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2012 Draft Prep: QB tiers and strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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• Dave Richard's tiers and strategies: Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker/DST

When it comes to quarterbacks, you must first decide when to take a quarterback, then decide who. And these will be the two biggest decisions you make on Draft Day.

Four factors will help you make the call on the when:

• What's the scoring like for quarterbacks?
• How many quarterbacks can you start?
• How many teams are in the league?
• What's your personal preference on quarterbacks?

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The more points quarterbacks get compared to everyone else, the more valuable they become. The more quarterbacks you can start, the hotter the commodity they become. The more teams in your league, the more desirable they become. These things are obvious; personal preference is not.

Some people are locked into taking an elite quarterback as soon as possible because those reliable, established ones have the tendency to score lots of points on a weekly basis and be counted on to play every game. Some people prefer to wait for a quarterback, instead picking up quality players at other positions before going with a signal-caller who might not score as consistently but still be productive. Others will wait longer for a passer knowing one will be there at a great draft value, forfeiting consistency.

The only right answer is that there's no wrong answer. Whether you decide to take a quarterback in Round 1 or 2 or wait until halfway through the draft, you're not exactly putting yourself in a dangerous position provided you can only start one and that the league has 12 or fewer teams.

Let's help figure out which way you might want to go.

Go early
Rounds: 1-2
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton
Pros: These are rock-solid starters with 20-point expectations from week to week. Of the group, only Stafford carries injury risk, but the truth is if you're taking a quarterback this early you're never going to bench him (or at least you hope not!). Therefore, it's not as necessary to draft a backup; you can always find someone to fill in on the bye week later. That opens up a roster spot for an extra player, perhaps a running back.
Cons: By spending a top-round pick on a quarterback, you pass on the chance to draft an elite non-quarterback. Statistically that might not be a big deal because quarterbacks put up a ton of points, but if you have to start two or more running backs and two or more receivers, you'll either have to get lucky in your draft or do some detective work in the middle rounds for low-end starters.
When I'll use this strategy: Leagues with 14-plus teams, leagues that start multiple quarterbacks and 12-team non-PPR leagues when I pick toward the middle/end of the first round. I'll never pick a quarterback with an early or middle first-round pick in 10-team leagues knowing everyone will have an all-star quarterback. Round 2 or maybe 3 is when I'll lift a finger for a passer in those smaller formats. If there are heavy yardage bonuses I'll lean toward this crew.

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Go early-middle
Rounds: 4-5
Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers
Pros: To get one of these guys would still mean burning a valuable pick, but not one of your first two (or maybe even four) selections. That should give you a chance to land some elite and very good talent and still get a quarterback capable of at least 15 points per week.
Cons: They're not bad, but they're not elite. Potential to be? Sure, but not quite as reliable as the first five are thought to be. But that's why you're drafting them here and not there. There are some injury risks here with Vick and Peyton Manning so getting a backup for those is a must, but the rest don't require one.
When I'll use this strategy: In most 12-team PPR and all 10-teams leagues. So basically this is the most common draft plan I'll propose, especially if I'm picking in the Top 3 overall.

Go middle
Rounds: 6-7
Quarterbacks: Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger
Pros: Excellent value -- you'll get a quarterback after you've drafted at least five starters at other positions. Plus the pressure is on your opponents to get players at those other positions while you can strategize your way into a starter. And expectations aren't too bad for these guys as they'll score close to (if not more) than the early-middle quarterbacks.
Cons: More risk with this pair than the others, though not much. Both are capable of laying an egg more than a few times during the year. Backups are necessary in case they struggle or get hurt, but you could land one in the ensuing round.
When I'll use this strategy: I don't mind waiting for Romo (not so much Big Ben) in Round 6 or 7, but I'll need the draft to fall the right way. That means I'll try to land Romo as late as possible, then follow him up with an upside-laden backup a couple of rounds later. Typically this might happen to me in 12-team leagues.

