2014 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB July 6, 2015  |  Chet

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Analyzing the differences in fantasy football player values between different scoring setups has long been a fascination of mine.  Longtime readers of TheFakeFootball.com might remember installments of this series from 2011, 2012, or my breakdown from the 2013 preseason specific to passing touchdown values.  If you weren’t around for those, here’s a linksplosion to catch you up:

*  2011 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB

*  2012 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB

*  2012-13 Scoring Settings Analysis – 4-pt. vs. 6-pt. Pass TDs

*  2013 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB (previously unpublished)

I took a break from the series after the 2013 season.  The hiatus mostly had to do with a lack of time to write on my part, but it was also motivated by the notion that there weren’t many new discoveries after 2013 that I hadn’t uncovered previously.  Rehashing the same basic points seemed unnecessary.

So why return to scoring settings analysis now?  First and foremost, I missed writing the series.  Even when the lessons seemed redundant, it was always interesting to apply those lessons to the ever-shifting landscape of players.  Second, the proliferation of two-quarterback and superflex leagues since 2012 has created much more incentive to develop deeper understanding of the NFL’s mid- and lower-tier fantasy QBs.  So like a robotic Rodriguez, I’m back, baby!

Because the 2-QB movement is what spurred the revival of the series, I’ll only be looking at quarterback scoring this year.  Apologies to any readers hoping for another installment of PPR analysis on wideouts and rushers, but I’m going to let those studies continue to hibernate for now.  I suppose an avalanche of requests for PPR scoring settings analysis might change my mind, but I only plan to review quarterback scoring this year.

Without further ado, here’s the data on QB scoring from the 2014 NFL season:


2014 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB (Excel)

2014 Scoring Settings Analysis – QB (Web Version)


There are six tabs on the spreadsheet (click the link above), ordered as follows:

  1. Stats/Data:  This tab accumulates all the QB stats from 2014 and calculates total and per-game scores for each player based on the various scoring settings in the upper left.
  2. Total Pts. Ranks (TD Grouping):  This tab ranks the players within each scoring setup based on total points for the 2014 season.  The scoring setups are grouped together by TD value so you can see trends between varying INT values.
  3. Total Pts. Ranks (INT Grouping):  This tab ranks the players within each scoring setup based on total points for the 2014 season.  The scoring setups are grouped together by INT value so you can see trends between varying TD values.
  4. Avg. Pts. Ranks (TD Grouping):  This tab ranks the players within each scoring setup based on average points (PPG) for the 2014 season.  The scoring setups are grouped together by TD value so you can see trends between varying INT values.
  5. Avg. Pts. Ranks (INT Grouping):  This tab ranks the players within each scoring setup based on average points (PPG) for the 2014 season.  The scoring setups are grouped together by INT value so you can see trends between varying TD values.
  6. QB Depth:  This tab shows the assumed QB depth chart for each team going into the 2015 NFL season (last updated 7/6/2015)


Here are the new features on the 2014 spreadsheet:

  1. I’ve separated the players into two populations:  all quarterbacks who played in at least 4 games (“All QBs”) and all quarterbacks who played in at least 12 games (“>11 GP”).  This allows us to ignore the QBs with the smallest 2014 sample sizes like Johnny Manziel and Ryan Mallett.  It also allows us to differentiate between full-season starters and committee/injury-replacement guys who didn’t play quite as much.
  2. For both populations, I calculated the average point values and standard deviations for each scoring column.  These values are featured in the rankings tabs and at the bottom of the Stats/Data tab.
  3. On the Stats/Data tab, I’ve highlighted and noted the scoring setups that correspond to popular fantasy sites like Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, and NFL.com.

Now that you know how the spreadsheet is designed, let’s take a look at some trends.  In doing so, I’ll be looking at points-per-game rankings almost exclusively.  Total points rankings can tell us which QBs had the best and most durable seasons, but average points rankings give us more insight into signal callers with a smaller sample of games played.


