There is a lot of sentiment about the depth at quarterback this year, and I agree. However, as deep as it is it is also a minefield.
To wit, after the top two there are red flags all over the place. There are very few "clean" quarterbacks even though there are a lot of really strong options. In fact, you can list the top 25 guys and make a case that any of them could be an average fantasy quarterback for you.
Let's take a look at what I'm talking about and we'll try to delve into some strategy along the way:
1. Aaron Rodgers - The top guy. No issues here.
2. Drew Brees - Some concern about the WR corps, but really no issues here either.
Okay, number three? Man, I don't know. Manning, Brady, Newton... ugh. Red flags galore. Alright here we go:
3. Peyton Manning - My big concerns with Manning include his age, health, and playing outdoors in snow and thin air. If he can stay healthy he could really do some damage with the weapons he has.
4. Cam Newton - New offensive coordinator and less of a zone read offense means that he will be asked to work more from the pocket and run less. Good for his health, but is it good for fantasy points?
5. Tom Brady - He's starting to get up in years, but forget about that... My concern is his weapons. Welker is gone and Amendola isn't much of a replacement. Are Gronk and Hernandez out too? Lloyd is gone, also. Who is Brady throwing to? Shane Vereen?
6. Matthew Stafford - Stafford has led the league in pass attempts for two years in a row. That may go down this year, but I believe his TD's will go up. They went from 41 down to 20 last year, so I'll take the average this year - 30. Should be a nice value.
7. Matt Ryan - The issue here is that he cooled off late last year. He might also be a nice value because of it. He's gotten better for four years in a row. The sneaky thing with Ryan is that Steven Jackson is standing behind him now and Jackson can really, really catch a pass. Great weapons for Ryan.
8. Andrew Luck - Nice value, too. There seems to be a nice pocket here with Stafford, Ryan, and Luck. I'd take any of them at their ADP over Brady, Newton, or Manning at theirs. He is a second year guy, so there may be a sophomore slump... but there isn't really an indication of that. Is TY Hilton for real? Does Reggie Wayne have another big year in him?
9. Robert Griffin III - Can he stay healthy? Is he healthy now?
10. Colin Kaepernick - Can he stay healthy? Are they going to try to keep him in the pocket more this year? Did he catch lightning in a bottle last year or is this legit?
11. Tony Romo - We're talking about Romo way down at #11? He'll put up numbers for you, folks. He might be an over-rated real life QB, but in fantasy he's under-rated.
12. Russell Wilson - Small and still unproven, in my mind. Those are the red flags, but he sure looked good when he became the starter last year didn't he?
At this point it gets really interesting... We've yet to mention a lot of familiar names: Rivers, Roethlisberger, Cutler, Vick, Eli, Schaub, Flacco, and Palmer. Those guys are #13 through #20. Think about that for a moment. If you are in a 10-team league you'll get one of those guys as a backup even if you wait forever.
The next few have upside too: Dalton, Alex Smith, Freeman, Bradford, and Weeden. Now make no mistake, those guys have big flaws. However, they also have significant upside and they are all ranked in the 20's.
Dalton has A.J. Green. 'Nuff said.
Smith was one of the leaders in quarterback rating when he was replaced last year. Now, he's got Andy Reid, Dwayne Bowe, and Jamaal Charles.
Freeman equals upside plus risk. The range of possibilities with this guy is wider than anyone in the league. He could be anywhere from the sixth-ranked fantasy quarterback all the way down to #30. He does have Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin. Defenses will be stacking the box to stop Martin. Plus, Freeman can run when he has to.
Bradford is a former #1 overall draft pick and he's got new weapons. We'll see. Big risk, but big upside.
Weeden? Okay, hear me out. Norv Turner is his offensive coordinator now and he's a great one. Weeden has had a full off-season, he's not a rookie anymore, and the one strength he has (the power arm) matches up perfectly to what the Norv-fense requires. If you blend last year's rookie performance with one or two deep balls per game could you see an extra 80 yards per game and another TD? Could be.
So, we just outlined depth at quarterback through 25 guys. That is sick depth, which is great. But listen, after Rodgers and Brees it gets weird. I have long been a proponent of the Back-to-Back Quarterback strategy where you select QB's in both round seven and eight. If you did that, you might end up with Luck and Romo. Or maybe Stafford and Kaepernick. Perhaps Ryan and Griffin?
In my mind that is way better than taking Brees in the top 15 picks and then grabbing a Joe Flacco late. I'd rather play the matchups with my QB's, because when you do that you maximize value. Even better though, are all of the RB's and WR's you scoop up with your first six picks. Plus, you've got a built-in bye week replacement. Besides, you may hit a home run with one of the two guys you take. Maybe Matthew Stafford give you 2011 stats? Maybe Kaepernick is for real? Could Luck make an MVP run? Maybe.
I'll take my chances with two of those guys instead of Newton, Manning, and Brady.