Fantasy Football Tiers: Quarterbacks
Rankings are the backbone of fantasy drafts.
Tiers are better.
Specific debates take place throughout a draft, whether early with Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, middle with Russell Wilson or Matthew Stafford, late with Carson Palmer or Ryan Tannehill... or Matt Schauf...or Josh Freeman. In those this-that-or-the-other moments, rankings matter, but are not the only factor.
The downside of purely using the next-guy-on-the-list approach is lack of accounting for depth or value. It is easy in a vacuum to say don't take player X before the seventh round or wait on position Y, but plans must be flexible in order to account for certain draft unpredictability.
Just missing Cam Newton doesn't mean taking Tom Brady in the same round - or maybe it does depending on the other passers available and the overall board. It is one thing to wait on a QB, but in a 14-team league, it might not make sense to pass on selecting a passer at the turn when five owners still need one and only three of the top-12 options remain. Putting a premium on securing a QB2 doesn't mean selecting one in the middle rounds, but not all backups are created equal.
Tier 1 - Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees
- Even among strong starting options, this pair is the gold standard. The power passers are incredibly accurate, play in high volume aerial attacks, and have deep receiving options. Rodgers should benefit from the Packers' rebuilt running game, though the offensive line remains a tad sketchy. Over the last two seasons, Brees has averaged 5,326 passing yards with 44.5 touchdown passes and now has Sean Payton back calling plays. For those inclined to draft a QB early, these are the two worthy of round 2-3 selection in standard/PPR leagues.
Tier 2 - Cam Newton, Peyton Manning
- Rather funny lumping these two distinctive quarterbacks at wildly different stages of their careers together. Newton's sophomore season had significant peaks and valleys, but he averaged 25 points over the final 9 games, accounting for 19 total touchdowns with only four interceptions. Manning never threw for more than three touchdowns in a game, but did so nine times, as often as he tossed for at least 300 yards per game. Those that didn't jump on the bandwagon last season might be leery about getting on board with the 37-year-old now. Everyone else will just look at Manning's receivers and say sign me up. Value for both depends on draft slot.
Tier 3 - Matt Ryan, Tom Brady
- The Golden Boy slides down a tier or two due to the chaos with the Patriots wide receivers and tight ends. Of course, Brady has succeeded with less before. If Rob Gronkowski is healthy by draft day (or avoids the PUP list) then Brady can join Newton and Manning. Ryan raised his fantasy game significantly last season and now has a dual-threat back in Steven Jackson. Current ADP for both stands middle-to-late fifth round.
Tier 4 - Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo
- The best value plays among all the QB1 choices as it would not stun if any of these half-dozen options ended the season among the top-5 fantasy quarterbacks overall. RG3 probably joins the top tier minus the knee injury, while Kaepernick and Wilson are up at least one level (if not for the absence of their top receiver for most or all of the season). Yet Luck is arguably the best of the four young hotshots, while Stafford has Calvin Johnson and Romo has Dez Bryant. No doubt, this is the sweet spot for fantasy quarterbacks with current ADP suggesting that at least 1-2 of these options could last into the seventh round.