If you plan on putting any stock into these tiered rankings I’ll be releasing for 2014, I must warn you that they’re not for the faint of heart. There will be players that you’ll likely think I’ve ranked way too high. There will be players that you’ll likely think I’m way too low on.
Some of my reasoning for the way I’ve ranked my players for 2014 comes from statistics and information that I’ve picked up across various corners of the internet as I’ve put these rankings together. Some of it comes from my own personal musings.
Either way, I tried to remain as independent of groupthink as I could in order to give you the most authentic rankings possible. There isn’t a terribly great amount of analysis as I wanted to say something about every player to give you all something to think about regarding them.
For a primer on tiered rankings and how I use them, click these words.
The big dogs. Not straying from the consensus here. Any of these three can feasibly finish as the QB1 in fantasy football this year and nobody would be surprised. But unless you play in a 2QB league, you’ll have to sacrifice depth at other positions that start more than one player if you want one of them.
-Peyton Manning (DEN): I don’t care what the numbers, the film, or the metrics say (well usually I do, but not in this situation). In my 10 years of playing fantasy football, I’ve learned that you don’t bet against greatness. Will he finish as the QB1? No one knows for sure. But I’ve yet to find a reason good enough to justify dropping Peyton from this spot. If all goes well, I feel his healthy floor is still a top three finish, accounted for by the fact that he’s in this first tier with two other QBs.
-Drew Brees (NO): Strained oblique notwithstanding, Brees remains as safe an option as any with his growing assortment of weapons and an improving defense that should give him a few extra possessions to work with throughout the season.
-Aaron Rodgers (GB): His rushing prowess and overall effectiveness keep him in the Top 3.
A general combination of youth, scheme and upside push these next three QBs above the rest of the field as, once again, I’m not straying far from the consensus. If one or more of the Tier 1 QBs suffer an injury, these are the players I feel have the best shot at making the leap into the top three.
-Matthew Stafford (DET): Causes for optimism: a new OC in former Saints offensive assistant & QB coach Joe Lombardi (who is giving Staff more freedom to audible at the line and preaching an up-tempo style) & the addition of Golden Tate as the player who may finally be able to make the WR2 position in Detroit fantasy relevant.
-Andrew Luck (IND): Lots of young & talented receivers, a less than subpar running game and defense, and his rushing potential keep Luck planted firmly in my Top 5.
-Nick Foles (PHI): Causes for optimism: increased familiarity in the system of an innovative & offensive minded coach, better red zone receiving threats, improvements on defense which should lead to additional high-value pass attempts via an increase in the number of plays run, & the NFL’s best offensive line.
Here we begin to stray from the comfort of groupthink. It’s not that these players don’t offer the upside of the QBs in the first two tiers, because any of these guys can be a league winning pick if all breaks right and I’d be comfortable with any of them as my QB1. It’s that the players in the first two tiers don’t offer as much downside as this next group should they not live up to expectations.
-Jay Cutler (CHI): At the time of this writing, only 12 of 136 QB rankers at Fantasy Pros have Cutler as their seventh ranked QB or higher (with a high of 5th). A big part of my high rank for him centers on his 20:1 odds to be the NFL MVP in 2014 per Bovada, the same as Russell Wilson (I feel Vegas will do its best to ensure that Cutler stays healthy enough to have a shot if they think that highly of him). No other QB you can draft after round eight is an arbitrage play on 3 different consensus Top 10 skill position players.
-Colin Kaepernick (SF): Has the talent, supporting cast, and improving situation to become a post-hype sleeper. His defense has also gotten worse on paper, which should lead to bigger numbers all around. Ran for 524 yards in 2013 despite chipping a bone on his forefoot & rupturing a capsule in the ball of his foot against Seattle in Week 2.
-Philip Rivers (SD): Take advantage of people overlooking the fact that Rivers finished as the QB5 last year and that his situation has arguably gotten better.
-Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): It’s worth noting that Ben finished as the QB4 across the final nine games of 2013. With the no-huddle remaining the staple of the offense, look for Ben to remain underrated in both reality & fantasy football.
-Russell Wilson (SEA): His combination of talent and efficiency, both running and throwing the football, could make Russ a league winner if Seattle suffers a key defensive injury, an injury to Lynch, or find themselves trailing in more games.
I know you were probably expecting to see these next few players ranked at least one tier higher. Unfortunately, their combination of ADP & downside outweighs their upside. If most of the QBs from the previous tiers meet or exceed expectations, it would take a perfect storm for any of these players to finish as a QB1. They still offer enough upside for you to draft them over the next tier of QBs.
-Robert Griffin III (WAS): If all goes well, we should expect his performance to regress closer to his 2012 levels after a down season in 2013. Though his risk of re-injury is still high with two ACL reconstructions on the same knee. And there are questions about whether he can make more of a transition to being a pocket passer without hurting his productivity.
-Matt Ryan (ATL): With no more Tony Gonzalez, heneeds Julio Jones to stay healthy to have a shot at being a Top 12 QB. Sam Baker going on IR doesn’t help although Ryan will benefit if Jake Matthews, now set to start at left tackle from day one, proves to be the real deal.
-Tom Brady (NE): There’stoo much risk with Rob Gronkowski’s high injury probability, the lack of a proven WR1-type of player, & the emergence of James White to bolster the running game for me to comfortably rank Brady higher than this. If Aaron Dobson proves to be the legit, I fully understand that Brady could make me look foolish for ranking him this low.
-Tony Romo (DAL): A bad defense and the addition of Scott Linehan could lead to shootouts. Romo’s bad back and a run defense that may be bad enough to keep the offense off the field for long stretches at a time give me some pause.
-Cam Newton (CAR): Ankle surgery, his recent hairline rib fracture, and a weakened offensive line could affect his rushing, which he has traditionally relied on more than his passing. And which he may need to rely on more-so this year with a raw WR core. Kelvin Benjamin has looked impressive, but will it translate to the regular season?
While I wouldn’t necessarily plan on one of these guys to be my QB1, they make for great options if you want to pursue a late-round QB strategy. At worst, they can make for great streaming or backup QB options. Even if you wind up with two QBs from this tier by the end of your draft, you can play matchups and therefore shouldn’t be in bad shape.
-Carson Palmer (ARI): The O-line is improved, AZ drafted a blocking TE in former Golden Domer Troy Niklas, and the offense is light years ahead of where they were at this point last year by all accounts. And Palmer could be an arbitrage play on his receivers as well as Andre Ellington.
-Joe Flacco (BAL): More physically impressive than Matt Schaub, who Gary Kubiak helped guide to a few QB1 finishes. Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta project well to Kubiak’s offense and will help Flacco’s overall totals if they both play to their capabilities.
-Andy Dalton (CIN): An elite WR, an offense that is rumored to be raising their tempo, & a quick release are all factors that work in Dalton’s favor. He’s also an underrated rusher who has recorded at least 120 yards and a TD on the ground in each of his first three NFL seasons.
-Geno Smith (NYJ): The Jets have spent a good amount of draft capital and free agent money on pieces to bolster the passing game, led by an OC with a history of being pass happy. Geno is also a volume passer and a capable rusher, which may make him wildly undervalued.
-Ryan Tannehill (MIA): How he’ll perform in the offense that new OC Bill Lazor is installing remains to be seen but Tanny will oppose the entire offensive-minded NFC North, which works in his favor. He’s grown considerably in his first two seasons so we can expect him to take another step forward in 2014 if he can grasp this new offense quickly.
-Alex Smith (KC): He claimed he wasn’t allowed the full playbook until the season’s home stretch. It’s probably nothing more than narrative, but Smith did catch fire late last year. Plus, an improved AFC West may mean the Chiefs have to throw the ball more. Dwayne Bowe’s finger issues worry me slightly though.
