NickVanExcellent of Pyro breaks down which quarterbacks are fantasy elite and which aren't.
Fantasy Football Elite or Not?
ELITE OR NOT ELITE?: That is the question!
As a fantasy manager, you like to have an advantage over your weekly opponent. You could try to acquire said advantage by hitching your wagon to
(A) a consistent option at tight end,
(B) a wide variety of #1 receivers,
(C) do-it-all workhorse running backs
or (D) all of the above.
Or you could just do your best to get yourself an elite quarterback.
Yes, you may have heard a lot of quarterbacks in this league are said to be elite via various media outlets. It is a commonly used word to describe quarterbacks with longevity in the sport, manning the helm of a perennial playoff team and those guys out there who rack up major statistics. However, a lot of the time it’s used to show reverence to what that player may have done. And considering how often the term is used, it’s easy to confuse who is elite with who isn’t.
But in the fantasy world, the term elite is reserved for three men and three men alone.
Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Tom Brady. The Crème de la crème. Year in and year out, they provide the fantasy numbers every manager WISHES they had.
What defines them as elite exactly? Glad you asked.
An elite fantasy quarterback is determined primarily by three things: talent, the team’s offensive strategy and the weapons around them Aaron, Drew and Tom all have undeniable talent at the quarterback position. All three of them have weapons in the pass game that allow them to excel and they are all on teams that have an offensive strategy that leans heavily towards making plays through the passing game. All of which allows them the opportunity to put up big numbers more often than not for your fantasy team every week.
As a fantasy manager, you want talents like these plugged into your quarterback slot on a weekly basis but there are only 3 of them. You may not be able to get them due to a variety of reasons (kept by other managers, your draft position, etc…). so I’ve come up with a collection of ten current QBs who may or may not be elite by my estimation. There are some worthwhile candidates out there who could give comparable performances to those that are considered elite. Some might be ready to ascend to that level as we speak…
The Boston College signal caller doesn't come with the glitz and glamour that a lot of QB's come with but he's consistently improving and can make a lot of the throws. Matty Ice has been trending upwards statistically since his debut in 2008. His TD total has increased each year and his passing yardage totals have been on the rise since 2009. The Atlanta Falcons under Mike Mularkey focused on the run but with Dirk Koetter running the show, they’ve spread their offensive wings and become an aggressive offense. No huddle and spread formations abound! Week 1 against Kansas City, he lit up the Chiefs for 4 total touchdowns, primarily through the air.
The WEAPONS: Michael Turner might not last long as the primary run threat in this offense due to a fading burst but the other weapons on this team are top notch. Julio Jones is the featured receiver in this offense and has the talent, size and speed to take the job and run with it. Roddy White was Ryan’s main target last year and presents a very solid #2 option on the outside who can keep the double teams off of Julio. Tony Gonzalez is still humming along at the tight end position, working the middle of the field and Harry Douglas is an underrated option out of the slot. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are jack of all trades kind of running backs who can keep this offense on schedule.
Fantasy ELITE? Yes. With the weapons at his disposal and the Falcons new offensive philosophy, Matt Ryan looks ready to join the top 5 in this league and could stay there for a LONG time.
The Baltimore Ravens are known more for their defensive prowess and their effective run game more than for their work through the air. Pretty Flacco has had his moments but hasn’t seized the opportunity to become one of the more reliable QB’s in this league. He does have a huge arm that can throw one of the prettier deep balls in the league considering the arc he puts on the pigskin. His passing yards have increased every year he’s been in this league but he’s never thrown for over 4000 yards nor has he thrown for more than 25 touchdowns. But with Cam Cameron taking the restraints off what was considered a very plain offense and Jim Caldwell being brought in to help with the no-huddle offense, Joe has a chance to become one of the better field generals in the game. If his first game of 2012 against the Bengals was any indication, he won’t be afraid to sling the pill all over the lot.
The WEAPONS: Torrey Smith is much improved from a year ago He’s known for stretching the defense downfield with blazing speed. Now that he’s able to run more kinds of routes, he’ll be a handful. Ol’ Reliable Anquan Boldin is back to provide a veteran presence as the tough minded possession receiver but he’s nicked up every year. Ray Rice can do it all and should easily transition into what the Ravens are doing in this offense but has the potential worry of being left out of a gameplan just to fit a few more passes into the script.. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson provide Flacco with options to attack safeties in the middle of the field and Jacoby Jones can be the deep threat that Torrey Smith used to be.