The Elite

Across all formats, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers finished the 2014 season as the top-2 quarterbacks.  Luck was best in all formats except 5/-2 and 4/-2, where Rodgers earned top honors thanks to his hyper-efficient 5-INT season (compared to Luck’s 16 INTs).

Regardless of their order of finish, Luck and Rodgers were separated by fewer than 1.5 fantasy points per game in all formats.  Luck, however, was certainly the better value based on his 2014 ADP compared to Rodgers’.  Paying market price for an elite quarterback will typically cost you a top-tier running back or receiver.  Luck’s 2014 fantasy season was special because he was available at the end of the 4th round on average.

Fake football managers can no longer profit from Luck’s 2014 ascension.  If you want him in 2015, you’ll have to pay the going rate of a 1st- or 2nd-round pick.  Searching for the “next” Luck — a QB poised for a similar ascent from the mid tier to Mt. Olympus — is likely a fool’s errand.  Quarterback prospects like Luck don’t come into the league often and it’s more probable we’ll see a general repeat of last year’s rankings than a huge leap into the top-3 from someone like Ryan Tannehill in 2015.  Cam Newton probably has the best chance of returning to the elite because his talent has taken him there before, but his competition is stiffer now that it was between 2011 and 2013.


The Best of the Rest

Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger compose 2014’s second tier of QBs.  Depending on the scoring setup, these four ranked in a variety of ways.  Manning was best on average, claiming the #3 spot for all formats except 4/-2 and 4/-1.  Those two configurations favored Wilson and his QB-leading 849 yards rushing (more on this annual principle of scoring settings later).

Brees vs. Roethlisberger was all about interceptions.  For -1/INT and 0/INT leagues, Brees came out on top.  In leagues where INTs carried a -2 penalty or worse, Big Ben was the more valuable QB, but just barely.  In formats where Roethlisberger finished higher, the biggest gap between the two occurred in 4/-2 leagues, where Brees fell short of the the Pittsburgh QB by 0.2 fantasy points per game.

They threw for the same number of yards (4952)  in the same number of games played (16), but Brees had one more passing TD (33 vs. 32), one more rushing TD (1 vs. 0), and 6 more turnovers (20 vs. 14) than Roethlisberger.  You can assign more weight to Brees’ extra scores, but I’d argue that Big Ben was the more valuable real-life QB in 2014 because he better protected the football.  If one of your goals when setting up a league is to reward the best real-life football players, Roethlisberger vs. Brees is a strong case in favor of harsher fantasy penalties for interceptions.


The Mundane Middle

After the top-6 quarterbacks, we enter a murky tier of guys all with similar values.  Looking at the various results, it’s easy to infer that if you didn’t draft someone from the top-6, you were likely best served being the last drafter to select a quarterback in 1-QB leagues.  The rankings shift depending on the scoring setup, but overall, there wasn’t much difference between the guys ranked 6 through 15.  I should qualify that statement with the assumption that capable owners of lower-tier starters will mix in some amount of quarterback streaming during the season.  If you miss out on the elite QBs and you’re not streaming at least occasionally, chances are you’re losing equity.

On a per-game basis, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan proved the most consistent.  Romo was the 7th best QB in PPG for 5 out of the 9 basic formats and his lowest finish was 10th (which he did only once, in 4/0, a.k.a. the most uninteresting QB scoring setup possible).  Similarly, Ryan took the #8 spot in 6 out of 9 formats and never finished lower than 9th.

Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill, Phil Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Eli Manning round out the rest of this tier.  Palmer only played 6 games for the Cardinals, so his inclusion should be paired with a sizeable grain of salt based on the small sample size.  His per-game numbers were buoyed by an 11:3 TD-to-INT ratio and we shouldn’t assume he would have maintained that pace over the course of a full season.  In leagues where INTs didn’t hurt you, Palmer finished 15th among QBs in PPG, regardless of TD value.  It’s not a stretch to infer that his rankings in -1/INT and -2/INT leagues were abnormally inflated due to luck with interceptions.

