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Fantasy Football: 2013 Quarterback Tiers and Projections

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Jan 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When I sat down to slice and dice these quarterbacks as if I were Michael Symon, I came to realize that I just couldn’t cut past this one bone in my roto roast lamb. Today I’m here to remove it, and that bone that needs to be picked lies inside of “standard” scoring.

That is the death of the four point passing touchdown.

The reason four point pass TD’s were created was to police the signal callers from having too much value over the other fantasy positions. Your backs and receivers just weren’t able to match the output of even the weaker quarterbacks.

That is fine, but with teams currently moving in a direction of deploying more speed and space into their offensive attack, and basic evolution of athletes, we’ve created a distortion within the actual position itself.

Read more about Sports Jerks Network fantasy football rankings…
PPR Running Back Tiers/Projections
PPR Wide Receiver Tiers/Projections
PPR Tight Ends Tiers/ Projections
C.D. Carter’s Standard Scoring Tiers

Standard scoring dramatically slants the scales in the favor of the running quarterback. We aren’t only discussing scrambling, but the designed run has changed the game and it’s reached our fantasy haven. In each of the past two seasons, there have been 66 scores on the ground from passers. In the 10 seasons prior, the average was 49.6 quartback rushing touchdowns.

That’s a 32 percent increase, and an increase I don’t see falling due to the Darwinism of modern football.

My final argument (well, in this forum at least) forces me to speak the name of he who must not be named in football. Tim Tebow.

In 2011, Tebow started weeks 5-16 for the Denver Broncos. He averaged 16.6 points per game in four-point passing leagues, with an average of 8.6 of those points coming from his feet per week.

That’s right; half of his points were from rushing. If Tebow would’ve played all 16 games and maintained that production, he would’ve finished 2011 as the ninth best quarterback in standard leagues.

Do we really want our children to grow up in a place where a passer who only completes 46.3 percent (Tebow’s ’11 completion percentage) of his throws is considered a top option?

That makes me want to pack my things up and get out of dodge. But before I do, I’ll simply post one of the political stands in my front yard that reads “Vote for Touchdown Equality.”

OK… let’s rank some quarterbacks.

*Accumulative points are not the basis of these rankings. Week to week consistency combined with uncertainty and anticipation of changes, for better or worse, were applied to the order of the tiers. Too often at this time of the summer, we are guilty of looking forward and back at the upcoming season and prior season’s stats in their entirety.

Tier 1

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Aaron Rodgers

GB

4

348

535

4441

38

7

236

2

427.24

Drew Brees

NO

7

446

661

4958

39

17

23

1

406.62

Rodgers has passed for 4,000 plus yards in four of the past five seasons, adding 250 rushing yards and multiple rushing scores in the past four. He’s also insanely good in the red zone. In his career as a starting quartback, he has thrown 108 touchdowns to only two interceptions inside the oppositions twenty.

In fact, Rodgers has only thrown 32 interceptions over his past 2,070 regular seasons attempts (1.5 percent). His age (29), passing ability, lack of turnovers and nice rushing boost make him the complete roto quarterback.

Brees in 2012 posted his second consecutive season with 5,000 passing yards and his third such season in the past five. He also became the first passer to ever record 40 or more passing touchdowns in back to back years.

He had nine weeks of 25+ points, most in the league. Brees will throw his share of picks, he has more (33) over his past two years than Rodgers has over his past four. He also only averaged 25 rushing yards per season in his 12 year career. I almost forgot, did you hear the Saints get Sean Payton back this season?

Tier 2

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Cam Newton

CAR

4

292

499

3842

23

14

683

7

373.98

Peyton Manning

DEN

9

391

608

4742

36

14

11

0

378.78

Matthew Stafford

DET

9

408

682

4842

33

17

95

1

373.18

Tom Brady

NE

10

389

598

4313

33

12

36

2

362.12

Through the first seven weeks, Newton threw only five touchdowns to go with eight interceptions as he averaged only 17.9 points per week. In the final nine games, he was the best fantasy quarterback in the game. Cam averaged 26.2 points weekly as he tossed in 14 scores (five weeks of two or more) while running in five and cutting his mistakes (only four interceptions) down.

Don’t concern yourself with the zone read going away in Carolina, it won’t be.

4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns aren’t too shabby for a guy who many thought would have to retire before throwing another pass. That’s what Manning did last season, throwing for at least three scores in nine weeks.

