The NFL season is just around the corner, the regular season opens the first week of September. That in turn means that fantasy football drafts will be starting soon, making it time to begin our preview of the upcoming season, beginning with the quarterbacks.
This will mark the first in a series of position by position analysis and rankings, including potential draft sleepers that will make you look like a genius in your league this year. Finding gold in the late rounds of the draft is how you win a fantasy title and earn the coveted right to trash talk your friends all year long.
Our preview will assume that you will be using standard scoring in your league, making quarterback typically the top point scoring position on your team. Given that quarterback is one of the deepest positions in fantasy, it does not carry the value a more scarce position like running back.
As someone who has had the luxury of keeping Aaron Rodgers for the past three years in my keeper league, this is a position I haven’t had to put a ton of emphasis on in my own play in recent years. That being said we have a cap on how long you can keep a player, and Rodgers will be back in my draft. Sadly, I won’t have the luxury of the best passer in the game, and will need to explore the position in depth before making my selection this year. Many of you are in the same boat, since only one person can have Rodgers in each league. Not to worry however, as you will see there are plenty of starter worthy selections to find in this year’s crop of quarterbacks.
Reaching for a big name quarterback can pay off if you are still able to create the necessary depth at the other positions, but often can leave you an injury away from missing the playoffs. That being said, here are my quarterback rankings for the 2013 fantasy season.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
4. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
7. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
8. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
9. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
11. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
12. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
13. Eli Manning, New York Giants
14. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
15. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
16. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
17. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
18. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
20. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
21. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
23. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
24. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
25. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
26. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
27. Geno Smith, New York Jets
28. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
29. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
30. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
31. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Best of the Best
4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns is the minimum you should expect from Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.Many elite talents are available at the quarterback position, and the top four on this list always find there way to finish in the top five in terms of fantasy points on the season. All of these men will be gone in the first two rounds of your draft, and are solid picks year in and year out. I previously said that reaching for a quarterback is a move that is not always recommended, the exceptions being if you can nab one of these elite performers.
Numbers 5-10 on the list round out the players you should see starting at quarterback week in and week out in your standard ten team league. Expect slightly worse numbers here, somewhere in the 3500 yard 25-30 touchdown range by year’s end. That’s not a major difference in points over the course of a season however, so don’t feel bad if you end up with one of these guys at the helm. Lots of young blood and mobility in this section, as well as the high powered offense of Matt Ryan in his prime. Upside is everywhere, all these guys could easily make a leap up from impressive seasons last year and jump into the elite class a year from now.
Bye Week Fill Ins
Numbers 11-20 would be the players you should be able to get away with plugging into the starting lineup when the bye weeks roll around, and probably would provide the insurance needed to get you past a few weeks should your starter go down. Some big names are on this part of the order, such as Mike Vick, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. Guys that have won fantasy titles, as well as real titles before, yet because of the depth at the position they probably won’t end up with top ten fantasy seasons and as a result belong on the bench to start the year.
Most surprising on the bench in our fantasy football quarterback preview is the absence of last year’s fantasy hero Colin Kaepernick. This young star is going into this year as a starter for the first time in his career. With the injury to Michael Crabtree in the off season, there is a lack of receiving talent after Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin on the depth chart. Frank Gore isn’t getting any younger either. That adds up to more pressure being placed on a young quarterback. Expect him to try to extend too many plays with his legs and force throws, leading to more turnovers and less fantasy points this year from the young star.
Match Up Dependent
21-25 on the list have some upside as a bye week or injury fill in depending on the match ups. These guys don’t do enough on a regular basis to warrant a permanent position on your roster, but in the right situation can produce a quality fantasy day. Andy Dalton and Matt Schaub have had some success as game managers in the past, but are seldom asked to expand the offense to levels needed to have consistent fantasy success. Carson Palmer likes to air it out, but turnovers and a bad Arizona offense other than Larry Fitzgerald makes it tough to envision a solid season for the veteran.
Anyone after number 25 shouldn’t be touched in your fantasy league. Geno Smith could just as easily be on the bench in favor of Mark Sanchez at the beginning of the year, which means stay away from him at all costs. Christian Ponder struggled to throw for 100 yards a game at times last year, and looked content to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson every play.
This group is not consistent and other than Ponder probably don’t have a realistic shot at the playoffs this season. If any of these men get off to a hot start, remember this warning, they will taper off and leave you disappointed if you reach for them on the waiver wire.
Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill. Alex Smith should be a late round steal that could wind up as your week to week starter by year’s end. He has fallen into a perfect situation with Kansas City and Andy Reid. Reports are that the offense is opening up, and he should be a part of a resurgent offense this year. The Chiefs will compete, and Dwayne Bowe has a quarterback he’s excited about for the first time he can remember. A pick like Smith could well prove to be the smartest you make all draft long, benefiting you throughout the year.
Ryan Tannehill had some fantasy value as a rookie last year, don’t let his 10.7 points per game average fool you. He hit the 15 point benchmark of average for a quarterback 7 times in his first year as a starter. With the addition of high profile free agent Mike Williams from Pittsburgh, Tannehill finds himself with the deep threat he was lacking last year. He should go even later than Smith, probably not even drafted. If you’re in a keeper league and see him floating around in the last round of the draft, he might be worth a pick as someone who could benefit you for years to come in your league.
With quarterbacks all figured out, next up in our series of 2013 fantasy football previews is running back. Stop by next week and learn all you need to know about the most important position in fantasy for the coming year.
Check out all of our other fantasy football positional previews here
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express