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 and others I wanted to avoid.
Sometimes you just have to follow your gut. Players listed alphabetically by last name.
Strategy - I rarely take QBs early anyway, but this year the strategy is gift-wrapped for you. Look to select the 12-13th quarterback off the board 20 picks after the 11th QB is taken. Add another from the QB 13-16 tier soon after taking your first QB.
Blake Bortles, JAC (Avoid) - I expect the defense to play much better in the 2nd half of the year as their youth movement takes hold. This will lead to less situations where they are playing from way behind. Bortles managed a ridiculously high 9.0 yards per attempt (while amassing 1,419 yards and 13 TDs) when the team was trailing big. In games that were close or the Jaguars were winning, Bortles could manage only 5.7 yards per attempt.
Tom Brady, NE (Avoid) - He will miss the first 4 games of the year plus has his fantasy playoffs (week 15 and 16) against Denver (away) and the NY Jets (home). Let someone one else reach for the legend.
Kirk Cousins, WAS (Target) - The team added weapons and plays in a division where the defenses are bad. In the last 9 games of 2015, Kirk went an impressive 19 TDs against just 2 interceptions. RG3 has moved on and the team has unified under Cousins and the playcalling from Gruden. Washington has among the easiest NFL schedules to start the year which should allow Kirk to start off strong.
Jay Cutler, CHI (Target) - The Bears start the season with a bunch of really soft defenses. They draw Houston in week 1 in a game where JJ Watt is unlikely to play. They then get Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville. Cutler is never a sexy pick at your draft, but he will outperform his ADP by a wide margin in these first 6 games.
Blaine Gabbert, SF (Target) - He is a dink and dunk specialist so it's hard to get all that excited about Gabbert. But he is the QB in Chip Kelly's offense. Chip takes uptempo to a new level and that could bode well for Gabbert playing on a team that also expects to be playing from behind in most contests. Gabbert was noticeably better while playing from behind (7.7 ypa vs 6.5 tied and 5.4 when ahead).
Robert Griffin III III (Target) - This is more based on opportunity than what I am seeing playing out on the field. RG3 continues to lock into his first looks and seems to be slow on getting through the progressions. But a bad NFL QB does not necessarily mean he will be a bad fantasy QB. He has three WRs that all possess 4.3 speed (Coleman, Gordon, and Pryor). Pass catching RB Duke Johnson is improved. The offensive line is good. TE Barnidge is a beast within the redzone too. And RG3 is still capable of doing major damage with his legs.
Eli Manning, NYG (Target) - Eli enters the year with even more weapons, a better defense and a run-game led by Rashad Jennings. I mention Jennings, because if I played QB and he was my RB, I know I would be throwing the ball often. Every week we get a new report stating that rookie WR Sterling Shepard is turning heads. And we all know what Odell Beckham is capable of. The team starts the year at Dallas, and then draws New Orleans and Washington at home. That's a recipe for a hot start.
Cam Newton, CAR (Avoid) - This is where the Draft Dominator's mocking capability pays dividends. Take Cam in a few mocks and look at your team. Now go back and not take him. Your team will always look better avoiding him. No one is questioning his stud status. He is going to be a beast on the field. But the cost of picking him puts you on the tail-end of key positional runs.
Aaron Rodgers, GB (Avoid) - He is going way too early for my tastes without better clarity about WR Jordy Nelson. People seem to be forgetting how bad this unit was when DaVante Adam and Reggie Cobb were the starting receivers. We all remember Jordy's dominance in 2014, but he lost all of 2015 and is now 31 years old. Chemistry issues aside, Jordy could take a few games to round into game shape.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (Avoid) - The team has lost Martavis Bryant (stupidity), TE Heath Miller (Retirement) and will be without star RB LeVeon Bell for the first 3 weeks. Replacement TE Ladarius Green is suffering headaches and WR Sammy Coates is disappointing everyone at training camp. Ben also turned 34 in March. Way too many negatives for me with his sky-high ADP.
Matt Ryan, ATL (Target) - Sometimes ADP just corrects way too far. The Falcons still have WR Julio Jones and begin the year against Tampa Bay, Oakland and New Orleans. WR Manu Sanu is an upgrade over last year's version of Roddy White who could never get separation. RB Tevin Coleman (healthy) and rookie TE Austin Hooper should help the offense as well. And that Atlanta defense is so bad that Ryan will be asked to do a lot with his arm all year long.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (Target) - His contract extension signed in the offseason can be torn up at the end of the year if he under-performs. Tyrod is betting on himself and so am I. Outside of Sammy Watkins, he doesn't have a lot of weapons but creates big plays with his feet (running and scrambling for more time to throw). The Bills draw the Browns and Dolphins during weeks 15 and 16 (your fantasy playoffs).
Matthew Stafford, DET (Avoid) - He no longer has WR Calvin Johnson to bail out his awful downfield passes. The team has added WRs Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin, but I suspect this is going to be a work in progress at best. Matt Stafford is the opposite of Blake Bortles. When his team falls behind, he is MUCH worse. On 149 pass attempts where Stafford was behind big, he managed just 901 yards (6.0 ypa) and 5 TDs last season.
Russell Wilson, SEA (Avoid) - He is one of my favorite players in the game, but I am still mortified to watch him play behind that offense line. He played better AFTER he lost TE Jimmy Graham last season and the team went with a very quick release while Doug Baldwin played like he was a lock for Canton. TE Jimmy Graham and RB Thomas Rawls both are coming back from injury. Baldwin seems primed for regression. The OL is still raw (and towards the bottom of the talent spectrum). His 1st 5 games include the Jets, Rams and a bye. If you want Wilson on your fantasy team, he is someone you likely can get cheaper in a trade after some bad games.