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Offseason Extra: QB tiers for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Early Tiers for 2014: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

If you leave your draft in 2014 without a very solid starting quarterback, you did it wrong.

Last year, there were 13 quarterbacks that averaged over 20 Fantasy points per game. Not all of them finished in the Top 12 -- some didn't even finish the season as the starter (example: Michael Vick). But it's a sign of the times: Quarterbacks are putting up big numbers. And they're not slowing down anytime soon.

But that's where a philosophical change should be considered. Many people -- including my colleague Jamey Eisenberg -- will tell you "Wait for a quarterback, you can get one anytime." That's true, you can get a quarterback with 20-point potential as the draft rolls on. But so will everyone else in your league.

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Suddenly it's not so special to have a 20-point potential passer. Know what is special? Getting a quarterback with weekly 25-to-30-plus point potential! It's kind of like why people chase Jimmy Graham -- he's a stud who out produces the majority of his peers by a wide margin. Elite passers like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers can also put up numbers higher than most quarterbacks on a weekly basis, and it's that kind of edge that can help your team win it all.

Over the last two seasons, Manning has averaged 27.9 Fantasy points per game, Brees has averaged 26.5 and Rodgers has averaged 25.1. Adjusting for actual games played, Nick Foles was the next highest at 22.2 per game followed by Tom Brady at 21.5 points per game. The cream of the crop makes a difference.

The problem with going for one of these three elite passers is that it'll require an early-round pick, most likely something within the first 15 picks in a standard league and the first 25 picks in a PPR. This is the same time when the elite and near-elite players at other positions get plucked. But unlike the turnover at running back and the potential inconsistency at receiver, the elite quarterbacks are pretty much the picture of consistency and dominance so long as they stay healthy -- and they mostly do.

Are they worth it? In a year where there aren't as many stud running back choices in Round 1 as the year prior, one could argue it's safer to pull the trigger on a gunslinger. After all, getting difference makers at as many positions as you can should equate to Fantasy success, and these three definitely qualify. The downside is spending a valuable pick on a position you can fill later on at a tremendous value.

And there's trickery in the specifics on when you pick these guys. For instance, if you're in a 12-team league and all three quarterbacks are on the board and you're up at 10th overall, you should pass on them knowing at least one should fall to you in Round 2. Only makes sense, right? Spend the pick on a difference maker at another position and double back for the stud passer when you're up a couple of picks later. Consequently, if you're at 10 and someone takes a quarterback ahead of your first pick then you might feel the pressure to land a stud of your own ASAP.

What happens if you decide to pass on a quarterback with a very early-round pick? Other than missing out on a big-time stat producer, nothing bad -- and that's the beauty of the position this year. It's overflowing with talent.

Free Fallin'

Expect a major gap between when the third and fourth quarterbacks get taken overall on Draft Day. How big? Potentially two full rounds.

There's already debate on who the fourth-best passer is (Colin Kaepernick? Foles? Matthew Stafford?) and they all might finish with similar averages and consistency. So with no consensus player for owners to gravitate toward and multiple passers with the same potential, why reach for one if they're all the same?

It'll take an owner who targets a specific quarterback for his roster to break the ice on when the quarterback run restarts. If you're not the guy with the targeted quarterback, then follow this rule:

If you don't take one of the Top 3 quarterbacks, wait a while.

This isn't to say Matt Ryan and Stafford won't bounce back, or that Foles won't stick in Philly. Those guys are going to be excellent, but they're not expected to greatly differentiate themselves from any of the other nine or so passers that get taken after Rodgers. The drop off is negligible. You're better off shopping at other positions and just backfill the quarterback later.

Cool to platoon?

I never liked taking two quarterbacks. I'd rather spend the roster spot on an extra running back or receiver. But if you end up picking a quarterback late, grabbing two and doubling down on your chances to have a solid passer isn't so bad.

One reason for it: The late rounds of drafts are gonna be the pits. In early mocks we've done there's been some lame talent to sift through. Everyone's reaching for backup running backs, backup receivers, low-end tight ends. Some might even chase a DST before Round 11. If you're going to chase depth, you might as well make it good depth.

The quarterbacks will deliver exactly that -- it's plenty deep, so much so that those owners who want to have a second passer will be amazed at who's left. In our most recent mock quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers were late picks. Just for reference, Wilson finished each of the last two seasons as a Top 10 quarterback, Cutler averaged 19.8 Fantasy points per game in his first year with coach Marc Trestman and Rivers had him beat with 21.3 points per week, finishing as a Top 5 quarterback in Fantasy points and Top 10 in consistency among passers who played 10-plus games.

Take these three passers, throw in one more with immense potential in Robert Griffin III and one established vet in Ben Roethlisberger and you have five lottery tickets. You could draft two of these five with late-round picks and play the matchups from week to week.

Or better yet: Draft one late with a stud quarterback. At worst you have an insurance policy in case your starter gets hurt. At best you trade the late rounder to a quarterback needy team in Week 4 or 5 and you still have an elite starter. I'm not sure you'll land gold in trade for a passer but you should be able to elevate your team somehow -- maybe in a two-for-one type of trade.

You could do much worse in Rounds 11 or 12.

