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.
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.
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|
|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|