Quarterback's can make or break a fantasy season depending on where they're drafted. The higher they go the higher they must perform to meet expectations.
Last year Peyton Manning paid dividends for those who took the chance, sadly I wasn't one of those people.
I've always been a believer in the thought process that you could wait until later in the draft to grab a QB that could guide your team. Over the years I haven't strayed from the strategy, although I have traded for an elite guy once, and boy it was amazing not having to worry about my QB's production. Despite that one season I still believe in the strategy of waiting, just don't be the last guy to get a QB, you want to have some control over your destiny.
Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
It is because of my belief in this strategy that I've decided to examine 5 QB's that I believe can only improve in 2014. These quarterbacks were ranked outside of the top 10 at multiple points in 2013 by industry experts for various reasons. Before you take a look at the five guys I've mentioned below here's ten guys I'd take in a standard league before them (in no particular order): Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles. Now let's see how crazy I really am:
Joe Flacco - 3,912 Yards - 19 TD's - 22 INT's
I've never been the biggest supporter of Joe Flacco, in fantasy football or real life. Regardless I think some changes within the Ravens already this offseason could point to a great season for him. They've changed their offensive coordinator to Gary Kubiak, whom had great success with quarterbacks in Houston. Matt Schaub, in 3 full seasons, threw for more than 4,000 yards a season - a feat Joe Flacco has never accomplished in his career. Joe Flacco now has Torrey Smith on the outside and Dennis Pitta coming back from injury.
I may be putting too much stock into Gary Kubiak's work with quarterbacks but combined with Smith, Pitta and hopefully Ray Rice I believe Flacco could be on the rise, especially if they address the WR's this offseason. I like him to be a top 12 guy.
Alex Smith - 3,313 Yards - 23 TD's - 7 INT's
I'll start with a personal disclaimer, I'm a Kansas City Chiefs fan and I have been since I was little, but I'll try to keep my bias out of my assessment. Alex Smith seemed to grow into his role during the second half of 2013. He began taking more shots down field, using his tight ends and Charles in every way possible.
He's been called a game manager by many over the years but I think 2014 may be the year he steps forward. Andy Reid has shown they're willing to open up the playbook and take some shots downfield.
As the offseason approaches the Chiefs will be looking to add a WR to pair opposite Dwayne Bowe, which I think could be the offensive piece they've been missing.
Combine that with the ever elusive Jamaal Charles in the backfield and you've got the pieces of what could be a much improved offense. Let's see what Kansas City does in the draft and free agency.
Matt Ryan - 4,515 Yards - 26 TD's - 17 INT's
True NFL fans expected great things from the Atlanta Falcons in 2013 and were surprised to see what actually transpired. Roddy White started the season injured and carried the injury with him through most of the season, Julio Jones was put on IR relatively early and Steven Jackson also missed extensive time.
Although pundits argue that Matt Ryan hasn't yet taken that step to elite level, it's a tough feat to accomplish with so many injuries to your starting offense.
Although Tony Gonzalez won't be returning this season (at least as of now), the offense should see a nice boost with the return of those players.
In turn I think that alone leads to improved stats for Matt Ryan. There seems to be too many good things falling into place for Matt Ryan to have two down seasons in a row, I'll bet we see a great one out of him. I see him sliding into my top 10 moving forward.
Tom Brady - 4,343 Yards - 25 TD's - 11 INT's
Tom Brady has always been known for his heroic performances and putting on a show. This year he didn't disappoint in those areas but his fantasy stats fell off greatly from the year before. He threw for less yards, less touchdowns, more interceptions and lost 5 more fumbles: all negatives for a fantasy owner. Sure he lost Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker and missed Gronk for a part of the season, but no one saw such a disappointment coming. After all he is Tom Brady.
This year I think he bounces back and can be a top 10 guy. I think the Patriots address the lack of wide receivers, resign Blount and get a few more weapons on offense. To be honest this is more of a gut call but you can never really count Tom Brady out.
For now he stays outside of my top 10 and I'll say he starts as a top 12 play in my first rankings.
Tony Romo - 3,828 Yards - 31 TD's - 10 INT's
He put up some great fantasy performances but followed up with some disappointments as well. He finished the season as the 10th ranked quarterback in NFL standard leagues which shows he's very capable of some great performances. I think out of everyone on the list he has the chance to shoot the highest into the top 10. DeMarco Murray finally proved that he could stay healthy through most of the season and his impact was noticed. The biggest factor that has me loving Tony Romo is the addition of Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator.
Dez Bryant has already proven he can be a beast, albeit an inconsistent one, but Scott Linehan's past top receiver is someone you may have heard of, Calvin.
Yeah that Calvin Johnson. According to NFL.com "Just thinking of Bryant being used in a Megatron-like role should make fantasy owners drool, because a lack of usage has never been an issue for Johnson. Before he got dinged up late in the season, Johnson had at least eight targets in every game. In his epic 2012 campaign, Johnson had 205 targets, 122 receptions and nearly 2,000 yards. Bryant is just entering his prime and could be on the verge of a career-best campaign under Linehan's tutelage." The news certainly has me drooling over Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for the upcoming season and I can't wait to see what the offseason has in store.
All of this drooling has Tony Romo likely sneaking into my top 10 when I release my preliminary fantasy rankings for 2014.
Our experts will continue to rank the top 15 quarterbacks each week through the end of the 2014 NFL season.
Fantasy Quarterback Depth in 2014
I think these guys have a chance to improve on their 2013 numbers with some having more room to grow than others. I wouldn't advocate drafting any of them as your number one quarterback, at least not today. Lots of things can change with free agency, the NFL draft and training camps but until then I'll stand behind these five guys as candidates as becoming top 12 plays (well at least some of them).
To be honest the 2014 fantasy football quarterback class is shaping up to be one of the deepest I can remember. As of this writing there's easily 10 guys I'd be thrilled to have depending on their draft day price and a few of these other guys provide enough intrigue that I'd be okay starting some of them if the offseason falls the way I expect it to.
Do you think I left someone off the list or disagree with my thoughts? Share your thoughts below and tell me what you think. There's plenty of fantasy football quarterbacks to go around.
The photo above is an original and is courtesy of Myhalescornersnow.com.
For the record, I never actually played football. I have no doubt that I would get crushed running across the middle for a pass, every single time.