I just completed my first mock draft of the season with some of my RotoExperts compadres, which is a sure sign that the Fantasy Football season is right around the corner. Last week we discussed value picks at the RB position. This week let’s look at the signal-caller for your team… your QB.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t like the QB on my team then I generally don’t like my squad. It doesn’t matter if I have every other position locked down. If I somehow got stuck with my third or fourth choice at QB, it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Laugh if you will, but the QB is my reflection of myself on my Fantasy team. If I landed Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady I’m sticking out my chest and staring my other league mates down. If I find myself stuck with a Ryan Fitzpatrick or Mark Sanchez, I just want to crawl into a hole.
But drafting strategies differ. Some are going to pull the trigger on the glamour QBs early. Guys like Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford won’t be on your draft board long. In fact, each of them was off the board by the middle of the second round in the RotoExperts Mock Draft I completed Thursday night. But others drafters will wait. And for those that do, while you won’t get the assurance of Rodgers or Brees’ Fantasy output every week, there’s values to be found later in the draft if you decide to stockpile your other positions early on. Here are five QBs to consider later in your Fantasy Football draft.
Jay Cutler – I know. There’s something about that sourpuss look that’s perpetually locked on his face that just makes you want to smack the Sugar Honey Ice Tea out of him. And count me among the many that still shake their head about the injury that forced Cutler to the sidelines in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. But, as many reasons as you can find to dislike Cutler, you can’t overlook that he’ll be reunited with the best offensive weapon he’s had since being shipped to Chicago, the always entertaining, if somewhat psychotic Brandon Marshall. The last season Cutler and Marshall played together in 2008, Cutler finished the season with career-highs in passing completions (384), passing attempts (616) and passing yards (4,525). He also threw for 25 touchdowns that season, at the time a career high. It’s a crazy kinda chemistry those two goofballs have together. Or maybe it’s just crazy recognizing crazy. Either way, it’s something you can make work to your advantage on draft day.
Carson Palmer –Guess who was a Top 10 QB from Week 9 through the end of last season? Erin Andrews’ new post ESPN phone number goes to anyone that said Carson Palmer. Yep, once he took the starting reins in Week 9, Palmer was solid, if unspectacular, out-producing Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton and Josh Freeman over the same time frame. This from a guy who was literally on the couch two weeks earlier eating cheese puffs. With a full training camp and a time to bond with receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford, Palmer could return to his 2010 form, when he threw for just under 4,000 yards and 26 TDs. That year, his last in Cincinnati, Palmer was throwing to geriatrics Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. If he can get on the same page with guys that actually have some giddy-up left in their tanks, Palmer could be the QB surprise of the 2012 season.
Josh Freeman – What a difference a year makes. This time last year most were anxiously awaiting Freeman to take the next big step following a breakout sophomore year where he threw for 3,451 yards and 25 TDs. It’s a year later and… we’re still waiting. Not to say it was all Freeman’s fault. Mike Williams apparently forgot the purpose of the game was to catch balls in the end zone and the ground game came to a stop as LeGarrette Blount intimidated no one. The implosion cost Raheem Morris his head coaching job and put the Bucs in the market for a true No. 1 wide receiver in the off-season. Enter Vincent Jackson. Say what you will about Jackson… he’s clearly not in the elite class of receivers which includes Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, etc. But for three of the last full seasons he has played, Jackson has posted over 1,000 yards in each and flirted with double-digit TDs in two of those three campaigns. He is a true number one receiver and gives Freeman a prime target in the end zone. If Williams can recapture his freshman form, Freeman is poised for a rebound and could lead a team to Fantasy victory. That’s a lot of ifs. But for a QB that can be had well into the later rounds, he could pay big dividends.
Peyton Manning – What’s the world coming to when Peyton Manning is considered a value pick? But coming into the season that’s exactly what Eli Manning’s big brother is. Fantasy owners are rightfully wary of any guy, even Manning, coming off multiple neck surgeries. As a result few are comfortable gambling on him as their QB1. In that recently completed RotoExperts mock, Manning stayed on the board until the end of the eighth round and was selected as a QB2… ironically enough as a backup to Eli Manning, who was drafted two rounds earlier. Manning is arguably the biggest risk coming into the Fantasy Football season. Fantasy owners that gamble on him could be rewarded handsomely if he returns to his 2010 form, when he threw for a career high 4,700 yards. Let that marinate for a second. The last time Peyton Manning was on the field, he threw for the most yards ever in his 15-year career. The 33 TDs he threw in 2010 was a mark he’d hit two times previously and second only to the 49 TDs he threw in 2004. In short, Manning was re-defining the position even deep into his Hall of Fame career.
And then… the neck.
The bottom line is that one good hit in Week 1 could send Manning to the sidelines for the rest of his career. But the same could be said of any QB who suits up on Sunday. Published reports have said Manning isn’t at any greater risk of neck injury following the surgery. So we’ll all be holding our collective breaths once Manning takes that first sack hit from James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley on Sept. 9. But once he gets up and shakes the dirt off, that pick you spent to get him in the later rounds is going to look mighty sweet.
John Skelton – I’m admittedly digging deep here. I’m digging very, very deep. Skelton won’t even go into the season with the starting job. The job will likely be handed to Kevin Kolb during training camp because Arizona has $21 million reasons for Kolb to succeed . But Ken Whisenhunt wants to win games and Kurt Warner isn’t taking off the studio blazer. The truth is Kolb simply isn’t up to the task of leading an NFL team. In nine starts he threw for just under 2,000 yards and nine TDs. Skelton out-performed him and did it largely by following what should have been an obvious mantra. Get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. It doesn’t matter if he’s covered. It doesn’t matter if he’s double covered. Get him the rock. If Skelton is handed the reins early in the season you want the guy who’s throwing the ball to Fitzgerald. The addition of Notre Dame rookie Michael Floyd will only add to his offensive options. Skelton will be on your board late, late, late into your draft. But he could pay off sweetly.