On the flip side, Cutler received a huge rankings boost in leagues where INTs didn’t sting.  His 18 picks led the NFL and if those were ignored in your league’s scoring system, Cutler’s 28 passing TDs propelled the DGAF king into the top 10 of fantasy passers.

Say what you will about Brady’s pounds-per-square-inch numbers, but his fantasy-relevant stats in 2014 were pretty excellent.  Mr. Bündchen was the antithesis of Jay Cutler, throwing for 33 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions.  His lack of elite yardage — both passing and rushing — kept Brady out of the top-6, but his awesome scoring numbers prove that he still belongs in the second-or-third-tier discussion with Tony Romo and Matt Ryan.  Brady and Romo’s total numbers were very similar, but Romo amassed his in one fewer game.

Tannehill’s 2014 performance is the toughest to put into perspective thanks to a lack of data from previous years.  He made big strides between his second and third seasons, but how much room does he have left for improvement?  This will be an important question to answer as we approach the 2015 season.  He posted very similar passing numbers to Joe Flacco, but Tannehill piled on 311 rushing yards to distance himself from the blasé Baltimore QB, who only rushed for 70.  The bonus of those rushing yards was important to Tanny’s value in 4/TD leagues.  If he starts to run less as he gets older like so many moderately mobile QBs before him, Tannehill will need to improve his passing numbers even more to maintain his top-12 fantasy QB status.  His new stockpile of receiving weapons should help, but Tannehill’s fantasy owners will want to see continuing production on the ground.

Enough about part-time rushing QBs, though.  Let’s talk about one of the game’s great gallopers, Cam Newton.  His disappointing 2014 didn’t discourage the Panthers’ front office.  They signed Cam to a pricy new contract earlier in the offseason.  The Carolina brass must think passing touchdowns are only worth 4 points.  That’s the only explanation, right?  Jokes aside, Cam is the QB who makes the biggest rankings jumps between leagues that award 6 points per pass TD and 4 points per pass TD.  In all -2/INT and -1/INT configurations, Cam was the 15th-best QB in 6/TD leagues versus the 7th-best QB in 4/TD leagues.  In 0/INT leagues, he ranked 14th in 6/TD versus 8th in 4/TD.  Those drastic differences are purely the result of Cam’s running ability.  His 539 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground (in only 14 games) have a much higher relative value in leagues where passing TDs are worth less.


Other Rushers

This same concept of rushing stats’ relative value to passing stats applies to all QBs who run more or better than everyday passers.  The aforementioned Russell Wilson, Cam, and Colin Kaepernick are the best examples, but don’t disregard the fact that Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck scampered for 269 and 273 rushing yards, respectively.  Those extra, non-passing points matter, especially in scoring systems where passing touchdowns count for less.

For 2-QB owners in leagues where passing TDs only earn 4 points, the lower tier rushing QBs you can target are Robert Griffin III, Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith, and Blake Bortles.  It is also safe to assume that rookies Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will take off and run more than most QBs, so don’t shy away from them simply because they are unproven NFL passers.

Kaepernick was the poor-man’s Newton in 2014, but he has the chance to close the gap in 2015.  Kap out-rushed and out-passed Newton last season (albeit in 2 more games played), but couldn’t keep pace with Cam’s rushing scores.  The San Francisco QB should easily top last year’s 1-TD rushing effort in the upcoming 2015 season.  If Kaepernick’s revamped throwing mechanics can help improve his mediocre passing stats, a top-12 season in 4/TD leagues is attainable.  Considering the 49ers’ trainwreck of an offseason, I don’t necessarily subscribe to a top-12 narrative for Kaep, even in 4/TD formats, but he should be a value in 2-QB leagues and as a quality streaming option when faced with softer match-ups.

Whereas quarterbacks with more scrambling production gain value in 4/TD systems, they should be avoided in 6/TD leagues for the most part.  Russell Wilson was the exception to this rule in 2014 due to his efficient passing stats. By comparison, Cam Newton barely rated above average last season in 6/TD leagues.  Some sort of bounce-back could be in order for Cam, but most pocket passers from the dense middle-tier of QBs described above will be safer bets in 2015.


