Because you only need one, quarterback is the position most suitable for tiered evaluation in fantasy football draft preparation. If you don’t differentiate much between four or five QBs when you’re on the clock, you may want to draft a different position entirely and let a field general land in your lap.
Tier 1: The Blue-Chippers
Only three quarterbacks are deserving of being drafted in the first six rounds of even a 12-team league. All of them have a long track record of excellence and a number of dynamic weapons at their disposal. They’re the type of guys who will win you a week or two—at least—this season, because they’re just that good.
Despite the wealth of fantasy QB options this season, getting one of this trio will allow you to sleep well Saturday nights knowing you have an advantage at the highest-scoring position in the game.
Any one of these three would be a solid, risk-averse choice in the second half of the second round or anytime thereafter.
1. Peyton Manning, DEN: 5,225 passing yards, 40 TD, 12 INT; minus-26 rushing yards
2. Aaron Rodgers, GB: 4,386 passing yards, 36 TD, 9 INT; 207 rushing yards, 3 TD
3. Drew Brees, NO: 5,044 passing yards, 40 TD, 15 INT; 29 rushing yards, TD
Tier 2: The Guys Who Could Get There
After the blue-chippers are gone, I won’t be looking for a QB until my other skill positions have been filled. There are so many options out there, but three young dual threats have elite fantasy upside that can separate them from the pack.
Another quarterback figures to fling the football until his arm falls off.
More than three QBs will undoubtedly be off the board by the time I’m ready to select most of these four passers, but I’ll be ecstatic with any of them all the same. However, each of the third-year starters should be backed up with someone less likely to run 100 times this season.
Luckily, there are plenty of candidates. I’ll wait on drafting either of these guys until the sixth or seventh round, at least.
4. Russell Wilson, SEA: 3,494 passing yards, 26 TD, 7 INT; 523 rushing yards, 4 TD
5. Matthew Stafford, DET: 4,779 passing yards, 30 TD, 18 INT; 97 rushing yards, 2 TD
6. Robert Griffin III, WAS: 4,151 passing yards, 23 TD, 9 INT; 657 rushing yards, 4 TD
7. Colin Kaepernick, SF: 3,405 passing yards, 27 TD, 7 INT; 636 rushing yards, 5 TD
Tier 3: Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler gets his own tier because he’s in an interesting position: The only reason why it would come as a complete surprise if he finished 2014 as a top-five fantasy QB is that he hasn’t played all 16 games since 2009.
The Chicago Bears hurler will throw double-digit interceptions—he’s thrown 12 or more in every season that he’s played 11 or more games—but also comes with an array of weapons and an offense that allows for fantasy goodness as long as he stays healthy.
He should be one of fantasy’s top performers on a per-game basis, but you’re going to need to back him up; he has missed 12 games in his last three seasons. I don’t often project players missing games, but—like Peyton Manning sitting out most of Week 17 during his Indianapolis Colts glory days—sometimes, a situation warrants it.
Cutler gets beaten up an awful lot. I wouldn’t argue with taking him in the seventh round, before a non-elite tight end.
8. Jay Cutler, CHI: 3,779 passing yards, 28 TD, 17 INT; 140 rushing yards, TD.
Tier 4: Top-10 Question Marks
Whether it’s a breakneck offensive pace, another set of young legs or past successes, more passers have a reason to be selected in the top 10 among their position group. You can hope to recreate the magic of yesteryear without having to pay top dollar; most of these guys still have an outside shot at finishing 2014 at the top of their position. They can’t all be top 10, though.
Because it's 10, that’s why.
Now, 10 can be stretched to a-little-more-than-10 by including multiple metrics: Total points and points per game are both extremely important, for example. But that’s the only way.
These guys are all strong fantasy options, but this is the stage where you may consider benching your starter in favor of a signal-caller with a better matchup. The dream scenario in this tier would be to get two of them, but another one in the next tier would suffice.
To say that Cam Newton lost some targets this offseason is an understatement, but he did get a new toy in the form of wideout Kelvin Benjamin in the first round, and he’s still got some wheels. Philip Rivers will be looking for Keenan Allen to take more steps in his second season and trying to unearth a potential fantasy tight end sleeper in Ladarius Green.
I’m not looking in the direction of these QBs until I have a flex guy or two on my bench. You may want to get one in the eighth round.
9. Andrew Luck, IND: 4,133 passing yards, 23 TD, 11 INT; 347 rushing yards, 5 TD
10. Tom Brady, NE: 4,223 passing yards, 31 TD, 9 INT; 29 rushing yards, TD
11. Cam Newton, CAR: 3,165 passing yards, 18 TD, 14 INT; 748 rushing yards, 7 TD
12. Tony Romo, DAL: 4,271 passing yards, 30 TD, 12 INT; 50 rushing yards, TD
13. Nick Foles, PHI: 4,374 passing yards, 29 TD, 9 INT; 221 rushing yards, 2 TD
14. Philip Rivers, SD: 4,479 passing yards, 33 TD, 13 INT; 58 rushing yards
15. Matt Ryan, ATL: 4,544 passing yards, 29 TD, 14 INT; 74 rushing yards, TD
Tier 5: The Backups
The only player in this tier without a proven YAC monster stat is Sam Bradford, but even he proved he can belong among fantasy’s top scorers for a week in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense. Nevertheless, you may not want to roll with any of these QBs every week in 10- to 12-team leagues; they’re much better suited as bye-week replacements, injury backups or trade bait.
Grab one in a double-digit round and keep it moving.
16. Andy Dalton, CIN: 4,183 passing yards, 29 TD, 18 INT; 155 rushing yards, 2 TD
17. Alex Smith, KC: 3,543 passing yards, 24 TD, 10 INT; 400 rushing yards, TD
18. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: 4,277 passing yards, 27 TD, 12 INT; 101 rushing yards, TD
19. Sam Bradford, STL: 3,953 passing yards, 27 TD, 9 INT; 62 rushing yards, TD
Tier 6: Waiver-Wire Warriors
Ryan Fitzpatrick is not as bad as you think he is. He’s thrown 85 touchdowns and 66 interceptions over the last four years, but he also now has easily his most talented receiving corps. Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Arian Foster and Garrett Graham made some noise with Matt Schaub throwing almost as many TDs to the opposition as his own boys last year.
20. Ryan Fitzpatrick, HOU: 3,971 passing yards, 23 TD, 17 INT; 239 rushing yards, 2 TD
21. Jake Locker, TEN: 3,248 passing yards, 18 TD, 10 INT; 448 rushing yards, 2 TD
22. Josh McCown, TB: 3,896 passing yards, 19 TD, 11 INT; 149 rushing yards, TD
23. Eli Manning, NYG: 4,025 passing yards, 24 TD, 18 INT; 32 rushing yards, TD
24. Carson Palmer, ARI: 4,226 passing yards, 25 TD, 19 INT; 8 rushing yards
25. Geno Smith, NYJ: 3,304 passing yards, 18 TD, 16 INT; 320 rushing yards, 5 TD
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