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Reality Check: Stop your QB carousel

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It was a different world, Week 2.

Back then, spirits were high. Optimism rampant. Hair out of control. Expectations unwieldy.

We all thought we could predict the future, man.

It was in those days of reckless self-assurance that I had the audacity to unfurl this gem:

"With so little differentiation between the second and third tiers at quarterback now, the position, quite frankly, has become matchups-oriented."

I wrote it. You read it. We've been banging our heads against a wall ever since.

Not that it was so outlandish at the time. The general premise of a less-than-elite super tier developing at the position has proven to be true, with fewer points separating the 11th quarterback from the third quarterback than the third quarterback from the second. But after eight weeks of experimenting with it, I can confidently say that playing matchups at quarterback simply won't do -- a possibility I foresaw but didn't fully embrace in that Sept. 19 column:

"The more options you have to choose from, the more potential you have to choose wrong, and if you continually choose wrong, you miss out on all the good weeks, putting you in a worse predicament than if you had just stuck with one guy."

Yes. Yes. That's exactly what's happened to me over and over again in every league except the one where I own Drew Brees.

Why's that? Because I'm not sitting Drew Brees for anything.

I'm sure most people would agree with me there. Along with Peyton Manning, he's one of only two quarterbacks who have legitimately distanced themselves from the others.

But if the secondary benefit of owning a Drew Brees -- i.e., the elimination of any potential dilemma at quarterback -- can make such a difference for my Fantasy team, why not just apply it to lesser quarterbacks, ones who don't necessarily deserve every-week status over their peers but who are productive enough to justify it in the absence of alternatives?

To be clear, I'm talking about intentionally eliminating quarterback depth to protect yourself from yourself.

Now, if you have two quarterbacks of similar value and consistently pick the higher-scoring one each week, you're obviously beyond such measures. But if you're right only half the time -- or, in my case, less than that -- the surplus is only limiting your potential output.

Maybe you still don't buy that choosing is all that difficult and view my inability to do so as nothing more than user error. But look, I don't have the same issue at running back. Not that I have a 100 percent success rate there either, but the correlation between matchup and production is strong enough to satisfy me. The problem is limited to quarterback.

And I don't know why exactly. Maybe different passing schemes work better against some teams than others while running is running is running. Maybe the flow of the game -- who gets the lead and when, which would be mostly unpredictable -- has a greater effect on the passing game than the running game. I'm just spitballing here.

Not that knowing would make a difference. Like it or not, this is the way it is, so unless you delight in chasing your tail, I say you give up on playing matchups at quarterback.

And conveniently enough, I've come to this conclusion just in time for the trade deadline in most leagues.

Not that you have to trade your excess at quarterback, of course. Keeping a spare around in case of injury could end up saving your season. But for it to work, you have to convince yourself he's just a backup, no matter how close his production is to your starter's, and affix him to your bench until you genuinely have no other choice.

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I don't know about you, but I can't trust myself to do that. Keeping him around would only tempt me to make a change if I didn't like the way things went the previous week, and once you start down that path, you risk missing out on the best your starter has to offer.

Case in point: In a league where I own Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Case Keenum (if you think playing matchups with two is tricky, try it with three), I recently determined to stick with Wilson every week unless his matchup demanded I sit him, which clearly wasn't the case at the Falcons last week. But then I saw Rivers was facing the Broncos and thought of all the points they've given up recently and how much he'd have to throw to keep up with Peyton Manning and how smart I'd be to deviate from the plan for just one more week and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Lo and behold, Rivers scored 14 points, Wilson scored 25, and I lost by one.

It never fails.

Now, again, it's a dilemma only if the two quarterbacks have more or less the same value. If one clearly outclasses the other, then duh, he's the one to start. But as plentiful as second-tier quarterbacks have become, chances are more than a few teams in your league have more than one, which is why I feel the need to designate priority where none exists naturally.

To that end, here are the 12 quarterbacks I'd be most willing to start the rest of the way. The goal is one per team, so if you play in a smaller league, feel free to shorten the list. I'm not saying these 12 are vastly superior to everyone else at the position, because particularly for the back half, that's simply not true. But if you can come up with a way to have one and only one on your roster without sacrificing too much in the way of value, you won't have to worry about shooting yourself in the foot anymore.

