The Big Board: QBs

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WRWR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR) | K | DT

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

Assumes 4 pt per pass TD, 1 pt per 20 yards passing
Updated 9/5/11

Owners give up fight for ‘right of first refusal’

As the lockout nears its end, one of the sticking points is how free agency is going to work this summer. The owners wanted to be able to designate three free agents whose contracts they could match, but have since given up on that request. As the agreement tentatively stands, teams will have 72 hours to sign their own players and then…well…all hell breaks loose. Most players will find it in their best interests to test the free agency market, so this year’s free agency period promises to be fast and furious.

How does this affect fantasy owners? A great example is DeAngelo Williams — for a time it looked like the 2011 season may be played under 2010 rules, and he’d have to wait another year for unrestricted free agency (UFA). But it appears that he’s headed for free agency this summer, which means it’s likely that he’ll land elsewhere in 2011, assuming the Panthers aren’t willing to pay him. Carolina could re-sign Williams, but it seems more likely that they’ll move forward with Jonathan Stewart as their feature back. This means that instead of a two-headed RBBC monster in Carolina, we may have two more bona fide bell cow backs to draft in the first three or four rounds.

Below is a list of the top free agents at each position. I’m mainly going to list players who are likely to have a fantasy impact if they land with new teams. An asterisk indicates that the player has been slapped with a franchise tag, and it appears the new CBA will honor those tags. That means the player will be under control of their current team for at least one more season.

QB: Peyton Manning*, Michael Vick*, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Marc Bulger and Rex Grossman

Manning and Vick will almost certainly re-sign, but Hasselbeck is likely to be on the move. The 49ers look like they’re planning to hold onto Smith, while the Redskins may re-sign Grossman.

RB: Arian Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mike Tolbert, Michael Bush, Darren Sproles, Jason Snelling, Ricky Williams, Brandon Jackson, Tim Hightower, Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams, Le’Ron McClain and Leon Washington

The Texans will likely lock up Foster before the 72-hour period is up, but Williams, Bradshaw, Benson and Addai could be on the move. Of those four, Williams seems most likely to change teams.

WR: Vincent Jackson*, Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Santana Moss, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith (NYG), Malcom Floyd, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, James Jones, Steve Breaston, Mike Sims-Walker, Lance Moore, Ben Obomanu, Danny Amendola

Plan on V-Jax sticking with the Chargers for one more year, which makes him an interesting pick in the third round. If rumors of the Redskins’ interest are true, Holmes could be a hot commodity, though the Jets will have a chance to lock him up early in FA. Keep an eye on Steve Smith 2.0 — if he leaves New York, Mario Manningham will be in for a big year.

TE: Zach Miller, Marcedes Lewis*, Kevin Boss

Lewis was slapped with a franchise tag, so he’ll be in Jacksonville next season. That makes Miller the one and only impact TE available in FA, so the Raiders would be wise to lock him up early. He’s a sleeper again this season, especially with the way Jason Campbell came on late in 2010.

Once the CBA is finalized, I’ll be writing a comprehensive FA preview for 4for4.com.

Fantasy Football Chain Reaction #5 — Kyle Orton to Arizona

A few independent fantasy football writers have banded together to write the Fantasy Football Chain Reaction Series. Wondering what the hell I’m talking about? For a full explanation, read Scott Pashley’s intro below.

What do you do when free agency and NFL player movement is in a forced state of suspended animation?  You prognosticate (a fancy word for making things up and guessing the future).

When the dreaded NFL lockout is finally lifted, there will be a frenzy of free agent signings and player trades that will reshape the fantasy football landscape.  In anticipation of the craziness that will ensue when the NFL operations open, several of the best independent fantasy sports writers on the web have decided to make a series of player movement predictions. The process starts with Mike Clay of ProFootballFocus.com and the most logical first domino to fall: DeAngelo Williams.

Joining Mike Clay will be Scott Pashley of FFSpin.com, Jim Day of GoAheadScore.com, Rick Perkins of FantasyFootballTrader.com (FFT is being redesigned and will relaunch soon), and John Paulsen of FantasyShrink.com.  This will be the first in a series of projects completed by the group called the ‘Independent Fantasy Sports Writers Roundtable’.  Fantasy writers/addicts who would like to participate in future projects are welcome to email Scott at Scottp@spinballinc.com.  Check out each of these writers on Twitter and at their websites to follow the rapidly moving series as they post three to four player movements a day.”

So far, Clay has covered the Broncos’ acquisition of DeAngelo Williams, Pashley has discussed the Seahawks’ trade for Kevin Kolb, Day discussed the Titans’ Matt Hasselbeck signing and Perkins summarized the Vikings’ move for Donovan McNabb.

