INDIANAPOLIS --- NFL.com’s fantasy football rankings for 2015 are out, and we start by analyzing the quarterback rankings. There are two debates that have dominated and will continue to dominate the fantasy landscape all Summer long.
Is Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers the #1 fantasy quarterback?
Should you draft a stud quarterback early in drafts or wait until later rounds?
NFL.com Quarterback Rankings (Average Draft Round on NFL.com in 10-team leagues)
Aaron Rodgers (1st)
Andrew Luck (2nd)
Russell Wilson (4th)
Ben Roethlisberger (8th)
Peyton Manning (4th)
Drew Brees (5th)
Matt Ryan (6th)
Cam Newton (9th)
Tony Romo (7th)
Matthew Stafford (6th)
Philip Rivers (10th)
Ryan Tannehill (7th)
Tom Brady (7th)
Joe Flacco (12th)
Eli Manning (11th)
Colin Kaepernick (12th)
Carson Palmer (12th)
Sam Bradford (15th)
Jay Cutler (12th)
Andy Dalton (15th)
Who is #1? --- I've talked at length this offseason that I'm a firm believer Luck, not Rodgers, should be the first quarterback drafted in fantasy football this season. For all the reasons why, click here and scroll down. The fact that Rodgers is being taken 7th or 8th overall in the first round on average in NFL.com drafts in the early going, only solidifies I'd rather have Luck in the 2nd round and pair him with an elite RB or WR from the first round.
Draft a QB early or late? --- I don't think there's a wrong answer to this question. For me the most important thing with quarterback strategy in 2015 is to either commit to getting Luck or Rodgers or wait a loooooonnnnggggg time to get a quarterback. Once Luck and Rodgers are off the board, there's a drop-off to the next tier of QBs, in my opinion. At that point, there isn't a big enough difference between the likes of Wilson, Manning, and Brees all the way down to Rivers and Tannehill. The difference between the #3 fantasy QB last year and the #12 fantasy QB was less than 3 points per week. The difference though between the #2 and #12 QB was more than 5 points per week. If you want to spend a late first or second round pick on Luck or Rodgers, I wouldn't criticize it. Otherwise, you're going to be able to load up on RBs, WRs, and a TE before getting a very reliable quarterback in the 8th round or later in one quarterback leagues. Now, are you in a 2 QB league? GET LUCK, RODGERS, OR WILSON!
Big Ben at #4? --- This was the first thing I noticed when I looked at NFL.com's rankings. It was a surprising name for the top 5. I think many will forget Roethlisberger finished as the #5 quarterback in fantasy last season, just behind Peyton Manning, as Manning crawled to the fantasy finish line in 2014. The knock on Big Ben is that his 295 fantasy points last season were bolstered by his back-to-back 6 TD games accounting for 79 of those 295 points. I agree with this. Roethlisberger had 15 points or less in half of his games last season. That is far from reliable, in a game where week-to-week consistency is gold, ultimately needing to win two or three weeks in a row to win a fantasy championship. Should he be ranked ahead of Manning? To me it doesn't matter. If Manning will cost me a 4th round pick and Roethlisberger only an 8th round pick, I'll be willing to take a chance on Big Ben. Right now, he's the best value pick among quarterbacks with Cam Newton. That late in a draft for Big Ben? What do you have to lose?
Drew Brees too high at #6 --- Drew Brees finished as the #6 quarterback in fantasy football last year, his worst fantasy season since 2010, for a guy we had grown accustomed to finishing in the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks. He checks back in at #6 on NFL.com for 2015, which I disagree with, because his passing offense has only lost weapons. Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills are gone. Perhaps Brandin Cooks stays healthy in year two and RB C.J. Spiller will help the passing game as well, but is that enough to keep Brees 6th? I'd feel more comfortable waiting three more rounds to take Roethlisberger or even later to snag two different quarterback options for my roster with back-to-back QB picks in the 8th-9th or 9th-10th rounds.
Matt "Middle of the Pack" Ryan --- Ryan finished 7th among QBs last year and is ranked 7th on NFL.com this year. I won't be drafting him because of the reason I'm weary of Big Ben. He's inconsistent in fantasy from week-to-week. Ryan had 9 games (more than half the schedule) with 15 points or less last year, not good these days for fantasy quarterbacks.
Roll the dice on Cam Newton? --- Newton regressed last year, after establishing himself in previous years as a top-5 fantasy quarterback. He reached that level in fantasy land because of his rushing ability, but that wasn't the reason he finished 16th among QBs last season. In fact, Newton only rushed for 46 fewer yards and one fewer touchdown last season, despite being injured and missing the season opener. He also missed a game after a car accident week 15. The drop-off came with 6 fewer passing touchdowns and 7 more lost fumbles from 2013 to 2014. So what do we do in 2015? If Newton was healthy for all 16 games last year and just posted his average fantasy points per week in the two games he missed, he would have shot up from the #16 QB to the #7 QB in 2014. That is his floor for me in 2015. 9th round for a guy who has already been a top-5 or top-3 fantasy quarterback in his career? Yes, please.
Tom Brady strategy --- I write this paragraph knowing full well that there are plenty of my readers that would rather go 0-13 in their fantasy league than have Tom Brady on their roster. Somebody in your league is going to have him though. Tom Brady had a stretch of games last year where he scored 20, 30, 22, 34, and 27 points. That's the kind of talent that will win you a lot of fantasy match-ups. He also only posted 10 in the fantasy championship at the Jets, when it mattered most. Is it worth stashing him if he's suspended with a 7th round pick and playing the waiver wire until he's back? He was the #8 QB in fantasy last year. If the ADP stays the same on NFL.com, I'd rather just draft Roethlisberger a round later or Newton another round after that. I can still get high-upside WRs and serviceable RBs in the 7th round (or a TE).
The word is out on Ryan Tannehill. --- Tannehill was one of my favorite sleepers for QBs in 2015, but the word is out. He's being drafted ahead of Big Ben, Newton, Romo, Rivers, and Brady. I like him when I was potentially getting him in the 9th or 10th round. I don't 7th round like him. He's still under-ranked by NFL.com as the #12 quarterback to me, but drafters are already making him the 8th quarterback off the board. This fantasy bromance may be brief.
Sleepers --- Carson Palmer (has to stay healthy, but 20, 18, 16, 21, and 19 points in his five full games last year); Joe Flacco (if Marc Trestman is in charge of the offense, then I'm interested); Eli Manning (quietly the #10 QB last year but the 14th QB off the board so far); Sam Bradford (if Chip Kelly is running the offense, you need to pay attention); Teddy Bridgewater (16.6 fantasy points per week over the last 5 fantasy weeks and adding WR Mike Wallace and RB Adrian Peterson should only help); Marcus Mariota (if a quarterback can run, at least give him a look very late in fantasy)
Won't be drafting --- Peyton Manning (an awful 9.6 fantasy points per week over the last 5 weeks, lost Julius Thomas, still think Broncos will be run first, high ceiling but low floor); Drew Brees (reasons stated above); Matt Ryan (reasons stated above); Matthew Stafford (6th round pick too rich for my blood, too many other options); Tony Romo (don't think people are accounting for the effect of losing Murray enough); Colin Kaepernick (no idea what the new offense will look like);