Fantasy Football Tiers: Quarterbacks
Tier-ing up over fantasy quarterbacks
Based on the fantasy football calendar, it is now time to get in touch with my feelings, those that involve drafting one player over another, that is. Actually, I'm not much for rankings. As the title of this piece indicates, I'm more of a tier guy.
We can quibble about Tom Brady v. Drew Brees (Brady), Tony Romo v. Matt Ryan (Ryan*), Griffin III v. Luck (RGIII) and so on, but in some of those cases we're talking eye of the beholder type differences. As Kramer once noted on Seinfeld, it's all about levels.
Just because, as the FFToolbox rankings currently indicate, Jay Cutler is one spot ahead of Andy Dalton does not mean the two are of comparable value. Brady vs. Brees, yes. An aggressive Cutler vs. a play it closer to the vest Dalton, no. Simply taking the next name on a list, especially when viewing the entire draft board, is not always smart business.
As Mike Tyson once famously said upon hearing before a fight that his opponent had a plan to beat him, Tyson brashly countered that, "everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the mouth." The fantasy football equivalent is stating, as many do, bumper sticker claims of "waiting on QB" or "drafting best available" yet not realizing when adaptability is called for. The best way to put all your strategic components together is tiers.
Unlike Kramer, I actually completed my quarterback levels, err, tiers with all six plus a bonus rainy day grouping listed below. The specific order of each player within said tier is indeed my personal – and current – preference, but that's certainly not the point of this exercise. Understanding when you can bob and weave and when you have to jab, jab, jab with a needed selection is…
Tier #1 – Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees
No matter their draft spot, nobody complains about having any of these gunslingers on their roster. Rodgers is my number one number one, but the Golden Boy will go first in some drafts. I am more concerned about the Saints' wide receiver depth than about Sean Payton's absence affecting Brees. To clarify, my level of concern comes right below fearing the sun will not come up tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar, auction or otherwise, on this trio – even in first round currency.
Tier #2 – Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford
Both are sexy enough as fantasy options to turn the top group a quintet instead of a threesome without you feeling dirty about – though there is a little something something about each that leaves them a step behind. Newton's ground and pound capabilities are manimal-ish, but counting on 14 rushing scores again might be a stretch. In addition, his second and third options have sleeper appeal, but there is nothing concrete about them. Stafford showed what he could do staying healthy for a season. Now he needs steadier production from non-Calvin Johnson weapons plus at least a counterpunching running attack for ultimate elite status.
Tier #3 – Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan , Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning
If you're one of those "waiting on a QB" types, here's your group. Vick offers the greatest upside and risk while Big Ben clocks in with the best value since most rankings slot the Steelers' passer at the back of this pack. Romo's value dips if Dez Bryant misses significant time, Rivers' stock could rise if the Chargers receivers show better than expected in camp and Ryan might actually generate stats throwing to a running back this year. As for the Mannings, I know at least one of them can take a hit. Until the same can be said of Peyton, Eli's the only one for me.
Tier #4 – Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III, Matt Schaub
The low-end QB1/QB2 market dries up dramatically after these three. Cutler's jerky vibe can be tough to root for, but he played rather well last season and finally, finally has a legitimate WR in his former Broncos' buddy Brandon Marshall. Not ready to declare RGIII another Newton, but his legs make his fantasy floor higher than most and the Redskins receivers are better than projected. His presence speaks more to his dynamic potential than purely 2012 production. Schaub's proven, but is another Andre Johnson injury away from sliding.
Tier #5 – Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer
For a game or two, fine, but do not count on these options as more than QBBC types, if that. If you drafted anyone from the top two tiers, might as well shoot for the moon with potential studs Freeman, Luck, Bradford and Locker (even if the latter opens the season as the Titans backup). Target Flacco if you want a true platoon play with the tier 4 options (though he shares the same bye week as Schaub) or Peyton Manning. Even though I was wrong last year, I'm still not buying Dalton as a fantasy riser Palmer and Fitzpatrick are boom and bust types depending on the week, quarter, drive or snap. Good luck guessing.
Tier 6 – Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Kolb, Tim Tebow, Matt Moore, David Garrard
This group offers owners the opportunity to be scared senseless if needed for more than a bye week flier and does so with limited potential! The Chiefs are a sneaky team this season and the AFC West appears weak, so Cassel has some intrigue (though the running game should dominate). If (or when) Tebow takes over on bended knee, he moves up a tier. Not sure Flynn, Weeden, Kolb or Moore/Garrard have enough around them for fantasy success even if they thrive on the NFL level.
Scout tier – Chad Henne, Ryan Tannehill, Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, Russell Wilson, Brian Hoyer, Shaun Hill, Vince Young
Should any of these players enter the starting lineup, don't be shy about adding them on your roster in deep leagues. Even though Henne flamed out in Miami, he may be the best quarterback in Jacksonville. Both Campbell and Orton have produced in previous stops while Hill has kept the scoreboard humming when thrust into service for the Lions. Rookies Tannehill and Wilson likely offer more keeper than 2012 value.