Position Battles to Watch

Team-by-Team Camp Guide

Fantasy Football Preview 2013: Top 5 QB Sleepers

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Fantasy Football Preview 2013: Top 5 QB Sleepers
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Luck be a Sleeper: This sophomore quarterback is somehow flying at the fringe of the fantasy starter radar in this summer's drafts.

Love it or hate it, the read-option wave of quarterbacks has done wonders for the position for fantasy owners. It has created a mass of humanity that can perform like starter-worthy fantasy options for us.

It has fattened the top tier; it has thickened the options in the middle rounds; and it has left some potential stars on the board well into the middle rounds. Picking a quarterback late has been a sleeper fantasy strategy for years, but it is becoming the way of the sheep now. Know it, live it, learn to love it and own it.

To kick off Bleacher Report’s Fantasy Football Preview, we break down the top five sleepers at the quarterback position. Spoiler alert: It will be the traditional dropback passers falling to the depths of drafts, not the flavor-of-the-year read-option guys.

(Since sleepers are relative to draft position, we include the average draft position data from some of the prominent sites.)

 

1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

 

Average draft positions

  • Yahoo.com: 79.7 (Round 7) | Position rank: 11
  • ESPN.com: 68.2 (Round 6) | Position rank: 11
  • CBSSports.com: 62.6 (Round 6) | Position rank: 8
  • MyFantasyLeague.com: 63.0 (Round 6) | Position rank: 8
  • SI.com Top 300 ranking: 57 (Round 5) | Position rank: 12
  • Consensus: 68.1 (Round 6) | Position rank: 10.0

 

Why are we sleeping?

Where are you going to pick your fantasy quarterback?

Submit Vote vote to see results

The postseason exploits of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are shrouding the incredibly high long-term ceiling of the Colts’ Luck. Everyone wants a piece of the new fad. Luck, while an exciting sophomore in his own right, just seems so 2008 right now.

 

Why shouldn’t we be?

Kaepernick, Wilson and Cam Newton are not quite NFL gimmicks per se, but remember how quickly the Wildcat formation faded away? There might be a cosmic reason fad is just an “e” away from “fade.” NFL defensive coordinators are some of the most sneaky and clever individuals in a coaches meeting. They are going to have an answer for this in 2013. Also, dropback passers stay healthier and more upright than those running freaks of nature. How did your pick of Michael Vick work the past few years?

And, heck, you like the added points of rushing touchdowns? Luck had five a year ago.

 

What should we expect?

Luck, despite 4,373 yards and 23 touchdowns as a rookie, is getting picked after Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Newton, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Kaepernick, Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Robert Griffin III in just about all leagues. Tony Romo even has a case to go off the board before him. Rest assured, the Colts offense is all about Luck, and he is going to engage in some legendary shootouts this season—particularly with that defense he has to work with.

 

What should we do?

Draft your quarterback after you have your starting running backs, wide receivers and perhaps even a flex. That is Round 6 or 7. Sure, you might miss out on Luck and his 4,250 yards and 25 touchdowns, but the odds are very good one of the above quarterbacks will fall to you.

 

2. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

 

Average draft positions

  • Yahoo.com: 89.0 (Round 8) | Position rank: 12
  • ESPN.com: 78.1 (Round 7) | Position rank: 12
  • CBSSports.com: 68.9 (Round 6) | Position rank: 11
  • MyFantasyLeague.com: 82.2 (Round 7) | Position rank: 12
  • SI.com Top 300 ranking: 54 (Round 5) | Position rank: 11
  • Consensus: 74.4 (Round 7) | Position rank: 11.6

 

Why are we sleeping?

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Fantasy owners are going to be wary of Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III for entirely different reasons.

You are well aware. Everyone is. Romo tends to be Public Enemy No. 1 among quarterbacks. Well, maybe No. 3, if you include Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow in the conversation. Romo just doesn’t get any love in NFL or fantasy circles. It’s loathe.

 

Why shouldn't we be?

