Quarterback has become the make or break position in fantasy football over the past couple years. Remember when running backs dominated the first two rounds of most drafts? It wasn’t that long ago. Now we see as many as three QBs going in the first round – but is it justified? In some cases, yes, but there are gems going in the later rounds that can help you win your fantasy championship in December.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Average Draft Position: 2.10
Cam Newton was an absolute fantasy beast last season – 4000 passing yards, 21 passing TDs and 14, count ‘em 14 rushing scores. The hype is warranted but his selection in the second round may not be. You don’t have to look back too far to conjure up examples of how multi-tooled quarterbacks have fared the year after a breakout season… think Michael Vick and Vince Young. Expect the rushing TDs to decrease – they almost have to with battering ram Mike Tolbert in the fold, snaking those red zone opportunities. That leaves the onus on Newton’s ability to throw the ball in order to appease his high ADP. He is good, not great and his weapons outside of Steve Smith are far from elite. Add in the fact that defenses will have had a full off-season to think about Newton’s attributes and he becomes the riskiest of the top 5 quarterbacks on the board.
Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 5.12
Manning has become one of the most polarizing players in the world of fantasy this off-season and rightfully so. The future Hall of Famer obviously has the skills, the smarts and the desire to prove his doubters wrong but a fifth round selection is too early. We know his amazing track record of consistency and the fact that he has reportedly looked OK in organized activities, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. There are the four neck surgeries, a new team, a new system and the fact that his weapons are Eric Decker and Demaryuis Thomas instead of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and even Marvin Harrison. Manning is the classic risk/reward pick in the fifth round – better to look at Eli, Philip Rivers and even Matt Ryan who are being drafted a round or two after Peyton.
Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Average Draft Position: 8.08
There is no doubting the talent of Griffin and the fact that he will one day be a solid pro. Where the problem lies is in people’s expectations. At present he is being drafted in the eighth round ahead of such names as Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub to name a few. Cam Newton set the bar very high last year but people have to realize that Newton’s monumental season was the exception, not the rule. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are all quarterbacks that struggled or were not ready to play in their first season as pros. Griffin has Pierre Garcon, an aging Santana Moss and a troubled Fred Davis in his arsenal. He also has the daunting task of playing the Giants, the Eagles and the Cowboys two times each this year. I have no problem with those who draft Griffin III as a QB2 with upside but to draft him as your starter is an enormous risk – one that I would stay away from.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Draft Position: 8.11
Where is the love for Mr. Roethlisberger? People tend to forget that he has passed for 4000 yards and at least 20 touchdowns in two of the last three seasons – the other season he missed the first four games. There are a few of factors that we need to look at here. First, the Steelers significantly upgraded a glaring weakness on their team in the draft – they picked up two stud offensive linemen that instantly plug a gaping hole. Second, Ben has weapons – Mike Wallace (if and when he signs), Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders strike the fear of God in opposing defensive coordinators. Third, is the injury to Rashard Mendenhall who figures to miss a good chunk of the season – do you trust Isaac Redman? And finally there is new offensive coordinator Todd Haley who, despite a bit of controversy has a chance to re-ignite this offense. Ben is a sure-fire every week fantasy starter and he is the 13th QB off the board. My bet is that he finishes this season in the top 10 and rewarding those who waited until the eighth round to select him.
Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position: 9.02
Cutler’s ADP is right behind that of Big Ben’s – behind Robert Griffin III? Amazing! The biggest story for Cutler in 2012 is the Bears’ acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Marshall caught 100 balls in 2008 when Cutler finished top five among fantasy quarterbacks. The Bears also drafted Alshon Jeffrey in the second round this year – needless to say the receiver position has been significantly upgraded. Mike Martz is out as offensive coordinator and Mike Tice is in. This move will allow the Bears to play to Cutler’s strengths – more five step drops instead of seven step drops. Add in the fact that the Bears possess one of the best pass catching running backs in the league (Matt Forte) and that potential shootouts with Green Bay and Detroit loom and one has to look at Cutler as a low-end fantasy starter this year – not the high-end QB2 that he is being drafted as.
Carson Palmer – Oakland Raiders
Average Draft Position: 11.02
Palmer is currently the 16th quarterback being taken in most drafts. Consider that he came off the couch last season more than half way through the year, learned a completely new playbook on the fly and still registered top ten fantasy numbers down the stretch (293 yards per game). Pretty impressive. In 2012 he will have a full training camp under his belt and he will have a rapport with a young and extremely talented group of receivers. His own defense figures to be poor again and he has the benefit of playing against some underwhelming AFC West defenses as well. It all adds up to a better than average year for Mr. Palmer who is certainly worth QB2 consideration with serious upside in the 11th round of your fantasy draft.