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Fantasy & Reality: All about quarterbacks

Senior Fantasy Writer
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About half of you should feel good about what you have at quarterback.

That's because there are seven no-doubt starters that Fantasy owners can feel good about trusting after five weeks of play: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford and Michael Vick. This you should know already.

Anybody who doesn't have those quarterbacks has work to do. In fact, even the people out there who own one (or two) of the above seven guys owes it to themselves to make sure they're not shorting themselves at the position. There's always room for improvement.

Who's still a stud and who's not?

A lot of people want to know what to do with Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub -- guys who were drafted with high expectations but have fallen on hard times. Who's still trustworthy among them?

Simply put, all of them are. With passing remaining the preferred way to move the pigskin in the NFL, these guys do it a lot and should deliver some numbers. The key here is not to lose patience with them. You could try and upgrade to one of the "big seven" quarterbacks (example: Ryan and Cedric Benson for Matthew Stafford to a running back-needy owner) but don't "sell low" on them.

The other move to make is to get a good backup for them in case they struggle. I'm specifically looking at Roethlisberger, who had a major breakout effort in Week 5 but had been pummeled in his previous four games and can't be considered a safe bet for the rest of the season much less a safe bet to put up big stats.

On the other hand, now is the perfect time to trade for Rivers. He's on a bye, he's coming off of back-to-back mediocre games and his owners might be up for a change. Antonio Gates is expected back in Week 7 and we know Vincent Jackson is still there. Best of all, his schedule is great to finish the year even with a date at the Jets waiting for him after the bye.

I also think Eli Manning is legit for the rest of the season. The Giants have continued their push toward being a passing team and thanks to guys like Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard, Manning suddenly has a treasure trove of receivers to throw to. His schedule is also solid between Weeks 6 and 13. He's another quarterback to target if you're looking for help.

Rehashing an old theory

Remember before the season when I made a couple of draft strategy suggestions regarding quarterbacks (If not, click here)? One of them was to wait a long time and then draft multiple passers with upside and hope to strike it big. Some people did well with that plan, others have not, but the whole idea was to get a good quarterback cheaply. I think we can borrow a page out of that plan again before Week 6 because of the surprising number of up-and-coming quarterbacks who have put up -- and are expected to put up -- nice stats the rest of the season.

If you're hurting at quarterback, these guys could help. If you're set at quarterback, these guys could turn into valuable pieces in a trade to help your lineup elsewhere. They're listed in order of who I'd take first, second, third, etc ...

Tim Tebow, Broncos (owned in 8 pct. of CBSSports.com leagues): Forget talk about his throwing motion or his polarizing personality or anything else -- he finds a way to put up stats and that's all we as Fantasy owners should care about. So long as he does that, he's going to be a 20-point-per-week Fantasy option (he had 18 Fantasy points in one half last week). How many owners out there wouldn't want that if they're struggling at quarterback? Whether you need him or not, he's worth fighting for off waivers.
Receiving corps: Good, but will it matter? Tebow is expected to complete about half of his passes and not throw much downfield. His receivers will draw some coverage, but until he is a proven passer, defenses might challenge him by stacking the box and daring him to chuck it.
Remaining schedule: Good. He faces some of the league's top D-lines before the year ends (Bears, Lions, Vikings, Jets) so he could get stuffed on some of his rushes, but his final four matchups are against teams that bleed Fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Trade value: Right now it shouldn't take much to get Tebow in trade, but who's offering him up? Even owners who have Brady or Stafford have nothing to lose by picking him up and sitting on him until his value is red hot (which might be after Week 7, read on). Offering a low-end starter (borderline No. 2/3 receiver or running back) is more than fair but might not be accepted.