Not Elite, Just Your Average Joe

It’s time to interrupt your regularly scheduled scoring settings analysis to ask a question that has divided us for years:  Is Joe Flacco elite?  Joe himself went on the record and declared it so, but the SSA spreadsheet and its merciless matrix of Fruit Stripe colors disagrees.

Compared to all QBs who played at least 12 games in 2014, Flacco is the epitome of average.  Let’s break it down:


Scoring System Flacco’s PPG Avg. QB’s PPG (GP>11) Difference
6/TD, -2/INT 19.78 19.63 +0.15
6/TD, -1/INT 20.53 20.44 +0.09
6/TD, 0/INT 21.28 21.25 +0.03
5/TD, -2/INT 18.09 18.02 +0.07
5/TD, -1/INT 18.84 18.83 +0.01
5/TD, 0/INT 19.59 19.64 -0.05
4/TD, -2/INT 16.40 16.41 -0.01
4/TD, -1/INT 17.15 17.22 -0.07
4/TD, 0/INT 17.90 18.03 -0.13


I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!”  Sure, there are other quarterbacks who dance around the yellow average mark in my rankings (I’m looking at you, Sanchize!), but who’s a better mascot for middling QBs than Average Joe?  Nobody, that’s who.  Stay aluminum, Ravenboy.


The Ketchup Principle

One of the more interesting phenomena I’ve noted through this series are a select few pocket passers who, like running QBs, climb the rankings as the value of passing TDs decreases.  They tend to pile up passing yards like franchise guys, while skimping on the passing TD production.

In years past, they were easily identified as QBs who often had to play from behind.  The theory is that because they are forced to pass earlier and more often, this cross-section of players account for higher percentages of their teams’ overall yardage totals, while not necessarily scoring as many TDs as the QBs who pile up yardage simply based on talent.  Furthermore, because the quarterbacks playing catch-up are more often in must-pass situations, it’s easier for opposing defenses to slow them down and prevent scores.

Matthew Stafford has long been the poster boy for this sad camp of signal callers and in 2014, he delivered his standard harvest of hollow yards.  Strangely, this result had little to do with playing from behind.  Stafford only accumulated 46% of his yards when trailing, so we’ll have to blame his lack of TD production on a mix of Detroit’s red zone play calling, defenses wisely doubling Calvin Johnson, and Stafford’s general mediocrity.

The QBs who amassed the highest percentage of their yards when losing were Blake Bortles (80%), Geno Smith (78%), Derek Carr (71%), Jay Cutler (65%), and Matt Ryan (65%).  Cutler and Carr don’t fit the profile because they threw too many touchdowns relative to their yardage totals.  Geno doesn’t either because he simply didn’t earn enough total points for significant variations between scoring systems (he was the 37th-ranked QB in all formats).  Matty Ice and Bortles fit the bill, but at this point, can we even call the ketchup principle a trend?  As discussed previously, Bortles value in 4/TD leagues relative to 6/TD leagues was already boosted by his rushing stats, leaving Ryan as the only true fit to my theory.

Failure to find players who meet the criteria could be a result of sampling only a single season, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  I have a feeling that the NFL’s overall philosophical shift towards more pass plays has nerfed any predictive value of the ketchup principle.  Nowadays, teams simply throw more often, whether they’re playing catch-up or not.  This lessens the impact of while-trailing passing yardage on fantasy scoring relative to touchdown production.

Furthermore, the teams most often playing from behind are inherently bad teams, probably because they have bad quarterbacks.  The coaches of these teams will often attempt to minimize potential damage from a bad QB and shorten the game by running the ball more, even when trailing.  When that strategy fails and the bad QBs like Geno and Bortles are forced to throw, they commit turnovers.  Thus, these QBs can’t pile up passing yardage and the phenomenon is nullified.