Fantasy ELITE? Not elite. He’ll be much improved from a year ago but I feel he'll still make poor throws or be hamstrung by his offensive co-ordinator on a random week. Flacco is one year away.
The cannon-armed Stafford finally played a full season last year and it appears that 16 games guarantees him 5000+ yards. The pass-happy Lions, under Scott Linehan, are known to have a dynamic offense but the run game has been a mere compliment the past couple of years. The Georgia product understands that and will possibly lead the league in pass attempts for the near future. Until the Lions get that true workhorse back who won’t fall apart after a few good licks, Staffy will have no choice but to let it fly, early and often. His first test this season against the St. Louis Rams saw him throw 3 INT’s but he finished the game with over 350 yards!
The WEAPONS: The biggest weapon in the wide receiver department is Calvin Johnson. Megatron is beyond description and his talent level is beyond this stratosphere. Nate Burleson provides a veteran presence for those 3rd down pass plays over the middle and he can still create enough to give secondaries fits. Titus Young, once he screws his head on straight, will be a big time deep threat. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are basically extensions of the run game but can also sneak up on you with a 30+ yard touchdown catch every so often. And Kevin Smith provides plenty of versatility in run and pass game.
Fantasy ELITE? Yes. Sheer volume alone gives Stafford a shot at top 5. His talent is top notch and the Detroit run game is extremely limited.
Eli has come into his own the past 5 years, providing the rabid New York fanbase with 2 Super Bowl parades and emerging from the shadow of his older all=Pro older brother, Peyton. After years of inaccuracy and bad body language, he's found a way to become accurate now. He’s topped 4000 yards each of the past 3 years by spreading the ball around to his backs and receivers. Kevin Gilbride has provided a balanced blueprint that keeps Eli and the Giants diverse enough to keep opposing defenses on their toes. But this season started a little off-kilter with a few overthrows and drops in a loss to the Cowboys.
The WEAPONS: Victor Cruz aka Senor Salsa is the main weapon for the Giants this season. He runs great routes and has a flair for the big play but has to prove he’s not just a one year wonder. Hakeem Nicks will have to overcome a foot injury to produce top 20 production again this season. Martellus Bennett is the most athletically gifted TE since Jeremy Shockey left town but will have his ups and downs adjusting to a new offensive scheme. Ahmad Bradshaw is a tough, hardnosed back with some shake and bake to his game but gets nicked up a LOT. David Wilson, once the tears have dried up, will provide the team with electric speed and Giants fans with a lot of frustrated Tom Coughlin faces…
Fantasy ELITE? Not elite, this season. Not enough weapons on offense to keep Eli’s name in contention and I fear that injuries along the offensive line and in the backfield threaten to make him one-dimensional.
A mercurial choice at QB for any fantasy owner, Michael Vick is capable of so much but always finds a way to underwhelm when relied on for an entire season. If he’s not injured from running head first into a wave of contact=happy linebackers, he’s misfiring on throws due to inconsistent mechanics. But just when you think he’s a mediocre player, he can explode for 6 touchdowns in a game, a hundred yards rushing and can make any defensive scheme look like a joke. Marty Mornhinweg has given Vick a dynamic offense full of big play potential but sometimes lacks the consistency of other outfits around the league. His 1st week in 2012 was one of his poorer games but he did pull the Eagles across the finish line with a victory on a late game drive.
The WEAPONS: Jeremy Maclin is the most consistent receiver on this team but he’s been hurt off and on the past year or so. LeSean McCoy is the versatile, high volume runner who has some extreme shake and bake in the open field. DeSean Jackson has the burners to take the top off of defenses but questions abound about his effort now that he’s gotten paid this offseason. Brent Celek and Clay Harbor are zone-busting TE’s who can provide mismatches and Jason Avant is the reliable slot guy who they look to on 3rd down for those conversions.