Matt Cassel, Chiefs (47 pct.): This is the guy to get if you whiff on Tebow. Cassel has completed 66 percent of his passes this year and has cut down on his turnovers over the last two games. Moreover, unless you're of the belief that Jackie Battle is the next Jamaal Charles, Cassel will have to throw to put points on the board for Kansas City.
Receiving corps: Good. Dwayne Bowe is obviously a stud and Steve Breaston has come alive after a hamstring injury got him off to a slow start. He could use one more reliable target but until then will be able to lean on his running backs and tight ends.
Remaining schedule: Excellent. Many of Cassel's detractors will say "He's only playing well because he's played against soft defenses." That might be true, but so is this: Eight of his last 11 opponents are among the bottom 10 in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Of those eight, six are among the bottom 10 in the NFL in passing yardage allowed on average.
Trade value: You might be able to get Cassel in exchange for washing your buddy's car. Seriously. No one's getting a lot for Cassel right now, so you shouldn't have to give a lot.

Alex Smith, 49ers (24 pct.): I'm not sure how long Smith's re-emergence will last, but he's been great over his last two games (at least 21 Fantasy points in each). One key to Smith's play has been his improved completion percentage (currently a career-best 65.9), way higher than his previous career high of 60.5 pct. Another key has been improved work from his offensive line -- after getting sacked 11 times in his first three games he's been taken down just three times in his last two (all by Philly defensive end Jason Babin). He's reconnected with Vernon Davis and should be able to post nice numbers even without a true No. 1 wide receiver.
Receiving corps: Fair, and even that might be generous. Vernon Davis is a stud, Delanie Walker has some potential. He lost Josh Morgan to a broken leg in Week 5 and that was the receiver he trusted the most. Michael Crabtree is a decent outlet and we'll see how Braylon Edwards plays when he comes back from knee surgery. But between his tight ends and running backs he should have a number of good targets, just not great targets.
Remaining schedule: Also fair. None of his remaining matchups are against pass defenses that allow a glut of Fantasy points to quarterbacks, and only three games stand out as great matchups (two against the Rams, one against the Seahawks, two of which come at the end of the year). Three matchups -- at Washington, at Baltimore and vs. Pittsburgh -- stand out as big red strikes against Smith.
Trade value: If you can get Cassel for a car wash, you can probably get Smith for the bucket and towel you'll need to wash a car. He'll be afforded the chance to put up numbers even in tough matchups, but there's so much distrust for him based on his entire career that the asking price for him is really small.

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Sam Bradford, Rams (72 pct.): I think we'll see a lot of Fantasy owners punt on Bradford -- many in an attempt to pick up Tebow. Bradford has been a colossal disappointment after expectations were high, but a lot of it has to do with injuries decimating the Rams on both sides of the ball. He's been sacked 14 times through four games and hasn't had more than one passing touchdown in any game this year (and one game over 200 yards passing).
Receiving corps: Losing Danny Amendola, a short-range high-percentage completion target, has really hurt Bradford. Mike Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander have each missed on 15 targets and Lance Kendricks went from preseason hero to regular season zero. Bradford will get some help when Mark Clayton comes back from the PUP list (more on that later). There's enough talent there to help Bradford get over 200 yards weekly with some end zone visits.
Remaining schedule: Good, but it's going to be better than it's been. The Eagles looked like a Dream Team against Bradford in Week 1 and matchups against pass rush machines in the Giants, Ravens and Redskins made it tough on Bradford. The Packers are of that same ilk in Week 6 but they give up a lot of passing yardage and scores. Starting in Week 7, Bradford has it easier with six games against NFC West rivals with matchups against suspect pass defenses mixed in. He's not one to trust in the Fantasy postseason, though -- he'll play at Cincy and vs. Pittsburgh in Weeks 15 and 16. Those matchups don't look so hot.
Trade value: If you want to stash Bradford as your backup it shouldn't take much -- maybe a swap of tight ends or wide receivers with Bradford mixed in.

Who to drop for these guys?

If these four quarterbacks are guys we're targeting as Fantasy backups, then surely they should replace guys who are currently backup quarterbacks in Fantasy. To give a fair perspective on who's worth hanging on to and who's not, we created this simple chart to help with your quarterback add/drops.