So who’s the next chip to fall?

Arizona Cardinals trade for Kyle Orton

After striking out on Kevin Kolb (and possibly Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb as well), the Cardinals need to make a bold move to trade for a capable quarterback so as not to repeat the Derek Anderson/John Skelton/Max Hall debacle of 2010. They acquire Orton for a 2nd round pick, and once he arrives in Phoenix, Larry Fitzgerald meets him at baggage claim and gives him a long man hug. Too long, really. But Fitzy doesn’t care.

Orton isn’t going to set the world on fire, but if the Cardinals can protect him in the pocket, he should produce. The Cards allowed the 2nd-most sacks in 2010, but were 6th-best in that category in Kurt Warner’s final year, so having QB stability should really help the Arizona O-line in pass protection.

Fantasy Spin: Orton’s arrival isn’t going to turn the Cardinals into an offensive juggernaut, but he will put up good numbers, especially when Arizona inevitably falls behind on the scoreboard. In other words, Orton will be the Ryan Fitzpatrick of the NFC. In Arizona, he’ll be a high end QB2 and a guy to target in the middle rounds when fantasy owners are building their QBBC. His arrival will likely push Fitzgerald back into the upper echelon of WRs and will give a boost to Steve Breaston (if he returns), along with sleepers like Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and Stephen Williams. Whoever the starting RB is will have a puncher’s chance to put up some numbers since opposing defenses will have to respect Orton’s arm. An Orton trade would be a big win for the entire Arizona offense.

Next up is Mike Clay with Part 6: Darren Sproles to Miami.

Late-Season Bloomers: QBs

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One good way to identify potential sleepers is to take a closer look at the late-season game-by-game stats. Oftentimes a player will make a splash, major or minor, in the final few weeks of the season and then take that momentum into the following year. Sometimes this is a product of an injury to a player ahead of him on the depth chart, and sometimes a team is just ready to give him an opportunity for one reason or another.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at wide receivers, but now it’s time to tackle the QB. Below you’ll find the 41 fantasy-relevant QBs who participated in games both in the ‘first 11’ (F11) and ‘last 6’ (L6) weeks of the season, and scored at least 10 fantasy points per game during one of those spans. Why choose the final six games? Everyone is past their byes at that point and the sample size is not too small nor too large.

DIFF represents the difference between their fantasy points per game in the L6 weeks versus their performance in the F11 weeks. The bigger the number, the better they did down the stretch.

A few things to note:

— Tim Tebow really produced in the final three weeks of the season and is a sleeper in 2011, but as Josh McDaniels leaves, so does his pass-happy offense. Enter John Fox and his run-oriented attack. I like Tebow’s upside as a fantasy player, especially given the value of his rush TDs, but temper those expectations.

— Rex Grossman deserves mention for his play in relief of Donovan McNabb over the last few weeks. It’s not clear whether or not he’ll have a shot to win the Redskins job, but if he does he could be useful as part of a Quarterback By Committee (QBBC).

— Jason Campbell played a lot better late in the season. He accounted for seven TDs (six pass, one rush) over the final five games after scoring just seven TDs in his first eight games. If the Raiders do not address the QB position in free agency, he could be a decent fantasy QB2 who will be available in the later rounds.

— It’s interesting to see how well Tom Brady played after the Randy Moss affair was well behind him. His schedule is quite a bit better this season which is why I have him ranked as my #3 QB.

— Can David Garrard hold off Blaine Gabbert? Probably. Can the Jags win early? That will determine whether or not Garrard continues to start throughout the season. I would normally recommend Garrard as a very solid QB2, but the Gabbert pick is worrisome.

— There are some big names — namely Sam Bradford, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers — who did not fare very well down the stretch. Keep in mind that these per game numbers do not take SOS into account. A quick glance reveals that the schedules for Rivers, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning were significantly tougher down the stretch, so that’s a little worrisome for Bradford, Brees, Flacco and Ryan. Conversely, Josh Freeman’s schedule was 1.4 points easier in the L6 games, so take his improvement with a grain of salt.

The always underrated Eli Manning

I don’t know what it is about Eli Manning that turns fantasy owners off, but every year it seems like his ADP is a lot higher than it should be. Currently, he’s going 8.10 in Draftmaster drafts and is the 13th QB off the board. This is a guy who has thrown for 4,000+ yards in each of the last two seasons and has 58 TDs over that same span. He was QB7 last year and QB10 the year before.

So what gives?

I think this is a case of fantasy owners not liking Eli’s personality, body language, looks, game…whatever…so much so that they discount his abilities as a fantasy QB.

