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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
Report: Titans plan to start QB Zach Mettenberger vs. Texans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) The Titans are planning to start rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger against the Texans Sunday, The Tennessean reports.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday that the plan was to have Jake Locker (thumb) regain the starting job when healthy, and the former first-round pick was limited in practice Wednesday. If Mettenberger has already been notified that he'll start, as the report suggests, it could mean Whisenhunt has changed his mind on Locker, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Locker has completed 58 percent of his passes while averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions in four starts. Backup Charlie Whitehurst has also played four games while starting three times, completing 60.2 percent of his passes while averaging 7.8 yards per attempt and throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions.


Cardinals QB Carson Palmer over nerve problem
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said Wednesday that he is no longer dealing with a nerve problem in his right shoulder, the Arizona Republic reports.

"Yeah, I'm there right now," Palmer said. "I'm actually able to lift with my upper body, which I wasn't able to lift for five weeks or whatever it was. I definitely had a lot of atrophy, so I'm starting to get some strength back and put a little extra weight up top, which is good. You get sick of going into the weight room and not being able to do things. There was a month of that and it's good to be able to get back in there and do something."

Palmer missed three games earlier in the season but has performed well in the two games since returning, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 503 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.


Report: Broncos practice squad S John Boyett arrested
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Broncos practice squad safety John Boyett was arrested early Wednesday on a charge of third degree assault, the Denver Post reports.

"We are disappointed to learn of the matter involving John Boyett and are in the process of gathering more information," the Broncos told the Post.

Boyett was arrested on charges of disorderly public intoxication on Sept. 2 of last year and waived by the Colts the next day. He signed with the Broncos last November.


Report: Texans' Brian Cushing (knee) out at least one week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will miss at least one week of action due to a knee injury, Pro Football Talk reports.

The knee has reportedly been bothering Cushing for the last two weeks, and he has had the troublesome knee drained a few times recently. The Texans have just two games left before the bye, so it's possible Cushing is held out through the team's Week 11 bye before returning in Week 12.


Report: Titans WR Nate Washington could be on trade block
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Titans wide receiver Nate Washington has drawn some trade interest recently and could be on the trade block, NFL.com reports.

Washington recently lost his starting job to Justin Hunter and is making $4.8 million in the final year of a six-year contract signed in March 2009. He has tallied 13 receptions for 169 yards in seven games.


Report: Judge forces Roger Goodell to testify at Ray Rice hearing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is being forced to testify at the hearing for former Ravens running back Ray Rice by a judge's ruling, ESPN.com reports.

Rice's hearing is set for the first week of November. He is appealing the decision to suspend him indefinitely for the domestic violence incident that initially earned him a two-game suspension during the league's inital investigation.


Report: Torn bicep could end Raiders LB LaMarr Woodley's season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Raiders linebacker LaMarr Woodley suffered a torn bicep in Sunday's game, NFL.com reports.

The injury is expected to cost Woodley the remainder of the season, according to the report. Head coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday that the injury "could be serious," and a tear is a worst-case scenario for the linebacker.


Report: Raiders TE David Ausberry dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Raiders tight end David Ausberry has a foot injury that could cost him significant time, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Ausberry played just one snap on offense in Week 7, but he was spotted heading to the locker room with a trainer during the game. He has caught two passes for 14 yards this season.


Sparano: Raiders' LaMarr Woodley's bicep injury 'could be serious'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Raiders linebacker LaMarr Woodley missed practice Wednesday with a bicep injury, and head coach Tony Sparano said it "could be serious," CSN Bay Area reports.

The injury is a new one for Woodley, who has yet to record a sack in five games. He played less than 50 percent of the defense's snaps for the first time this season in Week 7.


Raiders T Khalif Barnes practices Wednesday, may not start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) returned to practice Wednesday, but he may not regain his starting role from Menelik Watson, CSNBayArea.com reports.

Watson has allowed just two pressures in two starts, but coach Tony Sparano was noncommittal earlier in the week when asked about the situation. "We’re going to have some decisions to make," Sparano said Monday. "Menelik did a great job in there again (on Sunday). Khalif has been a real staple for me at a bunch of positions, as you know. I really feel like he’s one of the leaders of that group and he hasn’t been out there, but Menelik has done a really good job. We’ll find ways to keep them all involved and to keep them all going. The good news is that Menelik is a young player right now that is getting better."

Watson ran with the first team during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.


 
 
 
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