His Adjusted Yards per Attempt (8.4) was his highest mark since 2005. Denver has added the slot machine known as Wes Welker to go with budding superstar Demaryius Thomas and the undervalued Eric Decker, giving Peyton all the weapons he needs this season.

Stafford is a prime regression candidate for 2013. In setting a new NFL record for passing attempts (727) last season, he threw a touchdown on only 2.8 percent (20 touchdowns) on those attempts.

His completion percentage also took a dive as he only completed 14 more passes (435) than he did in ’11 on those 64 extra attempts. He had 11 games with one or zero touchdowns, after 12 games of two or more in 2011. With Reggie Bush in the fold to eat space on linebackers, expect that percentage to go up a tick and anticipate Stafford and his receivers finding the paint much more this season.

As Coleman Kelly of RotoViz/SportsWunderkind has pointed out, just because Brady doesn’t appear to have weapons doesn’t mean he won’t perform as strong as he always has. In the five games that Rob Gronkowski missed last season, Brady threw 11 touchdowns and scored over 25 points in three of the games.

He also topped 250 yards in four of those weeks. While the overall number of attempts (over 600 attempts each of the past two seasons) could slightly decrease, the production will still be there.

Tier 3

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Robert Griffin III

WAS

5

303

459

3620

24

10

612

5

360

Russell Wilson

SEA

12

295

458

3618

29

12

543

4

373.02

Colin Kaepernick

SF

9

288

451

3605

23

10

656

7

369.8

Matt Ryan

ATL

6

387

592

4558

31

14

116

0

351.92

Tony Romo

DAL

11

365

575

4543

30

16

86

1

344.32

Griffin is expected to be the Redskins week one starter only eight months after surgically repairing his right knee. Owners worried about his rushing output being stifled, only need to look back to last season on how that will affect his performance. In the first six weeks, RGIII averaged 12.3 rushing points per game with 6 scores and finished as a top-12 quarterback in five of those weeks.

Over his final nine games he averaged only 5.5 rushing points per week and was still able to finish as a top 12 player in five of those weeks despite only besting 200 passing yards in four of those games.

I still believe Griffin is the best passer out of all the “running” quarterbacks and Mike Shanahan will put him in a position to succeed. I edge him over Wilson and Kaepernick because Washington can’t win without relying on him, unlike Seattle and San Francisco.

If Washington holds him out for the entire preseason, it could create a great value price point.

A preseason darling coming into the season, Wilson came out the gates with a flat tire. In his first seven starts he averaged only 13 points per game with only one 20 point scoring week and two games with over 200 yards passing. Once Seattle mixed in a small amount of zone read, Wilson became real comfortable and his fantasy output doubled.

Over his final nine games, he threw 18 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He averaged 26.3 points per week, scoring 20 plus in every game except week 14 when he attempted only 13 passes (Seattle was up 38-0 at halftime).

No player has as large of a disparity between ceiling and floor on weekly basis that Kaepernick.  He’s shown he can have a 30 point week passing (Week 15) or have a 30 point week rushing (vs GB in postseason).

The issue with him is the 49ers have proven they can win double digit games with a QB throwing 450 passes in back to back years. This ultimately hurts Kap’s floor, in his 10 starts (including postseason) he threw for over 250 yards only twice, attempted 30 passes only three times, had six games with one or zero touchdown passes and six weeks with fewer than 31 rushing yards.

Ryan is even more of an enigma than Stafford. Last season he attempted a career high in passes (615, his previous high was 571 in ’10). That was due to the fact that Atlanta was a largely ineffective running team. The Falcons only attempted 378 rushes in 2012 after averaging 490 carries per season since Ryan was drafted.

They’ve brought in Steven Jackson to help in that regard this season. Ryan also is more up and down than the running quarterbacks. In the past three seasons, he has only 24 top 12 finishes, two more than Michael Vick and only one more than Cam Newton (who’s only played two years). With Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez still there, I expect the Yards/Attempt to maintain, just with fewer attempts.

I’ve already laid out that the Cowboys offensive players had largely inflated stats due to how bad of a real team they were last year. Romo threw 648 passes last season, 98 more than any other season of his career. While I don’t anticipate Dallas to be world beaters this year, I don’t see things being as bad or unbalanced as they were last year.

Dallas called a pass play 66.2 percent of the time last year, second most to only Detroit.

