Fantasy Football 2011: Ranking the Best Values at QB on Draft Day
A fantasy football draft is kind of like buying a used car.
Everybody wants to get the best bang for their buck, and no one wants to get embarrassed by making a bad decision.
The key to coming out of either situation is identifying which option is the best value.
Depending on what kind of scoring system your league uses, you may not feel inclined to use an early-round draft pick on a quarterback.
Most leagues give more points for rushing touchdowns than they do passing ones, and there's usually more spots to play a running back than there is a quarterback.
If you don't want to use an early pick on a quarterback for whatever reason, you've come to the right place. I will help you find the quarterbacks that will give you the best value for when you finally decide it's time to pull the trigger on drafting your fantasy gunslinger.
Because I am strictly talking about value picks here, you won't find your top of the line quarterbacks named on the list. They will be going too early in most drafts to be considered a bargain.
So don't write me any angry emails about how you lost your league because I told you to draft Sam Bradford instead of Tom Brady. If you don't already know Tom Brady is a good fantasy quarterback then maybe fantasy football isn't the right hobby for you.
On a side note, if you have a late first-round pick and all the elite running backs are gone, you may want to consider making sure you get a top-tier quarterback at the back end of the first round and snag a second-level running back when your spot comes up the next time.
10. Eli Manning
li Manning is an established, veteran quarterback who consistently puts up big passing yards and a good number of touchdown passes.
He is extremely durable and has improved his completion percentage in each of the last three years.
So how did Peyton's little brother end up on this list? Interceptions.
Eli Manning threw 25 picks last year, which has him falling all the way to an average draft position of 91 in Yahoo! leagues.
Don't get me wrong, 25 is a ridiculous amount of interceptions, but it is a bit of an anomaly even for someone like Manning, who has a bit of a reputation for completing passes to guys in the wrong-colored jersey.
When you're trying to get a bargain, there is always going to be a "but." With Eli, it's the interceptions.
The reason he makes the list is because I believe he will go back to throwing somewhere between 14 and 18 interceptions like he usually does, rather than a ghastly 25.
As long as Manning doesn't match his career-worst year for interceptions thrown, then his tendency to throw picks is probably something you can live with for a guy that brings so many other things to the table, especially considering you can probably get him in the eighth or ninth round of your draft.
9. Jay Cutler
As far as bad reputations for quarterbacks go, Jay Cutler's is probably in the Top 10 for worst ones.
He has been called everything from a sissy (that's the PG version), to a bad leader to an undisciplined gunslinger.
Whether any or all of those things are true is yet to be seen. Luckily for you, it doesn't matter.
In fantasy football, you don't need your quarterback to rally the troops, you just need him to pile up the stats.
Still, Jay Cutler's bad reputation has him sticking around until about the 103rd pick in Yahoo! drafts. In a 10-team league, that means you could pick Cutler up in the beginning of the eleventh round.
The other reason Jay Cutler is falling this far is because, like our friend Mr. Manning in the last slide, Cutler has a bit of an interception problem.
However, even in this area, he has a worse reputation than he deserves.
Aside from an awful 2009 season, Cutler's touchdown-to-interception numbers have been respectable.
If Jay Cutler is still around anytime in the ninth round or later, he is worth taking a chance on.
8. Donovan McNabb
Let's just be honest; Donovan McNabb had a terrible year in 2010.
He got benched, put up sub-par numbers and wore at his welcome in Washington in an incredibly short period of time.
You know what, though? I'm going to give him a pass on last season.
The Redskins are a disaster of a franchise.
They constantly land big-name players and somehow fail to put out a quality team.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that it's not a coincidence. I'm not sure what it is, but something about that franchise turns everything the team touches into crap.
Washington is basically the exact opposite of King Midas.
Before his train wreck of a season in 2010, Donovan McNabb had shown little sign of slowing down and had even played in 14 or more games in three straight seasons.
He had thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions and topped 3,000 yards in each of those three years as well.
McNabb is getting drafted on average in Yahoo! leagues at about the 116th slot, and if you can get him there, he should be a great value.
7. Matthew Stafford
Obviously, if you draft Matthew Stafford your biggest concern is going to be if he can stay healthy.
That concern is the reason he should be available relatively late in your draft.
As of earlier this afternoon, Stafford's average draft position in Yahoo! leagues was about 96th overall.
Much like Stafford's status in the NFL, his place in fantasy leagues is still based much more on potential than on proven results.
Because of this, drafting Matthew Stafford is a considerable gamble. However, when you're looking for value players, it's tough to get a sure thing and that is definitely the case here.
If Stafford is available in the 10th round or later, I think the risk you're taking is outweighed by the potential reward.
Any earlier than that and he could still end up being a steal, but if you're willing to take a quarterback with a lower round selection, you probably have better options.
6. Kevin Kolb
With all the hype surrounding Kevin Kolb as a franchise-saving quarterback, it is hard to believe that he could be a value player in fantasy leagues.
