Patience will pay off this year
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The quarterback dilemma.
It rears its ugly head for all of us at every fantasy football draft we've ever attended.
Some people believe taking Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady is a sure-fire way to a playoff berth. Others are fine with waiting until the middle of the draft and grabbing the likes of Tony Romo or Andrew Luck.
In my 20 years of playing fantasy football, I have to say I've had great seasons -- and bad ones -- using both philosophies.
I've won it all with uninspiring choices such as Matt Hasselbeck (2007) and a combination of Matt Schaub and Ben Roethlisberger (2010). I also used a stud (Drew Brees) to set a league record for points in 2011.
Then there are years like 2009 and 2012 when I used early picks on Kurt Warner and Matthew Stafford, respectively, only to watch my teams flounder.
So what to do?
Your rules and/or the depth at the position should be the two parameters used in deciding whether or not it's worth it to take a QB in the first few rounds.
This year, as I wrote in my running backs preview, it is my sincere belief that owners should target the top 17 tailbacks and take their time securing a signal-caller.
The list of QBs who will consistently score big points is large enough that even the final teams in your league(s) to finally draft a quarterback, are likely to end up with a Romo, Luck or Russell Wilson. (Romo and Wilson, by the way finished third and fourth, respectively, in average fantasy points from Weeks 11-17 last season).
I'm in a 10-team league and don't plan on taking a QB until the seventh round at the earliest, and possibly not until the eighth or ninth. Why waste a pick when you are the last team to fill the spot? Grab a backup running back or a solid fourth receiver instead.
After securing my starter, I'll happily take Eli Manning, Andy Dalton or Michael Vick in the next 1-3 rounds for my bench.
Now let's do a two-minute drill on a "pick six" of QBs who deserve our attention.
Cam Newton (ranked fifth): According to sportingnews.com, Newton's average draft position (ADP) is 35th, or the middle of the fourth round in 10-team leagues. Newton was brutal in the first half of last season, but he turned it around with 19 TD passes and 5 rushing scores in Carolina's last nine games. He also had five games of 40-plus rushing yards over that span. The Panthers' schedule is relatively weak to begin the year, so don't be gun-shy about grabbing Newton if he's starting to look like a big value at your draft.
Robert Griffin III (eighth, ADP 58th): RGIII could be the Adrian Peterson of this season -- the guy all of us "experts" doubted because of an ACL injury, only to see him destroy the league. Again, he might be. But in my view, he's unlikely to finish in the top five among QBs because he doesn't have the passing skills of Brees, Rodgers or Brady, AND the Redskins aren't going to allow him to run for over 800 yards again.
Colin Kaepernick (ninth, ADP 58th): Flat-out, this is the guy I'm targeting. In just 10 starts last season (including playoffs), Kaepernick showed enough poise and uncanny athletic ability that he could easily become the next superstar at the position. The loss of WR Michael Crabtree is the only thing holding me back from ranking Kaepernick a few notches higher. But the Niners' O-line is one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL and this team should light up the scoreboard all season.
Tony Romo (10th, ADP 63rd): If I can't get Kaepernick, Romo will do just fine. The Cowboys' QB is a near lock for 27-plus TDs and 4,300-plus passing yards. Those numbers will be just fine when you combine them with top-notch running back and wide receiver talent.
Sam Bradford (20th, ADP 128th): I throw Bradford in here because if you are in a 2-QB league or searching for a backup, Bradford has more breakout potential than Josh Freeman, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger. I actually have four of those guys ahead of Bradford, but only based on their consistency over time. If you're looking to take a flier, take the fourth-year pro out of Oklahoma who has a lot of young, dynamic talent around him.
Jay Cutler (19th, 119th): If the Bears do a good job of running Marc Trestman's offense, it's not at all far-fetched to think that Cutler could get off to an excellent start. In the first 10 weeks of the season, the Bears face six teams (and the Lions twice) that figure to allow quite a bit of real estate to be garbled up through the air. Cutler's still only a fantasy backup, but he has some value in deeper leagues.
John Dietz ranks the quarterbacks
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. Drew Brees, Saints 4,800-5,200 38-43 Insane 91 TDs last two seasons
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers 4,300-4,600 37-42 Avg. 297 rush yds. last 4 seasons
3. Tom Brady, Patriots 4,700-4,950 37-42 Loss of Hernandez will hurt some
Still rock solid
4. P. Manning, Broncos 4,550-4,800 35-39 513 yards from 60,000 in career
5. Cam Newton, Panthers 3,700-4,000** 20-22^^ 22 rushing scores in 2 years
6. M. Stafford, Lions 4,500-4,800 32-36 Don't let him slide too far
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons 4,450-4,700 29-33 Falcons' schedule is a cakewalk
8. Robert Griffin III, Skins 3,400-3,600* 22-25^ No way he hits 800 rush yds again
9. C. Kaepernick, Niners 3,500-3,900* 25-28 Fantastic value pick here
10. Tony Romo, Cowboys 4,400-4,600 27-31 No. 3 fantasy QB last 7 weeks of '12
11. Andrew Luck, Colts 4,200-4,500 25-28 8 games of 280-plus passing yards
12. R. Wilson, Seahawks 3,200-3,400* 25-28 334 rush yards last 7 of 2012
13. Eli Manning, Giants 4,000-4,250 25-28 Avg. 22 turnovers last 4 seasons
14. Andy Dalton, Bengals 3,700-4,000 26-30 Seven games of 3-plus TDs
15. Michael Vick, Eagles 3,000-3,500* 16-20^ Good backup who could explode
16. Josh Freeman, Bucs 3,600-3,800 24-26 Rush yds declining: 364, 238, 139
17. Matt Schaub, Texans 4,000-4,200 23-26 3 of last 4 years 4,000-plus yards
18. Philip Rivers, Chargers 3,800-4,150 23-25 47 turnovers last two seasons
19. Jay Cutler, BEARS 3,400-3,550 24-27 Soft early schedule is appealing
20. Sam Bradford, Rams 3,600-4,000 22-25 If new WRs click, look out
The next 10: Joe Flacco, Ravens; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers; Carson Palmer, Cardinals; Jake Locker, Titans; Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins; Matt Flynn, Raiders; Alex Smith, Chiefs; Brandon Weeden, Browns; Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars; E.J. Manuel, Bills
* 400-550 rush yards expected; ** 600-700 rush yards expected
^4-6 rush TDs expected; ^^ 7-10 rush TDs expected
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