1. Peyton Manning, Broncos: You don't need me to tell you he's the best.

2. Drew Brees, Saints: If you eliminate Week 1, he's basically on par with Manning. Again, nobody's debating whether or not to start him.

3. Matthew Stafford, Lions: After a so-so first five weeks, he's distinguished himself with three-plus touchdowns in three of his last four games. A bad game for him is 250 yards and two touchdowns.

4. Tony Romo, Cowboys: Wildly inconsistent, which is the worst quality for a Fantasy quarterback, but the good games are too good to risk missing.

5. Cam Newton, Panthers: In the same boat as Romo, except the bad games are a little worse. You end up kicking yourself every time you sit him, though.

6. Nick Foles, Eagles: This is as high as I can justify ranking him with so little track record, but three of his last four starts have been nothing short of spectacular.

7. Russell Wilson, Seahawks: The tough calls begin here. Wilson has consistency going for him, but he has a bye and a game at San Francisco ahead.

8. Case Keenum, Texans: Even less of a track record than Foles, but he has been nearly flawless so far and has some nice weapons at his disposal. He also has what might be the best matchups of this group going forward.

9. Robert Griffin III, Redskins: Really hard to trust given his struggles so far, but he's coming off his best game and has terrific matchups in five of his final seven.

10. Tom Brady, Patriots: Like Griffin in that he hasn't earned much trust this year, but if his Week 9 performance is an indication of what he can do with his full allotment of weaponos, you'll be glad you held on to him.

11. Andrew Luck, Colts: Deserves more credit than I've given him thanks to the failures of the Colts' running game but doesn't have a matchup that I'd consider favorable the rest of the way (unless you count Week 17).

12. Philip Rivers, Chargers: After a strong start, he's fallen into the Ben Roethlisberger pattern of steady yardage but sparse touchdowns. Better matchups than Luck going forward, but that's not saying much.

The order here isn't as important as the narrowing down to 12. Particularly after the top six, it's too close to call, which is sort of the basis for the whole column. Even now, I'm debating whether to drop Wilson behind Brady. That upcoming bye really hurts.

The good news is you get to decide which of the 12 to keep and which to shop. Trust Luck over Griffin? Fine by me as long you commit to it. Griffin's trade value is probably as high as it's been all year. Value track record more than anything and prefer to stick with Brady over Foles? I'm sure you'll find a taker for the fresh face, as productive as he's been so far.

Of course, that goes for any of these 12, assuming you play in a 12-team league. If you have more than on your roster, then someone else doesn't have any. More likely, several don't have any because you're not the only one with more than one. I'm not saying they'll all offer fair value, but with this type of deal, the return is secondary. Ideally, you'd pair the quarterback with one of your running backs for an even better running back, but if the offer's in the ballpark and you get something you like, you should be happy to dump your problem on someone else, assuming it's actually a problem

Now, here's where I start making concessions. A time will come when Aaron Rodgers re-enters the discussion, presumably at No. 3 or 4, so keep that in mind in your negotiations. Also, keep in mind I've approached this subject from the perspective of one with excess. If you don't have any of these 12 but do have one and only one of Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan, who were the near misses, you're not so far behind that you should break up your fleet of running backs to upgrade.

Unless you're 4-6 or whatever. In that case, that fleet of running backs isn't doing you much good.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson: I'm entering make or break year
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:23 am ET) Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson followed up a promising rookie season by catching just 33 passes for 384 yards and one touchdown in 2014 while making just six starts. He feels like 2015 will be a make or break year, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

"This year is going to make me or break me, and I hope I step up and have a good role in this offense," Patterson said Monday during the second week of voluntary workouts.

Patterson worked out in San Francisco last month while many of his offensive teammates were working out in Los Angeles.

"I feel like I needed to work on something different from what those guys were doing," Patterson said. "So I went to San Francisco."

He indicated he touched up on some skills that needed refining.

"This whole offseason, I spent a lot of time just thinking to myself, 'How can I get better?' " he said. "I just want to let my game speak for itself. I just focused on the little things that really matter, and I hope this year will be way better than last year. Just route running. Growing up, I was always athletic and could just do anything. I'm in the NFL now, so I just have to focus on my craft and just work at route running, getting in and getting out of breaks and stuff like that."

Patterson could open the season as the team's slot receiver depending on how the Vikings approach this weekend's draft.