Ultimately, the only true candidates for the ketchup principle are decent-to-good QBs on teams with bad-to-horrific defenses (see Tony Romo’s 2012 season, when 65% of his attempts were when trailing).  That’s why Matt Ryan was the only true example in 2014.  Receiver and quarterback play in Atlanta weren’t the problem last year.  The Falcons’ offensive line and their defense were the problems.  Jay Cutler would have fit the mold, but he completed too many passing touchdowns.  That wasn’t a “problem” if you owned Cutler in any sort of scoring system, but it’s interesting to note that he probably would have held extra value in 4/TD leagues had he scored less frequently.

We don’t exactly know which defenses will stink this year, but we can makes some assumptions and look for teams in that vein married to a capable quarterback to identify potential fits for this concept.  If we ignore QBs who should already gain value in 4/TD leagues thanks to rushing stats (e.g., Kaepernick or RGIII), here are the guys who have the best chance of fitting the ketchup principle in 2015:  Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Phil Rivers, Jay Cutler, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, and whoever goes under center for Philadelphia.  You probably won’t find Brees or Big Ben at a discount, but the other candidates could be minor bargains for owners in 4/TD leagues this season.


Move Over, Mendoza

Joe Flacco was our posterboy for the league average PPG among quarterbacks who logged at least 12 games played.  For PPG among all fantasy QBs, I’m co-opting baseball’s concept of the Mendoza Line and bestowing the (dis)honor of its title on E.J. Manuel.  He finished 25th among passers in 8 of 9 scoring systems, always below the league average for quarterback PPG.  In 4/-2 leagues, Manuel finished 24th, supplanted from the 25th spot by his replacement in Buffalo, Kyle Orton, but they essentially tied with 14.68 PPG in that format (Manuel narrowly edges Orton if one more decimal place is used).

You don’t need me to tell you that E.J. Manuel is a poor fantasy QB and his performance in this context stems from a small samples size, but Manuel represents an interesting ceiling in the rankings.  Aside from the corner case of Orton described in the previous paragraph, if a quarterback finished below the Manual Line in one format, he finished below it in all formats and thus, below the league average for fantasy points per game.

teddThat group of players included Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Brian Hoyer, and Robert Griffin III.  Were all of those guys worse than E.J. Manuel?  Not really because, again, Manuel’s PPG numbers only reference a total of 4 games played versus near full seasons from the others.  With that said, teams that relied on Dalton, Smith, or anyone else below the Manuel Line likely fared as well as the real-life NFL teams captained by those QBs.

I don’t want to dismiss any of these sub-Manuel quarterbacks as streaming options because any QB can look like a star in the right match-up.  Furthermore, it’s not like last year’s prices for Smith, Bridgewater, Carr, or Hoyer were high enough to burn you if you used them in fantasy.  Dalton and RGIII were the only two who were drafted highly enough to really cripple their owners with poor 2014 performances.  Even in the case of those two disappointments, if their 1-QB fantasy owners jumped ship early enough into the stream of waiver wire options available, disaster was likely averted.

If you’re searching for QB bargains in 2015, particularly in 2-QB leagues, the average-talent options with the best odds to top the Manuel Line are a rare breed.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Glennon, Kirk Cousins, Mark Sanchez, and Nick Foles pulled it off in 2014.  What they had in common was some combination of a good offensive system and talented playmakers around them.  Fitzpatrick was able to lean on Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins.  Glennon’s targets were athletic freaks of nature.  Cousins’ own coach admitted that his offensive system was a better fit for The Cuz than RGIII.  Sanchez and Foles played in the football’s version of the Phoenix Suns’ run-and-gun offense.  Talented or not, these quarterbacks were afforded opportunity to be competent fantasy plays.

