NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 Fantasy Quarterback Rankings With Tiers and Analysis 

The first preseason game is in the books and we finally have our first hint of what real football is going to look like this year. Position battles are still ongoing and a handful of injuries are yet to happen (unfortunately), but as of today these are my rankings for fantasy quarterbacks in 2013. I’ll publish updates after the third preseason game once starters are determined and injury statuses are better known, but for now here’s everything you need to know about the position as we breakdown the quarterback rankings in mid-August:

The Elites

If you’re going to take a QB early, these are the only two guys worth considering. They’ll be studs again this year.

1              Drew Brees, NO

Head Coach Sean Peyton returns to the Saints, removing the burden from Drew Brees’ shoulders. Play calling will improve, team morale will be at a high, and he is the only QB in the league who will not face a team defense that ranked in the top 25% for fantasy points surrendered to a passer (based on 2012 standard scoring).

2              Aaron Rodgers, GB

It’s Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood, we’re all just living in it. The only reason he isn’t my #1 is because of the changes made to his offensive line this offseason. The changes needed to be made, but until the unit as proven itself I feel much better having Aaron Rogers second. His best matchups are late in the season, so when fantasy playoffs start he’ll be at his best.

Top Talents

They all have the potential to be the top QB this year, but how can you bet against Brees and Rodgers? Top five is a much more likely landing spot for all of the players below.

3              Cam Newton, CAR

Cam Newton will benefit from playing against the NFC East this season, who have been fairly generous to opposing quarterbacks. His biggest issues lie between his ears, and if the end of 2012 was an indication of things to come, he should be in for a monster year. With the improvements seen in his passing ability and his better decision of when to run the ball, he’s slowly earning my trust as a duel threat QB. He just needs to stay out of his own way mentally.

4              Matt Ryan, ATL

He also faces the NFC East, just signed a gigantic contract extension, and has quite possibly the best collection of offensive talent around him of anyone in the league. The Falcon’s defense isn’t great, so there’s always a chance of needing last minute drives to win the game. He’ll be on the field and making relevant plays more often than most every other QB this season, and that means more points for you.

5              Peyton Manning, DEN

He’s a future Hall of Famer and even at age 37 he still plays like it. My problems this year come from the offensive line in front of him. They’re banged up already and training camp has only made things worse. He’s not exactly mobile, and there were times last year where it looked like the pressure was affecting his play more than in the past. The good news is that he has the best combination of WR talent in the league, and he’s still as brilliant as ever.

6              Tom Brady, NE

The offseason has been brutal for the Patriots, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Going into 2013 Tom Brady will be without his top five receiving options from last season if Rob Gronkowski isn’t ready for week one. Bill Belichick is still the coach, Brady at age 35 is still a future Hall of Famer, and a lack of established WR talent has never stopped those two before. It won’t be a record setting year, but it’ll be just fine.

7              Matthew Stafford, DET

No one has thrown more passes in a two year span than Matthew Stafford, including a record setting number of attempts last season. The addition of Reggie Bush gives the Lions more offensive weapons, and Bush’s best use is out in space or catching passed out of the backfield. All of this bodes well for Stafford, and if his arm doesn’t fall off in the process I anticipate another year airing it out. If his WRs can find the endzone he’ll be even better.

Quality Starters

The names here show why this season’s QB depth is so great. If you want to focus on filling your other roster positions first, you’re able to get these players at a great value in the middle rounds of most drafts. All of them have the ability to be top ten performers, and may even be in the top five when the season is over.

8              Andrew Luck, IND

The most complete NFL draft prospect in history showed Indianapolis fans why they won’t miss Peyton Manning for too long. Arm strength, mobility, leadership, accuracy, toughness, it’s all there. The only thing incomplete about his game is his beard, but he even makes that work for him. My worry for this year is that the Colts will look to establish the run more frequently, taking some passing attempts away from Andrew Luck. Their defense still isn’t that great so they may be playing from behind a lot, possibly making up for those throws he would have otherwise not been given. I love this kid, and even if his fantasy value doesn’t match his NFL value he’s still a top ten player at his position.

9              Tony Romo, DAL

He’s being predicted as one of the best values of the fantasy season based on draft position. I have a hard time buying into that all the way, but I can’t disagree with it either. There has never been any doubt about the skills Tony Romo possesses, but the issue has been his ability to play up to his potential. Late fumbles, lapses in concentration, and the Cowboys curse have all driven fantasy owners away from him in the past. I think he’s in for one of his best years as a pro, and that his fantasy success should match that. The heart of his schedule appears to be QB friendly, so if you’re looking for a mid-round value pick to lead your fantasy team for the year, you could do a lot worse than Romo.

10           Russell Wilson, SEA

Have I mentioned I don’t trust running QBs? Even with Cam Newton as #3 on my list I don’t feel bad about saying that. Of the three second-season runners though, Russell Wilson seems to rely on his legs least of all. He tends to avoid contact far better than the other two, meaning he is far less likely to be injured and that he appears to make better decisions of when to throw, when to run, and when to give up on the play. My biggest issue with him is that the Seahawks are a run-oriented team, and the injury news coming out of their camp doesn’t help their passing game any.

11           Jay Cutler, CHI

The Bears either have a great Public Relations team or they’re in for a stellar year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Jay Cutler has a cannon for an arm, doesn’t lack for accuracy, but unfortunately has one of the worst sideline pouty faces of all time. If his new coach can make the changes that lead him to CFL success, Cutler’s frown will turn upside down and he’ll be throwing the ball all over the field. Plus his personal life has gotten straightened out, marrying his wife after calling off their engagement the previously. Their child is now almost a year old, and that should help things calm down around the house a bit more than the infant he would come home to last season. I’m a big believer in a happy home situation leading to success in every other area of life, so Jay Cutler should be in for a big year.

