From the Gut Part 1 (QBs)
By David Dodds
August 8th, 2011

As I comb through mounds and mounds of data to help me produce projections for the website, I still think back to some of my best fantasy rosters when I went in with a short list of guys I wanted to nab.

Sometimes you just have to follow your gut.

Below is a list of players, strategies and just random thoughts that are buzzing in my head. Part 1 of this series looks at the quarterback position.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots - It's hard not to be excited about what Brady might do this season with a lot better supporting cast. Last year, Tom was dealing with these things:

  • The team releasing Randy Moss in the preseason
  • Wes Welker not 100% recovered from his ACL surgery
  • Integrating two rookie TEs into the offense
  • Rotating different RBs all season long
  • Despite all of these issues, Brady managed to put up arguably his 2nd best season ever throwing for 3,900 yards and 36 TDs (against just 4 interceptions). The fact that he accomplished these numbers on just 492 pass attempts makes it even more impresive. And as good as 2010 was for the Patriots and Brady, it's hard not to think the team is even better situated to succeed in 2011. TEs Gronkowski and Hernandez caused huge mismatches last season so expect the team to continue to use them often. Welker should be 100% recovered and able to gain yards on the slants at ease like he did before the injury. The addition of WR Chad Ochocinco should stretch the field like Moss did in 2007. Deion Branch showed last year he still has something left. My gut tells me that this team's run/pass ratio is going to slant much more to the pass in 2011. The results might be off the charts.

    Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Although Drew is always a very safe bet at QB, I think this could be the year his stats take a small step backwards. And this has everything to do with the addition of RB Mark Ingram. I just don't see the New Orleans Saints needing to pass the ball 650 times in 2011. With a more balanced offense, Drew just might not end up with the pass attempts to justify his lofty draft position this year.

    Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - His stock is sliding because of the injury, but we are probably all over-thinking things. He has never missed a regular season game. Like Favre before him, you can always count on Manning playing through the nicks and bruises. I doubt this is an exception. I like Peyton's weapons this season, but only if he uses Reggie Wayne mostly as a decoy. In my opinion Wayne looks like a fraction of the player he was just a few years ago and it will be interesting if opposing defenses continue to double him for much longer. The emergence of Austin Collie (and to a lesser extent Pierre Garcon) should help move the chains though. Getting Dallas Clark back will also have this offense clicking on all cyllinders. If Peyton slides on significantly on draft day, grab him with confidence.

    Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers - He has been the best at the position for awhile now and I expect similar results in 2011. The team is stacked at WR and TE so expect to see a lot of passes again this season. About the only negative I can think of about his situation in 2011, is that none of their players had organized workouts during the lockout. That coupled with every team trying to prove something against the champions could make things a lot tougher for the Green Bay passing game. Who are we kidding? This team is stacked at the key positions and Rodgers will continue to execute at will. But at the cost of a first round fantasy pick, the price is likely too high for my tastes.

    Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - What a year. And for those that got him off of the waiver wire, you likely won your league. He made that much of a difference in 2010. Going into this year though I see a few key differences to this team. The biggest looks to be with the Philadelphia defense. They got their man Nnamdi Asomugha which significantly improves their pass defense. Opposing teams are likely going to try and RUN THE BALL a lot against this Eagles defense (that looks average up the middle). This strategy accomplishes two things. It chews up valuable clock while keeping Vick off of the field.

    At Vick's price (late first / early 2nd round) I think there is little to no upside. There will likely be games where he is the best player in football, but I suspect we will see more normal production on weeks where the other team is successful in controlling the clock.

    Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - What's not to like? He has played in all 16 games the last five years. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards each of the last three seasons. Last year he put 4,710 yards and 30 TDs despite playing with probbaly the worst receivers he has ever had. With Vincent Jackson back, the yards and TDs should come easier. He remains undervalued in most all draft formats.

    Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - I think Romo represents one of the better fantasy bargains at QB this season. It's a weird dynamic, but I think the team losing both WR Roy Williams and RB Marion Barber will actually improve the offense. Roy Williams defined inconsistency. He dropped a lot of passes and ran wrong routes. Romo and him were rarely on the same page. But because Roy Williams had been given a lot of money, it seemed like the team was trying to force him into having a bigger role. The same could be said for Marion Barber, whose skill set was rapidly disintegrating. More talented options like Felix Jones and Tashard Choice existed, but the team seemed unwillingly to move beyond Marion Barber and Roy Williams.