Go crazy
Rounds: 8-plus
Quarterbacks: Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, etc ...
Pros: In theory the rest of your roster will be stocked because you've waited this long. And if you hit it big with a quarterback that outperforms expectations (think Stafford or Newton last year) you should be on your way to your league's playoffs. Going with back-to-back quarterback picks using this strategy makes sense as you give yourself two options to start weekly and two chances for an overachiever.
Cons: You're committing to playing the matchups every week if you take two non-No. 1 Fantasy quarterbacks. There's significant risk as no one in this group can consistently put up over 15 Fantasy points per week. And there's definitely some uncertainty as every passer has some question marks. If you get unlucky with other players on your Fantasy team and your quarterbacks don't step up you're sunk.
When I'll use this strategy: Not often -- maybe in 14-plus team PPR formats. In fact, I'd have to wait and wait for a quarterback only to get besmirched by a rival who takes his second passer before I get my first. But I'm not opposed to going with a Cutler-Schaub battery if I'm picking near the end of a round and have picks in close proximity and can get them both.

The 4-10 split

It's understandable to want a great Fantasy quarterback. How many owners won big last year with one of the guys ranked in the Top 5? But whether you can't bring yourself to take one with a Top 24 pick or come out of the first two rounds without one because other owners ate them up, keep this idea in your back pocket.

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Basically we're looking for a quarterback in Round 4 and another in Round 10 to serve as our options for the year. The choices we'll have in Round 4 will be along the lines of Ryan, maybe Vick, Rivers and a Manning. Pair one of those guys with a sleeper in Round 10, maybe someone as good as Cutler or Luck. The basis is to lean on the guy you draft in Round 4 and hope the 10th rounder plays out of his mind and can be good trade bait.

This year's Cam?

Drafting a sure thing in Round 1 is nice, but everyone wants to land the sleeper quarterback who develops into a Top 10 Fantasy choice. While we can't guarantee that any of these quarterbacks will finish as Top 10 options, we do recognize their potential and wouldn't list them here if they couldn't get into that Top 10. Give them some thought late in drafts as a second (or even third) quarterback.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati: There's a lot to be excited about here. He's got the stud receiver (A.J. Green), the burly tight end (Jermaine Gresham), some up-and-coming complimentary targets and will run Jay Gruden's offense for a second season. He'll need his run game to play better than expected to have a chance at being a massive stat machine, but he's got the pedigree to do it. Getting over the hump vs. the Steelers and Ravens (four touchdowns, five interceptions, 50.3 comp. pct., 6.36 yards/att.) would be a must.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay: I might not be the biggest Vincent Jackson fan but even I'll admit he'll be a huge help to Freeman's passing numbers. Bringing him in and moving Mike Williams to a No. 2 role gives the Bucs a formidable receiving threat. Throw in Doug Martin, Dallas Clark and Preston Parker and Freeman easily has the most effective pass-catching unit he's ever had. Tack on his rushing ability and the sky is the limit.

Robert Griffin III, Washington: The fit of Griffin in Mike Shanahan's offense is perfect. He's at his best when he moves out of the pocket and fires downfield. He's going to have a good receiving corps and will pick up a lot of yardage running the ball. Playing in a tough division doesn't help but you can count on Griffin delivering some impressive weeks. He's actually the best rookie quarterback you can draft in seasonal leagues, but just barely.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis: I can't help myself: I love Luck already. He's so polished, so ready for the NFL. But his receiving corps just isn't awesome and his offensive line wishes it was average. He's going to have some tremendous stat lines and he's also going to have some nasty weeks, including Week 1 against the Bears. I am all for taking a flier on Luck in Round 10 or even 11 but wouldn't go much farther with him than that. Luck is worth taking No. 1 overall in rookie drafts -- he'll eventually be a gem for Fantasy.

Alex Smith, San Francisco: Look, the Niners didn't add Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins to boost ticket sales. They know they became too predictable and had to improve the receiving corps to keep defenses from keying in on what Smith was doing. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm but doesn't need it. A versatile up-tempo passing game should be enough to get Smith's stats higher than they've been, especially if he finds ways to use Vernon Davis like he did during the playoffs last January. He's also coming off a career-best season and has taken to Jim Harbaugh's coaching. He's better than you think.

