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Undervalued QBs

Read the introduction to this series if you haven't yet.

Matt Ryan - ATL ADP: 45 overall, QB 8 7 votes

Mike Brown - Ryan has finished as the number eight quarterback in fantasy in each of the last two seasons. He has steadily improved his stat line over his career, and it looks like everything is about to really come together for him in 2012. For years, the Falcons have been about ball control and a smash-mouth rushing game featuring Michael Turner out of the backfield. As we approach this season, Turner is still in town but with very loud whispers that he'll have a very reduced role in 2012. In fact, head coach Mike Smith has gone on record as saying how important he feels it is for teams to be able to really excel at moving the football through the air in today's NFL. That means more pass attempts for Ryan. Sprinkle in some of the best skill talent at the receiver spots (particulary a vastly improved Julio Jones), and Ryan could make a run at a top-3 finish. Put it this way -- he's being taken as the 9th quarterback off the board, and there's very little chance he won't at LEAST live up to that.

Heath Cummings - There are very few quarterbacks that have as many weapons as Ryan heading into 2012. Roddy White and Julio Jones form one of the top wide receiver tandems in the league and Ryan has arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL in Tony Gonzalez. Michael Turner's career is probably on the downturn and with it the run first game plan of the Atlanta Falcons. I'd be thrilled to land Ryan in the 4th round, which is well before his average ADP at this point.

Jeff Haseley - I have Matt Ryan ranked as my QB6 this year. He has a tremendous supporting cast around him with veterans Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, but also Julio Jones, who is on the fast track to being one of the best wide receivers in the league. Atlanta has a great schedule vs. the pass and they play 10 dome games. What's not to like?

Ryan Hester - It's been said by many in fantasy circles that Ryan is their "fallback" QB if they're unable to land a top-five or top-six player at the position. Ryan has elite weapons on the perimeter in Roddy White and Julio Jones, an above average intermediate threat in the ageless Tony Gonzalez, and a pass-catching back in Jacquizz Rodgers that will be used more this season. On top of that, the guy pulling the levers at the controls of this offense (new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter) has said that it will be a more wide-open offense and will feature some no-huddle to gain a rhythm. Ryan also plays indoors for more than half of his games this season.

Chris Smith - I see Ryan making a serious run for a top-five or better finish in 2012. He is loaded with weapons including a pair of terrific receivers in Roddy White and Julius Jones and the veteran tight end presence of Tony Gonzalez will make this offense extremely difficult to contain. Ryan is now coming into the prime of his career and may have a MVP caliber season this year. He is a bargain right now in fantasy drafts and I would rather take him than Cam Newton / Matthew Stafford.

Mark Wimer - Matt Ryan crossed 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career last year, and also threw for a career-high 29 TDs. With a year of seasoning under Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers' belts, and steady production from savvy veterans Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, I think we see Ryan challenging for the top spot among fantasy QBs this year. The Falcons' passing attack has been explosive and highly productive during preseason, and they haven't even really been trying all that hard yet.

Jason Wood - Matty NICE! I've done a 180 on Ryan this preseason. I wasn't sure about OC Koetter, wondering if the Falcons were set for a step back. But Ryan appears to be steadily moving along that natural maturation curve and is now in complete control of the offense. The Falcons plan to use 3-WR sets as a baseline, and Julio Jones and Roddy White are arguably the best receiving tandem in the NFC. I think Atlanta is going to throw a ton this year, and Ryan can push for Top 5 numbers -- I would draft him ahead of Tony Romo, Philip Rivers or Eli Manning.

Jay Cutler - CHI ADP: 82 overall, QB 14 5 votes

Heath Cummings - The fact that Cutler is currently being taken as the 13th QB off the board blows my mind. It seems to me that a lot more is being made of the Bears inability to improve their offensive line as opposed to their ability to bring in Brandon Marshall. Marshall not only helps Cutler, but he makes the other wide receivers on the team better as well. Alshon Jeffery has looked like he could give Cutler a legitimate #2 threat, which could propel him into the second tier of QB1s.