    The Cowboys have some studs at the skill positions. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are as strong as it gets for a pair of wideouts. Both have the ability for huge yards after the catch. Witten can carve up the middle vacated by the speedy wideouts. He has a great chance to lead all TEs in catches this season. Additionally RBs Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray should thrive in the open attack system that new HC Jason Garrett is expected to deploy. I have seen Romo slide into the sixth round of PPR drafts. That just feels way too cheap to be correct.

    Matt Schaub - With the breakout of Arian Foster, Matt saw his TDs and passing yards per attempt take a dip in 2010. He did manage to complete a full season for the second year in a row. This is note-worthy in my opinion because Schaub plays the game without fear. More than just about any other QB that plays in the NFL, Matt will stay in the pocket and deliver that strike even under an intense rush. It's led to some bone-crushing hits on his frame and is the primary reason I usually avoid him in my drafts. With a better rushing attack (and to a lesser extent an improved defense), I suspect the days of 570-580 pass attempts could be in the rear-view mirror.

    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers have a cakewalk of an early schedule that will definitely benefit their passing game. Last year at this time, Ben was sitting out 4 games and it took awhile to get back into playing sharply after he returned. His last 8 games tell the story though of why I love Ben Roethlisberger in 2011. In those last 8 regular season games, Ben amassed 2,283 passing yards against 11 TDs and just 2 interceptions. He also managed 158 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs during that span. Mike Wallace has emerged as a bonafide superstar WR and guys like Hines Ward, Emmanual Sanders, and Heath Miller should give Ben the targets he needs to start as strong as he finished last year.

    Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I didn't see his success coming last year, but it's hard to argue over what he was able to accomplish on this team. They play team football in Tampa Bay and Freeman looks like a player that is way below most everyone's radar. Mike Williams is a future star in this league and Freeman learned early to lean on him often. Pencil Freeman in as a great candidate for your Quarterback by Committee if he slides farther than normal in your draft.

    Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - He has quickly developed into one of the best all-around QBs. The addition of a true WR2 in Julio Jones should only improve on his success rate to move the chains for the Falcons. But the hype for Ryan since that addition is a bit much for my liking. The Falcons will run a balanced attack using Turner, Snelling and rookie Jacquizz Rogers as often as they throw the ball. Matt will no doubt be extremely efficient with his passing, but he won't have the pass attempts of the top guys like Manning or Brady. I doubt Matt Ryan makes it on any of my rosters this year.

    Eli Manning - He is what I term a plodder. He won't have many games where he is a top 3 QB of the week. He also won't have many horrible games. He will play the full season (has played in all of the games the last 6 seasons) and when it's all said and done, he will finish in the top 10-13 players. I liked his weapons a bit better with a healthy Steve Smith, but I am not sure it will matter.

    Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions - Don't look know, but this team is stacked on offense. And they look to have a mean pass rush on defense too. That's not something you usually can say about the Lions. Stafford has had trouble staying upright, but he has a decent offensive line and my gut tells me this is the year where it all comes together for this team. It's all about upside here and Stafford has the potential to be a top 5 quarterback if everything fell right. Don't be afraid to wait on QB again this year while having Stafford be part of your Quarterback by Committee (QBBC).

    Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - I love the offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but I am left underwhelmed what this team has done in free agency. WR2 looks like a massive hole (counting on rookie production out of the gate) and the team was also slow to get a RB to complement Ray Rice's skill set. I love Rice this year a lot as I see Flacco using that dump off frequently since TE Todd Heap departed as well. But throwing all day to your RB has underwhelming written all over it. In my opinion, too many other QBs with significantly higher upside exist than to waste a pick with Flacco this year.

    Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - I love how Mike Martz is now telling us that Devin Hester and Roy Williams are the starters on this team. But no matter the head games the coach will play this offseason, this team finally looks more like the successful Martz teams of the past. He traded Greg Olsen for a pitcher of beer and a mule ride and went and got his blocking TEs for the WRs to run deeper routes. Martz has been shown to pass, pass, and then pass some more while setting up the passing game. And with all-purpose RB Matt Forte able to catch the ball well out of the backfield, I suspect we will see stretches in 2011 where this team does indeed stop trying to run the ball. Drafting Jay Cutler is all about opportunity. He is as likely as just about any other QB to lead the league in pass attempts. He won't do as much with the attempts as guys like Brady, Brees, Rogers or Manning, but if you get to throw it 600+ times you have the opportunity for some huge fantasy numbers.

