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Jul 31

2014 Fantasy Football Quarterback Tiers

Despite losing one of his top weapons to free agency, Manning and the Broncos offense are the top of their class (Photo: Denver Post).
Despite losing one of his top weapons to free agency, Manning and the Broncos offense are the top of their class (Photo: Denver Post).

[QB Tiers] [RB Tiers] [WR Tiers] [TE Tiers]

[2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]

While personal preference will always play a role in Fantasy Football drafting, it’s necessary to know what your favorite player’s closest and most comparable competition is, going into the season. For those players under center, a lot of outside factors can way into their performance such as how good their group of pass catchers are and how good their team’s running game is. Here’s a look at five Quarterback Tiers heading into the 2014 season:

Tier 1

 Fantasy Pros: QB/ADP
Peyton Manning, DEN1/7
Aaron Rodgers, GB3/18

With Peyton Manning undoubtedly and rightfully a top the tier and rankings as a whole, a lot of people include Drew Brees in this first tier. It’s not wrong per se, over the last several seasons Rodgers and Brees have been pretty much interchangeable with the one that stays healthiest usually being the better of the two. Green Bay has a much better running game than New Orleans, which is both good and bad news for Rodgers. Brees and the Saints are likely to be much more pass happy, but the emergence of Eddie Lacy should help open up some passing lanes again for Rodgers.

The two essentially have the same quantity/quality of weapons. While Jimmy Graham is the best both teams have to offer, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both superior to Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. The X-factors will likely be Jarrett Boykins and rookie Brandin Cooks for the Packers and Saints respectively.

What gives Rodgers the edge in my mind is his ability to run the football. In half as many seasons as a starting QB (6 v. 12), Rodgers has rushed for almost 1,000 more yards and six more TDs than Brees. Another area Lacy could help out as Rodgers may have more opportunity to scramble and call his own number down at the goal line. Look for 5+ touchdowns from Rodgers, and make him the second QB off your draft board.

Tier 2

 Fantasy Pros: QB/ADP
Drew Brees, NO2/15
Andrew Luck, IND5/43
Robert Griffin III, WSH7/56
Matthew Stafford, DET4/40
Matt Ryan, ATL10/70
Nick Foles, PHI8/60
Jay Cutler, CHI14/103
Tom Brady, NE9/59

This second tier is considerably more crowded, yet more interchangeable. While Brees is almost certain to be taken in the first three QBs selected, behind him things are basically wide open. Andrew Luck is poised for another big year with the returns of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen and the free agent addition of Hakeem Nicks. He also has no run game to worry about. In Washington, Robert Griffin III is back and reportedly healthy and ready to go with his own free agent toy in DeSean Jackson. Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Jay Cutler are all more than capable gun slingers with plenty of high quality weapons of their own. Tom Brady rounds out the tier as a sure bet QB1. You know what you’re going to get from all these guys, with RG3 as the exception. Available in the middle rounds of your draft, they’re a safe bet to fulfill their expectations.

Tier 3

 Fantasy Pros: QB/ADP
Colin Kaepernick, SF11/71
Tony Romo, DAL12/87
Cam Newton, CAR6/57
Andy Dalton, CIN17/131
Philip Rivers, SD15/102
Russell Wilson, SEA13/93
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT16/126

These seven names round out the guys I’d consider legitimate QB1s. While Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo and Cam Newton all have the potential to outperform some in the second tier, all three have more questions surrounding them than the ones in the above tier. Russell  Wilson’s skills, while good enough to win a Super Bowl, don’t translate as well to fantasy in a run first offense. Watch out for Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offense could be in for a rebound and with Antonio Brown emerging as a top wide receiver and Markus Wheaton ready to fill in for the departed Emmanuel Sanders the passing game will be get a boost.

