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The quarterback position is loaded with intrigue as the NFL continues to become more and more pass-happy. Shit in the NFL is getting aired out more often than a Method Man and Redman tour bus. A lot of people feel that you need to get one of the elite signal-callers in order to put yourself in a position to win a fantasy championship, but that’s not entirely true. Yes, landing a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers will put you in prime position to cruise to a playoff berth (so long as you don’t fuck up the rest of your roster), but there are a slew of cheaper alternatives who can provide excellent production as well. I don’t have it in me to drop $50 or more on a signal caller. Not when the position is filled with interesting options.
Now getting back to the tiers, this is how it works. I come up with funny, insightful tiers that help break down the relative fantasy values of the 35 QBs that are listed below. You read, laugh, and cry at amazement over how superb a job I did. Let’s begin.
More after the jump:
The “Elite” Examples
The fellows in this tier are the best of the best; signal callers whom you can count on to deliver money production week-in and week-out.
1. Tom Brady
Though Rodgers threw for 45 TDs and just six INTs last season, I give the edge to Brady because I simply believe his weapons are better and more diversified. Think about it: Brady totaled 5,235 yards last year and now has Brandon Lloyd to help stretch the field. Yeah the offensive line may be an issue, but Brady seems on his way to another record-breaking season.
2. Aaron Rodgers
There’s no shame for coming in second to Brady and if it’s any consolation to Rodgers and his owners, the Packers QB should be snake-drafted immediately after Brady is taken off the board.
The “Almost” Heroes
These dudes didn’t quite make the elite cut, but they’re more than capable of posting ridiculous numbers.
3. Drew Brees
Production won’t be as good as last season unless the Saints decide to be dicks and run up the score again, but Brees is still among the best QBs in the game and can carry your team any given week. Expect 33-36 TDs and and another 4,300-plus yard season.
4. Matthew Stafford
I was admittedly skeptical last year due to all those injury issues he had in his NFL career, but homeboy is the truth. His arm has somehow been reported even stronger this year and he is an accurate thrower to all parts of the field.
The “Bonafide” Brigade
There’s no denying the talent and capability of the players in this tier. They are all the reason why you don’t have to shell out a high draft pick or a ton of auction dollars for a top QB. All of these options can help lead you to a fantasy title.
5. Eli Manning
Though the Giants still try to run a balanced attack, it’s clear that they understand that most of their damage will be done by Eli and the passing game. He loves going for the deep play (26.5 DeepPass% was third in the NFL last year) and his numbers last year would’ve been even better if Giants receivers hadn’t dropped so many passes. Expect the INTs to come down a bit and the TDs to improve as he continues to build his rapport with his still young WRs.
6. Philip Rivers
The departure of Vincent Jackson is mitigated by the addition of Robert Meachem and the development of Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. That’s a nice trio of WRs for Rivers to throw to, and even though ole’ hammertoes Antonio Gates is old as shit, he is still a viable weapon over the middle. Expect a big-time bounceback for Ill Phil.
7. Tony Romo
His accuracy was impeccable last year and there were only five games last season in which he didn’t post double-digit TDs. With new OC Bill Callahan only adding to the big play philosophy in Dallas, Romo should cruise to another 4,000-plus yard season and 30 or more scores. Though the Cowboys QB tends to get a bad rap, fantasy owners have no reason to be Romo-phobic.
8. Matt Ryan
The normally overrated Matt Ryan is finally worth taking as a top signal caller. The emergence of Julio Jones has a lot to do with it, but the real reason to believe in a monster season is the presence of new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Falcons are expected to go no-huddle heavy in 2012, and Ryan should thrive in those circumstances.
9. Cam Newton
This isn’t Cam Newton hate. This is simply a matter of placing the talented QB in the appropriate spot on these rankings. We all know the 14 rushing TDs will be difficult to repeat, and while some growth from Newton should be expected, people shouldn’t sleep on opposing NFL defenses. He won’t be surprising anyone this year and considering how he faded down the stretch, fantasy owners should be worried about Killah Cam’s sophomore season. He is still worth starting every week, but I fail to see how Newton will beat out the above QBs in fantasy production by season’s end.