Bob Magaw - Cutler will be the beneficiary of what should prove to be easily the best assemblage of WR talent during his Chicago tenure. Reunited with WR Brandon Marshall, the Bears spent a second round pick on rookie WR Alshon Jeffery, and they could comprise a dynamic duo with complementary skill sets. Marshall is a force over the middle and a RAC monster, and the team thought Jeffery was one of the top boundary receivers and red zone weapons in the draft. Even Devin Hester could get into the act, now that he isn't miscast as a feature WR. New OC Mike Tice may not rely as heavily on RB Matt Forte, and he oversaw prolific passing attacks in Minnesota. Cutler could be involved in a few divisional shootouts with the likes of Green Bay and Detroit.

Jeff Pasquino - Jay Cutler finally has his stud wide receiver back now with Brandon Marshall heading to Chicago this year. Cutler now has his favorite target from Denver back with him, a player that helped Cutler to finish as a Top 5 quarterback in their final season together in 2008. The Bears have improved their passing attack and their ground game could struggle if Matt Forte holds out as well. Cutler has fantasy QB1 upside that can be had very cheaply so I strongly recommend grabbing Cutler as your second quarterback.

Aaron Rudnicki - Cutler was never as productive under Mike Martz as people expected because he had no protection and no weapons to throw to. Well, they didn't exactly upgrade the line this offseason but it should be better under new coordinator Mike Tice. Additionally, the Bears brought in some big-time weapons in Brandon Marshall and 2nd round pick Alshon Jeffery. We already saw Cutler put up top-5 numbers in Denver when he had Marshall on his team and Jeffery should provide an effective target in the red zone. The Bears may not score as much as the Packers and Lions in their division, but they won't be too far off and Cutler could easily post top-10 numbers.

Matt Waldman - Cutler has elite quarterback talent when it comes to his arm, mobility, and accuracy. What he has lacked is an offensive line; wide receivers capable of making plays in tight, physical coverage; and an offensive system that exploits the strengths while minimizing the weaknesses of the Chicago Bears personnel. Mike Martz tried to use Devin Hester and Johnny Knox as Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt when neither player demonstrated the combination of hands, routes, and toughness to do the job. Martz's offense also requires seven-step drops and the Bears offensive line was woefully outmatched to give Cutler any chance to consistently execute as scripted. Although Cutler is a strong improviser, NFL offenses cannot succeed on a weekly basis if its quarterback has to improvise as much as Cutler did. This year offensive coordinator Mike Tice has installed an offense with more three- and five-step drops; plays that put Cutler on the move; placed greater value on tight ends as receivers; and acquired two, big-bodied playmakers on the outside in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. I think Cutler will at worst play 2-3 spots higher than his ADP, but I expect him to perform 6-8 spots higher.

Carson Palmer - OAK ADP: 134 overall, QB 20 4 votes

Ryan Hester - Palmer was top-ten in nearly every passing stat of note over the last half of 2011 - the only part of the season he played. If he can come off the couch and create such chemistry with his offensive mates, imagine what a full offseason of conditioning and preparation will do for him. Palmer also never played a game with Darren McFadden behind him - something that could open up passing lanes and single coverages even more. Oakland's defense will not be mistaken for the 1985 Bears any time soon either, promoting a climate where shootouts become the norm.

Andy Hicks - Those looking too closely at the stat line of Carson Palmer from 2011 need to consider the circumstances of his arrival. With a full off and preseason to enhance his relationship with his explosive receivers and the return of Darren McFadden, Palmer could easily return to becoming a sought after fantasy option.

Steve Holloway - After joining the Raiders in mid-season and only starting the last nine games, Palmer averaged 293 yards per game, which would equate to 4,688 yards over the season. Some minor injuries to his wide receivers are concerning, but I anticipate the group of young guys to really improve this season. With the Raiders defense expected to again be well below average, this passing game production should continue.

