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Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, and How Not to Play Late Round QB


Photo by June Rivera

This weekend I’ve been focusing on tactics and strategy for the quarterback position. I previously posted a list of 14 quarterbacks you can build your draft around and uncovered what I believe may be the Great QB Conspiracy of 2013.

Late Round QB continues to be the dominant approach to fantasy drafts, but it’s not without its own pitfalls. In order to build a strong QBBC that can match up with players like Drew Brees or Cam Newton, it’s important to avoid these key mistakes.

1. Select an overrated player from the QB13-QB16 range. For example, Eli Manning.

Manning starred on the 10 Most Overvalued Players list. He’s going as QB13, evidently because drafters expect more out of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, along with harboring hopes of a breakout from Rueben Randle. Eli also threw for 4,933 yards in 2011.

But Manning has just never developed into an elite reality quarterback, and his fantasy prognosis is terrible. Because his future projection is so poor, I use Eli in order to provide context almost every time I’m trying to make a point about somebody else’s upside.

Moreover, he’s absolutely infuriating to play. Last year he had four games where he attempted 40 or more passes and seven games where he attempted 30 passes or fewer. He had eight games where he threw for less than 215 yards. He had 10 games where he recorded a single touchdown or a goose egg.

Manning is a terrible fit in a committee both because he’s not very good and because he’s got the downside scenario in a Forrest Gump aphorism.

2. Select a declining veteran with poor job security. For example, Michael Vick.

Nick Foles may be a lot better than most people think. And Vick is done.

3. Select a player with relatively little upside. For example, Philip Rivers.

Unlike Michael Vick’s situation in Philadelphia, Rivers can probably run the Chargers offense effectively, but it’s likely to be a fairly conservative, ball control unit. Rivers has only attempted more than 550 passes once in his career and only thrown more than 30 touchdowns once. San Diego was underrated on defense last year and will probably try to reduce the total number of offensive plays. Their schedule is not particularly difficult, which suggests Rivers won’t see as much garbage time action as you might think.

4. Select a player with extremely low completion percentages. For example, Josh Freeman.

Freeman completed 54.8 percent of his passes last year and only managed to hit 60 percent in one of his last seven games. Quarterback accuracy is one of those things that’s probably similar to having a “good eye” in baseball. It seems like something you should be able to develop but really isn’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t make small improvements through refining your technique or better understanding your progressions, but the ability to hit a sprinting target in stride is mostly innate. (If you run a search on quarterbacks with poor completion percentages early in their careers to see if they improve, just about the only example of a guy who made a big jump is Troy Aikman.)

Freeman is inaccurate and inconsistent, and that makes him a very poor fit for QBBC.

5. Take on too much risk. For example, a Sam Bradford/Brandon Weeden committee.

We’re split on Bradford at RotoViz. I’m not sure he’s a good sleeper candidate, but others disagree. Regardless, you want him as your QB2 behind Cutler, Flacco, Roethlisberger, Schaub, or Palmer. Bradford has yet to show concrete signs of development, and his weapons are unproven.

6. Draft a low upside breakout candidate. For example, Ryan Tannehill.

Ryan Tannehill could be a much improved reality player this season and not have it translate into fantasy success. Even with Mike Wallace, the Dolphins have one of the worst groups of receivers in the NFL. Moreover, they play in a division with two other terrible offenses and the schedule rotation puts them up against the elite defenses of the AFC North this year.

Miami’s own defense has finished in the top 10 in points allowed for two consecutive seasons. It’s not absolutely necessary, but for Late Round QB to work it’s helpful to target quarterbacks who play on teams with bad defenses.  Playing in shootouts or seeing a bunch of garbage time minutes helps build in a safety net.

Now that you know who to avoid, take a look at the guys you can build your strategy around.

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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