Tiers on tap

Ranking and sorting your quarterbacks will be a tough exercise. The overall depth will make it a challenge to really sort out Player A from Player B. But as things stand now, here's what we've got.

Elite Value Elite Very Good
4800+ yards, 40+ TDs 4500+ yards, 34+ TDs 4100+ yards, 29+ TDs
Drew Brees Nick Foles Cam Newton
Peyton Manning Matthew Stafford Tony Romo
Aaron Rodgers Matt Ryan Tom Brady
  Colin Kaepernick Jay Cutler
    Philip Rivers
No. 2/Upside No. 2/Less Upside Deep sleeper QBs
3800+ yards, 25+ TDs    
Andrew Luck Carson Palmer Brian Hoyer
Russell Wilson Jake Locker E.J. Manuel
Ben Roethlisberger Eli Manning Geno Smith
Robert Griffin III Mike Glennon  
Andy Dalton Joe Flacco  
Alex Smith    
Sam Bradford    
Ryan Tannehill    

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 .

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Player News
Bills awarded waiver claim for QB Matt Simms
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8:28 pm ET) The quarterback situation in Buffalo has gotten a little more complicated on Friday. The Bills were awarded their waiver claim on QB Matt Simms, who was released by the Jets on Thursday, according to the team's official website. 

Simms has played just four games and has completed 19 of 39 passes for 195 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in his career.


Falcons waive LB Prince Shembo due to animal cruelty charges
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:55 pm ET) The Falcons have decided to waive linebacker Prince Shembo on Friday after he was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per nfl.com.

"We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo," the team said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo."

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Rams RB Trey Watts suspended four games
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:08 pm ET) Rams running back Trey Watts has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, according to profootballtalk.com.

Watts, who made the team in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, played in 14 games last season and rushed for 30 yards on seven carries.

Watts is eligible to return for Week 5 against the Packers.


Falcons LB Prince Shembo charged with cruelty to animals
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:57 pm ET) Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is being accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's dog and has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police said Denicia Williams, Shembo's ex-girlfriend, reported on April 19 that Shembo had killed her Yorkie.

Williams took the dog to Shembo's residence and left them unattended at some point. When she returned, the dog was unresponsive.

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor: 'This is the strongest offseason I've had'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:56 pm ET) Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor feels good. He should, he's finally healthy.

Chancellor, who has become accustomed to rehabbing nagging injuries during the offseason, is practicing with the team during organized team activities for the first time in a while, per The News Tribune.

“I feel great. Back to football form. Feel fast. Feel strong. I just feel good out there," Chancellor said. "I think this is the strongest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been actually able to train in the offseason instead of having surgeries.”

Chancellor recorded 78 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 games last season.


Cardinals RB coach: David Johnson 'reminds me a lot of Matt Forte'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:44 pm ET) Cardinals rookie runningback David Johnson received a huge compliment from his position coach, per nfl.com.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said the third-round pick reminds him of a Pro Bowl running back.

"He reminds me a lot of Matt Forte," Mitchell said. "You can put him outside and use him as a receiver and he's a good runner."

Mitchell sees the comparison between the two when it comes to Johnson's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Forte has excelled at throughout his career.

"He has excellent hands and he's a bigger target to throw the ball to," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a big piece of the puzzle before this season is said and done."

Johnson rushed for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Northern Iowa last year.


Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler absent at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:30 pm ET) Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was noticeably absent from organized team activities on Friday, per nesn.com. It's unclear why Butler was not at practice.

Butler recorded 15 tackles in 11 games last season, but most noticeably came up with a game-clinching interception in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX.


Cowboys excited and cautious with return of LB Sean Lee
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:22 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities last year. This year, he has been limited to individual drills during non-padded parctices, per The Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said the team is happy to have Lee back but that they will pace him along slowly.

"He's a ball of energy and excitement and that represents who we are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's moving well. We're just being smart as we get him ready to go. But he's got a lot of good quality work in."


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin getting work in as a punt returner
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(12:59 pm ET) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the Chiefs' prized free-agent pickup this offseason, which makes it that much more intriguing that he lined up to return punts during practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com.

Maclin, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, was a premier punt returner in college and played the role sparingly -- with little success -- with the Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said the team is preparing Maclin just in case he's needed to return punts or kicks because of injuries.

We just want to make sure he is ready,’’ Reid said. “You have limited numbers that you can dress on game day, so you don’t know what rotation you are going to have there with the receivers and returners. So it gives you an opportunity to keep him fresh. We don’t work him every day like the other guys. It’s kind of an every other day deal, so just to make sure that he’s okay and can still do that, but he’s not going to be the primary guy doing it right now.”


Eagles CB Byron Maxwell guarantees trip to Super Bowl 50
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:40 pm ET) Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell knows what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, he's appeared in two straight as a key member of the vaunted Seahawks defense.

Now, Maxwell is confident the Eagles will make a run to the big game and he will make his third consecutive appearance, per NFL.com.

"Because I've been there before," Maxwell said. "Knowing what it's like if we go that far. Because we're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We're gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them."

The Eagles haven't made a Super Bowl since their 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2004, but Maxwell didn't backtrack with his comments.

"You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."

Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games last season.


 
 
 
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