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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
Andre Williams could surprise again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/30/2014) Though I don't know that he's ready for a platoon role, believing his strong showing Week 4 at Washington happened mainly because the Giants saw fit to rest their starting running back in a blowout, rookie Andre Williams has the perfect matchup to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets Week 5 against Atlanta. The Falcons rank 28th against the run, allowing 153.5 yards per game, and have given up nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Even better, they've been sort of the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Of the two lead CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analysts, Jamey Eisenberg ranks Williams the highest for this week, placing him 28th among running backs, so we're talking little more than an emergency flex option in standard 12-team leagues. Still, you wouldn't be completely out of your mind to play him coming off last week's performance.


Rashad Jennings should come roaring back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/30/2014) After being limited to just three touches in the second half of a blowout victory Week 4 at Washington, Giants running back Rashad Jennings has a chance to get back in his Fantasy owners' good graces in Week 5. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that just gave up 241 rushing yards to the Vikings, making them 28th against the run. They've also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Because rookie Andre Williams performed so well in relief of Jennings last week, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, you may be worried the two will split carries in some form or fashion going forward. While I don't think that's much of a concern -- Williams was already getting 5-10 carries a game and not doing much with them -- I'm not sure it really matters with this matchup. The Falcons have been the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Jennings among their top six running backs for Week 5, and I agree wholeheartedly. He remains a must-start despite the disappointment of last week.


Alfred Morris running into tough matchup
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) For as good as Alfred Morris is, owning him in Fantasy can leave you disappointed at times, given the Redskins' sometimes-inconsistent usage of him. You might want to skip the headache in Week 5, with the Seahawks on the way Monday night.

Morris has been productive in each game so far, and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage through four games. Unfortunately, he faces one of the toughest tests in the league this week. The Seahawks have yet to allow an opposing running back to score even six points this season, and their lone touchdown allowed came from little-used Packers fullback John Kuhn in Week 1. Morris has yet to face Seattle in his career, and they are unlikely to give him a very warm welcome.

Morris is nearly a must-start Fantasy option on a weekly basis, but this is one time you might want to avoid relying on him. The workload should be there, but Morris ranks outside of the top-30 for running backs in both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard's Week 5 rankings.   


Jets add LeQuan Lewis, subtract Brandon Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Jets signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to their practice squad and released corner Brandon Smith from the squad, reports the New York Daily News.

Panthers add Tauren Poole, Horace Miller to practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Panthers signed running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins an interesting long-term prospect
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from a foot injury and immediately served as a key part of the offense in Week 4. Does the rookie second-rounder have sleeper Fantasy potential moving forward?

Seferian-Jenkins was targeted on seven of quarterback Mike Glennon's 42 throws in Sunday's game, a number that left him third on the team. He brought in three of those passes, a decent number considering Glennon struggled with his accuracy all game. The fact that Glennon looked his way so often might be a good sign, since it was the pair's first game together.

After a collegiate career that saw him total 1,840 yards in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to become a big part of this Tampa Bay offense. However, he obviously has a lot to prove before you want to rely on him. Keep an eye on Seferian-Jenkins' play in Week 5 against the Saints, and consider adding him if he and Glennon show a good rapport. 


Lions put Montell Owens on IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Lions put running back Montell Owens on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season.

LaMichael James signs with Dolphins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Former 49ers running back LaMichael James signed with the Dolphins, reports Fox Sports. San Francisco released the oft-injured back following the season opener.

Luke Willson has a lot to prove with increased role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson to start at tight end in the coming weeks, with Zach Miller sidelined by ankle surgery. Should Fantasy owners take notice?

Miller had logged 83.5 percent of the team's snaps through three games, so Willson should be in line for a much larger role as the starter. Of course, Miller was nearly a nonfactor in the passing game so far, having been targeted just seven times. Between he and Willson, quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends just eight times on 87 attempts, after 20.6 percent of his passes went their way a year ago.

Willson might be the better pass catcher of the Seahawks tight end tandem, but we don't have much to go on here. There are better tight end options worth targeting on waivers, at least until Willson proves himself. 


Christian Ponder preparing to start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took the first-team reps Monday and Tuesday while rookie Teddy Bridgewater watched with an ankle injury. "I'm preparing to play, but we're hoping the best for Teddy," Ponder told reporters.

"I've talked to Teddy. He's doing everything he can to prepare and be ready to play."

Ponder has started 35 games, but none with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He could be under center Thursday in Green Bay. "It's a very different style of offense than what we've ran the previous three years," Ponder said. "Without Adrian [Peterson], it's different. Defenses play us differently without Adrian. I'm comfortable and fit well in it."


 
 
 
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