Over the past three seasons, he has averaged the 12th most fantasy points (17.7) of QBs who have started at least 30 games. If we look at just the last two years, he is 8th in fantasy points per game (19.0). Plus, he hasn’t missed a start in six years, so you know you can probably count on him being healthy enough to play.

One thing working against him is his lack of upside. Last season was the first time that he cracked the 30-TD milestone. Otherwise, he has oscillated in the 21 to 27 range for his entire career. I suppose fantasy owners see the upside of Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman or even Matt Ryan (who now has Julio Jones to throw to) and they like the idea of having a player with top 5 potential instead of Eli, who is pretty much guaranteed to finish in the 7-12 range.

The great thing for savvy fantasy owners is that since Manning is currently the 13th QB off the board, he’s often available a round or two longer since there is just one team still without a QB at that point in the draft. There aren’t too many fantasy owners who want to burn two picks in the first eight (or nine) rounds on the QB position. They usually want to build depth at RB or WR or take one of the last starter-quality TEs that remain. So the #11-#14 QBs are usually good value in the 8th-10th rounds.

Another plus for Eli is his projected strength of schedule. I rank the Giants’ passing schedule fourth behind the Dolphins, Cowboys and Eagles (though it should be noted that his W16 matchup against the Jets is not as good as the numbers say due to Darrelle Revis’ absence early in the 2010 season).

As I start to participate in mock drafts, I have found myself approaching the QB position this way:

1. Wait until the 6th round and draft Ben Roethlisberger, if available.
This is a topic for another post, but I am very high on Big Ben this year, so if he’s there in the 6th after I’ve drafted two RBs, two WRs and a very good TE, then I’ll snatch him up. He has been going 6.08, so it is far from a sure thing. In my last two mocks, I drafted in the middle of the 6th and he was already gone both times.

2. If Big Ben is gone, wait until the 8th (or even 9th, depending on draft position) and pick Eli Manning.
By the end of the 7th round, it’s likely that 11 of 12 owners in your draft will already have their QB. That means there’s a great chance that Eli will slip to you in the 8th, and if you pick early in the 9th, you can probably wait until then if there’s another player you like on the board.

Currently, once the top 16 QBs are off the board (the last being Jay Cutler, per ADP), there aren’t a ton of trustworthy options available. I really like Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 10th or 11th, but he has the same bye week as Eli, so he’s out as a QBBC option with Manning. Matt Cassel has a much tougher schedule in 2011 and the rest of these QB situations are unsettled. This should clear up as the summer wears on, but right now my plan would be to draft Eli in the 8th or the 9th and then use the 9th or 10th round pick on another QB like Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford or Jay Cutler. Those three players have schedules that combine well with Eli’s, so fantasy owners can get a nice QBBC going in those middle rounds.

So we have a durable, 30-year-old, Super Bowl-winning QB who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards the past two seasons and as averaged 29 TDs per season over the same span. Moreover, he has a stud WR in Hakeem Nicks at his disposal along with several other good options — Steve Smith 2.0, Mario Manningham, Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Boss — to throw to. And he has a pretty favorable schedule to boot.

What’s not to like?

The Big Board: QBs

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WR | WR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR)

[table id=4 /]

Updated 6/19/11

SOS: 2011 projected strength of schedule (change from 2010)…so 4 (-3) would indicate a generally favorable schedule, but one that is tougher than the previous year. QBs use pass SOS.

2010: Per game fantasy points average from 2010

2-yr Avg: Straight two-year per game average

Falling in love with Ryan Fitzpatrick all over again

One of the big winners coming out of the NFL Draft was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The fact that the Bills didn’t take a QB with any of their nine draft picks was a vote of confidence for their current starter. Had Buffalo picked a QB in the first round or two, he may have begun the season as the starter, but chances are that he would have been benched as soon as the losses started piling up. That would have made Fitzpatrick a risky pick in fantasy drafts.

Fast forward a few days and he’s suddenly looking like a great value pick once your draft gets into the middle rounds (10th-12th). According to the #Draftmaster ADP over at Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick is currently the 20th QB off the board in the middle of the 12th round. I suspect that his ADP will rise to the 10th or 11th rounds given the Bills’ draft, as he could pass David Garrard, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez, creeping up into the QB17 range. That’s where I have him in my initial QB rankings for 2011.

Let’s take a look at Fitzpatrick’s per game numbers as compared to those three QBs, because I bet there are still some nonbelievers out there:

As you can see, Fitzpatrick compares pretty favorably to the aforementioned three QBs in almost every category. On a per game basis, he scored the second-most fantasy points in this group. (Keep in mind that I did remove Garrard’s Week 6 game against the Titans, when he was knocked out in the second quarter. I also removed Mark Sanchez’s Week 17 game against the Bills, where he started but left the game without attempting a pass.)

