Every casual league and work league works the same way. The first two rounds start off like an expert draft where everyone is following their freshly printed cheat sheet line for line and player by player. Load up on running backs and wide receivers. Only take Jimmy Graham if you need to take a "onesie" position player. These are the mantras that everyone repeated to themselves before they went to the draft. Then the owner who drinks a little too much coffee before a big meeting starts to get nervous and grabs Peyton Manning at the end of the second round and all hell breaks loose. The next thing you know you're tempted to take Matt Ryan over Rashad Jennings in the fifth round because you think all the top quarterbacks will be gone. Guess what? They won't be!
The quarterback position is loaded in 2014 and is as deep as I can ever remember it being. Sure there is a top flight tier of quarterbacks, but even those big three come with a couple of question marks. After Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees there are another thirteen quarterbacks that I feel could finish with a top five season. That means there are sixteen quarterbacks that you could consider as quarterback ones, not to mention the quarterbacks behind them that I wouldn't mind streaming every now and then against a terrible defense. (cough, cough, The Cowboys!)
The biggest thing to pay attention to is the scoring system. If your league has six point passing touchdowns and counts passing yards as .04 points per passing yard then you need to pay attention to getting a volume thrower. But if your league is set up with four point passing touchdowns and .05 points per passing yard then you can wait and take a running quarterback and actually be way ahead of the game. For example, Cam Newton hasn't finished outside of the top five scoring fantasy quarterbacks in the second system, yet he is going off the board in between the seventh and ninth rounds right now.
Most Leagues are set up with a default scoring of .05 per passing yard, .1 per rushing yard, 6 points per rushing TD, 4 point passing TDs and -1 for all turnovers. With this scoring system in mind I will share with you my rankings and tiers for the quarterback position in 2014.
Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers: This scoring system gives Rodgers a bit of a bonus as his added yardage on scrambles and designed runs as well as his occasional rushing touchdown boost him up a bit. He isn't a volume thrower as the Packers like to employ a balanced offensive approach, even when they couldn't run a lick a few years ago. Now Rodgers will be playing 2014 with a chip on his shoulder after sitting out most of 2013 with a broken collar bone. He will benefit from the emergence of Eddie Lacy and the fact that defenses will have to actually bite on his play action fakes. I expect a big year out of Rodgers and the Packers offense, but I would have no bone to pick with you if you chose any of the other two big three QBs.
Peyton Manning-Denver Broncos: The man is a walking encyclopedia of offensive genius. He has absolutely no arm strength anymore, but he can anticipate a defense so thoroughly that he can float balls twenty to twenty-five yards down field to either sideline without the defense being able to react. For him to be able to do this, his footwork and protection have to be top notch and at the end of last year Manning's ankles and offensive line broke down. The culmination was the lopsided Super Bowl loss. Luckily for fantasy owners, none of that mattered as he propelled thousands of owners to riches and bragging rights. This year I expect a little regression and also expect the Broncos to run the ball a lot more. I still think he can top 5,00 yards, but I'm not banking on more than 38 touchdowns.
Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees is the epitome of a consistent volume throwing quarterback, but this may be the year he slips back to the back just a bit. The New Orleans Saints have built a pretty good defense down in New Orleans and Sean Payton and company may want to grind the clock a bit with a three-headed backfield of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson. The Saints are just as loaded at the receiver positions as they always were, but Brees may not be asked to run and gun as much. I still have Brees as my solid number three quarterback with expected numbers of 4,800 yards and 35+ passing TDs, but I'm not reaching for him when I can get similar point production later in the draft.
Cam Newton-Carolina Panthers: Newton has been unbelievably consistent since his rookie year in the NFL. He may not run as often or as prolifically as he did his first two years in the league, but he does still run and run well. He's the best goal line threat in football as he can stretch it over the top, run it around the end, or just float it to a wide open receiver. He has been such a weapon that the Panthers forgot to give him any weapons. This year they finally stepped up to the plate and took a beast wide receiver named Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL draft. Along with Benjamin, the Panthers added veterans Jericho Cotchery and Jason Avant and got rid of every wide receiver that was on the 2013 team. The added weapons will help Cam get back to the 4,000 yard plateau and he may even approach 30 passing touchdowns this year.
Matthew Stafford-Detroit Lions: If you want to talk about a volume thrower than this is the guy to talk about. Mr. Stafford loves to sling it, and he will sling it from any and all arm angles. The only problem is, his mechanics tend to break down as the year goes on and you're left with a quarterback puttering out by the time the playoffs roll around. Jim Caldwell has come into Detroit as the new head coach and he has installed a New Orleansish offense for Stafford to run. The Lions have also added some nice complementary pieces to the offense in Goilden Tate and Eric Ebron to help take some pressure off of the Stafford to Calvin Johnson combo. With Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick all being very good pass catching running backs, Stafford gets added yards everywhere. The only thing with Stafford is he doesn't run enough for much upside in this scoring system.
Andrew Luck-Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck might be on the brink of breaking out in a very big way. The Colts have tried to add as much receiving talent as they could to push their offense over the top, but they will need Pep Hamilton to let Andrew Luck throw it around a lot more often. Luck was amazingly consistent last year in this type of scoring format because of his legs. He rushed the ball so well (377 yards and 4 TDs) that it made up for the fact that he didn't reach 4,000 yards passing. The golden-armed number one pick didn't throw for over 4,000 yards in the best passing era in NFL history and no one blinked an eye because he was still producing. This year he gets Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen back from injury. He also gets the additions of Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief. If the Colts offensive line can protect Luck just a bit he may be able to take a giant leap forward this year. Either way he will be a very solid fantasy football quarterback because of his athleticism.
Nick Foles-Philadelphia Eagles: If there's one quarterback in this group that I think may regress it's Foles. The only reason I have him this high is because of the offense he plays in and the fact that he does have some room to grow this year. In only ten games started Foles threw 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Those are crazy Madden on beginner-type numbers. This year defenses may be able to game plan for him a little better, especially without DeSean Jackson in town to take the top off of a defense. The room for growth I see is by using Zach Ertz more in the base offense. If the Eagles can use Ertz off of the play-action run game they can really exploit a defense. I like Foles, but you have to realize there is some risk involved with picking him.
I'll post tiers 3 and 4 early next week and in the meantime you can listen to my QB Preview podcast with JJ Zachariason, @LateRoundQB here. Just scroll to Episode 016.
If you're in the Central New Jersey area on August 23rd stop by the Blackthorn Pub in Kenilworth NJ. I will be hosting a fantasy football get together with some of the other guys from the industry and we will be giving away door prizes from some of the top fantasy sites in the market place. There's no excuse not to win it this year!
As for the Big Blue View Leagues I still haven't gotten the okay for an official league. Hopefully very soon we will find out and I can reach out to everyone to fill the two leagues quickly.