Bye-week cheat sheet

As a service to you, the Fantasy quarterback shopper, we're pleased to present our list of backup quarterbacks to target based solely on the matchups during your starter's bye week. Print, copy or memorize this list and bring it with you to your draft to help you maximize your backup quarterback value, if you choose to carry one.

Bye-week cheat sheet
Bye Week Top 15 Fantasy QBs on bye No. 2 Fantasy QBs with projected good matchups
Week 4 Ben Roethlisberger Andy Dalton (at JAC), Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. NE), Joe Flacco (vs. CLE), Josh Freeman (vs. WAS), John Skelton (vs. MIA)
Week 5 Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford Andy Dalton (vs. MIA), Jake Locker (at MIN), John Skelton (at STL)
Week 6 Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton Andy Dalton (at CLE), Robert Griffin III (vs. MIN),
Week 7 Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers,
Matt Ryan, Michael Vick
Josh Freeman (vs. NO), John Skelton (at MIN), Andrew Luck (vs. CLE), Carson Palmer (vs. JAC)
Week 8 Matt Schaub Matt Cassel (vs. OAK), Josh Freeman (at MIN)
Week 9 Tom Brady Joe Flacco (at CLE), Josh Freeman (at OAK), Robert Griffin III (vs. CAR), Andrew Luck (vs. MIA)
Week 10 Robert Griffin III, Aaron Rodgers Andrew Luck (at JAC), Alex Smith (vs. STL)
Week 11 Eli Manning Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. MIA), Andrew Luck (at NE), Carson Palmer (vs. NO)

Tiers, no fears

As always, this is the breakdown of quarterbacks based on expected production and settled into tiers. In your travels for a quarterback you'll see the talent pool dwindle one tier at a time. Not only should this help you identify when to make plans for a quarterback based on the dwindling talent as the draft goes on, but if you're the sneaky owner who wants to wait for a quarterback, you'll know when to make your move for a low-end No. 1 option based on the tiers drying up. Keep in mind the stats provided below are also equivalents for those quarterbacks who run more and throw less than their pocket-present counterparts.

Elite Near Elite Very Good
4700+ yards, 37+ TDs 4400+ yards, 32+ TDs 4200+ yards, 28+ TDs
Aaron Rodgers Matt Ryan Peyton Manning
Drew Brees Eli Manning Philip Rivers
Tom Brady Michael Vick Tony Romo
Matthew Stafford Ben Roethlisberger
Cam Newton   Jay Cutler
    Matt Schaub
No. 2 Upside No. 2 Less Upside Deep sleeper QBs
3700+ yards, 22+ TDs    
Robert Griffin III Christian Ponder Ryan Tannehill
Joe Flacco Blaine Gabbert Mark Sanchez
Andrew Luck Matt Cassel Matt Hasselbeck
Alex Smith Sam Bradford Tim Tebow
Josh Freeman Brandon Weeden Nick Foles
Ryan Fitzpatrick    
Jake Locker    
Russell Wilson    
Andy Dalton    
Carson Palmer    

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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Player News
Haloti Ngata turned down extension with Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:10 am ET) Looking to free up cap space earlier this offseason, the Ravens offered a "lucrative, long-term" deal with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata so that he wouldn't cost $16 million in cap space. Ngata, 30 years old with two years left on his current deal, wasn't willing to take the extension, NFL Network reports. 

Report: Ravens planning to add two running backs
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(10:47 am ET) The Ravens are aware of what's been going on with Ray Rice this offseason but were planning to add a pair of running backs this offseason anyway. NFL Network reports that they now believe that one of those two might have to start depending on what happens with Rice. 

The veteran running back had a horrible 2013 season (under 1,000 total yards) and then was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge when he struck his then-fiancee and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. 


Kyle Rudolph hopes for contract extension
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph hopes to stay in Minnesota on a long-term contract, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Rudolph is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He said Tuesday that the team, which still has approximately $10 million in salary cap space after a busy offseason, has not approached him about a contract extension.

"I've really enjoyed my time here, from the top down, in our organization," Rudolph said. "I think we have the best owners in football. They're willing to do anything for us to win. Everybody in the front office, the new staff, I really like the direction this team is going in. I'm excited to be a part of that future."