QB to get QB to get QB to get QB to get
Tim Tebow Matt Cassel Alex Smith Sam Bradford
QBs to cut for him QBs to cut for him QBs to cut for him QBs to cut for him
Jason Campbell Jason Campbell Jason Campbell Blaine Gabbert
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler Blaine Gabbert Kevin Kolb
Andy Dalton Andy Dalton Kevin Kolb Charlie Whitehurst
Joe Flacco Blaine Gabbert Charlie Whitehurst  
Josh Freeman Rex Grossman    
Blaine Gabbert Kevin Kolb    
Rex Grossman Charlie Whitehurst    
Matt Hasselbeck      
Kevin Kolb      
Mark Sanchez      
Charlie Whitehurst      

Final pointers

• Now's the time to deal Cam Newton or Matthew Stafford if you have one of them and another stud quarterback in a standard league. In a 10-team league, I traded Stafford, who was on my bench because I was starting Aaron Rodgers, as part of a package deal for LeSean McCoy. We've seen Cam Newton get dealt in package deals for the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson. Bottom line: If you're not starting Newton or Stafford, you should trade them to a team that needs them in exchange for a starter. It would only help you if you make the deal with a team you've already played in your league.

• Curtis Painter is kind of like Tebow -- not playing particularly well but finding a way to put up numbers. He's getting big-time help from Pierre Garcon so it's only natural to think that it's only a matter of time before defenses start keying in on Garcon. Thing is, once they do that then there's room for Reggie Wayne to break free. And mind you, Painter has put up over 275 yards passing in both of his starts without using Dallas Clark. He, too, is a guy worth speculating on if you have the roster room, but calling him a failsafe Fantasy option is tough given his track record and his lack of stats to guys not named Garcon. I'd rather have Tebow and Cassel for sure.

• In this day and age of passing, the new "normal" for a very good Fantasy game should be 275 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers, a change from 250-2-0. So getting 23 Fantasy points or more from your passer should be considered awesome. Twenty points is still considered good but more quarterbacks are hitting that number, so it's not quite as special. Cumulatively, quarterbacks are averaging 244.6 yards per game and 1.56 passing touchdowns per game -- when you consider all of the bad quarterbacks who have played and are still playing week in and week out, those averages have to be considered pretty incredible.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: It's easy to figure out the Saints receivers from week to week. Drew Brees loves his receivers, that's a no-brainer. But it sure looks like he loves tight end Jimmy Graham more. And he's seemingly fond of Darren Sproles too. Graham leads the Saints with 32 catches and Sproles is second with 31. Next best? Robert Meachem with 22, and chances are his total wouldn't be that high if Marques Colston wasn't hurt. Defenses are having a hard time matching up with Brees' newest toys, and until they do, you should expect tempered results from his wideouts.

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Reality: When it comes to Big Ben, sometimes you have to trust your gut. So last week Ben Roethlisberger was faced with a tough matchup -- a Titans pass defense allowing 212 yards through the air per game and a passing touchdown a week on average. Even though I wrote in Fantasy Football Matchups "it's the kind of game he's been known to gut out and win," I pegged him as a Week 5 bust. Five touchdowns later, I've learned a valuable lesson about Roethlisberger: If you think he's due for a big game, he probably is. Another tough opponent (at least statistically) comes to Pittsburgh in Week 6 in the Jaguars. I'll bet you he and the Steelers repeat their feats from a week prior.

Fantasy: Darrius Heyward-Bey is an overrated, overdrafted sucker of a receiver. I might be a sucker for suggesting the idea of adding him, but the guy has looked really nice over the last two weeks. He's never put back-to-back good games together before and seems to be the most "complete" receiver for Jason Campbell. He's big, he's pretty fast and the details in his game have come a long way. I'm serious about this one -- add him if you can. If he can get going, not only will his Fantasy owners benefit but coverage will shrink on Denarius Moore and open him up into being a threat again.