Considering the Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert in the first round, and have been toying with replacing Garrard for some time now, it certainly appears that he may have a short leash heading into 2011. If the Jaguars start losing, I’d expect they’d plug Gabbert in to get him some experience heading into 2012. Garrard’s strength of schedule looks to be about 5% tougher this season, while Fitzpatrick’s projects to be 4% easier. For what it’s worth, Matt Cassel’s schedule looks 7.6% tougher while Sanchez’s projects to be 3.9% easier.

To me, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a no-brainer when picking from this group, which is why I have him ranked #17. The Bills have a tendency to fall behind in games, so assuming he plays a full season, I could easily see him finish in the QB12 to QB14 range. I actually think he should be placed a tier higher, with Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford and Joe Flacco. Let’s take a look at how his numbers compare to those players:

Note that I used Matthew Stafford’s last eight games, which includes six games from the 2009 season, and excluded his Week 1 game against the Bears in which he was injured.

Again, Fitzpatrick compares favorably to the other players in this group. He has the second-highest fantasy points per game average, the most rushing yards and is right there with the leaders in passing yards and touchdowns. In fact, given his running ability, it’s a little surprising that he didn’t run for a TD or two last season — I’d expect that to change in 2011. The only characteristic that these other four players have that Fitzpatrick doesn’t is a first-round arm. It is highly unlikely that Stafford, Flacco, Cutler or Bradford (all drafted in the first round) are going to get benched at any time this season, but Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round pick, no doubt has a shorter leash.

(For what it’s worth, Stafford, Flacco, Cutler and Bradford all have similar (within 1.7%) schedules as 2010, while Fitzy’s projects to improve by 4%.)

Bottom line: I love Fitzpatrick as the second QB taken in a committee-approach, possibly with one of the aforementioned players. He’s a great value once the rounds hit double-digits, and with no other viable QB to threaten his job, we can draft him with confidence that if he’s healthy, he’s probably the starter in Buffalo.

The Bills didn’t do anything to improve their receivers in the draft, but with the up-and-coming Stevie Johnson anchoring one side, Lee Evans on the other, Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson over the middle, and C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson out of the backfield, Fitzpatrick should have plenty of weapons to utilize. The Bills’ offense isn’t good enough to press the Patriots or Jets for the division crown, but they’re certainly good enough to put up points in garbage time, and that’s all you need in fantasy football.

Post-Draft 2011 QB Rankings

With the NFL Draft behind us, it’s a good time to start thinking about the 2011 rankings. I’ll start with the quarterback position. Below you’ll find a table with my Top 35 fantasy QBs along with their current team (if they have one), their 2011 strength of schedule, their 2010 points per game output adjusted for the 2011 SOS (i.e. if their 2010 performance was translated to their 2011 SOS) and their straight two-year average (schedule bias not removed). Keep in mind these aren’t actual projections, just additional info and the order that I’d draft these players given what we know now. Things will change as some of these free agents (hopefully) find homes for the season.

— I think Mike Vick has a good chance to outscore Aaron Rodgers on a per game basis, but he also is the favorite to miss more games in 2011 given his playing style. He takes a lot of hits, while I think Rodgers learned his lesson about putting his head down when he missed a couple of games with a concussion in 2010.

— Tom Brady’s schedule is quite a bit better this season and I see no reason why he would start to decline given the nature of his offense and the quality of his receiving corps. He could use a playmaker out wide, but he has plenty of weapons to utilize over the middle and he’s one of the best at taking what the defense gives him.

— Ben Rothlisberger is underrated again. He was QB4 in adjusted PPG for 2010 and his schedule looks easier in 2011. Plus, he has a great fantasy playoff schedule.

— I put Big Ben and Peyton Manning in the same tier as Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. I put Romo ahead of Rivers due to his favorable schedule. His SOS projects to be about 5% easier in 2011 (though he didn’t even play a majority of the season) while Rivers’ looks to be almost 6% tougher.

— The next tier runs from QB9 to QB17 and is a great example of why QBBC could be very successful again in 2011. I might grab Big Ben in the 5th or 6th (his current ADP is 5.8), but if there is another good value available at RB, WR or even TE, I may pass on Roethlisberger and go QBBC in rounds 8-12 instead. There are nine QBs in this tier and I’d be happy to have two or three to use in a committee. Eli Manning seems like a good value in the middle of the 7th.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently going in the 12th round, but that’s going to rise into the 9th-10th range (I think) now that Buffalo passed on a QB in the draft. That vote of confidence for Fitzy, coupled with a much improved schedule, could vault him into the Top 12 by season’s end.

