Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fantasy Rankings: Part One


Tier One: Safe Studs
1. Peyton Manning, IND
2. Aaron Rodgers, GB
3. Phillip Rivers, SD
4. Drew Brees, NO
5. Tom Brady, NE

You may notice that this tier is bigger than a typical first-tier of fantasy quarterbacks. Last year, it was Manning, Brees and Brady. Usually it's only two or three guys who can be trusted to compile consistent and elite stats from the QB position. Sometimes it's only one guy. But you can't ignore the seasons that Rodgers and Rivers have both had in 2009 and 2008, and the talent surrounding them, and their very impressive skill-sets. They've both achieved elite status and deserve to be picked in the first two rounds. They'll rack up both TDs and yards without too many turnovers, and they'll do it on a very consistent basis. You obviously can't go wrong with Manning as a first-round pick, and Brady is still Brady. I've included Brees on this list so that I don't appear stupid, but let me get one thing straight: I won't be drafting Drew Brees in any of my leagues this year. That's a guarantee. Why? Because he'll be gone by the end of the second round, and I'm not spending one of my first two picks on a guy who is under the Madden Curse. I'm not taking that gamble. I don't know if it'll be a broken neck, an ACL, or just personal issues. There is also the chance that Brees puts together a great statistical season but the Saints go 4-12. One way or another, he will be Cursed. But if you want to take the chance on him, be my guest.

Tier Two: Very good starters
6. Tony Romo, DAL
7. Matt Ryan, ATL
8. Matt Schaub, HOU
9. Joe Flacco, BAL

These are guys who are all highly talented, though not quite at the level of the tier one guys. Each has at least one top-notch receiving option, and all 4 guys play on above-average offensive lines. I like Romo because of his many weapons and the green-light to throw the ball in the red zone; I like Ryan's incredible arm and understanding of the game and his all-around talent; I like Matt Schaub because he has Andre Johnson, and the Texans throw the ball a lot; and I like Flacco because the Ravens added Anquan Boldin. In my mind, there's a pretty significant drop after these 9 QBs.

Tier Three: Better safe than sorry
10. Donovan McNabb, WAS
11. Brett Favre, MIN
12. Carson Palmer, CIN

Yeah, you could draft one of the trendy sleeper picks before these old guys, but I think these 3 will each provide consistent numbers over the course of the season, rather than a few big games scattered. If you're drafting a #1 QB at this point, I'd play it safe. If you're looking for your backup, I'd lean towards a sleeper (tier five). To clarify something, I don't think there's any way that Favre has a season anywhere close to last year. Not from a statistical standpoint or in terms of wins-loses. I think his INTs will be back up near the top of the league, and I think the Vikings will run the ball a lot more this season. Favre won't be a top 5 fantasy QB again; but I do think he'll be top 15 and still worth a look.

Tier Four: The Douche
13. Jay Cutler, CHI

I won't be drafting him because I can't imagine cheering for him ever, but I think he'll produce a ton of yards in the Martz system and probably a good amount of TDs. He'll definitely throw at least 20 INTS, but it should still be a quality fantasy season. But if you have an ounce of decency in your soul, you won't draft Cutler.

Tier Five: Grade-A Sleepers
14. Kevin Kolb, PHI
15. Marc Sanchez, NYJ
16. Chad Henne, MIA
17. Alex Smith, SF

Obviously, the quarterback position takes quite a tumble with tiers four and five. If you haven't got your starter by now, you're in trouble. But these are my four favorite sleepers for 2010. Kolb (pronounced COBB) was incredible in two starts last year, and for a while I was thinking about ranking him in the top ten. But the key will be consistency, and in his first season as the starter I'm expecting a few stinkbombs through the year; Sanchez has all the weapons a QB could ask for and the league's best offensive line, but works in a run-first offense; Henne is poised for a break-out year with Brandon Marshall added to the mix but like Kolb, probably won't be very consistent; Smith could be a sleeper if Michael Crabtree emerges, but that's a big if.

Tier Six: Suspension
18. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

He'll miss either 4 games or 6, depending on the appeal. If it's 6, I wouldn't draft him at all. But if it's only 4, I'd make him my back-up just because of his potential to produce when he returns. Although the loss of Holmes will hurt and I think Pittsburgh returns to being a run-first team this season, Roethlisberger is a big-play guy who should put together decent numbers when he comes back.

Tier Seven: The Matts
19. Matt Stafford, DET
20.Matt Moore, CAR
21. Matt Cassel, KC
22. Matt Leinart, ARZ

Stafford could compile decent numbers on an inconsistent basic if Calvin Johnson plays like he did in 2008; Moore should be a decent TD guy (if he remains the starter) because of Carolina's potent offense; Cassel has an outside shot to rack up yards in Todd Haley's pass-first system; Leinart has the second best receiver in the NFL which has to help.