Tier 4

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Andrew Luck

IND

8

346

596

4232

27

15

256

2

338.88

Jay Cutler

CHI

8

358

586

4219

28

18

213

1

328.06

Michael Vick

PHI

12

305

509

3614

23

15

476

4

324.16

Eli Manning

NYG

9

351

574

4248

29

16

42

1

322.12

Andy Dalton

CIN

12

327

536

3752

29

15

145

2

320.58

I totally anticipate Andrew Luck to improve on all accounts as a real player this season. I just don’t think that will translate to fantasy football like it did in 2012.

Luck was a volume producer, attempting 35 or more passes in 10 games, 50 plus in three games. Even with all of those attempts, he threw for more than two touchdowns in only one game (4 vs DET). He also threw an interception in 10 games, five with multiple picks. Pep Hamilton takes over this season as offensive coordinator and Indianapolis plans to be much more conservative. This will lead to Luck becoming a more efficient player, just not the fantasy stud he may be in the future.

We here at Sports Jerks have waxed poetically about what Marc Trestman brings to the table for the Bears. Whether it’s what he’ll do for Brandon Marshall or Matt Forte in the passing game, the main beneficiary is going to be Cutler.

As a play caller, Trestman has averaged 606 pass calls per season; Cutler has averaged only 470 pass attempts per year since his rookie campaign. At the very worst, Cutler is going to be an ugly volume passer; the kind that still accumulates points.

Vick hasn’t played a full season since 2006 and that was the only full season he’s played in 10 years. While the excitement of being in an up-tempo option offense is appealing to most, Vick’s rushing yards per game has dropped every year since he’s turned 30 years old. He’s also a lousy passer, completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes every year of his career except one while topping 20 touchdowns only twice. Plus, he’s a turnover machine, throwing 24 interceptions in his past 23 games. The upside is immense, but you’ll likely need reinforcements at some point.

Eli was incredibly frustrating to own last season. Coming off of an MVP caliber 2011, Manning failed to reach 4,000 yards for the first time in four seasons. Over the final nine weeks, he had a roller coaster like performance.

He posted three weeks with fewer than FIVE points, three weeks with 30 points and failed to throw a touchdown in four games. He’s still linked to a tremendous set of receivers, but the weekly trust as a QB1 is gone.

Dalton actually finished as the twelfth best fantasy quarterback last season (in both four and six point TD leagues). He had seven 25 point weeks and threw a touchdown in every game besides two. He made a solid jump in completion percentage (58.1 to 62.3) and he’s tied to a top five wideout in A.J. Green that is a red zone monster.

Don’t expect another four rushing scores from Dalton, but he will provide a few strong weeks.

Tier 5

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Josh Freeman

TB

5

299

515

3760

25

16

192

2

299.6

Alex Smith

KC

10

352

526

3682

24

15

198

2

293.08

Matt Schaub

HST

8

349

553

3982

23

13

18

0

273.08

Sam Bradford

SL

11

342

570

3933

23

13

116

1

286.92

Ben Roethlisberger

PIT

5

321

510

3825

24

12

103

0

283.3

E.J. Manuel

BUF

12

305

526

3471

20

16

432

3

288.04

There was a moment when everything came to together for Freeman last year. From weeks 6-14, Freeman threw 20 touchdowns to only four interceptions with eight 20 plus point performances.

All six of his top 12 finishes also came from that hot stretch. Unfortunately, the clock reached midnight and the coach turned back into a pumpkin over the final three weeks as he threw only two touchdown to nine interceptions and flushed Tampa’s playoff hopes down the drain. Now in a contract year, with the best team he’s ever had around him is when we’ll see who the real Josh Freeman is.

Smith has thrown over 400 passes in a season only twice in seven seasons. He’s only topped 3,000 yards once (2011), while never throwing for more than 18 touchdowns. He joins Andy Reid in Kansas City who has thrown the ball on average 556 times per season during his 14 year run in Philly.

Smith may lose a bit of his efficiency with the new green light he’ll have, but his athletic ability is underrated and should be a solid QB2 with the addition of the pistol.

Schaub has quietly attempted 540 plus passes in each of his past three full seasons while touching 4,000 yards. For the first time since he’s been there, the Texans have a true number two receiver with the selection of DeAndre Hopkins. Schaub was a bit anchored by 47 point week 11 vs Jacksonville.

That huge game was able to mask the six single digit scoring games he had during 2012.

Bradford is everybody’s late quarterback breakout pick, but not mine. We still don’t know who will win out any of the Rams’ skill jobs, so not much is known about how the pie will be sliced.

The other concern is the division he plays in. Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco all had pass defenses that ranked in the top 13 in pass yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt and completion percentage allowed in 2012. If Bradford is going to reach the 4,200 area that some are projecting, he’ll need to make a significant jump in Y/A and pass attempts to get there.

