Quarterback was easily one of the deepest positions heading into last year, and it wasn’t just wishful thinking. In fact, 14 quarterbacks put up at least 251 fantasy points a year ago. While Peyton Manning was easily the run away #1 fantasy quarterback, he needed to break single-season records when it came to passing yardage and touchdowns to do so.
When it was all said and done, we actually saw numerous names creep inside the top-15 that we didn’t see coming. Andy Dalton (5th), Philip Rivers (6th), Ben Roethlisberger (11th) and Nick Foles (12th) are probably the ones that stand out.
On the flip-side, guys like Matt Ryan (15th) and Eli Manning (21st) played full seasons, yet really weren’t up to par. Injuries derailed otherwise successful seasons for guys like Aaron Rodgers (22nd) and Jay Cutler (23rd), too.
Point being, quarterback is as deep as it gets. Not everyone gets Manning, and it really doesn’t matter. You can wait on quarterback in fantasy drafts just like you did a year ago. In fact, with the league being so pass-happy and the numbers reading 15 deep, there’s every reason to think the value can get stretched out even a little more in 2014.
The value can be seen especially in the ADP (Average Draft Position) of these fantasy quarterbacks. Outside of the locked and loaded elites (Manning, Rodgers and Drew Brees), there is a good amount if fluctuation as to where these guys are available.
Specifically, Tom Brady was drafted in the fourth round on average a year ago (4th QB) last year, yet he ranked out as the game’s 14th best passer. The same went for Matt Ryan at 5 (15th). Robert Griffin III was drafted as the 10th best passer, yet he finished at 18th overall.
It worked the other way, too, though, as Philip Rivers was the 24th quarterback taken on average, yet he finished as a top-six producer. Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger were similar cases, taken 15th and 18th overall. Dalton was fantasy’s #5 passer and Big Ben was #11.
While there was some clear fluctuation, there was still a good amount of players who completely met their value. Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck were all drafted to be top-12 or better, and all met those kind of expectations.
But this is just recapping what we already experienced, right? The real question is, how do we tell who will be fluctuating up or down for 2014. That’s not always easy, as we’d otherwise freely predict the future, set 100% accurate rankings and dominate our drafts and leagues with our eyes closed.
We can at least start looking at some interesting ADP trends in the month of June and see where some guys might be headed, though. With that, let’s look at some ADP trends at the QB position that could be throwing us off the trail a bit:
Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles) ADP: ROUND 6
First off, this isn’t a debate of where guys need to be ranked. It is, however, an exploration of their true value. There’s no denying Foles had an awesome season a year ago. However, as great as it was, there’s no way he throws just two interceptions as a full-time starter in 2014. His numbers should naturally take a bit of a hit, and simply assuming we can stretch his numbers from 2013 over a full year and draft him at that value, well, it’s a little silly.
Sure, doing that sounds fun and if it ends up being true all those Foles doubters will look like idiots. After all, extrapolate his numbers out to a full 16 games, and Foles could give you 36 passing touchdowns, roughly 3,854 receiving yards, 300 rushing yards and about four rushing scores.
That would put him in contention to be a top-five passer in 2013 and probably so this year, as well. If he exactly hits that on the head. Even with his talent, weapons (he lost DeSean Jackson, FYI) and offense, that’s a bit of a gamble, if not quite a reach.
With an ADP of round six, that’s about how we’re valuing Foles. I’m not saying he can’t be that guy. But the value isn’t there for a guy who has given us 12 true games as a starter and lost a huge weapon.
Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals) ADP: ROUND 11
You won’t ever catch me endorsing Andy Dalton, but even I think his current ADP is ridiculous. Again, this isn’t really about rankings, as I still probably won’t put him inside my own top-10. Realistically, old offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is gone and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson should try to lead a more balanced attack. It might even get a little more run-based.
That, and Dalton did throw 20 picks last year (16 the year before) and has just one truly elite fantasy season to his name.
Still, even if Dalton drops down a bit with some changes, should we really be drafting him as fantasy’s 16th best quarterback? For me, that might be how it plays out. In the end, perhaps Jay Cutler could slide down behind Dalton. But putting Dalton much higher suggests guys like Matt Ryan, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or even Tony Romo aren’t as good or don’t have as much upside.
That’s simply not the case. While it’s not easy to slide Dalton that far down, it’s just as hard to justify putting him much higher. While that’s a downer in a lot of respects, it at least shows us once again that the value at quarterback is absolutely disgusting. Yes, Dalton might be the 14th-16th best fantasy passer for this year, but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.
Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) ADP: ROUND 7
Newton has finished as a top-four fantasy passer in each of his first three NFL seasons. Why, then, are we suddenly drafting him as the 10th best fantasy quarterback?
