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2016 Fantasy Football Positional Preview - Quarterback

A breakdown and ranking of all 32 starting quarterbacks to get you ready for your fantasy draft.

Is your fantasy team big enough for 2 gunslingers?
Is your fantasy team big enough for 2 gunslingers?
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Positional Preview – Quarterback

As we turn the page to August, we’ll work through each of the major positions for the upcoming fantasy football season. To be clear, this is a fake football article. We will discuss players in tiers and a little strategy along the way. Rankings within a tier are less important than the tier the player appears in. As always, your thoughtful comments are welcome below. We’ll run through these rankings in countdown style. Team and bye week are listed for convenience.

Tier 6 - The Untouchables:

32. Robert Griffin III / Josh McCown, CLE, 13

31. Jared Goff, LAR, 8

30. Colin Kaepernick / Blaine Gabbert, SF, 8

29. Sam Bradford, PHI, 4

28. Mark Sanchez, DEN, 11

27. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN, 6

26. Brock Osweiler, HOU, 9

In a standard format with 10 or 12 teams, none of these guys are likely to be drafted. Goff and Osweiler simply don’t have enough experience to know what to expect of them and both will be at the helm of a run-oriented offense. Bradford, Sanchez, RGIII, and Kaepernick are getting some form of 2nd / 3rd / last chances in the league and have too much uncertainty surrounding them. We’ve talked about Bridgewater before – he was better than only Nick Foles in fantasy ppg for QBs with more than 9 starts. Leave them on the trash heap and let someone else burn a roster spot.

Tier 5 - In a pinch:

25. Alex Smith, KC, 5

24. Joe Flacco, BAL, 8

23. Ryan Tannehill, MIA, 8

22. Matthew Stafford, DET, 10

21. Jameis Winston, TB, 6

20. Marcus Mariota, TEN, 13

19. Matt Ryan, ATL, 11

I like Alex Smith as a real life QB, but he’s not someone you want to plug in week to week because there will rarely, if ever, be enough volume to justify a start. Winston and Mariota enter their sophomore campaigns with the ability to move into a higher tier, but they’re still young and developing with too many proven guys ahead of them to take the plunge. Stafford will now start life without Megatron and if your league has a high penalty for turnovers, he’s not someone you can trust. Matt Ryan burned a lot of people last year and I can’t put him any higher than this lot. These are all bye week fill-ins and you’ll have a hard time justifying roster spots for most of these guys.

Tier 4 – Worth a gamble:

18. Tyrod Taylor, BUF, 10

17. Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ, 11

16. Tony Romo, DAL, 7

15. Blake Bortles, JAC, 5

Bortles doesn’t appear to be a particularly good QB, but the Jaguars hit on Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns and have asked him to chuck it. Volume can absolutely be an asset in this fake game and Bortles was a surprise starter on many fantasy playoff teams. Tyrod Taylor flashed and splashed in his first year as a starter with plays with his feet and connecting with Sammy Watkins. This is still a run-first approach in Buffalo but the skill set may allow this offense to be more dynamic in year 2. Fitzpatrick lit it up last year with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. He’ll now have Matt Forte to dump the ball off to when he gets in trouble. Romo is only on here because he can’t stay healthy. It is an absolute risk to roll with Romo but the upside is undeniable as he is a great QB. The flip here is all of these guys could easily disappear due to injury (Romo), reversion to the mean (Fitzpatrick), or exposure of weaknesses (Taylor, Bortles). These guys are all worth the roster spot but a second QB is strongly encouraged.