So where can we find those types of values in 2015?  Let’s start with that same group of teams.  Brian Hoyer and/or Ryan Mallett stand to inherit Houston’s stable of offensive stallions. Jameis Winston has supplanted Glennon in Tampa and he should have ample opportunity to score well throwing to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.  Jay Gruden still calls the shots in our nation’s capital, but RGIII currently figures to have the leg-up on Cousins in what should be an improved offense.  Lastly, Sanchez may reprise his caretaker role in Philly’s QB-friendly system, but only if Sam Bradford can’t get healthy.

I want to highlight two other quarterbacks I expect to step across the Manuel Line this season, but I there is one player I worry will stay trapped below it — Andy Dalton.  The Red Rifle has made a living in seasons past as an above average fantasy QB.  After a bad season like 2014, many might expect a bounce-back year, but the Bengals’ schedule stacks up poorly for Dalton in 2015.  In addition to facing the NFC West, Cincinnati has match-ups against Houston, Kansas City, and the tough defenses of their divisional foes — specifically Cleveland and Baltimore — twice each.  Dalton’s tough track ahead could make him a potential bargain for 2016, but I’ll save that speculation for next year’s scoring settings analysis.

Getting back to QB stocks on the rise, let’s talk about Teddy Bridgewater.  His 2014 rankings left a lot to be desired, finishing 28th in 7 of 9 formats.  Interceptions played a large part in dragging Teddy down (12 picks in 13 games), so he ranked one spot higher than his typical finish in 5/0 and 4/0 leagues.  Aside from the general improvement we expect to see from second-year quarterbacks, Bridgewater should also benefit greatly from a full season of Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the addition of Mike Wallace, and the emergence of Charles Johnson.  At worst, Bridgewater should be able to approximate Mike Glennon’s 2014 performance, but his upside is much higher than that of Glennon.  Teddy has a first-pick pedigree and running ability that will be aided immensely by Peterson’s return.  A top 10 finish isn’t in the cards, but top-15 is reasonable.

Derek Carr is the other passer I expect to jump up the rankings into 2-QB relevance this year.  The Raiders didn’t surround Carr with much talent in 2014, but that’s starting to change.  They drafted Amari Cooper fourth overall in the draft and signed Michael Crabtree away from the imploding franchise across the bay.  Meanwhile, Latavius Murray showed real flashes of brilliance in a late-season stint as the starting running back last year.  If Murray is pressed back into a committee role, he’ll be doing so at least in part with Roy Helu and Marcel Reece, a pair of talented pass-catching backs.  This all bodes extremely well for Carr’s fantasy prospects and should make him a relative bargain in 2-QB drafts.


The Lion Jaguar Sleeps Tonight?

Is Blake Bortles a sleeper?  His 2014 value was within range of fellow rookies Bridgewater and Carr, so why didn’t I call for a Bortles breakout above?  The Jags didn’t improve their QB’s weapons by addition like the Raiders did with Carr, but Jacksonville’s young receivers should improve in stride with Bortles.  As of the writing, the Allen Robinson hype train could mop the floor with the Snowpiercer in a head-on collision, but a wide receiver’s development doesn’t necessarily imply the development of his quarterback.

How much growth can be expected from Bortles in year two and who could he displace in the rankings above him?  Spoiler alert:  Bortles currently comes in at #27 in my QB rankings.  No, it’s not a high slot, but it is an improvement on his 2014 finishes, where his Average Composite Rank was 30th (a.k.a. ACR, an average of finishes across the nine scoring setups I tracked).  My 27th-place ranking is the approximation of an average-case for Bortles’ 2015 season.  A final rank in the 25-30 range seems likely, but he has upside to finish higher thanks to his aforementioned receiving weapons.  I would set his ceiling at QB20, which would be well above 2014’s Manuel Line at QB25.

In 2-QB leagues, having to use passers from the 20-30 range is a necessary evil if you want to draft elite talent and/or depth at other positions.  Bortles may not finish the season as a top-20 guy, but he’ll make that leap into starter territory for plenty of individual weeks.  It’s up to we savvy fake footballers to understand our quarterbacks’ match-ups and deploy doubtable options like Bortles when appropriate.


