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Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings

07.31.14 at 3:06 pm ET
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Last week we took a look at the top 50 wide receivers. This week we will get into the signal callers and break them down into tiers as we did with the receivers. Jim Hackett and I will get even deeper into the quarterbacks in our weekly podcast that will be posted tomorrow. I am also pleased to announce that Jim and I will be hosting a new show on WEEI 93.7 called “The Fantasy Football Hour.” Our first episode airs Aug. 10 at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll be on every Sunday throughout the NFL season. If you missed my article on high-value targets, give it a read. It points out some nice value opportunities based on average draft position.

2014 features perhaps the deepest group of fantasy quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. For years, Rotobahn has been preaching patience when drafting passers — and never has that approach been more prudent than it is for this season. There simply is no way you can get shut out at the position. Sure, some outcomes are better than others, but you are not taking a big risk by waiting on a quarterback because, quite simply, they will not be depleted unless you are playing in a league that allows teams to start more than one quarterback.

If you are looking for more information on any particular quarterback or player, go to rotobahn.com and check out our top 400. If your player isn’t listed there, you should strongly consider getting him off of your redraft board.

Tier 1 (1)

Peyton Manning, Broncos

Yes, for fantasy purposes he’s all alone. If there is a valid argument for taking an early quarterback, it’s Manning’s scoring gap over second place. Even though I expect a mild statistical regression, there’€™s still Manning and then everybody else. Yes, he lost a very reliable option when Eric Decker signed with the Jets, but the Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer. Latimer has a skill set that ultimately could make Denver fans forget about Eric Decker. Check out Latimer’s Rotobahn scouting report if you haven’t already.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Drew Brees, Saints

Just about all of Rodgers’ arrows are pointing up. As long as he avoids another season-ending injury, he’s about as safe as it gets as a performer and his receivers are talented and deeply immersed in the Green Bay offense. Brees is the definition of consistency. That’s why he’s an elite option, and that’s why people overdraft him in most leagues. Though he’s showing some signs of age, that should be counter-balanced by the influx of young receivers. We are very high on Kenny Stills, who played 60 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie, and this year’s first-round selection, Brandin Cooks. This could give Brees the kind of shot in the arm that Manning got from Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in 2012.

Tier 3 (4-7)

Matt Stafford, Lions
Andrew Luck, Colts
Nick Foles, Eagles
Robert Griffin III, Washington

By my math, you have three very secure options at the top of this tier. Stafford, Luck and Foles all are in very good situations and they’re all big strong-armed passers with quality targets. Griffin also has quality targets, and we like new head coach/offensive coordinator Jay Gruden‘s offense in terms of its flexibility. Griffin is the lottery ticket of the group. He is one of the few players who could outscore everybody, but the injury risks are obvious and real. If you do choose to roll the bones on RGIII, you’ll want to back him up with a strong option, ideally from the next tier.

Tier 4 (8-14)

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Jay Cutler, Bears
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Cam Newton, Panthers
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Tom Brady, Patriots
Tony Romo, Cowboys

This is perhaps the crucial tier to understand if you are going to use our drafting advice. Even after every team in the league has drafted its starter, there should be a Tier 4 option on the board. Tier 4 protects you. Tier 4 is your buddy. It’s your pal. Think about it — no matter what happens at the position in the early to middle rounds, you will almost always be able to get a quarterback from this tier. These are all desirable options with elite upside. My general strategy is to nab a quarterback from this tier in or around the ninth round. If the quarterbacks are going later than expected and I have a middle draft position, I will push the envelope and wait even longer.

And, even if other owners are getting antsy and drafting their backup quarterbacks early, you still have another two tiers of startable options coming up.

Tier 5 (15-17)

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Andy Dalton. Bengals
Philip Rivers, Chargers

This tier may not be exciting, but you’ll get solid weekly output. Rivers could be ranked higher, but he has a schedule with a lot of tough matchups. The Chargers get the NFC West in 2014. Big Ben has plenty of appeal and just missed the fourth tier. His weapons are better in 2014 and his health is looking good. Dalton has outstanding talent around him and should continue to post respectable numbers. His fantasy performance the last two seasons has been better than a lot of people realize.

Tier 6 (18-23)

Eli Manning, Giants
Johnny Manziel, Browns
Carson Palmer, Cardinals
Sam Bradford, Rams
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Joe Flacco, Ravens

There are a lot of flavors in this tier, but there’s one commonality, and it is value. These quarterbacks will be playable in plus matchups but also have the potential to be weekly options if things go well. Bradford and Palmer play in the nastiest division in recent memory, so they likely will stay in the matchup play column. Tannehill, Manning, Manziel and Flacco could all surprise and they all have the potential to be weekly starters. Manziel is no lock to start. If he was we’d have him a tier higher. As I said through the offseason, Manziel’s fantasy value should exceed his real football value. His foot-point potential is special. The important takeaway from this tier is, again, depth. You could roll with a guy like Tannehill as your starter if you had to.

Tier 7 (24-29)

Josh McCown, Buccaneers
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Alex Smith, Chiefs
Jake Locker, Titans
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Texans
EJ Manuel, Bills

Again, the depth is staggering. I may not want these guys in my lineup just yet, but they all have scoring potential for one reason or another. McCown and Fitzpatrick have great surrounding talent. Smith, Locker and Manuel have the ability to augment their passing stats with foot points, and that raises their floor. Bridgewater has both surrounding talent and above-average mobility. He’s here for his upside in Norv Turner‘s offense. We’ll move him back if Matt Cassel ends up starting, but we don’t see that happening — and if it does, it won’t be for long.

Tier 8 (30-32)

Geno Smith, Jets
Chad Henne, Jaguars
Matt Schaub, Raiders

The only guy with upside here is Smith, but drafting him as a backup is chancy in that Michael Vick could take the job quickly if given the chance. Henne is a solid bye week option if his receivers stay healthy, but you can do better in almost any scenario. Schaub is a poor bet for value, and the Raiders have a rookie in waiting. None for me, thanks.

Tier 9 (bonus tier)

Michael Vick, Jets
Derek Carr, Raiders
Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
Matt Flynn, Packers
Kirk Cousins, Washington

You probably don’t want to be drafting any of these guys in redraft leagues with the possible exception of Vick, who has plenty of fantasy upside if he is starting in Marty Mornhinweg‘s offense. Carr has great ability and some nice depth at receiver, but Schaub is going to play for a while, it seems. If and when Carr gets in there, he has some fantasy upside. Glennon would have value if he starts at some point because of all the weapons. It’s the same deal for Flynn and Cousins in Green Bay and Washington, respectively. When the Bears announce a backup, that player will get added to this list. Our early money is on Jimmy Clausen, who could post some nice stats throwing to all the beasts in Chicago’s offense.

To keep up with future articles and crucial fantasy information, follow me on Twitter.

Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees
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