The NFL draft is in the books, which means rookie drafts and dynasty startups have taken over the fantasy world. Training Camp and the preseason are yet to come, but once the NFL draft is in the books, we have a pretty good idea of how each team’s starting lineup will look come September.
Without further ado, let’s kick this thing off with the ever-important quarterback position.
Smart owners should be aware of the unprecedented amount of depth at the quarterback position. That goes for both redraft and dynasty leagues.
Consider that Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Matthew Stafford will all be under the age of 26 when September 1 rolls around. You could make a case that all six are top-12 redraft options at the position, which really bodes well for the future at the position.
If you’re a savvy fantasy owner, noticing depth at a position is a major advantage. It allows you to focus on shallower positions earlier in your draft, waiting until later to attack the position in question. In 2013 start-up dynasty leagues, you should be waiting quite some time before selecting your first quarterback.
Note: Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2013, which will be near Week 1 of the upcoming season.
Robert Griffin III
Rodgers is almost in a class of his own at the position, but the new-found depth/youth movement at the position has brought his value back to earth a bit. He’ll be closing in on 30 when the 2013 season begins, which means he should have, at least, five or six more years of superstar production left in the tank. There’s no one else I’d rather have at the position…Newton’s 2012 season was one of two halves. Through eight weeks, a sophomore slump was in full effect with the Carolina offense averaging a pathetic 1.7 offensive touchdowns-per-game. The Panthers improved that mark to 3.1 the rest of the way, which, extrapolated over the entire season, would’ve ranked as the league’s third-highest mark. With Newton under center, Carolina has quietly had one of the league’s top offenses over the last two seasons. With improvements at the wide receiver position, it’s possible we haven’t yet seen Newton’s best work.
The Luck vs. RGIII debate rolls on. In one corner we have the pass-first quarterback in an improving offense who should make sophomore-season leaps with a more conservative approach. In the other corner, we have the read-option/scramble-heavy quarterback who already has an injury red flag attached to his name, but has proven to be the more-productive of the two on a per-play basis. Griffin has a ton of fantasy appeal, but I’m building my franchise around the guy taking fewer hits, especially since he arguably has the same amount of upside.
After breakout 2012 campaigns, Wilson and Kaepernick are locked in as top-10 dynasty quarterback options. After a slow start, Wilson had the Seattle offense among the league’s elite during the second half of the season. They averaged a remarkable 3.5 offensive scores-per-game from Week 8 on. Kaepernick didn’t take over as starter until mid-season, but was so good that the 49ers were confident in him enough to trade Alex Smith to the Chiefs. Both quarterbacks have added fantasy value thanks to the ability to put up yardage and touchdowns with their legs.
I almost feel like I’m too low on perennial fantasy studs Brees and Brady, but the emergence of the under-26 club in 2012 has me devaluing the older guys. Brees is 34, but signed an extension through 2016 last offseason. Brady’s recent extension takes him through 2017. Because they’re still elite redraft options and all but locked into a starting job for the next few seasons, they get the edge over the likes of Ryan and Stafford. Still, if I’m building my team for the long-term, I’m going with players who will rival them in 2012 and have a longer shelf life (Luck, Wilson, Griffin).
After a massively-productive start to the 2012 season, Ryan finally had the looks of an elite fantasy quarterback. He tailed off as the year progressed, however, sliding back in as a better real-life quarterback than he is fantasy asset. Still, with Julio Jones and Roddy White catching his passes in the Atlanta’s new, pass-first scheme, Ryan remains locked in as decent QB1 option…One year after entering the “elite” conversation in fantasy circles, Stafford took a big step back in 2012. Inconsistent accuracy and questionable decision-making have analysts wondering if Detroit’s pass-heavy offense and Calvin Johnson are making an average quarterback look like a good one. Regardless, Johnson isn’t going anywhere, Stafford will only be 25-years-old, and there’s no sign Detroit is moving away from the pass.