2015 QB Rankings


At this point, I’ve rambled on about quarterbacks far longer than necessary.  Before I call it quits, let’s take a look at my QB rankings for 2015:


Tier 1:

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Andrew Luck

Rodgers and Luck are the top tier.  In my mind, they each represent an ADP death trap for 1-QB leagues.  Other drafters will take these QBs while I’m drafting players at other positions.

Tier 2:

3. Russell Wilson

4. Drew Brees

5. Peyton Manning

If these tier-2 quarterbacks slide into the 4th round or beyond, I’ll consider them.  In most cases, however, I’ll wait for a guy from the next two groups.

Tier 3:

6. Tony Romo

7. Ben Roethlisberger

8. Cam Newton

9. Tom Brady

10. Matt Ryan

My initial rankings had a second tier of only Wilson and Brees, with a third tier of Manning, Romo, and Roethlisberger.  Ultimately, I decided that Romo and Big Ben were closer in stature to Cam, Brady, and Ryan.  Nevertheless, these tier-3 QBs offer a better return on investment than the elite names above them in the rankings.  The drop in production from tier 2 to tier 3 is mitigated by a larger drop in opportunity cost.

Tier 4:

11. Eli Manning

12. Ryan Tannehill

13. Matthew Stafford

14. Philip Rivers

I wrestled with including Cutler and Bradford here, but only these four passers made the cut.  Compared to the next tier of guys, Eli, Tanny, Stafford, and Rivers are generally safer picks in terms of health, job security, supporting casts, and overall track record.

Tier 5:

15. Jay Cutler

16. Sam Bradford

17. Teddy Bridgewater

18. Colin Kaepernick

19. Carson Palmer

Upside is not the problem with the fifth tier of quarterbacks.  I am particularly intrigued by Bradford this season.  I had him pegged as a 2-QB sleeper last year before his injury.  His health remains a question mark, but starting for the Eagles and Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense gives Bradford the highest ceiling he’s ever had as a fantasy commodity.  In general, any of these passers could crack the top-12 in 2015 with a dose of good luck.

Tier 6:

20. Jameis Winston

21. Marcus Mariota

22. Joe Flacco

23. Robert Griffin III

24. Derek Carr

25. Alex Smith

26. Andy Dalton

Only streamers and 2-QB owners need apply at this point for redraft leagues.  I’ll be targeting Winston in those circumstances thanks to his arsenal of receiving threats and Tampa Bay’s cushy schedule.

Tier 7:

27. Blake Bortles

28. Brian Hoyer

29. Nick Foles

30. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Tier 7’s quarterbacks are close in value to Tier 6’s offerings, but the warts with these guys are a tad more concerning. For what it’s worth, I like Hoyer and Fitzpatrick for deeper formats, but they’ll be haunted all season by shadows of Ryan Mallett and Geno Smith, respectively.  Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Foles is generally a decent quarterback or merely a beneficiary of Philly’s offensive system.

Tier 8:

31. Matt Cassel

32. Josh McCown

33. Ryan Mallett

34. Geno Smith

35. Mark Sanchez

Your goal as a 2-QB manager should be to own at least three QBs will different bye weeks before the draft reaches this tier.  Cassel and McCown are the dregs of assumed starters.  Mallett, Smith, and Sanchez are decent handcuff options, but to expect any of the three to start regularly is foolish.

Tier 9:

36. Johnny Manziel

37. Jimmy Garappolo

38. Kirk Cousins

39. E.J. Manuel

40. Tyrod Taylor

Here is the balance of handcuff targets for 2-QB owners.  It’s possible I should have Garappolo ranked higher, but I’m operating under the assumption that Tom Brady’s suspension will be negated or reduced before the start of the season.  If you want to go even deeper with back-up options, consider Mike Glennon (TB), Brock Osweiler (DEN), Drew Stanton (ARI), Austin Davis (STL), and Shaun Hill (MIN).

That’s all folks.  Hit me up in the comments or feel free to tweet @gregsauce with any questions.  Thanks for reading.


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