Fantasy Football 2014: Predicting the Biggest Fantasy Flops at Quarterback

James ParadisContributor IIAugust 1, 2014

Fantasy Football 2014: Predicting the Biggest Fantasy Flops at Quarterback

0 of 4

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    One of the biggest keys to winning at fantasy football is to take risks—well, the best risks, that is.

    Riskiness and recklessness are not one in the same. Taking well-educated, well-researched gambles is a great way to land fantasy gems at great values. Meanwhile, making unnecessarily bold moves can paralyze your roster.

    To help flesh out some of the more perilous fantasy quarterbacks for 2014, we must first determine what factors most commonly lead to a player falling short of expectations.

    We will quantify this “Flop Factor” using the following questions as they pertain to a specific player:

    • Does the player have a small sample size of production or lack of experience as a starter?
    • Is the player within a new regime different from the one in which he's previously had success?
    • Does the player have significant injury, age and/or wear-and-tear concerns?
    • Does the player face significant competition at the position?
    • Is the player coming off an unexpectedly productive season?
    • Did the player’s team lose any personnel integral to his previous level of production?
    • Are there any off-field issues that could affect the player’s on-field production?

    Players who meet several of these criteria have a greater Flop Factor and come with more inherent draft risk for fantasy owners.

    Each player profiled in the following slides is graded as having either a minor, moderate or major Flop Factor, depending on the degree to which he embodies these factors.

    Of course, any player can overcome his Flop Factor and go on to post a fantastic fantasy season.

    Peyton Manning was a prime flop candidate following his lost 2011 season, facing considerable injury and age concerns, as well as a new regime. Meanwhile, Tom Brady succumbed to his Flop Factor last year, dealing with the loss of vital personnel and off-field team issues (i.e. Aaron Hernandez).

    The purpose of Flop Factor analysis is not to advise fantasy owners to avoid these players, but rather to help owners decide which players are worth the gamble come draft day.

    So, looking at quarterbacks, which players have the greatest “Flop Factor” for the upcoming fantasy season? Let’s take a look at a few of the most intriguing candidates.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

1 of 4

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Current ADP: QB6 (66th overall)

     

    Does the player have a small sample size of production or a lack of experience as a starter?

    While Foles may have a limited pro resume (16 career starts), it’s still one heck of a start. See below.

     

    Is the player coming off an unexpectedly productive season?

    In 13 games played in 2013, Foles managed 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions, a TD:INT ratio that is a historical outlier, to say the least.

    He’s also one of only two quarterbacks in the last 45 years to record seven touchdowns in a single game. The other? Peyton Manning in Week 1 of last year.

    Here’s how Foles’ season-long production stacks up against the six next-best TD:INT quarterback seasons over the past 10 years (among QBs with 25-plus touchdowns):

    QuarterbackYearTDsINTsTD:INT Ratio 
    Nick Foles201327213.5 
    Tom Brady20103649.0 
    Aaron Rodgers20114567.5 
    Tom Brady20075086.3 
    Peyton Manning201355105.5 
    Peyton Manning200449104.9 
    Aaron Rodgers20123984.9 

    Pretty good company, eh? And Foles’ season blows them all away.

    Outside of Foles', every performance on the above list earned that quarterback the league MVP award for that season (except for Rodgers in 2012, finishing second to Adrian Peterson and his otherworldly campaign).

    Foles is a promising young talent, but should we expect him to come even remotely close to repeating this all-time great season?

     

    Did the player lose any personnel integral to his previous production?

    The Eagles ranked 27th in passing attempts per game (31.8) in 2013, according to teamrankings.com. Averaging just 19 completions a game, Foles’ production often came from big gains. His No. 1 receiver, DeSean Jackson, boasted the second-most big plays (20-plus yards) in the league last year among receivers (25), behind only Josh Gordon (30).

    Jackson is now in Washington, and Foles does not have any comparable deep threat receiving options. His three new pass-catchers, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews, all offer different skill sets, but none can match the straight-line speed to beat defensive backs downfield quite like Jackson.

    Unless head coach Chip Kelly plans to increase Foles’ volume of attempts in 2014, his passing numbers could see a dip.

     

    Nick Foles Flop Factor: MODERATE

    Foles is currently going off the board No. 6 among QBs in mock drafts. His mid-sixth round ADP is a full three rounds ahead of Philip Rivers (the No. 6 fantasy QB in 2013), and four rounds ahead of Russell Wilson (the No. 8 fantasy QB in 2013).

    Though he’s a prime candidate for regression, Foles still plays within Kelly’s prolific offensive system and should continue to fare well. But will his production justify his draft cost?

