Fantasy Football 2012 Preview : Quarterbacks

As the days wind down here in July, a cool Autumn breeze is just around the corner.  And while some might be looking forward to having a Brees of their own, it’s quite a price to pay for some.  Pardon the pun, but it’s almost football season, and because of that fantasy pundits and amateurs alike are preparing for draft day.  A day where hope springs eternal, kickers are taken in the 8th round because EVERYONE knows the Patriots are going to be the highest scoring team in the league, and alcohol is both revered and reviled.

This is the first of each positional preview I’ll post outlying tiers, sleepers, busts, and value based drafting (VBD)  for each position.  The first up is that of the quarterback, and if you had an elite one last season, you got more than just that back.  Chances are you not only won your league, but also the money and bragging rights that ensue.

Tier One:  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady

All three of these quarterbacks are the best of the best.  All three offenses were in the top three in yards per drive, points per drive, TD’s per drive, and drive success rate.  Brees and Brady both threw for over 5,000 yards (eclipsing Dan Marino’s yardage record as well) and Rodgers was 5th in yards.  Each contributed 40+ touchdowns to their respective offenses and all limited their interceptions.  If you want great talent at the quarterback position, these are your guys.  However, it’s going to cost you a 1st round pick as each player has an ADP within the first ten picks.

While there isn’t a particular player that is a sleeper, the quarterback with the biggest question marks is Drew Brees.  The removal of Sean Peyton and defensive assistant coaches might make this team a bit of a conundrum come draft day.  I would still take Brees ahead of the 2nd tier quarterbacks, but Brady and Rodgers should be ranked slightly higher due to the consistency of their offensive units.

Tier Two:  Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Michael Vick

One threw for over 5,000 yards, one came within 67 yards, and another had a rookie season in which he ran for the 2nd most rushing touchdowns in the LEAGUE.  The potential for each of these players is as high as anyone in the league, but certain questions arise that will lower their cost and possibly cause them to miss a start or two.  Stafford, Vick, and Romo have had health concerns, Cam Newton only eclipsed 210 yards passing once in the final six games.

Potential Bust Based on ADP:  Cam Newton:  He took most of his fantasy owners to the playoffs at worst last season and could have been had as a FA pickup after the draft.  He ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. Three touchdowns came inside the 1 yard line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Panthers recently picked up Mike Tolbert.  I’d say he’s there to protect the franchise investment and run those in.  Additionally, he is a quarterback and late in the season, defenses adjusted their schemes and took the passing game out of the equation.  The lack of a second receiver on the Panthers makes this corps very shaky outside of Steve Smith.  With an ADP of 20.3, you will be taking him in the mid-late 2nd round.
Sleeper Alert:  Phillip Rivers:  Rivers is being drafted on average in the middle of the 6th round.  Rivers threw for over 4,600 yards (the 2nd most in his career), 27 touchdowns (4th most in his career) and even ran for a touchdown (only the 3rd time he’s ever done that).  Granted the interceptions were a problem, as he had 20, but in most fantasy leagues an interception only docks you a single point or two at most.  Rivers was still a top 10 quarterback in most fantasy formats last season and he’s being drafted AFTER Peyton Manning.  Oh…and about that Vincent Jackson guy being gone?  Two seasons ago when Jackson had his extended holdout, Rivers had a career year.  Consider Buying!
Tier Three: Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Josh Freeman

Each one of these quarterbacks are very good game managers, but there are SEVERAL questions with each one.  Can these guys be top 10 quarterbacks?  Most definitely.  Will they?  Time will tell.

Potenial Bust…and Sleeper based on ADP:  Peyton Manning:  Everyone has talked about Denver’s acquisition of quite possibly the most enigmatic fantasy player ever.  Manning is being drafted ahead of his Super Bowl MVP brother.  While the biggest question mark is Manning’s health, the other question is the talent level of the Denver receiving corps.  Demaryious Thomas and Eric Decker are both the main guys here and Jacob Tamme was added to be the starting tight end.   Thomas caught fire at the end of the season and had three 100+ yard games to finish the season/playoffs.  Eric Decker in the first four games of the season had 270 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Once Tebow came into the fold his numbers went down big time.  Tamme we all remember from two seasons ago as a fantasy star with Manning.  Unfortunately, we have to take into account the health of Manning.  Preliminary reports have him between 80-90% and many believe he may never fully get to 100% healthy again.  The biggest question is…is an 85% Peyton Manning better than a fully healthy Eli, Romo, Ryan, or Cutler?  I’d be willing to say yes, but I don’t think I could pull the trigger.

Sleeper Based on ADP: Ryan Fitzpatrick.  When the Bills won, Fitzpatrick played very well.   In Buffalo’s six wins, Fitzpatrick threw for 1,492 yards with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.  While it won’t be in the same league as Brees or Stafford, 250 yards 2tds, and 1 pick a game would not lose you a game.  Unfortunately, when the Bills lost, Fitpatrick played horribly.  In his 3rd season at the helm, he makes for a great backup quarterback to the top two tiers or could pair up nicely with any of the other third tier quarterbacks.
Tier Four:  Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, RGII, Matt Flynn, Matt Schaub, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck
Chances are the only reason you’re drafting one of these guys is as a dynasty pick (RGIII, Andrew Luck, or Matt Flynn), a bye week filler (Alex Smith vs. STL for Aaron Rodgers is a good one and Dalton vs. DEN for Brady based on their matchups and how they’ve performed against those teams), or you’re just crazy.  You are at a huge disadvantage starting a quarterback in this tier compared to any of the aforementioned starters.
Sleeper of the bunch:  Robert Griffin III:  If there’s anyone that can replicate the amazing season of Cam Newton, RGIII could be the guy to do so.  The Redskins got next to nothing out of the quarterback position last year and traded the farm in order to acquire the franchise player.  Kyle Shanahan has raved about Griffin’s eagerness to learn the system and now that the contract has been finalized, he won’t have any time missed from training camp.  Both Griffin and Luck will be on watch lists during the pre-season and throughout camp, and could easily be moved up a tier before draft day.

Keep an eye on:  Tim Tebow: My guess is Tebow is the starting quarterback after the bye week.  The Jets have some tough matchups in the first half of the season with Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston, and New England on the slate.  4-4 at the bye week won’t quiet the crowd, and it won’t reduce the temperature on the hotseat for Rex Ryan.