Marc Levin - Carson Palmer took over as the Oakland Raiders' starting quarterback in week nine. From weeks 9 through 17, he was the 10th best fantasy quarterback. That is not a small feat in an epic year for fantasy quarterbacks. Moreover, he performed at that level without running back Darren McFadden, and often without his top two receiving options on the field at the same time. Coming into the 2012 season with a full training camp and a healthy running back and receiving corps, we should expect much better than a QB17 finish from Palmer. He might crack the top-12 this year, which makes a 10th round QB17 a great value.

Ryan Fitzpatrick - BUF ADP: 143 overall, QB 21 3 votes

Sigmund Bloom - Would it surprise you to find out that Fitzpatrick actually had multiple touchdowns in five of the first seven games he played before suffering broken ribs against Washington? He was on pace for over 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns last year before the injury. Chan Gailey should spread the field and allow Fitzpatrick to operate in much same way he did last year, with some upgrades on the offensive line and the introduction of a speedy deep threat in the receiver rotation. If you miss on a top backup fantasy quarterback, keep Fitzpatrick in your back pocket.

Heath Cummings - Fitzpatrick has the big game ability you're looking for out of your QB2 and the weapons to make it happen. He looked like he could become a QB1 at the beginning of last year before the wheels fell off for the Bills. If you wait late for your starter, Fitzpatrick should be picked up shortly thereafter to provide depth.

Mark Wimer - Ryan Fitzpatrick set career highs in completions, attempts, passing yards and TDs last season (353/569 for 3.832 yards, 24 TDs and 23 interceptions). If he can dial back the interceptions and keep on improving in the other passing departments, Fitzpatrick can easily vault into the top ten at his position. With a little better luck on the injury front among his wide receivers during 2012, he may make a big move up the ranks. He's a super bargain at #19 QB off the board.

Josh Freeman - TB ADP: 124 overall, QB 18 3 votes

Bob Magaw - Freeman is one of the most likely QBs to have a bounce back season, for a number of reasons. With proven upside from a brilliant rookie season, he has been surrounded by more talent, with the Bucs having probably the most impressive combined free agency and draft additions in the league (including the best available free agent WR and OL in Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowler Carl Nicks, and first round rookie RB Doug Martin, on offense). WR Mike Williams followed up a promising rookie year with a soph slump, but has the talent to be a dangerous weapon again with decreased attention.

Matt Waldman - I don't want to blame former head coach Rahim Morris entirely for the Buccaneers backslide in 2011, but he encouraged an environment that was detrimental to the development of a team filled with young players. Greg Schiano is not the kind of coach that is going to party with his players after a big win against a division rival and lose control of his team. Last year was a learning experience for Freeman and the Buccaneers and all accounts point to the third-year quarterback working hard to prepare for 2012. The same has been said of fellow third-year skill players Mike Williams and LaGarrette Blount. The addition of Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark provide Tampa Bay two players capable of stretching the field better than their predecessors at the position. I think Freeman has the skill, the coach, and the skill talent to produce 3-5 spots higher than his ADP, which is a minor value, but still an important distinction.

Jason Wood - Freeman regressed in 2011 -- along with the rest of the Buccaneers. Yet, even in his down year he finished as QB17, essentially where he's being drafted this year. Any improvement in 2012 all but guarantees Freeman will outperforms his ADP. Consider that Freeman now has a true #1 (Vincent Jackson) which allows Mike Williams to move to the #2 role (where he's much better suited), and then realize the Bucs significantly improved the offensive line -- that's a recipe for improvement. I would be shocked if Josh Freeman doesn't finish closer to QB8-QB12 over a full 16-game season.