Roethlisberger has played in all 16 games only once (2008) in his career.

He’s also thrown for 21 touchdowns or less in three on the past five seasons. He’s improved his efficiency in recent years as his completion percentage has gone up each of the past three while throwing single digit intercptions in two of the past three. Ben is still more than capable of a monster week, he had four weeks with three or more touchdown passes last season.

Manuel will likely struggle at times and is mildly inaccurate. Still, his legs combined with the fact that Buffalo is going to run a high volume of plays make him an attractive QB2 very late in drafts.

Tier 6

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Carson Palmer

ARZ

9

362

593

4151

24

17

36

0

279.64

Ryan Tannehill

MIA

6

303

512

3328

21

14

324

3

281.52

Philip Rivers

SD

8

348

535

3692

25

15

23

0

269.98

Jake Locker

TEN

8

268

462

3326

20

14

386

3

281.64

Joe Flacco

BLT

8

306

510

3621

23

12

54

1

270.24

Palmer was the ultimate dumpster diver last season, throwing 20 of 22 TD while playing from behind in Oakland. For 2013, he finds himself in an awful division (see Bradford) and behind a miserable offensive line (PFF’s worst pass blocking line by a wide margin). The good news is he now plays with the best receiver he’s ever had (sorry, Ocho) and an emerging Michael Floyd.

Tannehill is another polarizing player this season. He had a so-so rookie season, but only managed to throw 12 touchdowns. Only three of those went to wide receivers and Miami made sure to bring in new weapons for Tanny, signing Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller. Keller is the only one with any red zone success in his career.

Rivers has never missed a game since taking over for Brees in San Diego. That’s about the best thing I can say about him at this point. His Yards per attempt have dropped four straight seasons, his touchdown totals have fallen in three. Rivers has shown he can be efficient with a conservative approach, completing 65 percent of his throws paired with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions over the final three weks of 2012.

With the new short passing attack that Mike McCoy and Ken Wisenhunt plan to install, Rivers days of gun slinging could be over.

Locker is saved because his legs are much more effective than his arm. He rushed for 290 yards in 11 games last season, and Tennessee plans on mixing in a little bit of zone read this year. The issue for Locker is and always will be accuracy as he’s completed just 55.5 percent of his passes so far in the NFL.

Volume couldn’t even help him last year. In his seven games with 30 or more pass attempts, Locker reached 20 points only once.

Palmer was the ultimate dumpster diver last season, throwing 20 of 22 touchdowns while playing from behind in Oakland. For 2013, he finds himself in an awful division (see Bradford) and behind a miserable offensive line (PFF’s worst pass blocking line by a wide margin). The good news is he now plays with the best receiver he’s ever had (sorry, Ocho) and an emerging Michael Floyd.

Locker is saved because his legs are much more effective than his arm. He rushed for 290 yards in 11 games last season, and Tennessee plans on mixing in a little bit of zone read this year. The issue for Locker is and always will be accuracy as he’s completed just 55.5 percent of his passes so far in the NFL. Volume couldn’t even help him last year.

In his seven games with 30 or more pass attempts, Locker reached 20 points only once

When Jim Caldwell was calling plays in Baltimore, Flacco was elite (sorry, couldn’t resist), throwing 15 touchdowns to just one interception—including the postseason. In his five seasons he’s only reached 25 touchdowns once (2010) and has yet to reach 4,000 yards passing.

Like Bradford, he plays in a horrendous division for passers. In his 30 games vs the AFC North, Flacco has thrown 32 touchdowns and 20 intercptions and averaged a pedestrian 200 yards per game. Coupled with the lack of receiving options around him, it’s hard to see Flacco being an elite (apologies) fantasy option.

Tier 7

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

COMP

ATT

YDS

TD

INT

RUSHYDS

TD

6PT TD

Matt Flynn

OAK

7

300

516

3870

19

18

65

1

245.3

Christian Ponder

MIN

5

293

472

3068

19

11

240

1

244.72

Brandon Weeden

CLV

10

283

496

3323

20

15

106

0

233.52

Geno Smith

NYJ

10

281

476

3332

18

17

148

1

228.08

Blaine Gabbert

JAX

9

241

448

2912

18

12

93

0

209.78

The final tier is what’s left of the rest. Weeden has an opportunity to be a solid spot play in a tasty matchup. Geno Smith should start right away since the Jets have all but announced the Mark Sanchez era is dead at some point this season.

 

 

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