Fantasy ELITE? Not elite. His inconsistency from game to game leaves him on the outside looking in. Until he learns how to slide and throw with proper mechanics instead of trying to go for the big play every play, he'll always be a few notches below
After spending a majority of his playing days in Indy, Peyton brings his legendary line of scrimmage skills and precise passing to Denver, thanks to John Elway and a LOT of money. He is still working his way back from four neck surgeries and may not be the QB he was during his glory days with the Colts but considering who he replaced, he is considered a major upgrade to the Bronco offense. He’ll manage the defensive pressure and orchestrate pre-snap adjustments as he always has. This is the one case in the NFL, where the offensive co-ordinator might have to do more listening than coaching. Mike McCoy will implement a lot of what Manning was comfortable with in Indy into his offense to create a balanced offense ready to make life miserable for the rest of the AFC West. And judging by his performance week 1 versus the Steelers, he might be a lot closer to full strength than we were led to believe!
The WEAPONS: Eric Decker is a tall receiver with decent quicks who could really give opposing secondaries fits. He was a valuable piece of the Bronco offense when Tebow was running circles in the backfield so you can imagine how much more consistent his production will be going forward. Demaryius Thomas is the gamebreaker. If he gets some space or runs into a light arm tackle, he’ll do his best to get upfield. Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley are the familiar faces Peyton can probe the middle of the field or work the sidelines with. Nothing especially amazing about either player but they’ll be very valuable pieces to the puzzle. Joel Dreesen only adds another good option to use at tight end. Willis McGahee can still pound the rock and accelerate through the hole with some gusto so he’ll definitely help. Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball offer changes of pace who are key pieces of the pass protection and pass game.
Fantasy ELITE? Yes. As skeptical as I was of what he was capable of post neck surgery, he’s turned the Bronco offense into something he can operate well in. I don’t see any apprehension or confusion when he does his maestro bit at the line before the snap. I can’t say he’ll be anywhere near his career highs this year, but he will offer a certain consistency that a lot of other QB’s can’t offer.
The Decatur, GA native with a degree in trash talk has been killing it statistically for years now. He’s topped 4000 yards the past 4 seasons with a varied crew of personnel ranging from 6’5 giants to 5’7 half-pints. He’s made 3rd stringers viable options on short notice and will always find a way to keep teams in games with his arm. Norv Turner has crafted a pass heavy approach that attacks all levels of the defense and Philip, as his trigger man, is capable of putting up big numbers on a weekly basis. He did dink and dunk his way down the field against the Raiders in week one but did take a few deep shots when the offensive line kept him clean.
The WEAPONS: Malcom Floyd is a tall, deep threat with a lot of upside and a lot of time logged in the trainer’s room. Antonio Gates helped revolutionize the TE position and made it cool to draft TE’s a lot sooner than usual in fantasy leagues over the years, but the only thing we can be sure of with him now Is that he’ll find a way to get hurt. Ryan Mathews has a lot of skill and the ability to really become a top end RB in this league but all it takes is one carry with him to put him on the sidelines. Robert Meachem is a free agent import from New Orleans who can also be a deep threat but he has to get on the same page with Philip Rivers. Eddie Royal is the shifty slot piece who can be a nightmare when working underneath but he’s notorious for getting hopes up yet he spends a lot of time on the sidelines, watching the game with his helmet off. Ronnie Brown? I’d rather see Buster Brown in the SD backfield..
Fantasy ELITE? Not elite. As you read above, the San Diego supporting cast is fragile and it’s impossible to rely on them. No doubt,he'll have big weeks when everything clicks but he cannot be counted on week in, week out.
Antonio Ramiro caught a LOT of flack for his timely flubs on the football field but he’s shown that he’s not as bad as the criticism makes him out to be. He’s gone over 4000 yards 3 times in the past 5 seasons and has kept his completion percentage above 65 percent the past 2 years. He has underrated mobility, a shiftiness in the pocket and the ability to improvise a playground type of play on the fly, which puts the defenses he’s up against in a tough position. Bill Callahan was brought in to help get some consistency for the Cowboy offense and week 1 against the Giants showed some promise. Romo turned the Giant secondary into Swiss cheese with pinpoint throws down the field and some good adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
The WEAPONS: Dez Bryant has a ton of talent and with a full season to prove it, should develop into a #1 receiver in this offense. Miles Austin has hamstrings made of caution tape but if he’s not out for 3-4 weeks with an injury, he's a complete beast all over the field. He can work out of the slot and get yardage after the catch. DeMarco Murray proved to be a worthy draft pick last season and is set up to be a complete back. He’s got no competition for the #1 spot and he can break a long run at any time. Jason Witten has slowed down a bit the past couple of years but has found a way to contribute. Kevin Ogletree may represent a cheap alternative to replace Laurent Robinson from last season. Felix Jones? I’d rather have Felix Unger..