The “Question Mark” Quandaries
These players are all terrific talents and capable of tearing it up, but they also come with a fair share of risk.
10. Michael Vick
We all know how great the Eagles offense can be, but Vick proved last year that he cannot be counted on to play a full season. On top of that, defenses were better able to disrupt his game in 2011. Vick struggled with his accuracy when faced with ample pressure and ended up turning over the ball 18 times last year. On the bright side, he probably turned his balls over way more than that during his 21-month stay in prison.
11. Peyton Manning
Manning has looked sharp this summer and has some interesting weapons in Denver, but he still hasn’t shown the arm strength we’re used to seeing from him. Even though he’s one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, you have to expect some adjustments to be made to a brand new team and coaching staff.
12. Robert Griffin III
RG3 has some intriguing receiving options to throw to and an offensive scheme that fits his skill set, but fantasy owners expecting a Cam Newton-esque rookie season should ease up. While Griffin’s legs should keep him safely in weekly-starter territory, Washington’s offensive line is porous and RG3 has the unfortunate luck of playing in the NFC East (meaning he will play some very imposing defenses eight times this season).
The “They Might Be Starters” Squadron
We can’t knock you for trusting any of these players as a lower-end starting fantasy QB, but there’s a reason they are coming at a decent price.
13. Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger loves the big play and has a quality crew of WRs, but he’s always nicked up and is dealing with what he calls a “slight torn rotator cuff.” Yeah right, and that chick he forced in the bathroom was only “slightly sexually assaulted.”
14. Jay Cutler
He’d be way lower down the list if he wasn’t reunited with Brandon Marshall. Still, with the Bears offensive line looking shitty as ever, it’s hard to imagine Cutler becoming one of the better QBs in fantasy. He’s got a diesel arm and all the potential in the world, but with a suspect supporting cast after B-Marsh, Cutler’s upside is capped.
15. Matt Schaub
He’s had a couple of great seasons in Houston, but the Texans have clearly moved to a run-first offense. The hope is that Schaub is motivated enough by a contract year to post another fantasy-friendly campaign. However, Schaub and Andre Johnson are both injury-risks, so it will take both staying healthy and productive in order for the Texans QB to regain every-week starter status.
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick reportedly played hurt for most of last season, leading people to believe a true breakout is on the horizon. He’ll need to be sharp as hell for that to happen, as Fitz has a weak arm and will need to hit all his spots (and have his WRs run all the right routes) to really pull off a starter-worthy season.
The “Potential Platoon” Platoon
It’s plausible to go into the season with one of these QBs as your starter, but you better have a damn good supporting cast behind them.
17. Andrew Luck
It’s funny that people are all over RG3 this year, yet the most pro-ready QB to come out of the draft in years gets slept on. The weapons in Indy really aren’t that bad (Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Coby Fleener, and wild card Donnie Avery) and the Colts backfield should be credible enough to take some of the pressure off Luck. Expect OC Bruce Arians to take plenty of chances and give Luck the opportunity to make some big plays in 2012.
18. Andy Dalton
Dalton should thank his lucky stars that A.J. Green is in Cincy, because he’d be a tier lower otherwise. Dalton is an accurate QB who would be a glorified game manager if Green wasn’t around. That said, Green’s big play potential gives more oomph to Dalton’s passes. As long as “Big Red” continues to limit the mistakes, he should be a respectable fantasy signal caller.
19. Joe Flacco
The Ravens QB is very talented and has the skill to leap up this list, yet bouts of inaccuracy and a run-first offense remain his biggest obstacles. Torrey Smith helps stretch the field, but with Flacco throwing many an errant pass, it’s hard to see “Joey Skinny” coming up big this season.
32. Russell Wilson
Wilson draws comparisons to Drew Brees for being an undersized, mobile QB with insane timing and accuracy. Matt Flynn may prove to be an obstacle if he struggles, but Wilson is the horse to be on in Seattle.