Tier 4

 Fantasy Pros: QB/ADP
Eli Manning, NYG19/153
Carson Palmer, ARI21/173
Josh McCown, CHI27/174
Joe Flacco, BAL23/163
Alex Smith, KAN20/152

This tier has a ceiling lower than bottom of tier three, but also a relatively high floor. Target these guys as your second quarterback in standard league formats, if you’re so inclined. They won’t blow you away but they also won’t fail to live up to reasonable expectations. They’re average in every sense of the word, while being old enough that they’re not going to suddenly breakout (Josh McCown won’t do it again). Take them and hope they’re playing a weak defense when your QB1 has a bye week.

Tier 5

 Fantasy Pros: QB/ADP
Sam Bradford, STL25/188
Matt Schaub, OAKNA/NA
Ryan Tannehill, MIA22/168
Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEXNA/NA
E.J. Manuel, BUF28/245
Jake Locker, TENNA/NA
Teddy Bridgewater, MIN24/178
Michael Vick, NYJ26/207

The final tier descends according to assuredness while ascending in terms of potential. A healthy Michael Vick and starting Teddy Bridgewater are likely to outperform even the best Sam Bradford or Matt Schaub could offer. Still, none of the above are worthy of a draft pick but are worth keeping an eye on. They could prove to be worthy injury or bye-week replacements but don’t expect consistent performance on a week-to-week basis.

3 comments

2 pings

  1. Joe

    Can you explain to me why Brees doesn’t belong in top tier? Three straight years of 5,000 plus yards, 1 TD off 40 TDs which would have been 3 straight years at 40. He was number 2 last year, number 1 two years before that. Do you really see that big of a decline to not have him in the top?

    1. Jon Collins

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for asking. Esten and I spoke before the post went up, and I actually suggested Brees belonged in the top tier – if for no other reason than our own staff ranks’ discrepancy between he and Rodgers as QB2. I’ll let Esten give his own details on Brees, given this, but I thought I’d chime in with my own reasons for ranking him behind Aaron Rodgers.

      Really, it revolves around week to week consistency for me. Indeed, Brees has posted huge cumulative stats (and he’s my third ranked QB, so, I’m not knocking him really) but what puts him a peg below Rodgers for me is that he has too many ‘down’ games, at least compared to his own lofty standards.

      His 27.24 fantasy points per game from 2013 are an impressive total, and on the surface they’ll certainly justify an early round pick. However – and I wrote an article on this heading into the 2013 season as well – you see huge week to week variance with Brees, particularly in games where he is on the road. In eight road games last season, he posted 18.89 FPPG, compared to a whopping 35.6. He was a huge help in eight weeks, but a disappointment compared to his average in others, and that week to week variance doesn’t sit well with me in fantasy. I look for a player who, more or less, with average those 27 points by getting me 24-30 each time he steps on the field. Predictably and consistency are key.

      Thanks again for reading, and for taking the time to inquire. I see Brees coming in right around the 5000 yard mark again. The loss of Sproles won’t help his passing numbers, as I’d expect Ingram and Robinson to get more work but more as traditional backs, and I’m not sold on a huge year one from Brandin Cooks but I have little doubt that he’ll be among the position’s top producers again this season.

    2. Esten McLaren

      Thanks for the question Joe, and thanks for helping clarify Jon. Joe, I do not see a “decline” from Brees whatsoever, he is what he is and that’s a great quarterback. As Jon said, if he played all 16 games at the Superdome, he’d probably be the first QB off the board. However, he doesn’t. After Manning’s season last year there’s nothing to stop him from being the first quarterback selected in all fantasy drafts. It comes down to Rodgers vs Brees for QB2.

      As I said in the article I’d essentially call their passing attacks a wash, with perhaps a slight edge in Drew’s favor. To me the only difference is Aaron Rodgers ability to run the football. We’ve seen him scramble for lengthy runs in the past, or even call his own number at the line. The Eddie Lacy effect will also lead to Rodgers rushing for more goal line scores with last second audibles. In standard scoring format leagues, those extra two points per rushing touchdown could add up to a significant number by the end of the season.

      In the end, go with personal preference if you so desire, the difference in production will likely be quite minimal. I hope this, and Jon’s comment, helped clarify why I would lean towards Rodgers.

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