Andrew Luck - IND ADP: 106 overall, QB 16 3 votes

Sigmund Bloom - Robert Griffin III has the flashier fantasy-friendly skills like running and the deep ball, but Luck has looked much more ready for the task of being a pro quarterback this preseason. The offense in Indianapolis is going to run through Luck and he is a very good athlete - instantly one of the best at the quarterback position in the league. Luck has legit top 10 upside and he should be a more consistent performer than Griffin.

Jeff Haseley - I would not be surprised to see Luck finish in the Top 12. He is doing nearly everything right so far, and what he's struggling with, he's using as a learning experience to only get better. Luck is a great QB2 to target who could possibly merit low end QB1 status before we know it.

Jeff Pasquino - Andrew Luck may not seem like a candidate for fantasy QB1 status in his rookie campaign, but think about it. The Colts are not good on defense or in the ground attack, so expect Luck to throw quite a bit this year. He has two good wide receivers in Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie and two young tight ends, one of which (Coby Fleener) was his favorite target in college. Expect Luck to perform well on a per throw basis in a dome and with ample chances for garbage time points, giving him an outside shot at a Top 10 finish.

Ben Roethlisberger - PIT ADP: 81 overall, QB 13 3 votes

Steve Holloway - Roethlisberger already has two top ten quarterback seasons and two more ranking in the top twelve while playing in a fairly conservative offensive system. The combination this year of an improved offensive line and additional experience for his young receivers should lead to increased passing attempts and production. Wallace missing camp is a concern, but Roethlisberger has averaged 8.3 ypa over the last three years, so he could easily pass for over 4,000 yards and increase the number of passing TDs regardless of whether Wallace joins the team for the full season.

Jeff Pasquino - Ben Roethlisberger loves to throw the ball and stay in the pocket for the Steelers, who now will struggle running the ball with no featured tailback after Rashard Mendenhall's injury. Roethlisberger has big play targets with all his wide receivers, giving him options to spread the ball around and drive a pass-happy attack. Look for him as a very cheap fantasy starter this year with so many quarterbacks going off the board ahead of him.

Aaron Rudnicki - Roethlisberger always seems to take a beating playing behind a patchwork Steelers offensive line, but they upgraded in the draft this year and should be able to give him more time in the pocket. The running game is no longer a strength and the defense feels like it could be slipping from their earlier levels of dominance. As long as Mike Wallace signs -- and it sounds like he will -- then we should expect another year with 500+ attempts and top-10 numbers from Roethlisberger. He's a great value at this point and a good reason to wait at QB if you miss on one of the elite types.

Joe Flacco - BAL ADP: 114 overall, QB 17 2 votes

Steve Holloway - Flacco has finished as the QB11 and QB14 the past two seasons, even while only throwing an average of 32 passes per game (NFL 18th most last year). In this year's pre-season games the Ravens have been running a lot of no-huddle offense and Flacco has been passing more frequently. The team is expecting improved play from their young trio of receivers (Torrey Smith, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta) and still has the reliable Anquan Boldin as a valuable possession receiver. Flacco has topped 3,600 yards in each of the three previous seasons and I expect him to throw for over 4,000 this year.

Chris Smith - Flacco is a much better quarterback than he gets credit for. Now the Ravens are beginning to open up the offense thanks to a receiving core that is improving and it is Flacco's time to transcend from caretaker of the Ravens offense to star of the Raven's offense. He has all the tools to become a great NFL quarterback and is now entering into his prime. I would not be surprised if he pushes towards the top-ten in fantasy football this season.

Robert Griffin III - WAS ADP: 79 overall, QB 12 2 votes

Sigmund Bloom - Griffin carries injury risk, but he also has strong QB1 upside with his world-class speed and ability to throw deep on the move. Vince Young was a top 10 fantasy quarterback as a rookie, and Griffin is more dangerous as both as runner and a passer than Young was coming into the league. Griffin also has a better array of weapons and a great offensive mind as a head coach. Waiting on Griffin as your QB1 and taking a solid QB2 like Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger is a viable strategy this year.

