Whilst last season saw few injuries to starting QBs, the new breed of mobile quarterbacks means it’s more important than ever to identify a safe backup in the event that your man goes down hurt, a scheme of protection if you will.
The following QBs all have an element of risk attached to them, and priority should be given to insure them with a solid backup: Robert Griffin III (Bye 5), Cam Newton(4), Michael Vick(12), Colin Kaepernick(9), Russell Wilson(12) and even Matthew Stafford(9). The first five all have a playing style that invites tackles more than your pocket passers, and the smaller bodied guys like Vick, Wilson and Griffin are especially at risk. If you’re grabbing these guys to lead your team be sure to get one of the following QBs to protect you’re draft-day investment.
- Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, Bye 8 ADP: 11.08 (QB17)
This time last year, Cutler’s potential was hyped up to the max, making his horror-show season all the more painful to watch if you owned him. However, his relationship with Brandon Marshall was very encouraging, giving Marshall career-highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. The appointment of Marc Trestman as head coach should also light a fire under Cutler, as Trestman has a track record of organising good offences in his NFL and CFL coaching career. Cutler also has a pretty welcoming schedule for QBs, though it gets tougher later in the season. Additions to the Bears include TE Martellus Bennett – who shone in his one-year stint with the Giants, along with Slauson and Bushrod to aid what was a woeful offensive line at times last season. Ultimately we know Cutler has the ability to perform as a top 10 QB, and whilst he may not offer that necessarily, being drafted as the 17th QB is not representative of either his floor or his ceiling in fantasy.
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- Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, Bye 9 ADP: 13.06 (QB20)
Palmer is another fantasy darling this year, and why not? Palmer was the 15th highest scoring QB last season whilst on a terrible Raiders offence, something that should not be made light of. Palmer topped 4,000 passing yards for only the third time in his career and his 22TDs were his 5th highest total. All this was achieved in an offence that could not run the ball, and had Brandon Myers as the leading receiver, followed by full back Marcel Reece. His new surroundings offer him plenty more opportunity, especially with a receiving corps that includes Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer’s ability outstrips his fantasy impact and value, but that is only because of his age – in redraft leagues you should not hold this against him. Bruce Arians is coming in as head coach and considering his sterling work with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, Palmer should be given a bump in value in respect of the coaching upgrade he gets with his desert move. I expect Palmer to at least replicate his 2012 numbers this season and almost certainly exceed them.
- Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye 5, ADP: 13.10 (QB23)
Freeman has been severely criticised by pundits and coaches alike after his 2013 performance, and going into his contract year he certainly has a lot to prove if he is to remain a Buccaneer for much longer. There was even talk of 3rd round rookie Mike Glennon challenging him for the starting job. This has pushed his ADP down much lower than I think is representative, and provides you with an opportunity. After watching some tape on Freeman, I noticed that in his worst outings last season, whilst he made several mistakes, there should be some blame attached to play selection. Against the Saints in week 15 Freeman scored -0.04 points in my league, against the easiest team to pass on in the NFL at that point. However, watching the tape showed that when they were behind, Greg Schiano called 33 consecutive shotgun plays, 32 of which were passes. This takes out the element of surprise and shows you why analysts talk of running the ball ‘to keep the defence honest.’ The play selection is nothing short of madness and reminds me of a petulant child playing on Madden. Freeman has weapons in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, and his Offensive Line really needs to play to a higher level to give him a chance, but these are not impossibilities and I think Freeman offers tremendous upside at his current ADP. Want to know where he finished in points scored for QBs last year? 13th.
- Matt Schaub, Houston Texans, Bye 8, ADP: 14.04 (QB25)
Schaub is definitely not a sexy QB pick, but there is no reason he should drop to 25th highest drafted QB. He finished 18th last season, which is certainly not spectacular, but the value you get at this point is inviting. Schaub has the benefit of facing the Jaguars (22nd), Colts (21st) and Titans (26th) twice a year (number in brackets is average passing yards allowed rank last season). Schaub also throws the ball a lot, and were it not for his injury in 2011, he would have topped 500 passing attempts and 4000 passing yards in his last 4 seasons. He isn’t short of toys either, and benefits from playing behind a strong running game which puts opposing defences on the back foot right from the start. Texans will be looking to clinch their third consecutive AFC South crown this season and Schaub is going to have to be a top 15-20 QB to do that. I think he has it in him and there is no way he is the 25th best fantasy QB next year barring injury.
So if you’re set on picking up a multi-dimensional QB, or a QB with added risk as your starter, make sure your backup is on more steady ground to compensate. There is no harm in taking risks in fantasy – it’s often how championships are won! However there is a fine line between measured and reckless risk. Don’t be on the wrong side of it come the end of your fantasy draft. Finally, be aware that some combinations wouldn’t work here because of bye weeks clashes, however you should be wary of this before you choose your backup QB target.