Roethlisberger hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2008. Although that’s certainly a concern, the fact remains that he consistently puts up QB1 production when healthy. In fact, he finished the 2012 season as the No. 21 scoring quarterback, but was No. 11 in fantasy points-per-game…After finishing 2011 as fantasy’s No. 6 quarterback, Manning regressed to No. 17 during a disappointing 2012 season. A healthy Hakeem Nicks and emerging Rueben Randle will help his rebound chances in 2013, but little brother is closing in on 33 years-old. He’s no more than a borderline QB1 in 12-team leagues.
I have Romo ranked as the top backup quarterback in your standard 12-team leagues, but he’s right there with Roethlisberger and Manning. Between the three, Romo is usually the guy you’d want for one game, but he’s also the oldest. He did just receive a long-term contract extension, but it’s not crazy to think Dallas could begin grooming a long-term replacement for Romo in the next year or two…The older Manning brother likely has another year or two left in the tank, but considering his age and recent health issues, there’s reason to be concerned if he’s your top quarterback option. Start him confidently in 2012, but make sure you have a capable backup.
Tannehill was better on tape than in the boxscore during his rookie season. It certainly didn’t help that he had one of the worst set of pass-catchers in the league, and that the team scored an unsustainably high number of their touchdowns on the ground. To me, Tannehill is the most-intriguing, young player on the 12-team-league QB2 list. He makes for a borderline starter in deeper formats…Flacco may have peaked during the Ravens’ 2012 playoff run, but he makes the list as a decent QB2 option for a variety of reasons. He’s on a great team, is still only 28-years-old, and just landed a long-term commitment from his team. He doesn’t have the ceiling of a Ryan Tannehill or Michael Vick, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a solid player over a lottery ticket for bye weeks and short-term injuries.
Bradford had a promising rookie season in 2010 before suffering through an injury-plagued 2011 campaign. The Rams’ front office gave him the ultimate vote of confidence by essentially trading Robert Griffin III for draft picks prior to what turned out to be a decent 2012 season for Bradford, especially later in the year. I think Bradford will top out as an average quarterback, but with what should be the best group of offensive weapons he’s had so far in his career, 2013 is finally a make-or-break year… Dalton isn’t overly exciting on paper, but he quietly finished as the No. 12 fantasy quarterback in 2012. In fact, at one point, the Bengals were a top-five team in offensive scoring. As long as A.J. Green is in the equation, 25 total touchdowns will be in reach for Dalton.
Outside of Brandon Marshall, Cutler didn’t have much to work with in terms of offensive weapons in 2012. The Bears finally exterminated what was left of the Mike Martz stank by adding Martellus Bennett this offseason, giving them their first strong pass-catching tight end since Greg Olsen. Add that to an emerging Alshon Jeffery and a new coaching regime under Marc Trestman, and we have some reason for optimism; there’s just not enough to put him in the QB1 conversation…A few years ago, I thought Rivers was one of the best quarterbacks in football. Whoops. He’s lost of a lot of his weapons due to free agency (which includes some GM incompetence) and injury over the past few seasons, but his overall effectiveness has certainly underwhelmed. He has QB1 upside, but at age 31, we’ve likely already seen his best work.
The first rookie selected in April’s draft, Manuel figures to take over as the Bills’ starting quarterback at some point over the next seven months. He’s a bit raw, and will be working in a new regime in Buffalo, but he has little competition for the job and the talent to make for a nice borderline QB1 within a year or two. He should be the top rookie quarterback drafted.
Traded to Kansas City, Alex Smith is locked in as the Chiefs’ 2013 starter. With Andy Reid in control of the offense, there will be no shortage of pass attempts. No longer protected by an elite defense and strong play-action offensive attack, 2013 will tell us if Smith really is a capable NFL starter. His ceiling figures to be a strong QB2 option…Freeman actually threw for 4,000 yards and finished as the No. 13 fantasy quarterback in 2012, but there are already doubts that he has a future as a starting quarterback at the NFL. Still just 25-years-old, there’s some upside here, but he’s not going to be an elite passer and his carries are progressively declining.
