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Fantasy Football: Checking Out Next Year’s Quarterbacks…
With the 2013 Fantasy Football season officially over and champions crowned, it is time to look ahead to next year. The key to continued success is being prepared and putting in hard work with research and that is precisely where I come in. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be writing a positional preview for keeper/dynasty league purposes, and giving my opinion on which players you can throw back into the pool and which ones to keep. This week I’ll kick things off by focusing on the quarterback position.
2013 In Review
Fantasy Football experts have cautioned owners to avoid selecting quarterbacks early, especially in the past few years, since the difference in return at the running back or wide receiver position was much greater. The common theme across most draft guides and websites heading into 2013 was with the exception of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, the third through 12th ranked quarterbacks would likely put up somewhat similar statistics.
That theory proved to be spot-on, especially after looking at the final numbers this season (with the exception of it being Peyton Manning instead of Rodgers). Manning absolutely dominated the position and managed to put up a ridiculous 406 points in standard leagues, more than 60 ahead of second-place quarterback Drew Brees. He truly had a season for the ages, and although 5500 passing yards and 55 touchdowns may not be sustainable, it is certainly well within reason to expect Manning to finish first again next year. Brees remained remarkably consistent, finishing with over 5000 yards passing for the third year in a row and falling just one touchdown short of a third straight 40-plus TD season. The next twelve quarterbacks all finished within 40 points of each other, demonstrating that the second tier was indeed packed with talent.
What happens if you aren’t fortunate to have either Manning or Brees? Which quarterbacks should be kept heading into 2014? Do any quarterbacks present good buy-low opportunities? Let’s take a look.
Andrew Luck – The Indianapolis Colts became much more of a run-heavy team in 2013, which resulted in Luck attempting 50 fewer passes and not reaching the 4000 yard mark. So, why exactly should you hold onto him? First, he managed to become a much more efficient quarterback, as he equaled his passing touchdowns from 2012 (23) while cutting his interceptions in half (only 9). Second, he increased his rushing totals from last year by an additional 80 yards, and greatly reduced the number of fumbles. He will head into 2014 with a much improved receiving corps, anchored by veteran Reggie Wayne and breakout star T.Y. Hilton. LaVon Brazil and Da’Rick Rogers will have better chemistry, and Coby Fleener will look to step up his game. Luck for me is a definite hold.
Cam Newton – Many experts (me included) were quick to jump on Cam Newton’s first half struggles this season and caution owners that he was perhaps over-hyped. He bounced back during the final stretch, and despite dealing with an ankle injury, he continued to put up decent rushing totals. He may never have 14 rushing touchdowns again, like his rookie season, but you can certainly pencil him in for a minimum of six. Still just 24 years old, Newton set career-highs in completion percentage (61.7), passing touchdowns (24) and wins (12). His needle is definitely pointing upward, and if the Carolina Panthers bring in additional offensive weapons during the draft, watch out.
Jay Cutler – Last week, the Chicago Bears agreed to a seven-year deal with Cutler worth over $126 million, which demonstrates their commitment to him and their trust in coach Marc Trestman’s game plan. Talent surrounds Cutler, as the Bears possess quite arguably the best wide receiver pairing in the entire NFL with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, and a Top 10 tight end in Martellus Bennett. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to think that Cutler can eclipse the 4000 passing yard and 28 touchdown marks next season. I consider him a strong QB1.
Philip Rivers – Many considered Rivers an elite quarterback from 2008-2011, yet after a disappointing 2012 campaign, many owners were quick to write him off, figuring that his career was on the decline. An aging Antonio Gates, injury-riddled receiving corps and a china doll running game didn’t seem promising heading into the season. Yet, Rivers had a terrific year, finishing fifth in passing yards (4478) and fourth in passing touchdowns (32). Keenan Allen is up for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the team should get back both Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander next year. Ladarius Green also looks like a worthy successor to Gates. I still feel that Rivers has several years left to produce at an elite level.
Toss ‘Em Back
Andy Dalton – If there is one thing that I have learned playing Fantasy Football for the better part of a decade, it is that I would always prefer players who provide consistency. Despite finishing 2013 as a top five quarterback in standard scoring, you will never find Andy Dalton on one of my teams next year. Dalton is prone to extreme hot or cold streaks, which can make or break your week, and that is a giant red flag for me. In ten out of the 17 weeks, Dalton threw no more than two touchdowns (and often less), despite a career high number of pass attempts. The Cincinnati Bengals rushing attack should get stronger next year with Giovani Bernard having a full season under his belt, which leads me to believe that Dalton’s statistics will drop across the board. I’d avoid him if possible.
Colin Kaepernick – Chances are if you picked up a draft magazine for this past season, Kaepernick was on the cover, kissing his tattoos in full splendor. Pundits anticipated him to leap into the top five at the position based on his breakthrough campaign in 2012. Despite finishing with good rushing statistics (524 yards and four touchdowns), the loss of Michael Crabtree combined with the San Francisco 49er’s offensively philosophy made Kaepernick one of the biggest busts of 2013. He averaged less than 200 yards passing per game (Chad Henne threw for more yards, by comparison) and only threw 21 touchdowns. Sure, having Crabtree back next year will certainly help, but I can’t see Kaepernick cracking the top five at the position.
Matt Ryan – This may be the most obvious choice in the category, given what happened to the Atlanta Falcons this season. Julio Jones missed the majority of the year with a fractured foot and Roddy White nursed a high-ankle sprain, which greatly limited what Ryan was able to do. Teams ended up double-teaming Tony Gonzalez, which left Ryan to rely on Harry Douglas. Despite all of that, Ryan still finished as the ninth ranked quarterback, passing for over 4500 yards. If you consider that this is his floor, just imagine what his ceiling is heading into 2014.
Robert Griffin III – Similar to Kaepernick, Griffin III was incredibly overhyped after a successful 2012 campaign, and he ended up being one of the biggest busts of the season at the position. It was painfully obvious to owners that RGIII never fully healed from offseason surgery and was incredibly rusty to start the year, especially since he didn’t play a single snap during the preseason. It was a year to forget for RGIII, clashing with head coach Mike Shanahan (which resulted in his benching for the final three games of the year) and Washington Redskins ownership causing headlines every week. Shanahan is gone from the team and I think that RGIII will have a strong bounce-back season in 2014 after having a full offseason to recover and restore to full strength.
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