Vikings LB Chad Greenway unsure if he'll play beyond 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway will play his 10th season with the team in 2015 but is unsure of whether he'll hang up his cleats at the end of the season, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

"I don’t know how it’s going to go," Greenway said Monday. "I’ll tell you I’m enjoying everything with the idea of, 'Who knows? We’ll see.' Ten years is sort of that unwritten (goal). Everyone wants to get there. We’ll see what happens."

Greenway ranked No. 38 out of 40 outside linebackers in a 4-3 scheme, per Pro Football Focus, but his teammates still see him as a pivotal part of the team.

"I love it," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "That’s a big leader. He was our defensive caller last year. When we didn’t have him in sometimes it was kind of rough to get the calls in, but having in him, he’s a big vocal point of our team. He’s a leader. He’s been here. This is his 10th season. So I’m happy the guy’s still here. I love him like a brother."

Greenway agreed to restructure his contract in late March to return to the Vikings for his 10th season.


Rams not expected to pick up 2016 option on S Mark Barron
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(4/27/2015) The Rams are not expected to pick up the 2016 option on safety Mark Barron, reports ProFootballTalk.com. 

The Rams acquired Barron from the Buccaneers in a trade midseason last year for a fourth- and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. 

He started all seven games he was with the Rams in 2014. 

The Rams will evaluate Barron's play in 2015 before deciding if they'll pursue a new contract.


Giants waive running back Michael Cox
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/27/2015) The Giants have waived running back Michael Cox, the team has announced.

Cox played in four games in 2014, having his season cut short after suffering a fractured leg in Week 10.

A seventh-round draft choice in 2013, Cox played in 18 games and started one in two seasons for the Giants.

Rams to exercise fifth-year option on DT Michael Brockers
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(4/27/2015) The Rams have announced that they will exercise the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Michael Brockers, keeping him with the club through at least 2016, per NFL.com. 

Brockers was drafted No. 14 overall in 2012 by the Rams and has started every game for the team the last two seasons. 

The former LSU standout will earn over $5 million in 2016 after signing a four-year, $9.52 million rookie deal.


Report: Eagles excercise fifth-year option on Fletcher Cox
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/27/2015) The Eagles have reportedly exercised their fifth-year team option on defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, according to NFL Network.

Cox is entering his four season in Philadelphia, where he has missed just one game his career. Cox has totaled 109 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks in his three seasons with the club.


Bills release DB Jonte Green
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(4/27/2015) After signing him in January, the Bills have released defensive back Jonte Green, the team has announced.

Green was drafted by the Lions in the sixth round of the 2012 draft out of New Mexico State.

He played 24 games with seven starts over the 2012 and 2013 seasons for the Lions and totaled 38 tackles, one sack, seven passes defensed and one interception.

He did not play in the NFL in 2014.


Bills send DB Jonte Green packing
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/27/2015) The Bills have released defensive back Jonte Green three-and-a-half months after signing him.

Green played in 24 games with Detroit in 2012 and 2013. He totaled 38 tackles, one sacks and seven passes defensed.


Report: NFLPA appeals Greg Hardy suspension
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/27/2015) The NFL Players Association has appealed the 10-game suspension of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, per the Charlotte Observer.

The union is expected to claim that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell applied the discipline retroactively under the new personal conduct policy, which was not enacted until December - seven months after Hardy was arrested on domestic violence charges.

Goodell, however, has claimed that the suspension is identical to what it would have been under the old policy for conduct detrimental to the league.

Hardy, who signed an incentive-enhanced one-year deal with Dallas in March, could lose as much as $5.8 million if the suspension stands.


Redskins pick up QB Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/27/2015) Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan announced Monday that the team will pick up quarterback Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option for the 2016 season, a move worth $16.155 million, per The Washington Post

The Redskins have already announced that Griffin will be the starter this season, and locking him up would not affect the team's plans, if they have any, to draft a quarterback. NFL Media insider Albert Breer said the team views the option as a franchise tag of sorts. 

The risk comes in that if Griffin is hurt during this season, the Redskins would be on the hook to pay the full $16 million. If Griffin does not perform well in 2015, the Redskins could release the quarterback without taking a salary-cap hit. 

Griffin threw for 1,694 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions last season.


 
 
 
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