The “Pair ‘Em” Posse
These QBs are only worth starting in the right situation, at least to begin the season. Sure some of them may earn your trust, but the odds are that all of these options will have their fair share of struggles this season.
21. Carson Palmer
Forget the fact that Palmer’s arm strength is a shell of its former self… actually, no. Keep that in mind because it’s a big reason why he’s only a platoon player. He also has a coaching staff that will run it often.
22. Sam Bradford
Bradford’s 6.0 yards-per-attempt was only better than that of Colt McCoy and Blaine Gabbert. The talent is there, but with an offensive line that’s leakier than a Starbonell-smashed vagina and a bunch of receivers who drop the ball all the time, there’s little reason to expect a breakout from Bradford.
23. Christian Ponder
With underrated arm strength and an ability to move around the pocket to make things happen, Ponder is a sneaky QB sleeper with solid receiving options in Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. He still has to make the adjustment to the pro game (not zeroing on his first read, learning to understand defensive coverages better, etc.), but there’s enough to like about Ponder to make him worth drafting.
24. Brandon Weeden
With a big arm and a new offense in Cleveland, Weeden has the potential to shine as a rookie QB. Unfortunately, he has zero mobility as a classic “statue” in the pocket, so unless he gels with his teammates early and gets rid of the ball quickly, he could be turned into mincemeat by opposing defenses.
25. Josh Freeman
Why you would bring in a deep-play threat like Vincent Jackson for a QB who does not like to air it out is beyond me. Freeman is an accurate short-game passer who can sometimes make plays with his legs. That’s about it. He only ends up in this tier because his mobility can keep defenses honest, because as far as straight-passing ability is concerned, he’s rather mediocre.
26. Matt Cassel
Cassel has solid pieces in the passing game to throw to, but the Chiefs will rely on the run and expect him to merely not fuck things up.
27. Alex Smith
He’s in the same boat as Matt Cassel, only his receiving options are worse.
The “Grasping Straws” Gang
Think any of these signal callers can help you in fantasy? Then I got some magic beans for that ass.
28. Mark Sanchez
It’s not that Sanchez is terrible, it’s just that his offense has no playmakers. With Tim Tebow likely to steal most of the red zone duties, Sanchez’s TD potential plummets.
29. Jake Locker
Locker is a QB who relies on accuracy to move the chains. Problem is, he was terribly inaccurate on his passes last year and will have to make strides to earn the trust of fantasy owners in 2012.
30. Blaine Gabbert
His 5.3 yards-per-attempt was dead last in the NFL last year and he simply doesn’t have the arm to convert a lot of big plays. Unless he develops pinpoint accuracy at the NFL level, he’ll be a horror show QB to watch week-to-week.
31. Ryan Tannehill
The lean Tannehill may get destroyed by NFL players, but the Dolphins obviously love him so he should have a relatively long leash as a starter. Too bad Miami’s receiving options are shit.
The “Reserve” Rebels
These QBs should merely be kept on the radar, though a couple of them have some potential.
32. Matt Flynn
Don’t get it twisted: Flynn is not merely a system QB. He has a strong arm and displayed good accuracy this summer (and in his NFL career). Too bad Seattle hit the jackpot with Russell Wilson.
33. John Skelton
While Skelton has outplayed Kevin Kolb this summer and deserves to win the starting gig, there is zero upside to his game. Skelton crumbles under pressure from opposing defenses and relies on a short passing game to stay alive.
34. Kevin Kolb
While it seems a foregone conclusion that he will start based on his salary, the fact that Kevin Kolb is even engaged in a QB battle with John Skelton tells you how crappy he is.
35. Tim Tebow
Tebow should score a bunch of TDs and may be worth a start or two this season if you are in a pinch, but the Jets have strictly used him as a goal-line and wildcat option this summer so his odds of becoming the starter are slim.
*Last updated 8/26/12.