Tier Eight: Consistently mediocre
23. David Garrard, JAX
24. Eli Manning, NYG
25. Matt Hasselbeck, SEA
26. Jason Campbell, OAK

There's really no reason to draft any of them, but if you want a safe back-up instead of a flier, I guess Eli or Garrard wouldn't be that bad. Hasselbeck is just buying time until he loses the stating job, and Campbell plays for the Raiders which speaks for itself.

Tier Nine: Super Sleepers
27. Sam Bradford, STL
28. Jake Delhomme, CLE
29. Josh Freeman, TB
30. Vince Young, TEN
31. Kyle Orton, DEN
32. Trent Edwards, BUF

These guys aren't guaranteed to even play week 1, and none of them have any worthwhile receving targets. But Bradford has loads of potential; Delhomme has done it before; Freeman is fast; Young is fast too; Orton has a neck-beard; Edwards has ... umm... absolutely nothing.

Tier Ten: Backups who might play
33. Byron Leftwich, PIT
34. Tavaris Jackson, MIN
35. Charlie Whitehurst, SEA

36. Jimmy Claussen, CAR
37. Seneca Wallace, CLE
38. Kerry Collins, TEN
39. Michael Vick, PHI
40. Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF
41. Tim Tebow, DEN

Byron will start the first 4 games (maybe 6) for Pittsburgh, which might make him worth a shot just for week 3 against Tampa Bay; Tavaris will be worth a shot if Favre ends up staying retired; Whitehurst might be decent if he earns the job early in the season; Claussen has an outside shot of starting week 1 but won't be productive; Seneca can scramble really well and is a favorite of Browns' GM Mike Holmgren; Collins is capable of starting if Vince Young is incarcerated; Vick would be a fun fantasy guy to have if Kolb gets hurt; Fitzpatrick might earn the Buffalo job but that doesn't mean much; Tebow will probably lead several teammates to Christ, which has to count for something.

Some further thoughts on the QB Position

When drafting your QB, you want to pay careful attention to that team's schedule. When is the bye, when are the tough games, and when are the easy ones? A QB like Rodgers is an obvious advantage because he gets two games against Detroit; Brady gets two against Buffalo; Ryan gets two against Tampa, etc. For me, I like to find guys who play several easy games early in the season, to minimize the risk of injuries later in the season. A good fantasy playoffs schedule (weeks 15-16) is also advantageous.

There are only a few QBs who don't require you to draft a back-up. I like to grab one of those guys so I can save a spot on my roster for some RB or WR depth. But this year, I think Rivers and Manning are the only two. Brees would have been one if not for the Madden thing. Brady used to be one, but he was inconsistent last year. Rodgers gets sacked a little too much to make me feel safe. If you're not going to draft a back-up QB, you need a guy who won't get hurt AND will put up good stats against tough defenses. That's hard to come by. Rivers and Manning fit the bill. It's up to you if you think Rodgers, Brees and Brady also do.

When it comes to back-ups, you want to match the schedules up against each other before you pull the trigger. Say your first QB selected was Romo, and now it's round 10 or 11 and you're looking for a back-up. Do you grab the best QB available (say, Favre) or play the match-ups? Well, Romo's bye is week 4, so you can say no to Favre who also has a week 4 bye. The first thing I would do is look at the week 4 matchups. What if Kolb and Sanchez and Alex Smith are also available and you're trying to decide which one to take? Do you go with your gut and pick your favorite, or look and see who has the best week 4 matchup? I might take Sanchez just because he plays the Bills that week. And then I would look to see which of Romo's games I am most leary of - week 6 at Minnesota, week 10 at Giants, for example. Then look at Sanchez those weeks - he's got Denver and Cleveland. That's solid. Kolb has Washington and Atlanta those weeks, and Smith has the Rams and Raiders. So I'm torn between Smith and Sanchez. At that point I take whichever guy I like more. But that's just an example. There are other factors at work as well. The most important thing with back-up QBs is the bye.

But again, I don't want to take a back-up if I don't have to. It wastes a roster spot you could use in round 13 on a deep-flier, which last year could have meant Sidney Rice or Jamaal Charles.

As dumb as it sounds, I want a fantasy QB I can actually cheer for. I know fantasy is all about stats and ultimately about pride, but I'd rather lose my league than win it behind Cutler and Ochocinco. Your quarterback is the face of your team, the lockerroom leader, and the guy you'll be watching most closely every week. Don't draft someone you can't trust, and don't draft someone you hate. Take it from me, I spent two seasons ago cheering for McNabb and it made me sick.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Runningbacks, which should be much more interesting. Also stay tuned for the AFC Preview which is nearly 50% completed.


  1. So where would you draft Brees then? If he's still on the board in the 3rd round, and you don't have a QB, I assume you're taking him, right?

  2. yeah. and then trading him asap.