2013 Fantasy Quarterback Review
January 14, 2014 | Jeff
Before crafting my fantasy football rankings for the 2014 season, I like to drown myself in statistics from the previous season like I often drown myself in Crown Royal after a long work day. I’m not sure which of those options makes my wife more angry, but hey, this is The Fake Football and we do what we want around here! I am sure there are some 80’s hair metal lyrics here somewhere about knowing your past before moving on, but I do agree with that general sentiment. It is important to understand the inner workings of what just occurred during the nutty 2013 regular season before we begin crafting our viewpoints of players as we head into 2014. I will be digging through each fantasy position (sorry special teams fans, no kickers or defenses) and discussing some interesting statistical developments that surprised fake footballers for good or for bad in 2013, and creating a bit of a foundation for creating my early 2014 rankings. This week, we will cover the Quarterback position (assume 4 pt passing touchdowns and -2 interceptions).
When staring at the table below, one can’t help but notice the top dog, Mr. Papa Omaha John himself, Peyton Manning. Eli’s big brother put together a spectacular season, as as lapped the rest of the field while chucking an NFL record 55 touchdown passes. Peyton is one of my all-time favorite quarterbacks to watch, from his cutting edge pre-snap lingo to his expansive forehead, and as long as he is reasonably healthy this summer, he will top my list of fantasy quarterbacks next season. A regression from these gaudy numbers is a certainty, as I will likely project Manning around 35-38 touchdowns in 2014, but I’m not betting against another fine season from Peyton.
The two names gracing the QB1 ranks that are waving giant red flags (or tiny red flags depending on the size of your monitor, smart phone, or tablet) are Philip Rivers and Big Red, Andy Dalton. Let’s start with Mr. Peppermint Roll, Philip Rivers. After a terrible 2012 season, where Rivers threw for a measly 3,606 yards with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, the fantasy world had tucked old Philip away into “Crusty QB2 Territory,” which is a rough part of town. Rivers responded by saddling up with new head coach Mike McCoy and throwing for the second highest touchdown total of his career (32) while becoming fantasy football’s fourth highest scoring quarterback. Think about the fact that Rivers stacked up 4,478 passing yards with his top three receiving options as follows:
- Keenan Allen, a rookie wide receiver
- Antonio Gates, a 347 year old tight end that played with Bart Starr (only slightly exaggerated)
- Danny Woodhead, a 5’8” mini-running back (actual height)
It was quite the season by Rivers, who isn’t quite as old as you think (32), and in 2014 should benefit from the continued maturation of Keenan Allen and the much anticipated development of Ladarius Green.
Now, on to Andy Dalton. Take a deep breath and let the fact that Dalton finished as QB5 in our favorite past time sink into your brain tissue. Breath it in. Exhale. The 2013 season was a roller coaster ride for Dalton, who finished fifth in fantasy points on the year, but also joined Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and Geno Smith as the only quarterbacks in the NFL to throw 20 or more interceptions. That is not the lunch table quarterbacks want to sit at while enjoying a Lunchable and Capri Sun. While Dalton had a three game stretch in Weeks 9-11 where he threw eight interceptions and only five touchdowns, he also had a three game stretch during the almighty fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16) where he averaged 290 yards, three touchdowns and did not throw a single interception (as it turns out, Dalton was saving those for the NFL playoffs). So what does this all mean? Dalton’s yardage and touchdown totals have increased over the course of his three NFL seasons, but so have his interceptions totals. Positive points for touchdowns far outweigh the negative hit for interceptions in our fake game, but consider the fact that only two of the top 13 fantasy quarterbacks this season threw more than 14 interceptions (Dalton and Matthew Stafford). Dalton’s nice crew of receiving weapons will only improve along with him, so I am giving Big Red the benefit of the doubt, but he will likely saddle up in the low-end of the QB1 range in my 2014 rankings, at best, as I put my faith in more reliable options.
Nick Foles finished up at QB12 despite not playing a full slate, and skyrockets to QB3 if we break this list down by fantasy points per game. The bottom line with Foles from Philly is that he won’t play the 2014 season with anything in the neighborhood of a 27:2 touchdown to interception ratio. However, even if Foles throws roughly 11-12 interceptions in 2014 (which is the average of the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks from 2013), he will still be in for a monster season in Chip Kelly’s offense. Foles averaged 283.6 passing yards per game over the last eight games of the 2013 season, which should ignite the grins of fantasy football folks, as only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford averaged a higher per game total last season. Add that to the fact that Nick Foles also contributes with his legs (he should easily top 300 rushing yards next season), and we have ourselves a nice mid-round quarterback target for the 2014 season.
A few rebound candidates stick out of the list below, who we can look to as we hunt for value next season. Matt Ryan is the most obvious name that will be had at a welcoming price in 2014, as he finished as fake football’s QB14 this season. This is no knock on Harry Douglas, who provided the fantasy football community with tremendous contributions from the waiver wire, but Matt Ryan didn’t stand a chance in 2013. With Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez leading the Atlanta Falcons in receiving, Matt Ryan’s fantasy numbers took quite a tumble as Julio Jones and Roddy White both lost time to injury. Going forward, this creates the best type of situation for savvy fantasy aficionados. Ryan’s 2013 numbers were depressed due to circumstances completely out of his control, and with his two caped crusaders returning to full health for the 2014 season, Matt Ryan will be a draft day steal. Stamp it.
Another rebound option for 2014 is Eli Manning. Yes, Eli Manning. Eli had a horrific 2013 season and ended as fantasy’s 21st best quarterback. Manning threw a career high 27 interceptions and threw for his lowest touchdown total (18) since his rookie season way back in 2004. However, this crazy game we play is often about regression. Just as big brother Peyton’s numbers will come back to earth a bit, Eli’s will undoubtedly rise. Victor Cruz is still in town, and the Giants may be far better off without the stone-handed Hakeem Nicks starting at wide receiver. Rueben Randle is a developing stud receiver and did you happen to notice Jerrel Jernigan’s 19 catches for 237 yards and two scores in Weeks 15-17? Eli won’t be jumping into QB1 territory by any means but he will be a solid QB2 option and fine name to track if you are a believer in streaming quarterbacks.
Plenty of other names will be interesting to follow as we head into 2014, as injuries and inexperience led to some underwhelming 2013 seasons for a few players. Jay Cutler will still be a nice option in Chicago, whether you have a Josh McCown poster on your wall or not. Sam Bradford and Jake Locker are just a healthy season away from gaining some ground on the top tiers of fantasy quarterbacks and will both likely receive additional help through the NFL Draft. Not to mention, we are mere months away from the NFL arrival of Teddy Bridgewater and the great Johnny Foozball himself.
There will be no shortage of quality options at quarterback in 2014, which is good news for us fake footballers as we like to wait until the mid-late rounds of our drafts to swipe our value signal callers. Is it fantasy draft season yet?