Numbers. Ignore the hype. It is mostly negative with Romo and it covers up the fact that he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the fourth quarter and down the stretch last season. If 4,903 yards and 28 touchdowns is merely worth the last true starting quarterback in a standard 12-team league, sign me up. Also, DeMarco Murray should be healthier this season and the Cowboys vow to do more to make the running game and offensive protections give Romo more time to operate.

 

What should we expect?

Romo will be on the board very late in drafts. Despite the consistent production, he will be one of the last starting quarterbacks picked. You are going to luck out here, especially if Dez Bryant stays healthy and takes another step forward to the elite of the position. Miles Austin will be healthier than he was a year ago and the running game will be much better. Romo is a gunslinger who is going to keep every game alive until very late. That should mean a number of shootouts, 4,500-plus yards and a touchdown total approaching 30. He is going to outperform quarterbacks picked more than five rounds ahead of him.

 

What should we do?

Consider Romo your Plan C at the position. At his draft-day cost, he is going to be a bargain. Also, you won’t have to worry about him against unfavorable matchups. The Cowboys have a very favorable schedule before them. Only Week 5 vs. Denver or Week 14 at Chicago are mildly difficult matchups. Both those games are going to become shootouts anyway. There are big numbers to come here.

 

3. Eli Manning, New York Giants

 

Average draft positions

  • Yahoo.com: 102.6 (Round 9) | Position rank: 13
  • ESPN.com: 88.7 (Round 8) | Position rank: 13
  • CBSSports.com: 90.7 (Round 8) | Position rank: 13
  • MyFantasyLeague.com: 104.6 (Round 9) | Position rank: 13
  • SI.com Top 300 ranking: 88 (Round 8) | Position rank: 14
  • Consensus: 104.5 (Round 9) | Position rank: 13.2

 

Why are we sleeping?

Manning is coming off one of his shakiest seasons in a career full of them. He dropped under the 4,000-yard mark for the first time since 2008, losing almost 1,000 yards off his full-season passing total from 2011. Also, the younger likes of Newton, Ryan, Kaepernick, Wilson, RG3 and Stafford have lapped him in the fantasy conscious. Manning is no longer even being picked as a fantasy starter in standard, 12-team, one-quarterback leagues.

 

Why shouldn’t we be?

Manning dealt with some injury issues last year, including those of oft-injured Hakeem Nicks and his tight ends. Remember that scorching start Manning got off to a year ago? That was before he had some drama about a sore shoulder and had lost some of the zip on his passes, according to insiders. That zip should be back and Nicks is in a contract year, so he is motivated to stay on the field more. Victor Cruz and Nicks give Manning two elite 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown targets, something that cannot be said for most NFL quarterbacks, much less those in the fantasy backup category.

 

What should we expect?

Manning lost his lead running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, this season, so the running game isn’t going to be as trustworthy for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, no matter what you think of second-year back David Wilson or journeyman grinder Andre Brown. The throws in this modernized run-and-shoot come down to Manning, who can deliver to an elite receiving corps. Rueben Randle is ready to take a significant step in Year 2, even if Nicks stays on his injury-prone track. Manning is going to go above 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, like he always does.

 

What should we do?

Wait for the middle-round run on quarterbacks. If you wind up at the back end of it, be the first to pick a backup. Quarterback is the highest-scoring position in fantasy, so you don’t want to get your pick(s) there wrong. Lock up a potentially elite backup in Manning and consider him an elite starter when the matchups are right.

 

4. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

 

Average draft positions

  • Yahoo.com: 126.4 (Round 11) | Position rank: 21
  • ESPN.com: 128.2 (Round 11) | Position rank: 19
  • CBSSports.com: 122.8 (Round 11) | Position rank: 15
  • MyFantasyLeague.com: 139.4 (Round 12) | Position rank: 17
  • SI.com Top 300 ranking: 147 (Round 13) | Position rank: 19
  • Consensus: 132.8 (Round 12) | Position rank: 18.2

 

Why are we sleeping?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Cutler is working in a new offense this training camp, one that can help him reach his previous mile-high heights.