Geno Smith heads to New York where he’ll have a shot to play pretty early considering the team’s deficiencies at the quarterback position. Widely considered the top rookie talent at the position, there’s quite a bit of upside here, but the Jets’ underwhelming offense is setting him up for short-term failure. He’s a must-own in all dynasty formats, but don’t expect much from him in 2013…After a promising rookie season on a small sample of snaps, Locker was a popular 2012 breakout candidate. A handful of injuries and underwhelming production now have Tennessee’s 2011 first-round pick on the wrong side of a bust label. The Titans’ projected 2013 Week 1 starter, Locker has enough weapons and does enough with his legs to keep him in the QB2 conversation for now.
Vick is definitely a wild card, but with Chip Kelly in town, he has major upside during, at least, the upcoming season. His age (will be 33), declining play, and injury resume are concerns, but his high ceiling makes him well worth rostering…Schaub is closing in on age-32 and, although he’s signed through 2016, there are already rumblings that the team will (or should) be looking to upgrade at the position. Even if he sticks as the starter for a few more years, Houston has adopted an extremely run-heavy attack, capping Schaub’s ceiling.
Ponder has not lived up to expectations after being selected with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2011 draft. He’s the favorite for the Vikings’ Week 1 starting job in 2013, but, he’s not very good and his leash will be much shorter with Matt Cassel in town. Sell him if you can…Traded to the Raiders, Flynn will finally get his shot to prove his huge game in Week 17 of the 2011 season was no fluke. The supporting cast in Oakland is underwhelming, but Carson Palmer made for a decent QB2 last season thanks to plenty of second-half pass attempts. Flynn figures to top out as an average NFL quarterback, but we haven’t seen enough from him to completely write him off. He’s worth a flier.
With a new regime in Cleveland, Weeden is no longer on scholarship, especially after an underwhelming rookie season. He remains the favorite for the Week 1 starting job, but Jason Campbell will get every chance to win the gig. Already 29-years-old, there’s not much upside here.
Foles is the underdog in the competition with Michael Vick and, to a lesser extent, Matt Barkley, for the Eagles’ starting job. He showed enough in limited rookie-season action to warrant a stash in most leagues…It appears Mallett will spend another season backing up Tom Brady. Considered to have first-round talent prior to the 2011 draft, there’s a ton of long-term upside here…Gabbert’s sophomore-season completion percentage increase was the highest among all rookies over the last five years. Of course, part of that was a product of an awful rookie season performance. There’s still a small chance Gabbert pans out, but he has the looks of a bust.
Traded to the Cardinals, Palmer has some short-term value as a QB2. Of course, he’s nearing 34 and will be on a short leash if the team struggles out of the gate…Cousins is a must-own as Griffin’s primary backup in Washington. In fact, he may even have to start a few games early in the 2013 season…Barkley figures to sit behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles this season, but the massive potential of the Chip Kelly offense makes him well-worth a roster stash…Kolb is one of the league’s most injury prone players, but was strong in limited action during the 2012 season. He’s the odds-on favorite to start for Buffalo in Week 1, but it won’t be long before rookie E.J. Manuel takes over.
If Matt Flynn doesn’t pan out, Wilson and Pryor figure to each get a look. Wilson is the better long-term stash…Yates isn’t pushing Schaub just yet in Houston, but the leash is getting shorter on the aging veteran…The Bucs don’t seem interested in extending Josh Freeman’s contact past 2013, which means Glennon could get a look as the team’s long-term quarterback as early as November…Sanchez could be the Jets’ Week 1 starter, but he’s not better than David Garrard or rookie Geno Smith…Campbell is nearing 32, but has a good chance to start some games for Cleveland this season, providing him with some short-term value.
Daniel will carry the clipboard in Kansas City and would get the first shot at the job if Alex Smith doesn’t pan out…Peyton Manning’s primary backup in Denver, Osweiler, a 2012 second-round pick, is a must-stash in all dynasty formats…Pryor will need Matt Flynn to fail, and has to beat out rookie Tyler Wilson, in order to even find reps in the Raiders’ porous offense…Jones won’t play much in the short-term, but he’ll be developed as a potential long-term Ben Roethlisberger replacement, or a trade chip… With Flacco extended for six years, Taylor is locked in as a backup for at least the next two seasons