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Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, and the Great QB Conspiracy


Yesterday I put together a comprehensive workshop on QB strategy. Most of the players I recommended were QB2 and QB3 types. I also wrote about the Fairly Valued All-Stars, a group you should avoid because it consists entirely of “trap” players.

The juxtaposition of those two columns left me wondering if the entire QB1 tier might represent a trap.

For those just starting their fantasy research, the QB1 position is very deep this season. This has impacted strategy in two equal and opposite ways.

1)      It eliminates the early round QB strategy. If you can get almost the exact same player in Round 7 as Round 2, then you obviously don’t want to reach. I’ve seen this phenomenon create crazy value in supposed “expert” mocks.

2)      It also eliminates the late round QB strategy. I’ve almost always followed a Late Round QB strategy because the difference between QB6 and QB20 in my personal rankings was minimal. Now that there are 12 roughly equal guys in the QB1 tier – and a theoretically sizable gap between QB12 and QB13 – it no longer makes sense. You’d be needlessly giving up value in the name of following an extinct strategy.

That’s the logic. And it may turn out that the logic holds. But I don’t want to go into my drafts without at least exploring the opposite idea. Perhaps because Late Round QB no longer seems necessary, savvy drafters will be able to milk more value out of it than ever before.

So this is your journey through the entire QB1 tier. We’ll be using the best RotoViz tools available, looking at the best arguments for and against each player, and occasionally exploring the possibility of later round equivalents.

We’re going to find out if these year’s QB1 class is just one big trap.

1. Aaron Rodgers – ADP 29 Overall

The Case For: Drafters are already forgetting about Rodgers’ transcendent 2011 season. His career 8.6 adjusted yards per attempt is a full yard better than virtually all of his peers. I’ve made the case that he’s the one signal caller who’s worth the early round premium and that he should be the focal point of any early round QB strategy.

The Case Against: Rodgers’ 2011 featured a touchdown percentage of 9%, which is 2.5% above his career average. He put up 9.2 yards per attempt, a ridiculous number that’s 1.1 ypa above his also gaudy 8.1 career average. Rodgers has seen four consecutive years of decline in rushing yards per game married with four consecutive years of declining rushing touchdowns. After sustaining several concussions in 2010, it’s likely we’ve seen the last of his 300-plus yard rushing seasons.

Verdict: As hard as it is to say – trap.

2. Drew Brees – ADP 33

The Case For: Brees has five consecutive top four finishes, including No. 1 in 2012 and 2008 (plus the most total points in 2011). He’s coming off of back-to-back 5,000-plus yard seasons.

The Case Against: Check out Jonathan Bales’ explanation of why Brees does not belong in the conversation with Aaron Rodgers.

The RotoViz QB Sim Scores are a little worried about Brees. Here’s the chart excerpted from Ben Roethlisberger – Stealth Star.

Roethlisberger Newton Brees
Low 18.5 15.8 16.1
Median 20.5 20.3 20
High 21.8 22.4 22.6

Conventional wisdom suggests Brees has a very high floor, but the app does not agree. His disturbing projection is one of the reasons Brees made my list of the 10 Most Overvalued Players.

Verdict: Do I expect Brees to outperform his projection? Yes, I do. But not by enough. Trap.

3. Peyton Manning – ADP 43

The Case For: Manning is a Sneaky Safe Pick.

The Case Against: Manning is the starting QB for the All-Trap Team. (Also check out Charles Kleinheksel’s The Quarterback is Toast, which focuses on Vick and Rivers but explores some issues which I think can be extended to Manning.)

Verdict: Clear trap.

4. Cam Newton – ADP 52

The Case For: Man of Steel, Cam Newton, Pocket Passer?

James Goldstein has Newton as his No. 1 QB and centerpiece in the Don’t Give a F*ck Strategy. Coleman Kelly shows us how Newton will maintain fantasy value even if the read-option is de-emphasized.

The Case Against: Newton lost Rob Chudzinski who just happens to be a great football mind. He’s been replaced by Mike Shula who is probably fine. There’s a big difference between great and fine. Shula oversaw the Tampa offenses during the Tony Dungy revival. His squads finished 30th, 23rd, 18th, 27th in total offense.

The Panthers have such a terrible WR corps that players like Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards, and Joe Adams are the subject of offseason puff pieces. They’re so bad Brandon LaFell is an unquestioned starter.

The Verdict: Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III are better quarterbacks in better situations. Definite trap.

5. Tom Brady – ADP 62

The Case For: Tom Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns last year, finishing as QB3. And he’s Tom Brady.

The Case Against: When Gronk was hurt last year, Brady was about as efficient as Andy Dalton. (You should definitely draft Andy Dalton.) You know who had better PFF Passer Ratings than Brady last year? The undervalued Matt Schaub and the collapsing Philip Rivers.