Fantasy ELITE? Yes. His ability to improvise and make adjustments on the fly give him a shot at being a top option this season. There might be the occasional bump in the road but his stats at the end of the year should be amongst the league leaders.
Large Benjamin has a reputation for making something out of nothing. His offensive line has been decimated by injury the past 2 seasons but he keeps on going out there, showing his opponents that he’s still a force behind center. He’ll take a beating but will also find a way to eke out that crucial 3rd down necessary to move the sticks. The Steelers brought in Todd Haley to give them a little bit of a different look on offense, even though they were pretty pass heavy without him. Week 1 against the Broncos showed more of the same of what we know from Ben: spreading the ball around evenly and making the most out of a tough situation.
The WEAPONS: Mike Wallace, once he gets up to speed, will use his speed to threaten every secondary deep on every play. Antonio Brown has exploded onto the scene with a great ability to make plays all over the field. Heath Miller is an unheralded TE who goes out and produces without much fanfare. Emmanuel Sanders is a quality 3rd receiver who can go deep when necessary or make the short catches over the middle to get first downs. Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are all in the mix as backfield options but none of them can be counted on for anything consistent right now. Keep an eye on Chris Rainey, who’s got wheels and could be the guy that breaks a few gadget plays for big chunks of yardage.
Fantasy ELITE? Not elite. He’ll be pretty good but I think his offensive line issues and lack of a run game keep him on the outside looking in. When that pocket breaks down against a good defense, chances are those passes on the run end up as picks.
Mr. Cavallari has some serious ability. He can fit throws into tight windows, make the deep throws and has a confidence about his abilities that borders on arrogance. The problem he’s run into since he’s been in Chicago is that he’s never been able to meet expectations in the NFC North. That competitive division rarely lets up and he’s yet to show consistency. His completion percentage, yardage totals and touchdown totals had been in decline the past 3 seasons. A lot of that can be blamed on the previous offensive coordinators and personnel issues but there have also been questions about his leadership. This season, with Mike Tice on board, things are supposed to get better considering Tice’s rep for turning around offensive lines wherever he’s gone. His first 2 games have been a mixed bag so far: erratic yet effective against the Colts and downright dreadful versus the Green Bay Packers (after some major shit talk to the GB secondary).
The WEAPONS: Brandon Marshall, when he’s not dropping touchdowns in the red zone, has the eye of Jay Cutler in the secondary. He doesn’t have to worry about targets or usage rates because Jay’s coming to him more often than not. Matt Forte may not have the sexy name other RBs have but he’s just as dangerous out of the backfield and making moves on people in the open field. His only problem is in the red zone but that’s why they brought Michael Bush in this offseason. He’s a much more talented RB2 than given credit for and he might get a lot more work than people expect. (UPDATE: With Forte injured, he gets MUCH more work now!) Devin Hester is electric in space but is inconsistent when used strictly as a receiver. Alshon Jeffery is like Brandon Marshall 2.0. If he gets any chemistry with Cutler, look out. Earl Bennett was Cutler’s teammate in Vanderbilt but that seems to be the 1st thing mentioned about him..not his play on the field. They have chemistry but he’s yet to string good games together. Kellen Davis is a deceptively good talent who can work the seam.
Fantasy ELITE? Not Elite. You would think he could be with these weapons but the offensive line and his attitude may cap his production. He'll forever be a tease that you think would be a good option at QB1 but as soon as you have him there, you're uneasy and scouring waivers for anybody else.
So there you have it. Ten QBs, all with interesting scenarios to consider.
If you own one of the elite or one of the potentially elite? Congratulations!
If you own one of the not elite options? Do your best to get one of the elites. The fantasy game, as volatile as it can be, is about trying to create stability wherever you can. Once you've got a QB option you can depend on, you can spend the rest of your weekly prep time, worrying about positional issues! Hooray?