wilson has only topped 200 passing yards once this season and, despite running the ball at least three times per game, has not been producing the type of rushing yards or touchdowns that fantasy owners appreciate.

31. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Average Rank: 22.3 

    Letter Grade: F

    Despite having played just four games, Freeman is not going to avoid the “incomplete” tag in this report card. No one will.

    Freeman’s gone over 240 yards twice this season and thrown a touchdown in every game. He has also thrown four picks in his last three games.

    Going forward, Freeman is far from recommended as an every-week fantasy start. His best game (against the awful and injured Washington Redskins pass defense) consisted of 299 passing yards and just one touchdown, which was partially neutralized by his interception.

30. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Average Rank: 21.8 

    Letter Grade: D-

    Did he have you fooled? After throwing for an impressive 260 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, Gabbert’s fantasy production has dropped off a cliff.

    His first game resulted in an 18-point fantasy day. Since, he’s totaled 26 points in four games with a negative-one thrown in against the Chicago Bears in Week 5.

    He’s got a bye this week, so maybe he’ll turn it around come Week 7.

29. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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    Average Rank: 20.6 

    Letter Grade: D-

    Tannehill’s massive output of 431 passing yards against the Arizona Cardinals was blunted for fantasy purposes by his one-to-three TD-to-turnover ratio.

    He’s thrown two touchdowns in five games this season while turning the ball over seven times overall. For those reasons, he’s still a guy who would require major thought to be a starter in a two-quarterback league until he starts tossing multiple TDs in games.

T27. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Average Rank: 20.2 

    Letter Grade: D

    Cassel may not be the starter for the Chiefs going forward, but Brady Quinn hasn’t done enough this season to warrant inclusion on this list.

    Cassel began the season with two performances that ranked within the top 14 of fantasy outputs by his quarterback counterparts. Since then, his highest rank was 20th. And that was in Week 4, when two teams were on a bye.

T27. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

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    Average Rank: 20.2 

    Letter Grade: D

    Sanchez doesn’t even get to play all of the snaps for his team this season. He’s definitely not someone you should look to as your starting fantasy QB.

    It’s not that it’s necessarily all his fault, considering that his receiving corps has been decimated by injuries, but Sanchez’s early start to the season seems to be a mirage.

    He placed sixth among fantasy QBs in Week 1 and hasn’t cracked the top half of fantasy signal-callers since.

26. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

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    Average Rank: 20 

    Letter Grade: D

    Sam Bradford had a top-five fantasy day in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins. However, he’s also got two bottom-five performances to his credit.

    Bradford has thrown five picks and six touchdowns this season, but three of the passing scores came in his 310-yard, one-interception showing in Week 2.

    He doesn’t add enough in the run game to be fantasy-relevant right now: 24 rushing yards in five games.

25. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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    Average Rank: 19.3 

    Letter Grade: D+

    Romo started off the season with a bang in Week 1 against the Giants on a Wednesday night. On all other nights of the week, he’s checked in with bottom-third fantasy performances for the position.

    He was last seen throwing (or fumbling into) five interceptions on Monday Night Football in Week 4. That’s four more picks than he’s thrown in each of the other games this season.

    As an NFL quarterback, Romo is not this bad, but that’s what the numbers say he has been for fantasy. 

24. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

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    Average Rank: 19.2 

    Letter Grade: D+

    If you threw out Weeden’s horrid Week 1 (minus-two points), he’s actually a quarterback who is worth owning in fantasy football.

    That game obviously happened, which is why Weeden barely avoids the dreaded “F” grade. But his numbers suggest that he learned something from playing the Philadelphia Eagles and may prove to be fantasy-relevant in the long run.

    He’s ranked in the top 12 of quarterbacks twice.

23. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals

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    Average Rank: 18.4 

    Letter Grade: C-

    This space was supposed to be reserved for John Skelton entering the season. Kolb ended up with the job after Skelton got injured, though, so here we are.

    He’s played in five games, albeit likely overlooked completely in fantasy football during Week 1. Good thing, too, because he ranked 29th among guys on this list that week.

    Since then, he hasn’t fallen below 18th but hasn’t been better than 11th in any given week either.

    At least you can say he’s been consistent.

22. Jake Locker/Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans

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    Average Rank: 18.2 

    Letter Grade: C-

    The tandem known as “Titans quarterback” hasn’t been very productive this season, on average. There was a top-five performance thrown into several mediocre ones during Week 3.

    Locker and Hasselbeck’s fantasy games differ from one another. Locker’s got more of a chance to run the ball than Hasselbeck does.

    As a matter of fact, for a while, Locker had more rushing yards on the season than teammate Chris Johnson.

