At some point in every legitimate fantasy player’s career, they wrestle with the idea that waiting on a quarterback will guarantee success. Stack your roster with the skill position suffering attrition that year and you will survive the 17-week gauntlet. Well, I am calling BS. After winning my decade-long league with close buddies for the first time this past year, I took a closer look at the scoreboard stats for each week to see which positions gave me the edge over the stretch. I concluded that running backs are like Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
While you may have a sure-fire superstar in one of the league’s top 10 backs, the rest of the backfield depth charts across the league shift and change as often as Donald Trump’s toupee. Most analysts will sell you the “Apollo Creed” mentality that your intelligently selected stable of running backs will easily get you a victory based on attractive stats and showmanship. Let me be clear – we need to be Rocky Balboas. Bashed, beaten and fighting for air is exactly what a championship team should look like at the end of the year.
Very few armchair generals are lucky enough to crystal ball it on draft day and end up with a perfect squad. For the rest of us, here is a way to lock down your league this year with a few simple strategies going into draft day. Playing the training montage from Rocky IV (Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out”) while reading is optional.
The first thing to consider is the team that the player is on. For example, the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers are all prolific offenses guaranteed to put up points week to week. In the first place, teams like these will be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate Week 1. On top of that, betting your season on a QB like Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton or Tom Brady is a fallacy many cling to, but rarely see come to fruition. Getting a QB and WR from one of the top offenses is priority No. 1.
I am going to sell you on the idea that having the best RB/QB/WR or WR/QB/WR combo in the league is the secret to success. In my mind, there are only five quarterbacks you should target on the big day – Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. This is the first season that I will in no way endorse Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tony Romo. If you do go the way of the dodo, then I suggest drafting a second starter like Cam Newton.
Case in point, there is a clear cut advantage to be had at QB this year. As I am drafting out of the ninth spot, it is paramount that I land Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck with my second pick every time I mock. This creates, on average, a six-point per week advantage over your opponent before it even hits Thursday night. An often overlooked statistic that truly sets them apart from their peers is their ability to consistently post 16 or more fantasy points per week. Plus, they have games with 23 or more fantasy points more than many of their peers. In 2014, Aaron Rodgers had 13 games in which he scored 16 or more points and 10 games with 23 or more points. In comparison, Andrew Luck had 12 games with 16 or more points and eight games with 23 or more points. This translates to guaranteed production at a crucial position. Conversely, Eli Manning had eight games with 16 or more points and four games with 23 or more points while Tony Romo had 10 and three, respectively. The difference between two to five games of point production can cost you a playoff spot. Don’t settle for mediocrity, seek something extraordinary.
Many of the believers of the “wait on a quarterback” mentality are also the guys who’d rather have a clever team name than take time to manage their roster, scour waivers or open up trade talks. Either way, I will spend some time here to identify low-risk, high-ceiling slingers to lead your squad this year. Tony Romo is both consistent and tough with arguably the best offensive line in the NFL with the unstoppable Dez Bryant stretching the field. Phillip Rivers has a good chance to put up reasonable numbers again, but age and a lackluster offense are not inspiring confidence. Keenan Allen is not a WR1.
Cam Newton can be epic. In ideal circumstances, he would throw for 35 TDs, run for six more and play all 17 games…but that won’t happen. They will lean on the run this year, and Cam will put up his usual mid-tier QB numbers if he can keep his ankle healthy. I could carry on and on about each and every QB seeing the field in 2015. If you choose to go this route, you must thoroughly research the team and QB situation as well as pair them with another QB starter of substantial value. Please see our article section for a great piece on solid matchup based QB duos whom you can roll out this year.
Where you pick from in the draft will largely dictate when you need to target your QB. If you are in the No. 1 – No. 5 pick range, then you will need to jump on a QB with your second pick or wait until Rounds 4 or 5. This will largely depend on what falls to you with your second pick. There is a high likelihood that either Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers will not be there by the time you get to use your pick, if not both. This means you will have to be ready, stay calm, and grab your RB/WR/ WR or WR/RB/WR combo before perusing the QBs available.
If you are drafting out of the No. 6 – No. 10 spots, then you will need to spend your second round pick on a QB. Do not worry, this is not premature. Last year was the first time I threw away the wait on a quarterback mentality and won it big. Out of third spot, I drafted Jamaal Charles, Drew Brees and Antonio Brown. This trio was fantasy gold. Finding a low-risk, uber consistent trio is crucial to success. Here are some numbers to ruminate over.
|2014||PASSING YARDS||TDs||INT||FUMBLE||RUSH YARDS||RUSH TDs||COMP/ATT|
|AARON RODGERS||4,381||38||5||2||269||2||341 / 520|
|ANDREW LUCK||4,761||40||16||6||273||3||380 / 616|
|BEN ROETHLISBERGER||4,952||32||9||5||27||0||408 / 608|
|MATT RYAN||4,694||28||14||2||145||0||415 / 628|
|RUSSELL WILSON||3,475||20||7||0||849||6||285 / 452|
|PEYTON MANNING||4,727||39||15||2||-24||0||395 / 597|
|DREW BREES||4,952||33||17||3||68||1||456 / 659|
If the ability to run and be agile is an attribute you want your QB to have then you must take Rodgers, Luck or Wilson. Wilson is unmatched for both rushing yards and rushing TDs. In comparison, Cam Newton only had 589 yards and five scores on the ground. Add in his five fumbles to Wilson’s zero and the notion sells itself. Luck is great in space and in the red zone, making him a virtual lock to repeat or beat his rushing totals from last year. The surprise here is Aaron Rodgers. He mirrored Luck’s ground production with 269 yards and two TDs, while injured! He does it all, and that’s why I want him first.
The real argument here is why I am so low on Peyton Manning and Brees. Simply put, I don’t believe in their arms anymore. There was a sharp decline in completions while the amount of interceptions by these former pocket gurus jumped substantially. It is all about consistency. To make matters worse, the respective teams of each QB has undergone significant changes in the offseason. Don’t be naive. Losing Jimmy Graham and relying on Marques Colston is a recipe for a sharp decline in output. Conversely, losing Julius Thomas and Wes Welker will not have a positive effect on a team without a stud at RB.
Rodgers or Luck will guarantee the following:
- An abundance of pass attempts
- A multitude of TDs and long balls
- A solid RB capable of selling play actions and screens
If I go RB/WR or WR/WR with my first two picks, then I am looking at taking Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan or Ben Roethlisberger. Going RB/QB or WR/QB will enable you to snag Rodgers or Luck. Draft day fate may have it that you can’t get Rodgers or Luck in which case you must lock down Wilson, Ryan or Roethlisberger. The final item sweetening the deal here is that both the Packers and Colts possess defenses capable of deterring prolonged ball possessions by opposing offenses. This will result in the offense being on the field more often. Two matchup proof offenses that are loaded at the skill positions and will run the maximum amount of plays in a game that they can. Blowout? Even better! Don’t overcomplicate it this year and yourself a favor, draft Rodgers or Luck and lock down a title!.
Nicholas Hopkins is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Nicholas, check out his archive.