The draft is done, so we can turn our attention to setting our rankings, as the plate tectonics of the NFL have finally calmed down after a turbulent offseason. Quarterback remains a position where waiting is favored, but I can see more than one scenario where I won’t be the last one to take a QB off of the board.
There is no “wrong” strategy at QB, but it is the easiest position to get by with minimal investment. It’s also the position with the cheapest #1 overall option and a discount for proven studs. Just pick the right one.
Andrew Luck, IND
I won’t blame you for taking him in the third round (or even late second), as long as you can get his backfieldmate Frank Gore in the fourth. You’d be crazy to bet on any other QB finishing as QB1 or exhibiting Luck’s consistency (he was a top 5 QB on the week nine out of his first 10 starts last year)
Rodgers will be grouped with Luck in a lot of rankings, but I don’t think he has the season-long and weekly scoring potential of Luck. Green Bay is less inclined to go pass-heavy than Indianapolis. Wilson adding Jimmy Graham could be just what he needs to finally avoid the low points that have been hard to endure if you start him every week. He very well could be the QB that “wins leagues” this year. Manning was QB2 through Week 12 before his quad injury seemed to limit him. I’ll start to consider Wilson in the fifth and Brady/Manning in the sixth.
*-Tom Brady, NE
Ryan lacks the season-long upside of the top five, but he is steady. Roethlisberger could take another step forward, especially with three (for now) games without Le’Veon Bell to begin the season. Romo will have to pass more with no Demarco Murray or suitable replacement. Newton will still be up and down, but if he’s healthy, the ups will more common that they were in 2014. Brees has to be forecast for a big drop with the team’s clear intent to run more and the trades of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. Rivers was a top 5 fantasy QB through the five eight weeks, and then the Dolphins debacle in Week 9 derailed his season. If you don’t like to go with QBBC, any of these options are solid set it and forget it types. Brady has been suspended for the first four games, but he could easily have that suspension shortened on appeal. He will be a "Strong QB1" upon return, and whether he fits at the bottom or top of this tier depends on roster size (the opportunity cost of carrying two QBs through the first five weeks of the season) and scoring (six point pass touchdowns inflates Brady's value, four point pass touchdowns deflates Brady and inflates running QBs)
UPSIDE low QB1 plays
All of these QBs could easily finish in top 8-10 and end up being better picks than a lot of QBs that went ahead of them. Manning has the Beckham bump and possible return of Victor Cruz, along with the addition of Shane Vereen to soup up the pass offense. Tannehill lost Mike Wallace (which could be a plus) and Charles Clay, but added Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, and Jordan Cameron. Stafford was once on the verge of joining the FF elite, but now he’s randomly disappointing a la Eli. Bridgewater could take a big step in year two, especially with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Signs point to Kaepernick running even more, and he has someone to convert deep balls now in Torrey Smith. Jay Cutler’s benching could come much earlier this year if he doesn’t improve, but he gained Kevin White to replace Brandon Marshall, and he was reunited with Eddie Royal, who had the best year of his career with Cutler in Denver.
QBBC “Leadoff Hitters”
If you really want to take the tank to “E” and not take your QB1 until other teams have taken backups, either of these guys will do. Bradford will pilot the Eagles offense that seems to turn any QB into a low QB1, and begins with Atlanta and Dallas, with Washington, New Orleans, and the Giants, in Weeks 4-6. Palmer was steady as a rock with 250 yard/multi-touchdown games the norm when he was healthy, albeit for only five games (including three missed due to injury) before he went down against the Rams. He begins with New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco. Teams that wait at QB and draft Palmer or Bradford should be fine as long as they’re healthy (don’t laugh).
YOU NEVER KNOW
This group is not necessarily one that I want to count on, but they have some upside and could end up being a streaming option that sticks. Griffin has lost his nerve, but he still has jets as a runner and plays in a poor defensive division. Carr got Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and maybe a hurry-up offense. Bortles should improve in year two, and his weapon quality will also be improved. Winston comes into an offense with two excellent wide receivers. Smith might not win the job, but if he does, he’s not shy about running and Chan Gailey gets the most out of his passing game. Mariota will start, but the beginning will be rocky and his skill players won’t be that much help. Manziel is another that is the underdog to win the job, but intriguing for fantasy if he does.
BORING BYE/INJURY FILLER
None of these guys are going to be surprise QB1s this year, but they are more trustworthy in a one-week scenario than the “you never know” guys. They seem like a waste of a roster spot when you can get similar production with a little more risk from the waiver wire.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ
Mark Sanchez, PHI
You scoff at these names, but Fitzpatrick had some big games in lesser offenses, and Chan Gailey has been known to get the best play out of the QBs he coaches - including Fitzpatrick. The Jets pass offense will be revitalized, and Fitzpatrick should swap places with Geno Smith on this list if he wins the job. Sanchez was actually useful for most of his starts last year, and we all know the injury history of Sam Bradford. Both of these guys are solid streamers if they start at any time this year.
This group could yield 50+ starts this year, with about 3 useful fantasy weeks between them. May you never have to count on one of them.