T20. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

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    Average Rank: 17.2 

    Letter Grade: C

    Ponder has had a couple of top-10 performances in fantasy. Both have come in the last few weeks, but the sandwich a bottom-five outing in Week 4.

    Because his last few games were decent, Ponder is worth adding in most fantasy leagues. He’s even a good matchup play when he’s got favorable opponents on the other side of the ball.

    The main reason his worst game of the season was his worst game of the season was that the Vikings offense wasn’t required to put up points in Week 4. The special teams did it for them.

T20. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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    Average Rank: 17.2 

    Letter Grade: C

    Cutler had a Brandon Weeden-type fantasy disappointment in the early goings of this season. But unlike Weeden, he’s got two top-eight outputs in the season’s first five weeks.

    He also has Brandon Marshall to throw to. That certainly helps his fantasy prospects going forward.

19. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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    Average Rank: 16.8 

    Letter Grade: C+

    Perhaps Stafford will be better coming out of the Lions’ bye week.

    He was hardly expected to be this bad as a fantasy quarterback for 2012, with a pass-heavy offense and one of the league’s best weapons at his disposal in Calvin Johnson.

    Instead, Stafford hasn’t placed higher than 12th in any one week as a fantasy passer this season.

18. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

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    Average Rank: 16.6 

    Letter Grade: C+

    Schaub hasn’t had to throw the football this season. The game plan for the Texans has been to hand the ball off to Arian Foster over and over and over…

    It’s worked out for Houston, so far; they’re 5-0.

    That’s good for them, but terrible for fantasy owners. Schaub has placed 17th in scoring among quarterbacks three times out of five times this season.

    His other two games were good for second and 29th.

17. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    Average Rank: 16.4 

    Letter Grade: C+

    Somebody’s got to place last week. For Week 3, it was Rivers’ turn.

    He balanced that out with two top-10 fantasy scores in Week 2 and Week 5, but placed 18th in each of the remaining weeks. That’s not exactly the type of consistency you’d like to see from your fantasy QB.

16. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders

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    Average Rank: 16.3 

    Letter Grade: C+

    Palmer hasn’t been worthy of a starter’s position in 10-team leagues yet this season.

    His production hasn’t varied as wildly as some of the guys below him, but he has also not been dynamic because of that.

    His highest ranking among fantasy quarterbacks was in Week 1, when running back Darren McFadden caught double-digit balls.

15. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Average Rank: 15.2 

    Letter Grade: B-

    With all of the negative attention surrounding Vick this season, wouldn’t you have expected to see his name long before now?

    True, Vick has only had one top-10 fantasy day—Week 2. He’s been out of the top 15 just once, though, and that happened in Week 3.

    Vick has performed at a mediocre level in fantasy and was expected to be a more electrifying playmaker.

    But he is still healthy after five games, and that is a win in itself.

14. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

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    Average Rank: 14.8 

    Letter Grade: B-

    Smith turned in a No. 1 fantasy QB stat sheet this past Sunday. Other than that, he’s been a middling fantasy option who has been reasonably predictable.

    He’s still not turning the ball over very frequently (two turnovers in five games; zero in four of the five) and has been tossing touchdown passes with a bit of regularity.

13. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills

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    Average Rank: 14.6 

    Letter Grade: B-

    Fitzpatrick had been improving his output each week despite turning the ball over five times in Week 3 and Week 4.

    Then, Week 5 happened. Faced with the tough task of navigating the San Francisco 49ers defense, he threw for just 126 passing yards and an interception.

    Without the evidence of that box score, he’d be under consideration as a top-10 fantasy QB for this list.

12. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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    Average Rank: 14 

    Letter Grade: B-

    Cam’s been fantastic in favorable matchups, adding two more top-three fantasy performances to his résumé in the first five weeks of the season (against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints).

    But against the teams that offer legitimate rushing resistance (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks), his fantasy numbers haven’t looked anywhere near as good.

    That pattern should make for a continuation of his up-and-down season from a fantasy perspective, but losing his starting center doesn’t help matters. Josh Katzowitz of CBSSports.com reports that Ryan Kalil will be headed to the injured reserve list.

11. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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    Average Rank: 13.8 

    Letter Grade: B-

    Flacco turned out to be worthy of a fantasy starter’s position in three of 2012’s first five weeks. He ranked in the top eight of quarterback fantasy scoring in those three starts, but the other end of the spectrum was as disappointing as the top end has been exciting.

    Flacco ranked 27th at the position in Week 2 and 24th in Week 5—his road games.

    The three good fantasy days all came at home.

10. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Average Rank: 12.6 

    Letter Grade: B

    Dalton’s pairing with A.J. Green made him a nice fantasy surprise in the early part of this season. He was top 14 in every week since Week 1, including a stretch of three top-nine games from Weeks 2 through 4.