    The question for fantasy owners is whether he’s worth the sixth-round investment with so much low-end starting QB value on the board in the later rounds of drafts.

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns

2 of 4

    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Current ADP: QB18 (137th overall)

     

    Does the player have a small sample size of production or a lack of experience as a starter?

    A 21-year-old rookie, Manziel has two seasons of consistent college production at the highest level. He’s a proven Heisman-caliber talent, but as history has proven, there is no guarantee that talent will translate to the pro level.

     

    Is the player within a new regime different from the one in which he's previously had success?

    Manziel has a unique skill set that Texas A&M built around, employing an offense that catered to his strengths. Until Manziel is declared the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, the team is unlikely to tailor its offense in a similar way.

     

    Does the player face significant competition at the position on his team?

    To assume the Browns’ starting gig, Manziel must first beat out hometown fan favorite Brian Hoyer. Though Manziel comes in with an absurd level of hype, there are still Cleveland fans who want to see a local kid succeed, as Hoyer did in his brief stint as the starter before getting injured last year.

    I really hope Hoyer wins this job. I love JF and his excitement he brings. But I always root for the underdog. And a hometown guy. #CLE #SZN

    — Noah Nelson (@noahfnnelson) July 31, 2014

    More importantly, all indications point toward Hoyer winning the job to begin the season. He received all the first-team reps to start training camp, reported Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Also, an unnamed Browns’ player told ESPN’s Bob Holtzman that Hoyer is the team’s consensus presumptive starter.

    Browns player: "we're all expecting Hoyer to start" week 1. Feeling in locker room is Pettine will announce WELL BEFORE 3rd preseason game

    — bob holtzman (@BobHoltzmanESPN) July 25, 2014

     Manziel has all the fantasy potential in the world, but as long as he’s on the bench, that potential isn’t worth much.

     

    Did the player lose any personnel integral to his previous production?

    This question can be looked at in two ways, both with the same answer: yes.

    Manziel thrived as an Aggie, but those coaches and teammates are no more. As for Cleveland, arguably the league’s best wide receiver from 2013, Josh Gordon, faces a year-long suspension.

    Even if he wins out the lead QB job, Manziel could face an uphill battle with his questionable receiving corps.

     

    Are there any off-field issues that could affect the player’s on-field production?

    Well…

    Johnny Manziel rolling up a dollar bill in a Vegas bathroom. LET THE SPECULATION WHEEL SPIN! http://t.co/7toWEdlU5s pic.twitter.com/bYED43mvWG

    — Kissing Suzy Kolber (@KissMeSuzy) July 7, 2014

    It goes without saying that the media circus surrounding Manziel reached absurdist levels long ago. And while most of the coverage is just useless noise as it pertains to Manziel’s on-field future, there is some evidence that his behavior has affected his standing among the Browns’ brass.

    As reported again by Cabot on Cleveland.com:

    The Browns have been 'alarmed' by some of Johnny Manziel's antics since the draft…and some in the organization feel he's lost ground in the quarterback competition heading into camp…Manziel regressed in practice after the first week of organized team activities, and some in the organization attributed it to too much jet-setting and not enough dedication to the playbook…Team officials had bought into Manziel's pre-draft promises to tone down the partying and leave his frat-boy lifestyle back in College Station, Texas, and they've been stunned by his non-stop antics, sources said.

     

    Johnny Manziel Flop Factor: MAJOR

    Off-field issues and lack of pro-level experience aside, the biggest impediment to Manziel’s fantasy value is his ability to simply get on the field. Though the Browns did trade up to acquire him with the 22nd pick in the first round of the draft, it seems unlikely that Manziel will supplant Hoyer as the team’s starter anytime soon.

    Currently going in drafts just behind Andy Dalton (the No. 5 fantasy QB from 2013), Manziel has one of the biggest gaps between his fantasy ceiling and floor than just about any other player this year. Currently an early 12th-round pick, there’s a good chance Manziel will eventually end up on the waiver wire. Otherwise, he'll just burn a spot on an owner’s bench for most, if not all of the season.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

3 of 4

    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Current ADP: QB10 (83rd overall)

     

    Does the player have significant injury, age and/or wear-and-tear concerns?

    Newton had surgery in March to tighten ligaments in his left ankle, a nagging injury the fourth-year quarterback has dealt with since his college days at Auburn, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.

    The result of the ligament operation should improve Newton’s ability to push off the injured foot, providing him with greater burst and strength as a runner.

    Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera does not expect the surgery to inhibit Cam’s running ability. According to an ESPN report by David Newton, Rivera “said there are no plans for Newton…to run less in 2014. He believes Newton will be stronger than ever once he fully recovers.”

    This news should embolden Newton’s fantasy owners, considering Cam relies on his legs for fantasy production more than any other quarterback in the league, as illustrated by ESPN’s Christopher Harris.

    About 39 percent of Newton’s fantasy value has come from the run game in his three pro seasons, notes Harris, more than three times as much as any other top-10 fantasy QB over that span. His 28 rushing touchdowns since 2011 are 19 more than the next-best quarterback (Colin Kaepernick, 9).

    If Newton is working at full speed for Week 1, there’s no reason to expect his surgery to affect his rushing numbers.

    But will he be ready in time?

    After a four-month recovery, Cam is fully cleared for camp, but has made it clear he is not running on all cylinders just yet.

    Cam says he can't stress enough, his ankle still isn't 100 percent. Said it will take time, didn't indicate how long.

    — Joe Person (@josephperson) July 26, 2014

     

    Did the player lose any personnel integral to his previous production?

    Much has been made of the Panthers’ offseason loss of every wide receiver who caught a pass for the team in 2013.

    On the surface, such dramatic turnover sounds like a potentially insurmountable adjustment; however, Carolina didn’t exactly boast the league’s strongest receiving corps last year.

    Especially for fantasy purposes, Newton shouldn’t see his passing numbers take much of a hit with his new group.

    Steve Smith, Newton’s top WR from last season, finished outside the top 40 fantasy wide receivers. No other wideout saw more than 100 targets, caught more than 50 balls or scored more than five touchdowns.

    And Newton still has his leading pass-catcher from last season, tight end Greg Olsen (816 yards and six touchdowns in ’13). Meanwhile, running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert combined for more than 50 receptions last year—they’re also still around.

    Newton should have no trouble matching his middle-of-the-road 3,379 passing yards from last year—good enough to finish third among fantasy QBs.

     

    Cam Newton Flop Factor: MINOR

    Unlike Foles, Newton’s risks are already factored into his late-seventh round ADP, lowering his overall risk. A top-four fantasy quarterback in each of his three pro seasons, Newton’s a proven fantasy commodity with a reliable track record of success.

    The timeline for his full recovery from ankle surgery will ultimately decide if Newton makes for a fair fantasy deal or a huge bargain in drafts this season.

Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4 of 4

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Current ADP: QB20 (156th overall)

     

    Does the player have a small sample size of production or a lack of experience as a starter?

    Despite 13 years in the league, 2013 marked the first time McCown attempted more than 200 passes since 2005. He started five games last season but just two over the previous four years.

     

    Is the player within a new regime different from the one in which he's previously had success?

    McCown was impressive working within Marc Trestman’s high-octane scheme in Chicago. He now plays for defensively minded, run-first head coach Lovie Smith. Also, McCown had possibly the top trio of receiving targets in the NFL last year in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Tampa Bay also has some beastly weapons of its own, but it’s undoubtedly a downgrade from the “Monsters of the Midway.”

     

    Does the player have significant injury, age and/or wear-and-tear concerns?

    McCown is 35 years old and missed all of 2009 with a torn ACL, but neither factor should impact his quarterback play this year.

     

    Does the player face significant competition at the position on his team?

    Second-year backup Mike Glennon could be a bigger threat to McCown than previously thought. After the Bucs’ minicamp in April, the team became “fully sold on Glennon” as the “long-term answer at quarterback,” according to Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez.

    If McCown does not live up to expectations following a productive 2013, the team may opt to see what they have in Glennon.

     

    Is the player coming off an unexpectedly productive season?

    Like Foles, McCown had a nearly mistake-free year in 2013, racking up 13 touchdowns with just one interception. Prior to last year, McCown’s career totals included 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.

     

    Josh McCown Flop Factor: MAJOR

    McCown is currently going ahead of safer backup QBs with similarly high ceilings, such as Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill.  Both Palmer and Tannehill are the unquestioned quarterbacks for their team with consistent track records as starters.

    It’s highly unlikely McCown’s fantasy owners this year will see anything close to the player who thrived within Trestman’s system in Chicago.

    The journeyman QB is best suited for the waiver wire in 2014.

     

    All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise indicated. All contract-related information courtesy of Spotrac.com. All depth-chart related information courtesy of Ourlads.com. All fantasy scoring information courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.

    James Paradis is a fantasy football featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Be sure to check out his entire archive on fantasy strategy and analysis.

    Follow @JamesParadisNFL on Twitter