As we continue our fantasy football coverage, we wanted to specifically break down the quarterback position. So we’re going to do a football relativity comparison of quarterbacks from a fantasy perspective. The 10 level is for elite fantasy quarterbacks; the 1 level is for a quarterback who is barely an ownable backup in 10-team leagues. We’ll indicate other values of each level throughout the comparison.
10 – Drew Brees, Tom Brady – We’ve covered these quarterbacks in this earlier post. They are top-25 players regardless of position. They are legitimate second-round picks in any league, and if one of them is picked just before you, take the other one before he’s gone.
9 – Peyton Manning – We also covered Manning in this post as well as in this post. He is a top-35 player regardless of position. He’s just below Brees and Brady but is still worth consideration starting in the third round in most leagues.
8 – Kurt Warner – We covered Warner to some extent here, and suffice it to say that he’s a fantasy stalwart as long as he stays healthy. That injury risk keeps us from rating Warner with the top 3, but that also gives him some upside if you can grab Warner just before the three Rs (not reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic but Rivers, Rodgers, and Romo). No matter what, Warner is a guy you should be excited to start. He’s a great value starting in the fourth round, but he may not make it that long in all leagues.
7 – Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo – This group, which you just heard are called the three Rs, are pretty equivalent fantasy players this year. That means you should draft the third of them, not the first, because the third guy could actually go almost a full round later than the first. All three are legitimate fantasy starters this year that you should feel good about. You shouldn’t need to play matchups with these guys for the most part either, which will allow you to wait on your backup quarterback. That puts the three Rs between 40 and 50 on the draft board. Note that Rivers and Rodgers were also covered in this post.
6 – Donovan McNabb – McNabb is the last guy we feel comfortable calling a sure-fire starter in most fantasy leagues. Below this point, you’re going to want to play matchups to try to get the most production week by week. McNabb has better options than he has had in recent years with the emergence of DeSean Jackson and the addition of Jeremy Maclin, although his receiving corps is young. But he has the chance to see some swing passes and screens turn into big-yardage plays, which helps. After the top 60, McNabb becomes a good value.
*Players above this point can be considered every-week starters in most leagues. Players below this point should not be considered every-week starters in leagues of 10 teams or smaller. They should be matchup and/or spot starters.
5 – Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan – Schaub has some of the best weapons in the league in Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Steve Slaton, and Kevin Walter. That’s as good a foursome as there is in the league. Schaub had 15 touchdown passes (plus two scoring runs) in just 11 games last year, so if he can stay healthy he’s a candidate to throw 25 touchdowns and be a legit fantasy starter. But he hasn’t stayed healthy in his career, which makes him a part-time fantasy starter instead of an old reliable. Ryan had 16 touchdown passes with one TD run as a rookie, and you can imagine those numbers ticking up in his second year. The addition of TE Tony Gonzalez will be the biggest factor that should push Ryan over the 20-TD plateau. Ryan’s numbers won’t make him an every week starter, but they should make him a good matchup option most weeks.
4 – Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Hasselbeck – Cutler was covered earlier in this post, while Hasselbeck was covered in this post. Cutler’s numbers made him a legitimate fantasy starter last year (25 TDs, 4,500 yards), but in his move from Denver to Chicago he had a downgrade in receiving targets and a more conservative offense to play in. Expect 18 touchdowns from him, and draft him as a matchup guy who has good upside if the Bears have a receiver emerge. Palmer had three years as a fantasy stud before missing most of the ’08 season. He too has upside if he shows he’s healthy, although the change from T.J. Houshmandzedah to Laveranues Coles is at least a minor downgrade. Houshmandzedah is now with Seattle, which should help Hasselbeck bounce back from his ’08 injury. Hasselbeck had been a consistent fantasy force until the injury, and so he’s a good option here. Big Ben has had only one big fantasy season (2007), so he’s more of a matchup guy than a fantasy starter. Big Ben kind of has the mantle that Troy Aikman used to have as a quarterback who’s much better in real football than in fantasy football. Getting two of the four guys from this level and playing matchups while you hope one of them emerges could end up being a strategy that pays off handsomely.
*Players above this level are factors as matchup plays in most fantasy leagues. Players below this level are generally backups only in most leagues.
3 – Matt Cassel, Eli Manning – Cassel was covered earlier in this post as well as in this post. He has potential and should be in a pass-friendly offense, and he has decent targets to throw to, but behind a worse offensive line his numbers won’t be as good. Still, Cassel has some upside and is at least an interesting backup to have. Like Big Ben, meanwhile, Eli Manning is better on the field than on the stat sheet. He’s hit 20 touchdowns just once in his career, and his best receiver (Plaxico Burress) is now gone. So Eli is not much more than a bye-week fill-in as a fantasy quarterback. The good news about him is that he won’t bottom out and you can count on 16-18 touchdowns from him. That certainty makes him an acceptable backup late in fantasy drafts.
2 – Kyle Orton, Trent Edwards – Orton was covered earlier in this post as well as in this post. He had fantasy backup numbers last year, and he has better targets in Denver, but there’s still a question as to whether he can legitimately be a 20-touchdown passer. So he’s a low-level backup quarterback with a little upside. Edwards has wonderful targets in Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, but he threw just 11 TDs (with three rushing TDs) last year. That number should increase, but not to the 20 TD level. If you want to take a gamble with your backup quarterback, Edwards is worth a flier, but don’t rely on him as more than that.
1 – David Garrard – Garrard, who had 15 passing TDs and two rushing TDs last year, has an all-new receiving corps – which isn’t really a good thing. If you’re stuck at the end of the backup-QB train, Garrard is a better option than Chad Pennington and a safer option than Shaun Hill or Joe Flacco. But that doesn’t make him a good option.