Bob Magaw - Like Cam Newton the year before, Robert Griffin III enters the league with two critically important factors in his favor and pointing towards future stardom. An Olympic-caliber hurdler, he instantly becomes one of the most dangerous running QBs the league has ever seen, and also combines a bazooka arm with feathery deep touch. That improbable confluence of talent, athleticism and skill proved to be a magical formula for Newton. Griffin III is as charismatic as he is talented and has the right stuff to vindicate the king's ransom HC Mike Shanahan paid for the opportunity to help shape the development of the most gifted QB prospect he has had a chance to work with since John Elway.

Tony Romo - DAL ADP: 59 overall, QB 11 2 votes

Andy Hicks - Tony Romo is one of the safer guys you can draft in 2012, especially if you factor in that his backup in Kyle Orton is a proven and reliable starter in the NFL. Romo has finished as a top 10 fantasy QB in 4 of the last 5 years, injury stopped that being 5 out of 5, and can be relied on to throw approximately 30 TDs every year. If you don't want to draft a QB high and prefer to load up at other positions, don't hesitate on Romo when the next tier starts.

Marc Levin - In a 16-game season, Tony Romo has not finished as low as QB9 since 2006. He has three top-notch receiving options, a solid stable of running backs to take the burden off, and a team operating with a tremendous sense of urgency. Considering he can be selected in 12-team leagues in the late fifth round, and could easily finish as a top-6 quarterback, value is represented. Don't be scared by his receivers' current injury situation, and scoop up good starting quarterback play after adding your starting RB1/2 and WR1/2.

Peyton Manning - DEN ADP: 58 overall, QB 10 1 vote

Jason Wood - Putting aside last year's lost season, do you know the last time Peyton Manning ranked 10th or worse? NEVER. Even in his rookie year he finished 9th in spite of throwing a league-worst 28 interceptions. Since then he's been a fixture in the Top 5 regardless of the quality of his supporting cast. Maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid but I don't believe the Broncos would've signed Manning if they weren't sure his injuries were no longer an issue. And I don't believe Manning chose the Broncos randomly -- this is a lineup he believes can fit his skills. As long as Manning isn't hurt, it's impossible for me to imagine Manning won't deliver a season very close to what we've known his entire career.

Matt Schaub - HOU ADP: 86 overall, QB 15 1 vote

Mark Wimer - Schaub's foot injury seems to be completely healed, and he's got a stacked surrounding cast in Houston - Arian Foster is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, Andre Johnson is a top-ten wide receiver, and second-year receiver Lestar Jean has been impressive during preseason. Owen Daniels is still here, too - I think Schaub has starting fantasy QB potential, but can be had at a backup's price. That's value, folks.

Alex Smith - SF ADP: 147 overall, QB 22 1 vote

Mike Brown - Smith showed in the playoffs that he can get into gunslinger mode if the situation calls for it. And with the additions of both Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the WR stable, Smith absolutely has no more excuses for not putting up consistently solid numbers. With mainstays like Vernon Davis and Frank Gore still in town and the possible improvement of the talented but enigmatic Michael Crabtree, Smith is certainly in line for a statistical spike in what is expected to be a big year for the Niners.

Michael Vick - PHI ADP: 42 overall, QB 7 1 vote

Mike Brown - Sure, he'll probably miss a few games here and there. He's already gotten banged-up a little bit this preseason, with a bruised thumb and ribs to name a few of his dings. But when he's right? There are few that can match the upside. He's going off the board as the sixth quarterback taken. Take a look at the guys just above and just below him, and tell me if any of those guys inspire the possibility of winning your league for you almost singlehandedly. Are you worried about an injury? Okay, so take a steady guy like Jay Cutler or Ben Roethlisberger a few rounds later. For the games that Vick will be in there, there will be few players who can match the type of numbers he's sure to put up with that cast of talent around him.

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