    Mark Sanchez, New York Jets - I like what this team is continuing to do in the passing game. If Burress is even 80% of what he was, this team should be able to stretch defenses. Santonio Holmes should be excellent this season after being forced to sit out the first weeks last year. Mason and Keller (and even Tomlinson out of the backfield) are the perfect weapons over the middle especially with an offensive line that can road-grade most teams playing vanilla defenses. This isn't a sexy pick in your fantasy draft, but Mark has no competition and his weapons look to be an improvement this season over last. He is a player that took a decent step forward last year. Could this be the year it all comes together?

    Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams - I like Bradford, but do not like all the craziness that exists at wide receiver on the Rams right now. Can anyone even name the starting WRs for this team? He is being drafted at too much of a premium for so much turmoil in my opinion. No one is doubting that Bradford could be great someday. I am doubtful though that this greatness starts this year.

    Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs - I am not sold at all that this guy is very good. He did manage three huge games (469 yards and 4 TDs against Denver; another 4 TDs against the Seahawks; and 314 yards and 3 TDs against the Titans). But he also had four games where he scored 0 TDs. He also had ten games where he did not even have 200 yards passing. He is the poster boy for inconsistency to me. Moments of brilliance followed by horrible games. Let someone else have this guy on their roster. He is not worth the headache unless you play in best-ball leagues.

    Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals - From a pure football point of view, it's hard not to think the Cardinals massively overpaid to get Kolb this offseason. But based on the energy he has know brought to the Cardinals and the glowing reports coming out of training camp, I think this is going to be a very successful trade. The Cardinals have shown repeatedly that they can't run the football effectively so I think this is a situation where Kolb is massively under-valued in drafts right now. Larry Fitzgerald alone will likely catch 100 balls and the emergence of Andre Roberts allowed the team to let Steve Breaston go in free agency.

    Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks - Make no mistake about it. The Seahawks had a plan in free agency and they executed it. They wanted Sidney Rice and had him on their roster about as fast as possible. Then they brought over teammate Jackson and instead of having him compete against an underwhelming Charlie Whitehurst, they opted to announce Tarvaris as their week 1 starter. And as "ugly" as Tarvaris' game has looked in the past, he has an arsenal of weapons on this Seahawks team. The addition of Zach Miller in free agency should give the inexperienced QB an additional safety valve he needs to succeed. At the point where you can draft Jackson, he is an easy pick. You will know immediately if this is successful or not. My gut tells me he is a lot better than what people are expecting. One needs to look no further than how HC Pete Carroll was able to make Matt Leinart look good to know this could be successful.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills - He actually put up decent numbers last season, but was still running for his life behind that awful offensive line. And guess what...that OL is still a mess. Let someone else take this guy while his stock is high. I can't remember the last time a Buffalo QB ever logged all 16 games and I doubt this is that year either.

    Donovan McNabb, Minnesota Vikings - He was handed the keys in Washington, but was benched in favor of Rex Grossman last year. That says it all. He was said to not want to do film work and just wanted to sling the ball "playground style". That might have worked in the past, but I suspect with these weak receivers (Harvin has skills, but WR2 is a mess), I think this will be more of the train wreck we saw last year.

    Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - He is an adequate QB and clearly the best the Broncos have. But there is not a chance he will finish the year as the team's starter. The Broncos are going to want to see what they have with Tim Tebow at some point this year making this selection pretty silly for your fantasy team.

    Washington QBs Beck/Grossman - Uggh. I have no idea what Mike Shanahan is doing over there. When you have an owner who is willing to buy the players you need and this is what you roll out at QB, it's going to be a long season. I suspect both get their opportunities this year, before Mike Shanahan ends up with the same opinion everyone else already has...that these guys are awful.

    Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles - This is probably as good a landing spot as could be expected. I remain a big critic regarding his film study, emotional state, and his perceived willingness to become a better football player. If Vick goes down, he is worth a shot but I suspect this won't be a Cinderella story in the making.

    Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos - Yes, Orton is better than him. Yes, Tebow's mechanics are far from correct. But when the losses start to mount, this kid is going to get his shot. He has the "it" factor and I am not betting against him. It might be ugly, but Tebow knows how to win. I suspect that will happen in the NFL too. He's probably not worth drafting (except in really deep leagues) right now, but he could be a great waiver play when it becomes obvious that Denver can't beat anyone. The guy was a beast in fantasy in the three games he logged as a starter in 2010. Don't be caught sleeping this time around.

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