There are myriad ways to see it, those ADP numbers notwithstanding. Cutler has been stuck quarterbacking a defensive-minded team in Chicago under Lovie Smith. That means a conservative approach and modest passing numbers. He has also had a notoriously bad offensive line and a suspect receiving corps—save for the addition of Brandon Marshall a year ago. Cutler hasn’t posted fantasy-caliber numbers since his wide-open days in Denver.

 

Why shouldn’t we be?

Marc Trestman is one of the descendants of Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense. He should open up the passing game for the Bears, even if it starts with short, rhythmic passing. Cutler will drop back more than he has as a Bear and his big arm will be showcased more. Marshall isn’t too shabby of an elite go-to man, while Alshon Jeffery is going to make strides in his route-running in Year 2. Martellus Bennett also gives Cutler a seam option to draw some safety help and double coverage away from those impressive outside guys.

 

What should we expect?

This is a make-or-break year for Cutler’s career. He has wallowed around the 3,000-yard mark for seasons, but now we might get a potential 4,000-yard candidate. With the added dropbacks will come yards and touchdowns. Closer to the fantasy-starter level. Also, you can easily see above that no one is really targeting Cutler as a fantasy starter. Heck, he is barely ranking as a draft-worthy fantasy backup in standard leagues now.

 

What should we do?

Leave a pick open after Round 10 to take a late-round shot at Cutler. If there is an out-of-the-woodwork fantasy starter in the depths of the quarterback position, it is this one. He has the arm, a developing supporting cast and finally a coach with a mind for a downfield, aerial attack.

 

5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

 

Average draft positions

  • Yahoo.com: 48.4 (Round 5) | Position rank: 9
  • ESPN.com: 46.1 (Round 4) | Position rank: 8
  • CBSSports.com: 62.7 (Round 6) | Position rank: 9
  • MyFantasyLeague.com: 64.3 (Round 6) | Position rank: 9
  • SI.com Top 300 ranking: 44 (Round 4) | Position rank: 9
  • Consensus: 53.1 (Round 5) | Position rank: 8.8

 

Why are we sleeping?

RG3 is coming off knee surgery—for the second time (once in college at Baylor). He won’t play in the preseason and will put himself at risk potentially every down this season in the Redskins’ read-option offense. RG3 needs the read-option because his receiving corps is not great, not like that of the elite quarterbacks above him in the rankings (save for Newton). Also, like Luck, everyone is jockeying Kaepernick and Wilson because of what they remember from the postseason. Last images leave lasting impressions. Our last memory of RG3? His leg going noodle on us.

 

Why shouldn’t we be?

Before RG3’s injury-plagued finish, he was the second coming of fantasy godliness last year. You might not remember, but he was performing on the level of all quarterbacks, including Brees and Rodgers in the early going. When he is healthy and Alfred Morris is cranking out yards behind the modern-day Redskins “Hogs”—that is a great offensive line—RG3 is an unstoppable force.

 

What should we expect?

You need to expect to hold your breath from time to time this season. There are going to be some tense moments when the weekly injury report comes out and so-and-so injury is holding RG3 out of practice. His small frame is going to take a beating unlike any other quarterback in the NFL (save for Ben Roethlisberger, who runs, but only to save his own life). Perhaps even expect a missed game or a few. But when RG3 is playing, he is a fantasy stat-stuffer. He can throw for 3,500 yards, 25 TDs and chip in 10 rushing TDs. Not bad for 12 games! (We kid, we kid.)

 

What should we do?

Use RG3 as your ticket to the read-option craze. You don’t want to draft a quarterback where Newton is going to be picked, and Kaepernick and Wilson ran just a bit too hot down the stretch. They figure to suffer some growing pains. RG3 has gone through his pains and he is going to take care of his body better than many might expect and provide great bang for his buck in the middle rounds. He is going to be the last read-option guy on the board, so snatch him up at that point. Just be sure to box him with another good quarterback, and maybe his own Redskins backup (Kirk Cousins).

If you want a deeper wider-angle view of the quarterback position, check out the quarterback primer at SI.com. Also, you can hear this writer chat about the nuances of the position on his Fantasy FatCast: QB rankings.

 

Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter @EricMackFantasy, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

NFL

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.