If our only reasoning is because he lost an aging Steve Smith and a boringly average Bradon LaFell, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Truth be told, Newton is coming off probably his best season as a pro. Not only did he complete a career high 61.7% of his passes, but he also threw just 13 picks while leading the Panthers to a 12-4 record, the NFC South division crown and a first round bye in the playoffs.
Statistically, he still didn’t get much out of Smith or LaFell. In fact, he got a bit of a career revival season out of Ted Ginn Jr. and the best numbers we’ve seen out of Greg Olsen.
Smith and LaFell are gone, and suddenly Newton falls from a consistent top-four option to barely in the top-10? Really? Come on.
Smith was aging and slowly regressing and LaFell was never even good.
Olsen, a very productive tight end all three years with Newton in town, is still there. The Panthers also added a solid second tight end in Ed Dickson, as well as safe (albeit not sexy) options in Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.
Those guys aren’t going to dominate anyone, but were their previous options going to? Absolutely not. Carolina also added raw but immensely talented first round rookie Kelvin Benjamin, who should be slated to start right out of the gates.
If anything, less reliable weapons could force Newton to run more. Psst. That’s good for fantasy numbers!
It’s true that the minor (and I do mean minor) downgrade in supporting cast could negatively impact Newton in the real world. Perhaps defenses can defend Carolina better and they won’t win as many games. But even Robert Griffin III put up elite numbers last year despite not being mentally or physically ready to play again.
Newton is fine and his weapons are fine. He’s once again a top-five threat and we need to start treating him as such.
Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers) ADP: ROUND 9
Rivers was widely undrafted in 2013 and ended up being the #6 fantasy passer. No one could really see that crazy leap, but a fair jump was actually pretty likely.
A mildly regressing Rivers with inadequate weapons no longer suited a vertical Norv Turner system. Once Turner left and Mike McCoy entered, we could see Rivers was in for a real shot at success. After all, McCoy was the type of genius offensive mind that found a way to succeed with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. The latter wasn’t very difficult, but you get the point.
McCoy leaned more on a dink and dunk pass approach, as well as a quality rushing attack. Park of that was pure luck with Ryan Mathews not breaking into a million pieces, while being surrounded with the right weapons surely didn’t hurt. Rivers was inserted in an offense that did two things: put a greater emphasis on the people around him making the magic happen and easing the pressure off of his shaky offensive line.
His o-line gradually got better in the process, which eventually allowed Rivers to also connect on down field throws he had previously been unable to convert during two straight horrific seasons under Norval.
The point? McCoy’s system fits Rivers perfectly and what we saw in 2013 wasn’t an accident. This new Rivers is here to stay, as his offense and weapons allow him to make quick reads and decisions and take advantage of easily his best attribute – his accuracy.
Don’t believe me? Rivers completed a career high (by far) 69.5% of his passes a year ago and he also threw just 11 interceptions. While it won’t be easy to reach high on Rivers in fantasy drafts, he’s a very good value at his current ADP. Like Dalton, he won’t be easy to push up anyone’s rankings much further, but you can’t push him down too far, either. Rivers is another elite fantasy quarterback stuck in a loaded position where bigger names are going to garner more attention. He can absolutely get you by (and then some) as your weekly QB1 in 2014.
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) ADP: ROUND 10
What does Russell Wilson need to do to get respect in the fantasy scene? Thanks to his solid play in the pocket early as a rookie, as well as his natural dual threat nature, Wilson ended 2012 as fantasy’s 10th best passer. Fantasy owners didn’t seem to really buy it, though, as Wilson was still taken in just round eight (12th QB on average) in 2013 fantasy drafts.
Another year of quality production and a Super Bowl title, and not much has changed. It’s odd, too, since Wilson actually jumped up two spots to 8th overall in 2013. Still, we’re just drafting him in the 10th round (15th QB) like he’s some scrub.
In reality, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that what we’ve seen so far from Wilson is just the start. The training wheels have been on Wilson through his first two seasons, yet both years he’s put up over 3,100 passing yards, exactly 26 passing touchdowns, under 11 picks, 480+ rushing yards and five total running scores.
This all has come with Wilson attempting over 400 passes just once (407 in 2013), while Seattle has ranked 32nd and 31st in pass attempts through his first two seasons.
Yet, he’s been the 10th and 8th best fantasy passer through his first two seasons.
Add in the fact that Wilson hasn’t even had the luxury of half of a season with new weapon Percy Harvin, along with other new weapons to the passing game, and the ceiling is still quite high for Wilson.
Wilson is insanely undervalued. It’s likely because of his offense and the way Seattle plays, but regardless of the image, he still gets the job done.
Example: Wilson had four rushing scores as a rookie and just one in 2013. Had he had four again, he would have tied for FIFTH PLACE at the quarterback position.
Even if he doesn’t throw the ball 50+ more times in 2014 or get those extra 2-3 running scores, he’s still set up to be a top-10 passer. And we’re drafting him as the 15th best. Draft accordingly.
*Photo Credit – vivi1867