Every year during the preseason, we preach the same old thing when it comes to quarterbacks – there’s no need to rush your pick as it’s the deepest position out there**. With so much talent out there, you can afford to wait until at least the fifth round and you’ll still find yourself some top quality. But is that the case this season? The strategy works if you’re using those top picks on high-scoring, elite running backs and splashing in a couple of high-end wide receivers and/or tight ends, but if those picks aren’t putting up the points you were expecting, then you probably find yourself struggling here through the first five weeks of the fantasy football season without an elite-level quarterback.
Now obviously the number of elites is very small right now. You’ve got Peyton Manning and Drew Brees above everyone else. Normally, we’d have Aaron Rodgers with them, but given the struggles of the Green Bay offensive line, he’s not as strong a guarantee as the other two. As for the rest, we’ve got plenty shaking out through these first five weeks. The rest of the quarterbacks who currently round out the top 10 in points have all performed fairly well but either have experienced or are expected to experience some difficulty along the way, while others who we may have expected to already be in the top 10 for overall points, have disappointed for a variety of reasons. Today, we’re going to look at some of the more notable quarterbacks to see what’s what. Can we expect a rebound from some? Regression for others? With these next few weeks being so integral to your fantasy playoffs hopes, it’s important to see whether you can rely on who you have or if it pays to go shopping.
Tony Romo, DAL – Throwing for 506 yards may not have won him the game, but Romo did wonders for fantasy owners with his performance this week and he continues to performs at a high level this season. This was his first 300-plus yard effort of the season, but where Romo has really helped out so far is his 13:2 touchdown to interception ratio. Real life fans will forever criticize Romo for the timing of his interceptions, but fantasy owners couldn’t care less so long as he’s still putting up 20-plus fantasy points each week. The weakness of the NFC East, coupled with some tasty non-divisional match-ups, lends to the belief that Romo’s current level of performance should continue.
Philip Rivers, SD – Do you believe in the resurrection? Is Rivers really back to performing like a top 10 fantasy quarterback? Prior to Sunday’s match-up, Rivers had 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions and threw for more than 400 yards twice. But while he threw for another 400-plus yards in Week 5, he also threw three interceptions against a relatively suspect Oakland secondary and has two games with fewer than 200 passing yards. Obviously, he’s still capable of falling apart. Three of his next four match-ups are pretty favorable, but after that, he’s got a tough road ahead of him and that’s going to hit right at the tail-end of the fantasy regular season when wins will be crucial.
Jay Cutler, CHI – Truth be told, I’ve never been a big fan of Cutler and have actually endured some nightmarish seasons with him at the helm for my fantasy team. But I’m starting to come around a little lately. Maybe it’s his appearances on The League (love that they call his kid The Cutlet) that are endearing him to me more or maybe it’s the fact that he’s finally starting to post more consistent numbers lately, in spite of a somewhat high interception total. The first two weeks were solid, Week 3 was a struggle, but these last two weeks have looked much better from a fantasy perspective. Who cares about three interceptions in two games when he’s throwing for 300-plus yards each time with multiple touchdown throws? Credit the foot injury to Brandon Marshall which has forced Cutler to look for Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and other options more, making the Bears offense a little more well-balanced. He’s also got some very favorable match-ups coming, so continue to view him as a solid fantasy play moving forward.
Andrew Luck, IND –While Luck’s numbers aren’t anything to write home about, it’s his level of consistency that makes him such a strong fantasy option. He plays a fairly smart game with few mistakes, has solid weapons at his disposal, and now finally a strong ground game to help balance the offense. With Trent Richardson coming out of the backfield, defenses have to play the run more than before which should help keep things open downfield. The Colts have said that they want to run the ball more, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to limit his passing attempts. It just means that Indy will incorporate the ground game more. He’s still going to need to throw the ball and as long as he continues to play smart football, he’ll maintain his current value.
Eli Manning, NYG – Whiile the lesser of two Mannings has three games with 300 passing yards or more, his 12 interceptions (to just eight touchdowns) loom large and weigh heavily on his fantasy owners. Save for Week 1, he’s been a major disappointment and it seems that, without a reliable ground game, defenses have been able to fall back into coverage more and push little Eli into a number of mistakes. He remains a high risk right now and unless we start seeing a better ground attack, he’ll be a risk moving forward as well.
Matt Schaub, HOU – The fact that he set an NFL record with four straight games with a pick-six should say it all, but if it doesn’t, then his benching in the second half of Sunday’s game should. T.J. Yates certainly isn’t the answer to the Texans problems, but Schaub, with the way he’s playing, isn’t either. He looked pretty solid through the first two weeks and looked passable in Week 4, but Week 3 and this past week looked atrocious and Schaub seems to be all wrapped up in his head right now. If he can get over the mental hurdles right now then he should be fine, but until he starts playing with more confidence, you’re going to want to look elsewhere for help.
