On Second Thought: Quarterbacks

A discussion of how my early preseason expectations have changed as we near the start of the regular season

On Second Thought…Quarterbacks

It's hard to believe that we're just a week away from the start of the NFL regular season. For many fans, they're just now starting to pay attention. But for fantasy owners, for FOOTBALLGUYS, we're already many months into our preparation. As one of the contributors to the site's projections, I have had the entire league modeled and projected since late April. Needless to say, a LOT of things happen between then and the beginning of September. I, along with the other staff, tweak our projections and expectations as we go along. But it occurs to me that very little is ever said about the way our opinions change. This article, and others like it, will highlight in a qualitative manner the assumptions that went into my initial projections that have since changed considerably. Enjoy.

On Second Thought...

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) is the best value at the position

Tannehill finished as the 9th ranked fantasy quarterback last year, yet he entered the preseason as a consensus QB2 with upside.  Although I have had him in my Top 10 for most of the preseason, I’m now comfortable viewing him as a potential Top 5 option. Bill Lazor’s system is an ideal fit, he’s entering his prime, has looked sharp throughout the preseason, and has a cadre of weapons at his disposal. Given his ADP (QB13), Tannehill is far and away the best value at the position.

Peyton Manning (DEN) is being overdrafted

Manning remains the consensus #3 quarterback and usually comes off the board a round later than Aaron Rodgers. While I’m not buying into a total collapse, I am taking the warnings of our own Cecil Lammey and other Broncos observers to heart. The Broncos plan on limiting Manning’s attempts this year, which is enough to drop him into a lower tier of good-but-not-elite fantasy TE1s.

Cam Newton (CAR) is worth avoiding on draft day

Newton’s rushing prowess gives him a floor that’s impossible to ignore. However, the loss of Kelvin Benjamin makes Newton a high risk investment at his current ADP. The new baseline for Newton becomes his 2013 season, and in order to justify drafting Newton as your starter, he NEEDs to run more than he did in 2014. Combine that with Michael Oher at left tackle, and I’m passing on Newton in favor of more intriguing options a round or two later.

Eli Manning (NYG) is not set for a career-best season

Entering his second year in Ben McAdoo’s system, with a full season of Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz, meant Manning could have his best season. I was forecasting almost 5,000 yards and a career-best TD-to-INT ratio. Unfortunately the preseason has shaken my confidence given the continued uncertainties on the offensive line, and a running game that still looks lost. While Cruz and Beckham are both on track for the regular season, Manning is safer viewed as a decent consolation prize QB1 for fantasy owners who insist on waiting to draft quarterbacks.

Teddy Bridgewater (MIN) will ascend into the QB1 ranks

I viewed Bridgewater as a decent QB2 option in the latter half of drafts, which reflected my positive view of the player offset by the conservative expectations I had for the Vikings play-calling. As the summer has unwound, I’ve steadily increased Bridgewater’s projections in recognition of the talent surrounding him. With Adrian Peterson running behind a good offensive line, Bridgewater is going to have plenty of opportunities to throw deep off play-action. Combined with deep threats Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson, this is a recipe for a breakout season.

Sam Bradford (PHI) is a potential stud if he can stay healthy

I was down on Bradford for most of the preseason given his alarming injury history and his disastrously bad career statistics. Yet, Chip Kelly took Mark Sanchez (who had similar career metrics prior to last season) and turned him into an accurate, Top-10 fantasy quarterback. Bradford has looked phenomenal this preseason and it’s clear he’ll be a Top-10 caliber start for as long as he can stay healthy. He should be viewed as a priority QB2 in your drafts this coming week.

Marcus Mariota (TEN) has value as a QB2

Let’s not overcomplicate things. Mariota is a talented, smart, accurate rookie quarterback with a guaranteed starting job and no one looking over his shoulder. He’s answered every question this preseason including whether he could handle playing under center (so far, so good). Given his mobility – and the value of rushing stats versus passing stats – I believe Mariota is going to do enough with his arm and legs to justify drafting as a viable QB2 and bye week starter.

Colin Kaepernick (SF) isn’t worth drafting in 12-team (or smaller) leagues

I didn’t expect Kaepernick to be a world-beater this year, but as the preseason has unfolded my distaste for the 49ers has only increased. Massive losses on defense are going to force the 49ers into game scripts that require Kaepernick to throw the ball. Increased attempts may increase Kaepernick’s raw counting stats, but his lack of accuracy also means we’ll see more turnovers and poor outcomes. If the 49ers are as disastrous as I expect, it’s hard to buy into Kaepernick as anything more than a low-end backup in deeper leagues.

Brian Hoyer (HOU) is the Texans starter, not Ryan Mallett

We know what Brian Hoyer is – and isn’t. The fact Ryan Mallett couldn’t beat out Hoyer in the preseason totally reshapes the expectations for the Texans passing game. Hoyer may have a higher floor than Mallett, but he also has a much lower ceiling. If you’re in deeper leagues and looking to draft a QB2, I would rather roll the dice on a passer that could break out. Hoyer isn’t that guy.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ) is the Jets starter, not Geno Smith

The Jets were committed to Smith at the start of the preseason, until Smith got his jaw broken over a silly argument with a teammate. The Jets have treated Smith like persona non grata since and committed fully to free agent Fitzpatrick.

Robert Griffin III III (WAS) has lost his way

It seems like a lifetime ago that Griffin was the young face of franchise with the silly socks and dynamic fantasy stats. The season-ending injuries and struggles after his rehab have clearly robbed Griffin of the confidence he needs to reclaim his spot among the league’s better signal-callers. Head coach Jay Gruden has been uncomfortable with Griffin from the start, and it appears Washington will be using multiple starters throughout the season.

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