Tier 3 – The Pick 2 Crowd:

14. Derek Carr, OAK, 10

13. Jay Cutler, CHI, 9

12. Kirk Cousins, WAS, 9

11. Philip Rivers, SD, 11

10. Andy Dalton, CIN, 9

9. Eli Manning, NYG, 8

One of my favorite approaches is to find a tier of guys that I can move in and out of my lineup to play matchups. These guys can’t be too good because if you’re spending a high pick on, say, Cam Newton, you’re going to play him every week. They also can’t be waiver wire fodder either as each guy needs to start about half your games. Ideally, you can avoid picking guys with the same bye week and 3 of these guys are off in week 9. Carr is my favorite of the young guns and looking forward to what year 3 brings to the young gunslinger. The older gunslinger is Cutler and before you accuse me of being a homer, he’s got a healthy and motivated Alshon Jeffery and a healthy and hungry Kevin White. Matt Forte is gone and something less than Forte will be in the backfield, which potentially means more volume for Cutty. I think he’s set up for a great year. Rivers is very much in the same camp as Cutler and should be a good bet to produce some explosive weeks with Keenan Allen back and healthy. Cousins and Dalton both shot up the boards from last year. Cousins needs to double down on his breakout year to move higher than this and Dalton needs to prove he can produce with new secondary receivers (Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu out, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell in). Both of these guys may always be underrated, which means they should be draft day bargains. Eli just misses a move to the next tier because he turns the ball over a lot and can put up some terrible games from time to time. He’s also got a potentially great receiving corps. Favorite pairings:

Dalton / Carr

Eli / Cutler

Cousins / Rivers.

Tier 2.5

8. Tom Brady, NE, 9 **Four Game Suspension**

I had a hard time slotting Brady anywhere in my established tiers and clearly a 4-game suspension is uncharted territory for a QB. You better believe that when Brady gets back, fireworks are sure to fly. So, what do you do with him? I can’t justify taking him before any of the guys below who will give you a full season at an elite level. However, I’d take him before anyone we’ve covered above because of his high potential from Week 5 on. If your draft falls right and Brady can be nabbed for value, I would suggest playing waiver-wire QBs for weeks 1-4 because you’ll burn a pick for something you’re not going to use after week 5. Take your favorite Tier 5 guy (or Tier 4 if you’re lucky) later in the draft and try to weather the early season storm.

Tier 2 – Set it and forget it:

7. Andrew Luck, IND, 10

6. Aaron Rodgers, GB, 4

5. Carson Palmer, ARI, 9

4. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, 8

Luck and Rodgers both had down years last year and sunk a lot of people. Their potential is so great that you simply can’t drop them below this level and you would expect some reversion to the mean in a good way. Each has the chance to finish #1 overall and this may be the only year you can find them at discount. The Arizona Cardinals offense absolutely destroyed people last year and Carson Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate. This team uses an attacking downfield passing game better than anyone and Palmer’s deep ball is a real reason why. (It’s a constant reminder of what Chicago could’ve had with Bruce Arians) He can also make 3 wide receivers and a running back relevant, which is tough to do. Big Ben presides over a potent attack even without Le’Veon Bell for the first 4 games (and Martavis Bryant for the year). Ben seems to miss a game or two now and then but has been overall a good bet to play the majority of games. If you draft any of these guys, you’re going to have to do it in an early round and it’s probably not worth rostering another QB.

Tier 1 – The Elites:

3. Drew Brees, NO, 5

2. Russell Wilson, SEA, 5

1. Cam Newton, CAR, 7

No one has ever lost money betting on Drew Brees in fantasy. He’s awesome. His defense is terrible. His receivers should be really good. If you want really safe with the potential to be #1 overall, Brees is your guy. Russell Wilson took over as the true leader of the Seahawks in the middle of last year (and Marshawn Lynch faded) and then went on an absolute binge of fantasy points. Yes, I’m projecting that continues. Wilson’s career arc reminds me a little bit of Big Ben with an early Super Bowl win before he was as good as people wanted him to be. Now, he’s grown into an elite guy that is just entering his prime and figuring it all out. He’ll be fun to own this year because it’s nowRussell Wilson’s bird team. My number one slot goes to Super Cam. Look, if you don’t like him, I understand, but his run last year deserves to sit him in the top seat of these rankings. He’s long been an amazing goal line threat, will contribute a crazy amount of value with just rushing yards, and has been steadily improving as a passer. The return of Kelvin Benjamin, the growth of Devin Funchess, and the mere presence of Greg Olsen means that Cam will continue his high TD totals.

Okay, let’s hear it. Where do you agree / disagree? Who’s your favorite QB this year? How much draft capital are you willing to spend?