Rudolph is hoping to bounce back after he was limited to eight games in 2013 because of a fracture in his left foot. He caught 30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his foot in a Week 9 loss to the Cowboys. 

He has been studying tape of the Browns from last season so he can get a feel for how he will be utilized in new coordinator Norv Turner's offense. Tight ends such as Jay Novacek, Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron produced impressive numbers in three different decades with Turner calling the plays.

"I hope to fall in line with that," Rudolph said. "I'm excited to get into this offense."


Peyton Manning excited for Emmanuel Sanders
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Sanders is expected to replace the departed Eric Decker, and Manning said they have a lot of work to do.

"I'm excited about playing with him," Manning said.


Peyton: Montee Ball can handle new role
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:14 am ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said running back Montee Ball has a great opportunity now that Knowshon Moreno is gone as a free agent to Miami.

"I thought Montee had a great year," Manning said. "I thought he learned a lot in his first year. In my past, I've seen a lot of development in guys from their first year to their second year. There is no question with the loss of Knowshon — who was just nothing short of awesome for us this past year and was a great teammate — that Montee is going to have more responsibilities, and I think he will answer that challenge. I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload and I look forward to having a full offseason with him. He didn't have a full one last year because of being a rookie, so I look forward to getting even closer with him as far as being on the same page."


Carson Palmer OK if Cardinals draft quarterback
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:11 am ET) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer would be OK if the team drafted a quarterback in the NFL Draft, reports the team's official website.

Palmer, 34, said if the team drafts a quarterback it would make sense.

"If you are in a position to draft the best player on your board, and that's the best position to be in as an organization, and (a quarterback) is the best player on the board, you are not only making your team better by creating competition but you are helping out the future," Palmer said. "I know I'm not going to play forever. It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don't see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that's the reality. That's the business. It doesn't matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don't care. That’s the game."

Palmer is coming off a solid season in 2013. He threw for a career-high 4,274 yards with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.


Gerald McCoy says he won't hold out
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(10:10 am ET) Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy promised he wouldn't hold out of training camp this summer even though he's going into the final year of his contract. 

"When they say report to camp, Gerald McCoy will be there regardless of what happens," McCoy said per the Tampa Bay Times. McCoy also told the paper he can't wait to play in the Bucs' new version of the Cover-2 defense

"It's definitely going to be different," McCoy said. "We're playing the old-school, traditional Tampa 2 defense, and all we've been watching is old Chicago tape when (new Bucs coach Lovie Smith) was there. When (the Bucs) were in their prime, from 1996 to 2002, we've been watching all that tape because that's when the Tampa 2 was really thriving and took over the league. I'm excited about it."


Malcom Floyd's status still uncertain
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(10:03 am ET) Even though Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd plans to attend the team's voluntary workouts April 22, it doesn't mean his football career is back on track, reports the Union-Tribune San Diego.

Floyd continues to recover from a neck injury suffered in September. His participation in the offseason workouts will be more limited than most of his teammates, according to the report.

The report also added that no decision has been made whether Floyd will be able to continue playing. For weeks, Floyd has been running and lifting. While the injury did not require surgery, it demanded a long recovery. Risk of re-injury will be assessed before any decision about Floyd's return to the field is made.


Report: Niners want to play without Aldon Smith in 2014
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(9:59 am ET) Several 49ers decision makers allegedly believe that linebacker Aldon Smith won't play for the team in 2014. Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker.

The San Jose Mercury News has sources that tell him that while Smith is unlikely to play, the team is unlikely to release him. They still owe him $3 million guaranteed and want to see how the situation plays out before making such a permanent decision. The team also expects Smith to receive a suspension from the league. 

In addition to his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


Kevin Williams leaves visit with Giants without contract
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(9:54 am ET) Free agent defensive tackle Kevin Williams left his visit with the Giants without a contract, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Had a good visit and gonna see what happens!" Williams said via text message.

The report says Williams, who arrived in New York on Monday night, has not ruled out playing what would be a 12th NFL season after spending the first 11 with the Vikings. The Giants were the first team to bring Williams in for a visit. 


 
 
 
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