    A.J. Green has only failed to score a receiving touchdown in Week 1. There’s surely a connection between Green’s performances and Dalton’s fantasy production.

    The bomb Green caught in Week 3 was actually thrown by Mohamed Sanu, but Green was still generous enough to give Dalton 110 passing yards in that game as well.

9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Average Rank: 11.8 

    Letter Grade: B+

    This isn’t where you want to see a guy who was drafted in the first round. Rodgers struggled mightily to put up numbers against the Bears (at home) and the Seahawks (on the road), combining to throw for one touchdown in two weeks.

    Aside from those games, though, he’s been a superstar. Rodgers has three games of multiple TD passes and at least avoided throwing an interception in the game during which he did not have a touchdown strike.

    There’s little reason to be worried about Rodgers after back-to-back highly productive fantasy days.

8. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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    Average Rank: 11.8 

    Letter Grade: B+

    Luck is not the top rookie on this list, as the guy who was drafted after him turned out to be pretty good so far.

    But the future is more than bright for this rook, as well.

    Luck’s fantasy numbers have increased with each passing game, sending him into the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks through five weeks despite playing just four games.

    He’s a prime trade target, as his schedule is not especially daunting and his bye week has already passed.

7. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    Average Rank: 11.6 

    Letter Grade: B+

    Manning placed in the top 10 just twice so far this season, but he’s not killing his fantasy owners with terrible numbers.

    Since Week 1, his average rank is 9.5.

    He has a very tough matchup this week, a road date with the San Francisco 49ers. It may be wise to sit him in Week 6, but for the most part, Manning is a good fantasy option.

6. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    Average Rank: 11 

    Letter Grade: A-

    Like Eli Manning, Brady hasn’t performed worse than the 20th-best quarterback in any given week this season. He also has the top fantasy score of Week 4 to his credit to go along with an eighth-place finish in Week 5.

    Week 6 will set him up with the Seattle Seahawks on the road. It may not be a very good idea to start him there. That’s the same stadium that held Aaron Rodgers to just over 200 yards passing and zero touchdowns.

5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Average Rank: 10.8 

    Letter Grade: A-

    It didn’t take this guy very long to re-assume his position as a superior fantasy option. Aside from his Monday night debacle in Atlanta in Week 2, Manning has been a top-10 quarterback every week.

    He placed no worse than sixth in Weeks 1, 4 and 5.

    If someone has Manning on his/her fantasy bench, you may want to inquire about the services of the veteran signal-caller.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Average Rank: 9.5 (after the official stat correction) 

    Letter Grade: A-

    Big Ben’s floor wasn’t as low as either Manning brother so far this season. He only played four games and ranked top 10 at QB twice, including taking home the top-scorer title in Week 3.

    The addition of Rashard Mendenhall helps the Pittsburgh run game but (with, albeit, a small sample size of one game) has capped Roethlisberger’s fantasy potential a bit.

    He should still have a good game in Week 6's Thursday night tilt against the Tennessee Titans.

T2. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

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    Average Rank: 8.2 

    Letter Grade: A

    If RGIII wasn’t concussed in his Week 5 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, he could easily have topped this list. His first quarter of his rookie year has been nothing short of phenomenal.

    In the four games that he's finished, RGIII is the only player to finish in the top 10 among fantasy quarterbacks every week.

    He’s been every bit worthy of the fantasy hype so far, but Week 5 was a reminder that there is risk that comes with the dynamic rushing—and that’s not limited to fantasy football.

T2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    Average Rank: 8.2 

    Letter Grade: A

    Julio Jones, Roddy White and a resurgent Tony Gonzalez have combined to make Ryan’s fantasy numbers extremely appealing.

    Ryan has thrown multiple touchdowns in every game this season, was the highest fantasy scorer in Week 1, and never failed to top 17 points in ESPN standard scoring.

    So far, he’s been a lock to throw for 200 yards and two scores, but he can also put the icing on the cake in the form of another 100-plus passing yards and/or an additional score.

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Average Rank: 5.8 

    Letter Grade: A+

    The only quarterback drafted in the top three to grade out in the top three through Week 5, Drew Brees has been every bit as dynamic as consistent.

    His floor (19 fantasy points) is even higher than Matt Ryan’s, and he leads the NFL with 14 touchdown passes.

    Brees has thrown three touchdowns in four of his five games while reaching 325 yards in four games, too. He rushed for a score in the one game during which he did not throw multiple touchdowns.

    His best statistical output came in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers. In Green Bay, Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in his only game with no interceptions so far in 2012.

    Good luck with your bye-week replacement for this guy. The Saints won’t be in action during Week 6.