Carson Palmer, ARI – There were high hopes for Palmer entering the season, but in hindsight, that hope may have just been coming from Cardinals fans who haven’t see a decent quarterback under center since Neil Lomax. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but anytime you can make a Lomax reference, it’s a sure-fire win of an article. Palmer may not have the strongest of running games, but his decisions haven’t been the best either. With nine interceptions to just five touchdowns, things aren’t looking so good, and frankly, it’s hard to imagine things are going to get much better.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Last call for Big Ben? I don’t think so. While the numbers have been relatively subpar through the Steelers’ first four games, these last two games have offered more than just a glimmer of hope for a rebound. The next-level play of Antonio Brown, the return of Heath Miller and now the emergence of a decent ground attack thanks to the return of Le’Veon Bell have all helped Big Ben’s game and with the bye week having now come and gone, it would be shocking if the Steelers did not become a better team. Their offensive line is still in need of some recovery time, having lost center Maurkice Pouncey early on, but the two full weeks off after a trip to London should help them work on what they need to address. I wouldn’t elevate Roethlisberger in the overall rankings at the position just yet, but he’s definitely got some buy-low potential.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – Frustrated is probably the best word to describe how Kaepernick’s owners are feeling right about now. After a phenomenal Week 1, Kaepernick has yet to throw for more than 200 yards in any game, has just six touchdowns to four interceptions, and what’s worse is that he has just 154 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns. In fact, the 49ers have practically taken away the read option altogether, hamstringing one of Kaepernick’s greatest assets. But it’s more than just that, really, as Kaepernick has really shown his inexperience in the passing game. He may have a rocket for an arm, but he only looks for two targets, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, and if they’re not open, the play becomes a bust for the most part. Granted, the secondary receiving targets haven’t shown much, but they also haven’t been given a real opportunity. If Kaepernick doesn’t learn to utilize more of the weapons at his disposal, then it won’t really matter how much more he runs in the future. I’m sticking with him for now, but if my back-up has a real favorable match-up, I might be sticking Kaepernick on the bench.
Cam Newton, CAR – Four games in for the Panthers and we’ve got two good and two not-so-good starts for a guy who was considered a top five option heading into the season. He also has been hamstringed on the running game, rushing just 20 times for 123 yards and one touchdown, but while you don’t want to rely so heavily on that, you also have to understand that Newton really isn’t the best passer out there either. It doesn’t help that his weapons include an aging Steve Smith, Greg Olsen and a cast of throw-aways, but there are only so many excuses you can make for misfires and inaccuracy. He’s got some surprisingly tough match-ups ahead, so don’t expect some huge turnaround.
Robert Griffin III, WAS – We all expected there to be a lot of rust for RG3 to shake off, but he hasn’t shown much in the way of improvement over his first four games. In fact, his last two have been significantly worse than his first two, from a fantasy perspective that is. He’s said that he wants to run more but the coaching staff seems hesitant to loosen those reins so he’s going to have to really perform through the air to make up the difference. He’s got a nice run of some soft pass defenses coming his way, so don’t write him off as overrated just yet. But just be sure that you don’t get too attached, especially if you’re going to need to start making some changes.
Matthew Stafford, DET – The first three weeks were a delight for fantasy owners as the match-ups were pretty tasty to open the season. But in the last two games, as the match-ups have been more difficult, Stafford has been a serious letdown. We had high hopes for him when the Lions added Reggie Bush to his arsenal, but Stafford’s slow games starts (he continually looks below-average in the first half of most games, dating back to last season) and the double-teams that Calvin Johnson has seen are making things awfully difficult for fantasy owners to keep trusting. With some tough match-ups coming his way in the coming weeks, you may want to think about packaging him up with someone for a potential upgrade – a legit upgrade though, not someone who might just be playing over their head right now.
Random Parting Thoughts
Tom Brady, NE – Once he gets his full receiving corps back, Brady is going to be one of those guys you simply don’t want to play against in a weekly fantasy match-up. Rob Gronkowski will return to favorite-target status, he’ll have two tremendous possession guys in Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and he’ll be able to stretch the field with rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. It won’t make much of a difference as to who is coming out of the backfield anymore as Brady is anxious to take over.
Michael Vick, PHI – First injury of the season here as he left with a hamstring problem Sunday and didn’t return. Is it nothing or will Vick’s owners have to make use of their back-ups now? When drafting Vick, one should expect a loss of three or four games, but is this injury serious enough to do that? Monday MRI results are pending. In the meantime, Nick Foles may not be the tastiest of choices, but at least he’s familiar with the personnel. How he fares in Chip Kelly’s offense might be a different story though.
Terrelle Pryor, OAK – I’m still skeptical, but he’s definitely done more than I expected heading into the season. I’d still only use him as a second quarterback in a two-QB league, but he’s definitely showing some potential.
**We’re talking single-quarterback leagues here. Two-quarterback leagues have a different draft strategy, one where it almost always pays to grab an elite right from the get-go.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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