12           Colin Kaepernick, SF

It’s easy to focus on him smoking the Packers in the NFC Wildcard game last year, and him helping to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, but Colin Kaepernick had a largely up and down season as a starter. That should be expected from a rookie, but it doesn’t give me any confidence going into this next year. If you think you can afford the risk of his boom/bust potential he may me your guy, but with the apparent lack of top end WR talent around him and his team’s heavy reliance on the run game and defense, I’m not buying Kaep as a fantasy football must-have for this year.

13           Robert Griffin III, WAS

Unless your league rewards points for players who wear awesome socks to their post-game press conference, I don’t think you want to mess with Robert Griffin III this year. He reminds me too much of both Michael Vick and Tim Tebow; let me explain. He’s amazingly dynamic but is just one hit away from a season ending injury, like Vick. He’s charismatic, genuine, and appears to be a phenomenal human being, like Tebow, but the personality of a player does not reflect on his value as an athlete in either the NFL or fantasy football. He’s tough and has proven he can play through pain, but when your position depends on precision and confidence, those bumps and bruises start to add up. His designed carries decreased as the season went on, and if that trend continues his running upside will be limited. He may be the future of the Redskins, but for the fantasy present I’d look elsewhere.

Middle Depth and Spot Starts

All of these players are seen as game managers. They tend to protect the football, make few mistakes, and allow other players on their teams to do the heavy lifting. Their job is to not mess things up, and every now and then they’re called on to make a big play. They probably won’t cost you any fantasy victories, but they also won’t win you any games either.

14           Eli Manning, NYG

Two Super Bowl Rings, a consistent low-end fantasy starter, and a fair to QB-friendly schedule. You could do worse.

15           Andy Dalton, CIN

All he has to do is throw the ball to A.J. Green and hand off to whoever is lined up at RB. It’s not a terribly difficult job as for as NFL quarterbacks are concerned, but he does it well and will have a great game every now and then.

16           Carson Palmer, ARI

New team, good offensive coach, suspect offensive line. He’s in his best playing situation in several years, but whether he makes the most of that opportunity (or if his o-line can keep him on his feet) or not remains to be seen.

17           Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Do the Steelers have a true #1 WR option? He won a Super Bowl early in his career, but fantasy is a case of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Not much. His schedule isn’t exactly a friendly one either.

18           Joe Flacco, BAL

He won a Super Bowl behind a good defense, great special teams, and a (questionable?) no-call in the endzone. His enormous contract shows that Baltimore loves him, but I don’t think he’s a valuable fantasy QB.

19           Matt Schaub, HOU

Apparently he played a lot of last year with nagging injuries. Even in perfect health his upside isn’t stellar because of the Texans’ reliance on the running game and the expected play of their defense. Matt Schaub is usually a safe play though.

20           Philip Rivers, SD

San Diego is a team held together with hopes, dreams, and trainer’s tape. Players are either too old, too inexperienced, too injured, or too underperforming. I think Philip Rivers has a bounce back year, but his upside isn’t phenomenal.

21           Josh Freeman, TB

One of my early favorites for the NFL all-hype team. He’s bad under pressure, often throws balls that get receivers laid out, and has a knack for making things go from bad to worse. To be fair, he had serious problems with his offensive line near the end of last season, and that surely played a role in his downfall. He’s in a contract year and will be playing for his future, the O-line appears to be healthy, and he has a dynamic young RB which will help keep defenses honest. Maybe it’s a career year for Freemen, but maybe it’s a career ending year as he joins the free agent backup QB market.

22           Ryan Tannehill, MIA

He is reportedly developing good chemistry with Mike Wallace, the Dolphins have promising young talent at RB, but beyond those two positives there’s not much more working for the offense. The defense is expected to be mediocre, so they may be playing from behind frequently, which can only help the young QB’s stats. Unfortunately for Ryan Tannehill, he faces one of the least favorable schedules of any NFL quarterback this season.

23           Alex Smith, KC

He can’t be in a worse position than last year. If Andy Reid can breathe new life into Kansas City, Alex Smith might be one of the biggest surprises of the season. I’ll take my chances on other Chiefs though.

24           Sam Bradford, STL

He doesn’t do many things wrong, but I don’t see him doing many things right either. Everyone is so excited about the new receiving talent the Rams brought in, but they’re still limited by the success of their QB. He’s doesn’t have a history of success and I have no reason to believe that this year will be any different. His contract as the last mega-QB rookie of the old CBA, is a testament to why rookie wage scales were implemented in the new one.

Low End

Do I really need to go into detail about these guys? They’re not worth starting most any week, and their history suggests that this season won’t bring any surprises to their value. Deep DEEP sleeper value? Probably not even that.

25           Jake Locker, TEN

26           Christian Ponder, MIN

27           Brandon Weeden, CLE

28           Matt Flynn, OAK

Training Camp Battles

Because of the uncertainty at these positions currently, none of these players should be selected until a clear winner has emerged. With the QB talent available elsewhere it is not worth picking a player who may not see the field.

29           M. Vick/N. Foles, PHI

30           K. Kolb/E.J. Manuel, BUF

31           G. Smith/M. Sanchez, NYJ

32           B. Gabbert/C. Henne, JAC

About the author: Brian Thorne

Brian played high school football in Texas and was good enough to be the backup at every position he tried to play. His big break came in college where he was a mediocre talent on the intramural field. With his best athletic days behind him Brian turned to his true love in sports: fantasy football. He digs through piles of analysis to pick out only those gems worth sharing, and brings them to his audience through sarcasm and brutal honesty.

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