Fantasy Football Tiers: Quarterbacks
Tier 5 - Eli Manning
- The good, touchdown-throwing Eli Manning is worthy of QB1 status. The bad, inaccurate E. Manning is waiver-wire worthy and can make Kevin Kolb appear viable by comparison. The inconsistency keeps Manning out of the top-12, though owners in 14-team leagues shouldn't mope if they end up with the Giants passer. Besides, there is nothing better than those 1-3 games every season where the Giants fall behind by three scores early and Manning rallies them with rapid-fire scores.
Tier 6 - Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler
- The Bengals, Steelers and Bears are not shy about throwing the ball, but they trend away from shootouts (which limits their quarterback's numbers at times). Cincinnati helped Dalton by drafting Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, but the ginger passer could use a steadier WR2 option. Big Ben lost his top deep threat in Mike Wallace, but might have a running game this year to help balance the offense. Cutler's recent stats do not match his hype or talent, but a better offensive plus a better-rounded receiver corps should help. All make for a fine RG3 backup if the Redskins star isn't ready for the opener.
Tier 7- Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick
- The trick or treat category. Perhaps Tavon Austin and Jared Cook help Bradford finally reach his potential after three seasons of not. Joe Flacco has shown he's NFL elite, but fantasy stardom remains elusive. It has been a while since Palmer played at a Pro Bowl level - and a while since he's had a receiver like Larry Fitzgerald. Overshadowed by his fellow rookies last year, Tannehill should shorten that gap now that Miami gave him actual weapons, but by how much? Once a QB1 lock, Rivers might reverse course under a new head coach, while Freeman simply must avoid the same downhill path he took ending last season. The Texans may have finally fixed their receiver spot opposite Andre Johnson, but perhaps after Schaub's best days. Lastly, good luck projecting what happens with Vick in Philly. Deep leagues can find QBBC options here. Actually, all can find help, or not.
Tier 8 (vets) - Alex Smith, Brandon Weeden, Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert
- Even as fantasy backups, this group is largely unappealing, though during bye weeks or when there are injuries, waiver wire beggars can't be choosers. Smith has playmaking options in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, and Andy Reid's teams usually put up solid numbers. Everyone loves the Browns' playmakers, so perhaps Weeden's stats will prove decent by default.
Tier 8 (youngsters) - Chad Henne, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Nick Foles, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith
- Another set of fantasy reserves, but this one offers greater upside and make for more interesting keeper options. Considering the stud QB1 options, owners in truly deep leagues are better off picking their QB2 from this lot than the pedestrian options one rung up. Locker has legitimate potential, but turning that into production remains elusive. Henne is Jacksonville's best quarterback whether he starts or not. Stock rises if he wins the job outright. And, yes, if compelled to draft a Jets QB, draft Geno Smith.
Tier 9 (vets) - Kevin Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jason Campbell, Shaun Hill, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel
- These likely backups have enough NFL experience to keep the chains moving if called upon, but there are also reasons they are backups. Kolb has the best chance to start initially unless Buffalo wants Manuel in regardless. Considering the Titans' speed at receiver, Fitzpatrick would be a sneaky bye week option if he plays.
Tier 9 (youngsters) - Kirk Cousins, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Drew Stanton, Terrelle Pryor, Tyler Wilson
- None enters the year as starters by design, but could end the campaign in that role if things go wrong elsewhere (especially Glennon, Barkley and Stanton).