Feel Free To Wait Before Selecting Your QB
In my recent two-round fantasy football mock draft, I discussed the seismic shift in philosophy regarding how quickly you should target a quarterback in your upcoming fantasy drafts, when compared to 2012. One year ago, this column consistently recommended that you draft Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees in the latter half of Round 1, and supplied a massive amount of statistical evidence to support that advice.
But the emergence of A. Luck, R. Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and RG3 (if healthy), combine with the resurgence of P. Manning to provide a larger number of highly productive options at the position this year. That makes it more sensible than ever for fantasy owners to exercise patience, and delay the selection of a signal caller until both the running back and wide receiver positions have been addressed on their rosters.
Because an abundant number of QBs will be launching the ball with great regularity, as their head coaches and offensive coordinators continue to rely heavily upon their collective teams' passing attacks. From 2000 through 2006, no more than nine QBs attempted 500 passes in any one season, and in 2005 and 2006, just three attained that number. Last season? A grand total of 18 signal callers launched 500 throws, with six QBs attempting at least 600. That has created a lengthy list of signal callers who will have opportunities to accumulate favorable passing stats, while delivering highly coveted fantasy points in the process.
Blend in the growing assembly of QBs who can adeptly gain yardage on the ground, and you are presented with a plethora of options at the position. Making it plausible to refrain from drafting your QB with the degree of haste that has existed in years past. Read more fantasy football rankings here.
1. Aaron Rodgers
There are countless reasons to feel confident in making him the first QB selected on draft day. He has now generated over 3,900 yards for five consecutive seasons, while averaging 34 touchdowns TDs with just nine INTs during that span. Rodgers has also amassed 18 rushing TDs, which enhances his value even further. Plus, he managed to attain these numbers without the benefit of an effective rushing attack. That should change as rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin force opponents to respect the ground game. Which will make the Packers’ offense even more dangerous, without depleting Rodgers’ numbers. Because he will still be asked to spearhead an unwavering aerial assault, and he will locate his collection of capable targets with great efficiency once again.
2. Drew Brees
After leading the NFL with 43 TDs and 5,177 yards last season, he has now surpassed 4,300 yards in each of the past seven years, while averaging 38 scoring passes during the last five. The concern from here is that those averages will be tough to replicate, due to the massive push by his NFC South rivals to fortify their defenses. Particularly in Tampa Bay, where the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldston should prohibit Brees from duplicating the eight TDs and 684 yards that he generated against the Buccaneers last season. His yardage and TD totals should still be sufficient to warrant a late second round selection, after Rodgers has departed your draft board.
3. Peyton Manning
He regained his spot among the elite in 2012, by delivering the 12th 4,000-yard season of his career, while finishing third among all QBs with 37 TDs. He also produced at least three scoring passes in nine different contests, yet limited his INT total to 11. His capabilities as a leader and game tactician remain extremely sharp, and he remains one of the games most effective play callers. Plus, he will have the luxury of possessing Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker among his many options. Even though he will be 37 by next fall, this is not the year to concern yourself with any potential drop-off in production. If you covet his services for your fantasy team, it is wise to target him in Round 3.
4. Tom Brady
He will be 36 years old when his 14th NFL season begins. And if you are searching vigorously for signs that his production could decline this year, four of his last five regular season opponents did limit him to less than 300 yards in 2012. However, he did generate the second highest yardage total of his career last season (4.827), which was fourth best among all QBs. He also assembled the fourth most TD passes (34), marking the third consecutive year in which has thrown 30+. While an overzealous owner might snatch him in Round 2, you should target Brady in the following round. He will deliver outstanding numbers if you get him, but you will still have many enticing options if you don’t.