Verdict: Unless you’re excited about Kenbrell Thompkins, Michael Jenkins, and Jake Ballard you should be seeing flashing lights and hearing sirens.

6. Matt Ryan – ADP 63

The Case For: Matt Ryan had a breakout season in 2012, finishing as QB5 despite getting very unlucky in terms of almost-touchdowns. He has all of his elite weapons back and gets to play dome games against the NFC South.

The Case Against: Matt Ryan is not rare. Ryan ranked 22nd last year in percentage of deep attempts. His arm strength limits the Falcons offense. He chucked 615 passes last year, a number that should plummet with the addition of Steven Jackson.

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are tied together by their arrivals in the 2008 Draft, and it’s worthwhile to compare what the Sim Scores suggest about them in 2013. (Flacco’s early exit in Week 17 removed.)

Matt Ryan Joe Flacco
4pt 6pt 4pt 6pt
Low 14.3 17.5 15.4 18.8
Median 16.4 19.6 17.5 21.1
High 18.2 22.3 18.1 22.2

Flacco outperforms him fairly substantially at the median level. I obviously would prefer Ryan, but this is the reason why Flacco profiles as a pre-2007 Brady.

Verdict: Trap.

7. Matthew Stafford – ADP 71

The Case For: Stafford also got unlucky on touchdowns. Back at the beginning of RotoViz, the Fantasy Douche made the positive case for him in our Rap Battle.

The Case Against: I made the case against Stafford. Really all you need to know is that Stafford attempted 727 passes, got to throw to Megatron, and still finished as QB10.

Here’s how Stafford compares to my favorite post-post-hype candidate.

Matthew Stafford Matt Schaub
4pt 6pt 4pt 6pt
Low 10.3 12.3 11.8 13.7
Median 14.8 18 15 18.4
High 16.3 20.1 17.3 20.7

Verdict: Trap.

8. Colin Kaepernick – ADP 75

The Case For: Kaepernick was one of the featured players in the QB Workshop. The loss of Crabtree is overhyped, leaving Kaep undervalued relative to his peers.

The Case Against: Anquan Boldin, A.J. Jenkins. Oh, and you run the risk San Francisco will only need to attempt 450 passes to finish 12-4.

Verdict: Trap.

9. Robert Griffin III – ADP 78

The Case For: As Jon Moore mentions in his excellent piece on Nick Foles, RG3 is from another planet. He may already be the second best QB in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers.

The Case Against: RG3 attempted fewer than 400 passes last year. He’s going to see his running curtailed this year, but still represents an injury risk. Due to his rehab, the chances of making a huge second year jump are reduced. He may not enter camp 100%. His only decent receiver is also probably not 100%.

Verdict: That’s quite a toxic cocktail of risk. Trap.

10. Russell Wilson – ADP 80

The Case For:  Dynasty – Andrew Luck v. Russell Wilson, Great in the Red Zone and 3rd Down, Dynasty Building Block

Charles Kleinheksel’s offseason has been a tour de force of premium Russell Wilson information. You can sum it up like this: Russell Wilson is good at everything. While Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco got most of the attention due to their Super Bowl appearances, Wilson was probably the best quarterback in the entire NFL from the mid-point of last season.

The Case Against: Wilson attempted 393 passes last year. This could be seen as a positive and a negative. If Wilson scored 0.8 points per game less than Stafford last season despite attempting 334 fewer passes, imagine what he could do with 500.

Verdict: Not a trap.

11. Andrew Luck – ADP 85

The Case For: Andrew Luck is a generational talent who finished as QB9 last year. You’re getting a discount on his 2012 performance with his potential breakout tossed in for free.

The Case Against: Pep Hamilton’s offense is going to suck. You know who Andrew Luck looked like the last time he played in a Hamilton-run offense? He looked like Geno Smith. (You’ve got to read both of those articles about how college players handled easy situations versus difficult situations for that to make sense. Or you can take my word for it.)

Verdict: Blatant trap.

12. Tony Romo – ADP 89

The Case For: Romo was the third QB1 candidate from the Workshop. He’s a vastly underrated reality player who happens to also be underrated in fantasy. He threw for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns during the fantasy semis and finals last year. Bill Callahan calling plays could be a boost.

The Case Against: For six consecutive seasons Romo has been trapped between 23.8 and 26.1 fantasy points per game. Does he have enough upside for a Top 100 pick? And do you want the QB for a team run by Jerry Jones?

Verdict: This is going to sound crazy, but . . . not a trap.

Quick Recap


Trap: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck

Not a trap: Russell Wilson, Tony Romo

Strategy Recommendation: You can’t go into a draft expecting Wilson or Romo to fall to you. You definitely can’t reach for them. You may see one of the other 10 fall far enough to be a value. Otherwise, you must consider QBBC or Late Round QB. The strategy isn’t going to be fashionable, which plays right into your hands.

Check out the Ultimate QB Strategy Workshop to start your serious preparation.

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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