By: Joe Bond
Last year in fantasy football quarterbacks were the hot commodity, with three going in the first round on average. This was because the top 5 quarterbacks were so far away scored the most points, and after them you weren’t really sure what you were getting. Those top 5 being Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford. That thought process has changed dramatically this season with the emergence of RGIII, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck. And don’t forget about Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan and you can now rely on, and build your team around, mid-level quarterbacks such as Tony Romo, who you can get in the 7th round on average this year. Last year I was one of those owners who went early for a quarterback, getting Drew Brees in the first round of both my drafts. This year you can wait and will want to wait, with the lack of stud running backs available. We’ll talk about running backs another time, for now lets get to the QB preview..
1. Can the four young QBs have continued success this season?
The young QBs in question are RGIII, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck. I realize there were other young QBs last season, but these were the four that were worth owning at any point last season. I’ll start with RGIII and say that if he is fully healthy this season, and I think he will be, I believe he has the best chance to repeat the year he had. One reason being is the team around him has barely changed, due to the salary cap penalty, so there is nothing new he really has to learn. Another reason is he should have Pierre Garcon healthy to start the season, hopefully all season, and we saw in the second half last season just how good those two can be together. The running is obviously a concern, but as my own physical therapist told me, this year RGIII should be fine after what he has heard from reports about his knee. Now years 2-4 after the surgery will tell more about how his knee will hold up long-term.
The rest of these guys I just can’t really decide what they will do and all for different reasons. Last season Andrew Luck passed for a lot of yards and touchdowns, but also threw a lot of interceptions. He lost his offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was replaced by Luck’s college OC Pep Hamilton. This is both good and bad. Good because he runs the west coast system and that will likely cause Luck to decrease his interceptions and increase his completion percentage, but bad because he won’t throw downfield as much. It might all balance out, but something tells me he won’t be as good this season. Russell Wilson was very mediocre in the first half of the season, for fantasy purposes, posting double digit points only four times. In the second half he turned things around and had double digit games in all but one. In fact he scored above 20 points in four games during the second half, solidifying himself as a fantasy starter. With the addition of Percy Harvin, the passing attack should open up for Seattle, so I could see him having a better year, but part of me is worried that the run first offense will hold him back just enough to push him over to QB2 status most of the season. Lastly we get to Colin Kaepernick. Wow, what a statement he made last season. Since coming in for the injured Alex Smith during the week 10 game, he scored double digit fantasy points each week, including the week 10 game. Oh, and lets not forget he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. What worries me is the lack of experience and the fact that now teams will have a full offseason to gather tape and prepare for him. Another worry is he lost his best receiver Michael Crabtree for a good chunk of the season. I think Kaepernick will be good, but just don’t expect to always get the results from the end of last season.
2. Will any rookie QB be fantasy relevant this year?
The only two rookies that are likely to see notable playing time this season are E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith. Out of the two, I think Smith gets to the field first, possibly even to start the season. Even if he doesn’t come out of camp as the starter, the Jets are likely to struggle early and won’t hesitate to pull Mark Sanchez in favor of Smith. Do I think he will be worth owning? No. The Jets really have nobody on offense for him to throw to, and a lackluster running game. And for those of you who think Smith is a runner and will make up for it that way, think again. He ran for only 342 yards in his four years at West Virginia.
E.J. Manuel will likely not start the season for the Bills, despite being drafted in the first round. My guess is the Bills will wait for the season to start slipping away and then give the young guy a chance. I do like the team around him, especially with C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson, but I don’t really like Manuel as a QB so I don’t think he will be worth owning at any point this season.
Can the “old men” keep up their elite level of play?
The “old men” I’m referring to are Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Drew Brees seems to be a no-brainer here and is easily ranked second in my rankings as with many others. Brees once again will spread the ball around to his many receivers, tight end Jimmy Graham, and his multiple pass catching running backs, led by Darren Sproles. Yes Brees threw a lot of interceptions last season, but that was because he was having to force throws to try and catch up in games. He still finished as the top fantasy QB last season, so you should have no worries about him.
Manning is my third ranked quarterback this season, and up until a few days ago I had no worries about him. He showed last year that he had overcome the neck surgeries on his way to a fantastic season with the Broncos. Now add Wes Welker to his receiving corps of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and I thought he was primed to have close to a career year. Now there are concerns of him not being able to grip the football completely, mix that with the decreasing arm strength he showed at the end of last season and I’m a tad worried. I will still draft him as the number three quarterback, but would not at all be surprised if he doesn’t finish the year there.
Then we get to Tom Brady, the guy has been a machine for his entire career. This year however, I’m just not sure who he is going to throw the ball to. If Rob Gronkowski isn’t ready to play week one, he would have lost his top four pass catchers from last season: Gronk, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez. Yes they added Danny Amendola, who when healthy is a very good option, but that is the key “when healthy”. Brady has proven he can have a good season with less than ideal talent on the field with him, but I think even this is going to be tough for him. Draft him in the top ten for quarterbacks, because its Tom Brady, but I don’t think he will be the Tom Brady we’ve all been used.
Eli Manning - Does anybody remember 2011, when Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were both healthy all season long? I do, 4,933 yards and 29 TDs later, he finished as the 7th best fantasy quarterback. Now I wouldn’t take him in drafts before round nine, but if I got one of the last starting fantasy quarterbacks on the board, Wilson, Kaepernick, etc. I would consider taking Eli around there as a viable backup. Because if he can have both of his guys healthy all year, along with a speedy David Wilson coming out of the backfield, Eli could be top ten easily again.
Ryan Tannehill - Look, Tannehill isn’t going to finish the in the top ten of QBs, but I could see him being a pretty good backup on fantasy teams. Especially for those weeks where your starter is injured or on their bye week. The dolphins receiving corps has gotten a huge upgrade with the addition of Mike Wallace. It allows Brian Hartline to move into the second WR spot, which is where he belongs. Dustin Keller is also an upgrade them at TE. The loss of Reggie Bush hurts the offense, but Lamar Miller should be able to handle the load just fine. With all of that talent surrounding Tannehill, I could see him being a top 15 fantasy QB by the end of the season, and definitely worthy of some spot starts.
Colin Kaepernick - see above comments
Michael Vick - I know some people are going to love Vick in the new fast paced Chip Kelly offense, but I don’t and here is why. One, Kelly’s style of offense is very run heavy. This does not bode well for Vick, even though some of the runs are designed for the quarterback, or for them to have the option to run. Vick has been very injury prone and if he runs as often as I think this offense will ask him to, then there is no doubt in my mind he misses a few games this year. I actually think the Eagles will come out of the gate and surprise some teams with the fact-paced offense, and put up some staggering offensive numbers. But teams will adjust and eventually Vick will take that one hit that will knock him out for a few games.
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