5. Cam Newton
He produced unimpressive numbers during the first 11 games last season. But then he exploded for 12 TDs, and 1,309 total yards in his next four contests, which served as a reminder that his prolific rookie season was far from an aberration. His total of 40 scoring throws over the past two seasons is certainly unimposing. However, that in itself does not provide the entire story regarding his value. He has also rushed for over 700 yards and 22 TDs during that time, and remains fully capable of stockpiling fantasy points on the ground again this year. He would rank higher if the Panthers possessed a more dangerous array of receivers beyond Steve Smith. But he is still worthy of selection in the third round of your drafts.
6. Matt Ryan
Ryan prospered in OC Dirk Koetter’s high octane attack last season, and generated the best numbers of his five-year career. He established a new career high with 32 TD passes, which was the fifth most among all QBs. He also achieved a new career best with 4,719 yards, which was also the NFL’s fifth highest total. He will have the luxury of utilizing the dynamic Julio Jones, the always proficient Roddy White, and the perpetually reliable Tony Gonzalez, which will permit him to build excellent numbers once again. Plus, the presence of Steven Jackson should compel opposing defenses to regard the rushing threat more seriously, and expand Ryan’s passing lanes. Fantasy owners will be making a wise investment by snatching him in Round 4.
Once Kaepernick ascended into the starting role last November, he elevated the entire San Francisco offense to new levels of explosiveness and success. All 10 of his regular season TD passes occurred from Weeks 11-17, and only three of his 192 attempts during that span were intercepted. He was far more adept at connecting on deep throws than predecessor Alex Smith, which helped Michael Crabtree finally develop into a dangerous WR1. Kaepernick ‘s exceptional mobility also enabled him to bolt for 415 yards on 63 attempts (6.6 YPC), while resulted in five additional TDs. Crabtree's injury creates a challenge, but Kaepernick now has the ultra-reliable Anquan Boldin as an option, and Vernon Davis can still be employed extensively. Kaepernick remains an outstanding value as a fourth round selection.
8. Andrew Luck
It is unnecessary to become overly concerned with Luck’s 18 INTs in 2012. Instead, his achievements should be fully appreciated, because he was asked to carry Indy’s attack to a larger extent than fellow rookies Wilson and RG3. He did not have the benefit of a strong rushing attack, as the Colts ranked just 22nd, and were led by Vick Ballard’s 814 yards. Conversely, the Redskins and Seahawks both finished within the top three of that category, and were paced by Alfred Morris (1,613 yards) and Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards). As a result, Luck ultimately launched 627 passes, which was the NFL’s fifth highest total. However, that did enable him finish seventh among all QB with 4,374 yards. While he still lacks an exceptional RB, the Colts’ offensive line should be better. Making Luck a viable option in Round 6.
9. Russell Wilson
To say that Wilson started slowly as a rookie is putting it mildly. Not only did he manufacture just five TDs and toss six INTs in his first five contests, but he averaged only 16 YPG on the ground through Week 8. But his capacity to be a duel threat passer and rusher was unleashed from that point forward, as the Seahawk offense evolved from a conservative game plan, toward one that allowed Wilson more latitude to be a playmaker. He amassed 18 TD passes in his final nine contests, and ran for 45 YPG in his last eight. His subsequent performance in the postseason further solidified his legitimacy as a QB1, who should still be available for selection in the sixth round.
10. Matthew Stafford
It appeared that Stafford had ascended into a slot among the NFL’s elite, after he became one of just three QBs to produce at least 40 TD passes and exceed 5,000 yards in 2011. But 18 other signal callers produced more scoring passes last season, as Stafford’s total dwindled to 20. Worse, his 17 INTs were the NFL’s fifth highest total. The good news is that his 4,967 passing yards were surpassed only by Brees, and Stafford also led the NFL with 727 attempts. 205 of those were launched toward Calvin Johnson, and the tandem should accrue sizable numbers once again. The potential for Reggie Bush to accumulate valuable yardage after his receptions will also propel Stafford’s production upward. Unfortunately, his other receiving options remain familiar and underwhelming. Making it difficult to envision Stafford generating overall numbers that would place him into a loftier spot among his peers.