By my count, you can go to bed happy with 16 different quarterbacks as your starter after fantasy drafts this August. That's a weird way to say it, but hopefully you know what I mean.
So, do the math – if you're in a 10-team, 12-team or even a 14-team league, there's no excuse for having a sleepless night after you make your picks … unless you're one of those weirdos who thinks about family, political issues or the afterlife. Borrrrrring.
With so many starter-worthy quarterbacks, the real question is where to draft them. Let's break it down.
Round 1 (based on a 12-team, standard-scoring league): Peyton Manning
There was a time when people said the Earth was flat; those people are all dead. Shows what they know. I bring this up because the notion that you “should never draft a QB in Round 1” is outdated, even in a year loaded with good QBs. Manning outscored every player in fantasy by 84.3 points in standard leagues last year, and even though that number will likely come down, he's still easily the best.
Look to take Manning at the end of the first round, around pick eight. When Eddie Lacy goes, that's your cue. At that point, most of the backs and receivers are pretty similar. You can get a comparable RB or WR in Round 2, but you won't be able to get someone comparable to Manning.
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Round 2: Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers
You can grab these guys at the very end of Round 1, but you shouldn't have to. Brees lost a weapon in Darren Sproles and his 604 receiving yards, but that's a minor worry. Rodgers is running up a bit of an injury history and lost James Jones, but he's still one of the best. You can't go wrong with either, but you might be better off waiting for one of the guys we're about to mention.
Rounds 3-5: Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan
Now we truly get into a “choose-your-own-adventure” story. All of these guys are great; all of these guys have question marks. Where are you gonna take them? In what order? I like Luck (average weapons but still the safest), Newton (rushing yards/TDs offset lack of receivers), Foles (upside of offense offsets lack of DeSean Jackson), Stafford (as much upside as anyone with new OC and former Saints QB coach Joe Lombardi; as much inconsistency as anyone), and Ryan (no Tony Gonzalez, still worries about Julio Jones' health, but upside is massive).
The fact that all of these guys (plus some more we'll talk about in a second) have top-five potential means they really shouldn't go until Rounds 4 and 5. Someone has to take them and they'll all present good value at some point, but at least one will slip. That's when you can swoop in and “Turn to Week 16 if you want to see what it's like to be a winner.”
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Rounds 6-10: Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson
You might be thinking: “Hey, idiot -- I'd draft Brady before any of the guys in the last group!” or “Hey, loser – Dalton and Rivers finished third and fourth in QB fantasy points last year. They should be higher!” or “Hey, cool guy, you're doing a great job and you're attractive.” Thanks to that last person...it really means a lot. I mean, I try hard and put myself out there, so it's nice to hear a note of positive reinforcement. Good luck to you in future endeavors.
Whichever statement you agree with, just know that all of these guys have similar potential, even if they'll arrive at it in different ways.
Cutler might be the most interesting, largely because of his weapons and offensive scheme. If you combined his and Josh McCown's fantasy points from last year, you would've had the third-best fantasy QB. Obviously, for Cutler to do that by himself, he'd have to stay healthy and be more efficient (two big question marks), but the potential is there for him to be the steal of the draft in the eighth or ninth round.
Kaepernick has the same potential when you factor in a full season of Michael Crabtree and the addition of Stevie Johnson. A full season of Percy Harvin could help the already-consistent Wilson sniff the top five, and the addition of DeSean Jackson could be huge for Griffin III (though he's not expected to run as much in Jay Gruden's new offense).
We know Romo has weapons (and inconsistency), and the Bengals are putting together a nice little arsenal for Dalton, who, despite real-life postseason issues, remains one of the most underrated fantasy QBs. Brady has the talent, and a full season of Rob Gronkowski (unlikely, I know) could send him back to top-six status. (He finished 13th last year.) Rivers is in the right scheme, but the Chargers aren't exactly bursting with great pass-catchers beyond Keenan Allen. Either way, after last year's showing, we have to take Rivers seriously.
The fact that four of these guys are going to be drafted as backups in 12-team leagues should just reinforce the point that after Peyton, no QB is worth reaching for. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go for a guy you like; it just means you shouldn't take him too early. It's also worth investing in a stud backup, especially if you take an injury-prone guy like Griffin III or Cutler as your starter.
Rounds 11-17: The rest
The funny thing is a guy like Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer or
At least eight of these guys will be drafted as backups (or picked up during bye weeks), so it's worth scouting them out – though not worth drafting them very early. Roethlisberger is the best, probably followed by Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning (yeah, I know, you hate him, but he can't be as bad as last year...right?), Alex Smith, Bradford, Joe Flacco and McCown.
Michael Vick is Michael Vick (could have a huge couple games; will get hurt), and I don't know about you, but I'm sick of waiting around for Jake Locker. EJ Manuel is mildly intriguing in his second year, and who knows about the non-Manziel rookies. No need talking about Matt Schaub or Ryan Fitzpatrick. (I've already said too much.)
And there you go – everything you need to know about QBs. There are a lot of good ones, so barring injury, it should be the spot on your fantasy roster that sends you to bed satisfied. Man, I really need to stop using that analogy.