— Right now, indications are that Tim Tebow has the inside track to be the Bronco’s starting QB, though we need to keep in mind that Josh McDaniels is no longer running the offense in Denver. John Fox is far more conservative, so we need to take Tebow’s fine fantasy performances late last year with a grain of salt. Also, keep in mind that his adjusted numbers include those games where he only appeared in the Broncos’ goal line offense. He averaged 27.8 points per game in his three starts last season.

— I’m not sure what to make of the next 10 or so guys. There will be a lot of shakeup here as free agency hopefully commences and some of these players find new homes. Kevin Kolb could move up a few spots if he’s given a starting job somewhere, though he wasn’t impressive when he started for the Eagles in 2010. I’d have more confidence in Marc Bulger and Carson Palmer, who have proven they can start in the NFL. Matt Cassel’s schedule is a lot (7.6%) tougher in 2011, so he could take a step back from his respectable 2010 numbers.

— The only rookie (besides Cam Newton) on the list is Christian Ponder, because he seems the most likely to be the starter on opening day. The same can’t be said for Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick, who are each likely dealing with veterans they will have to usurp.

The fantasy impact of the second round

I covered the first round in great detail yesterday, and with two more rounds of picks to evaluate, there’s a lot to talk about. From a fantasy perspective, the deeper we get into the draft the tougher it is to predict which picks will make an immediate impact, because…well…they’re typically not as good as those players picked in the first round. (That’s the whole point of a draft, right?)

Even so, there will be a few players taken in second or third round (or even later) that will show up on fantasy big boards by midseason, so let’s pull out our divining rods, point them at the second round and see if we can identify a few sleepers.

Who will be throwing to A.J. Green? Andy Dalton.
Dalton is undersized but is a hard worker and possesses great leadership skills. Whether or not this translates to success is to be determined. Hard workers can go on to have great NFL careers (just look at Tom Brady, a former sixth round pick), but they have to have a certain level of physical ability to stick. His arm strength is adequate and his accuracy is good. He’ll need to improve his accuracy even further if he’s going to be a full-time starter in the NFL.

From A.J. Green’s point of view, it’s good to see the Bengals address the QB position relatively early in the draft. But second round QBs do not have a great history of success. For every Drew Brees or Brett Favre, there are ten Kellen Clemens or Quincy Carters. Dalton is a mature fifth-year senior so he has a shot. How quickly he gets up to speed will impact what kind of fantasy seasons we see from Green, Jerome Simpson and even Cedric Benson.

Here’s a look at his QB Camp with John Gruden. He seems like a good kid.

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The fantasy impact of the first round

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft has come and gone, and it’s time for fantasy owners to pick up the pieces. The draft not only affects the rookie that lands in a good (or bad) situation, but it also impacts that veteran who is likely to lose his job now that his team has decided to go into another direction.

There are a number of different ways to approach a piece like this, but I’m just going to go down the list of picks and highlight the ones that will impact fantasy owners in 2011. At the end, I’ll discuss the picks that didn’t happen, and how those decisions might affect your fantasy draft this August.

Cam Newton is the new QB in Carolina.
I heard a pundit say that the Panthers should let Newton hold a clipboard for a season while Jimmy Clausen continues to start and I had to scratch my head. Clausen is not some wily vet who can hold down the fort while the Panthers let Newton develop. He wasn’t good last year and he probably won’t be good this year. If he beats Newton out for the starting gig, fine, but the Panthers will probably let Newton start from the get-go, and how he fares will impact the entire offense. Jonathan Stewart’s stock is probably the most volatile since he’s going to need Newton to manufacture some sort of a passing game so that he has enough running lanes to be productive. (This assumes DeAngelo Williams is elsewhere in 2011, which is no sure thing.) As much of a wildcard as Newton is, Stewart should be better off than he would have been with Clausen.

A.J. Green to the Bengals.
That sound you hear is the air coming out of the Jerome-Simpson-is-a-sleeper balloon. Simpson could still have a solid year, but the Bengals are going to have to find a QB good enough to support two relevant fantasy WRs. What do I mean? Well, in 2010, six teams had two WRs finish in the Top 30 in PPR leagues: Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Indianapolis (Peyton Manning), New Orleans (Drew Brees), NY Giants (Eli Manning), Philadelphia (Mike Vick) and Miami. Of those teams, only the Dolphins had instability at the QB position. That doesn’t bode well for Simpson.

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