-Ryan Fitzpatrick (HOU): Will be playing in an offense that suits his skill-set well while playing his home games indoors, an environment that has also suited him well over his career. His rushing ability is unheralded.
-Johnny Manziel (CLE): Yes, Brian Hoyer won the starting job. But everything about this situation yells, screams, and points to Johnny becoming the starter at some point this season. If Cleveland goes 0-3 to start the year, it may happen as soon as Week 5 against Tennessee (after a Week 4 bye). If that happens and new OC Kyle Shanahan implements similar elements from his 2012 Redskins offense, Johnny’s scrambling ability could help him finish as a QB1 in 2014.
I’d only be looking to draft these guys in 2 QB leagues or deeper leagues of 14-plus teams. In 12-teamers, these guys should make ideal streaming candidates.
-Matt Cassel (MIN): There’s something to be said for the fact that he held off a first round rookie to keep the starting job in an era where rookie QBs are starting from day one with more frequency. Surrounded by explosive weapons.
-Josh McCown (TB): A new offense under a run-heavy coach and OC is a question mark. But the Bucs are providing McCown with some towering targets and some strong pass-catching RBs.
-Eli Manning (NYG): The ideal west coast offense quarterback is one that makes quick decisions, delivers the ball to playmakers in space, and does so accurately. Manning excels at precisely none of these. Still, a change in offensive scheme and some talented targets could help Eli have a rebound season.
-Jake Locker (TEN): Causes for optimism: His least efficient targets are no longer with the team, the O-line & rushing attack should be improved, and he has a new coach who has historically brought QBs to/back to relevancy.
-EJ Manuel (BUF): A year of starting experience combined with an explosive RB and what looks to be an improved receiving core should lead to some nice games for EJ.
The QBs I’ve been targeting or will be trying my best to target for the remainder of draft season. Five of these six players come from the third tier.
WATCH LIST/Tier #7
The first players on my waiver wire speed dial.
-Shaun Hill (STL): The last time we saw Shaun Hill, he was filling in admirably for an injured Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Kenny Britt is no Calvin Johnson but if he can keep his head on straight and play to his potential, it will give the St Louis receiving core the boost it needs to ensure that they don’t become one-dimensional & too reliant on the run game.
-Blake Bortles (JAX): Has functional athleticism that allows him to elude defenders and get upfield for positive yardage and the occasional rushing TD.
-Teddy Bridgewater (MIN): Not starting yet, but here’s an interesting note: Teddy imported the Vikings’ playbook into the Madden video game so that he can take “virtual reps” against defense he’s expecting to see in games. He did the same thing at Louisville and said that he’s found it is a helpful way to continue the mental preparation. Will it help him when he sees real playing time?
NOTHING TO SEE HERE/Tier #8
Three of these four QBs are currently starters whose teams selected rookies in the first or second round of this year’s NFL draft. In an age where more and more rookie QBs are seeing the field, it would take the absolute best case scenario for any of these guys to start all 16 games and/or have any long-term fantasy relevance for 2014. At best, they can be streaming candidates until they get replaced. Ranked in the order that I would value them.
-Brian Hoyer (CLE)
-Matt Schaub (OAK)
-Chad Henne (JAX)
-Michael Vick (NYJ)
A FINAL TIER FOR INSANELY DEEP LEAGUES/Tier #9
-Mike Glennon (TB)
-Derek Carr (OAK)
-Kirk Cousins (WAS)
-Brock Osweiler (DEN)
-Zach Mettenberger (TEN)
-Mark Sanchez (PHI)
-Drew Stanton (ARI)
-Brandon Weeden (DAL)
-Ryan Nassib (NYG)
-Tyrod Taylor (BAL)
-Derek Anderson (CAR)
-Jimmy Clausen (CHI)
-Chase Daniel (KC)
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