However, it appears as though fantasy owners are a bit more cautious with their optimism about Kolb's ability to carry a team than the Arizona Cardinals were.
For what it's worth, I think any functional NFL quarterback who is throwing to Larry Fitzgerald is going to put up pretty good numbers, so I like Kolb's chances to have a good year.
Besides having Larry Fitzgerald, I believe Kevin Kolb is better than functional at his position.
He may not be a superstar the way the Cardinals hope he is, but I would bet that he ends up being—at the worst—pretty good.
With an average draft position of 113th in Yahoo! leagues, Kolb is definitely a great pick at that stage of the proceedings. I would feel comfortable selecting Kevin Kolb as high as the eighth or ninth round.
5. Kyle Orton
If I describe a quarterback as being a "game manager," who is the first player to pop into your mind?
It was Kyle Orton, wasn't it?
That perception may have been true earlier in his career, but if you look at his numbers for the past three seasons you'll see Orton has produced at a pretty high level.
Still, that idea of Kyle Orton as a quarterback whose only job is to not lose the game for his team (rather than to go out and light up the scoreboard) persists.
Orton's inability to shake that label comes as good news for fantasy owners looking for a starting quarterback in the later rounds.
When I say Orton will be available deep into your draft, I mean very deep.
On average, he is being drafted with the 120th pick in Yahoo! leagues, which means in a 10-team league Orton would likely still be available in the 12th round.
This is a guy who threw for over 3,600 yards with 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 2010.
If I have to sell you on Kyle Orton any more than that, you don't deserve him.
4. Joe Flacco
In each of the last three seasons, Joe Flacco has shown steady improvement in his statistical output.
He has gone from a functional rookie quarterback who let the veterans do all the heavy lifting to a legitimate and highly productive quarterback in the NFL.
If I told you a quarterback completed more than 60 percent of his passes last year with over 3,600 yards, along with 25 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, you would probably think I was talking about someone who would be taken in the first few rounds of just about every fantasy draft.
The truth is, Joe Flacco (the owner of that stat line from 2010) is being taken at about 107th overall in Yahoo! leagues.
To put that in perspective, that is only three spots ahead of where Colt McCoy is being taken.
That is the same Colt McCoy who has played in only eight professional football games.
Being completely honest, wherever you take Joe Flacco, it is probably a pretty good decision.
If you can wait and take him in the eighth round or later, you might be getting the biggest steal of your fantasy draft.
3. Sam Bradford
Apparently, no one told Sam Bradford that there is supposed to be a learning curve for rookies trying to hack it as quarterbacks in the NFL.
Rather than struggling like most first-year players, Bradford looked like a veteran from day one.
As a rookie, Sam Bradford completed 60 percent of his passes for more than 3,500 yards with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
The only one of those numbers that is remotely concerning is the 15 interceptions, but if Bradford had thrown a few more touchdown passes, even that would start to look pretty good.
The best part is, Bradford should only get better as he gains experience.
If Bradford shows even a normal amount of development from his first to second seasons, his numbers should rival those of anyone's except the very best of the best in the league.
Sam Bradford should be available in the 10th to 12th rounds, and you would do well to draft him there—or a little sooner.
2. Matt Cassel
Those fears were quickly put to rest, as Cassel threw for more than 3,000 yards last season to go with 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Having put up elite statistics in two out of his three seasons as a starter entrenches Matt Cassel pretty firmly in my mind as a legitimate option at quarterback in fantasy leagues.
I am apparently in the minority, as Cassel's average draft spot in Yahoo! leagues is about 120th overall.
As hard as it is might seem for Cassel to improve upon his numbers from last year, I believe he will actually be better in 2011.
The Chiefs still have star receiver Dwayne Bowe and have added into the mix Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston, so Cassel will have even more weapons to work with.
I could see myself drafting Cassel as high as the sixth round and still feeling like I had gotten a pretty solid bargain.
As long as no one in your league reads this, you should be able to get him much later than that.
1. Josh Freeman
I have to admit that after Josh Freeman's rookie campaign in 2009, I was not a believer in his ability to become a franchise quarterback.
Let me be the first to say that I was wrong—very, very wrong.
Freeman had just about as good of a season as you can have as a quarterback in 2010.
The second-year player out of Kansas State completed more than 61 percent of his passes for almost 3,500 yards, with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
In other words, Josh Freeman put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on his shoulders and carried them back to relevancy in the NFL.
As this is only Freeman's third year in the league and his second as the full-time starter, there is essentially no ceiling on how good this kid can be.
There probably won't be another quantum leap in development like there was from Freeman's rookie to sophomore seasons, but even a moderate amount of growth should put Freeman squarely among the league's elite signal-callers.
Despite a phenomenal season in 2010, Josh Freeman is still only being drafted at about the 93rd overall spot in Yahoo! leagues.
Needless to say, you should not wait that long to draft Freeman.
If you can get him in the fifth round or later (which you probably can), draft him and ride his golden arm all the way to your fantasy league playoffs.