Reality: Now -- right now -- is the time to trade for Chris Johnson. I'm not as much of a stat-box guy as I am a game-watching guy. I haven't seen Chris Johnson become the speedy back we've come to know him as. But I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll get revved up following the bye week. I'm also optimistic that his offensive line is getting better at popping open lanes for him. The remaining schedule for him is good -- two games left with the Colts and matchups with the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs remain. Furthermore, those remaining Fantasy owners disenchanted with Johnson should be willing to "sell high" on him after his best Fantasy game of the season in Week 5. If you can get him at a steal, obviously do it. If you can get him in a deal where you pawn off good players on your bench, that's also a go. Rule of thumb: Trade for him as if he'll be your No. 2 Fantasy running back.

Week 6 waiver-wire DSTs

Bengals (vs. Colts) ... The Bengals are still out there in nearly half of CBSSports.com leagues. We've talked about Painter already but this will be a tough matchup for him -- Cincy's pass defense remains among the best in the league. And with Delone Carter expected to run the ball for the Colts, the run defense should look good. Hard to pass on them, even with Painter playing well.

Bills (at Giants) ... I'm not sure if Buffalo will hold New York to under 21 points -- in fact my guess is that it won't -- but it should pick up a couple of takeaways from Eli Manning and land some sacks too. The Bills defense has scored in three straight games. Knowing how frequently Manning gets picked, they could make it four straight.

Raiders (vs. Browns) ... I never love starting a low-rent DST against a team coming off a bye, but the Browns are trying some new things with their offense and have a tall order against an underrated Raiders defense. The Browns could roll up a lot of yardage, but perhaps not a lot of points.

Vikings (at Bears) ... Did you not see the Bears' O-line in Week 5? Do I really have to spell this one out? Jared Allen should be inside Jay Cutler's jersey as much as Cutler in Week 6, and the Bears' receivers are not a tough match for the Vikings' secondary.

Parting shots

• Any running back against the Eagles is a must start. That includes Ryan Torain and even Tim Hightower. #AizerFantasyTips

• The word is out on my first deep sleeper of the year: Rams wideout Mark Clayton. He's expected to come back from the PUP list soon and should assimilate into the Rams offense quickly, if only because no one else in St. Louis is lighting the world on fire. Clayton and Bradford have chemistry going back to last year (if not back to them knowing each other as Oklahoma Sooner alums), and word is that Clayton's speed is not lost following his knee surgery. The deeper the league, the sooner Fantasy owners should reach for him. For example, I snapped him up in my 22-team league (yes it's crazy) but won't think about touching him for at least another week in my 14-team league.

• Fantasy owners haven't gotten much out of David Nelson over his last two games, but word is that the Bills will permanently move him to the outside to replace Donald Jones. Sometimes receivers struggle when they are not in their comfort zone and such could be the case here. Then again, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown an affinity for throwing to Nelson, and the guy is a big dude who has been great near the goal line. There still might be more to receive from Nelson before the end of the year.

• Legit: Doug Baldwin and Arrelious Benn. Low-end sleepers for now. The Bucs especially need Benn to step up since Mike Williams really hasn't.

• FYI: Tebow's first start will come at the Dolphins in Week 7. Miami's pass defense, through four games, has allowed nine touchdowns and 307 yards on average. Only Philip Rivers did not throw two touchdowns against the Fins, but he did get over 300 yards. To boot, the Dolphins long ago dubbed their Week 7 home game as "Gator Day," where they will honor past University of Florida greats. It was done as a ploy to sell more tickets because the Dolphins' fans aren't interested in paying big bucks to see their lackluster team play. But now Broncos fans and Gators fans might be interested to see their favorite quarterback play. It's going to be like a home game for Tebow and it's complete with a dream matchup.

I'm getting visions of my Week 16 Fantasy championship victory with Tebow last year just thinking about his first start.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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