Aaron Rodgers

Most fantasy formats only require a single starting quarterback. Since the QB1 tier is supposedly 12 players deep this season, it’s easy to overlook the importance of thoroughly examining every player at the position. I’m a big believer in Late Round QB, but I don’t want to go into any season blindly following either 1) last year’s trendy strategy, or 2) the strategy that worked for me last year. As a result, I put together the following comprehensive QB workshop:

That brings me to the final crucial piece in being ready to manage the QB portion of your draft: building in safety.

I’m a huge believer in upside, and my whole strategy is usually built on finding upside at every position. On the other hand, the one thing I’ve learned about playing Late Round QB is that you don’t need a breakout quarterback to dominate your league. By going LRQB, you’ll generate enough value at the other positions to win your league as long as your signal caller doesn’t crush you. (Two of my best teams from 2011 and 2012 were undone by Tarvaris Jackson and Jake Locker.)

As a result, I present the QB Safety Rankings. The methodology is simple. I’ve used the low projection from the Sim Scores for every quarterback and ranked them on that projection (4-pt passing TD format). I eliminated games where a player was injured or pulled early. To verify my findings, you should play with the App yourself.

Even if you plan to go with the Stud QB strategy, safety matters. You don’t want to waste an early pick on a guy who might not carry you.

1. Aaron Rodgers – 17.1 points per game

This is easily the highest projection and underlines the fact that he will almost single-handedly guarantee you a top half finish in your league. It was for this reason I argued that cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to quarterbacks. This projection is also based entirely off of 2012 where he didn’t get much help from his receivers. Drafters are already forgetting the epic 2011 season. When you consider that season, his floor becomes even higher.

2. Peyton Manning – 15.5 points per game

Jonathan Bales was all over this one back in March. Manning remains one of the safest players in the NFL. I had Manning as the quarterback for my All-Trap Team, but his high floor offers a strong counterargument. Of course, if you’re looking for a reason to pass, his age and injury concerns aren’t factored into this projection.

3. Joe Flacco – 15.4 points per game

Wait? What? Perhaps this piques your interest in Joe Flacco. Recently, I explained how Flacco is on the verge of the same type of mid-career breakout that we saw from Drew Brees and Tom Brady. I hardly need to remind you how much excess value each player represented in his first big season. And unlike Rodgers and Manning, the Ravens’ quarterback is going to cost peanuts.

4. Ben Roethlisberger – 15.2 points per game

My stealth stars are looking golden. The much-maligned changes implemented by Todd Haley create an offensive profile that screams breakout to the RotoViz Sim Scores. Big Ben is competing with Flacco to be the No. 1 quarterback in terms of points over expected (excess points over ADP). A Roethlisberger-Flacco committee represents the dominant draft approach in fantasy this season.

5. Tom Brady – 15 points per game

Brady is the headliner for the Great QB Conspiracy. He’s a pretty safe pick, but one you’ll pay a lot to acquire.

6. Robert Griffin III – 14.8 points per game

Easily the No. 1 pick in dynasty formats, Griffin tore the lid off the NFL right out of the gates. His safety levels are very high . . . if he stays healthy. I don’t like him in 2013 due to almost toxic levels of health-related risk.

7. Matt Ryan – 14.3 points per game

Ryan’s floor shouldn’t be underestimated. His projection would be even higher if you factored in all the touchdowns he barely missed in 2012. Playing in a dome against a terrible defensive division, his schedule strength can’t be undervalued either.

8. Tony Romo – 14.1 points per game

Romo may be dangerous in reality, but he’s among the safest quarterbacks in the league for fantasy. In fact, Romo’s schedule, situation, and ADP create the perfect storm of opportunity. That’s why I’ve argued he’s one of only two quarterbacks from the QB1 tier who doesn’t project as a trap player.

9. Cam Newton – 13.9 points per game

Newton may have the most upside in the entire NFL, and he won’t be badly hurt if the Panthers de-emphasize the read-option. Unfortunately, Newton’s floor is barely of the QB1 variety. You’d expect Newton to really excel in 4-pt passing TD formats, but the Sim Scores see hidden risk. I’m avoiding Newton at his current ADP.

10. Drew Brees – 13.1 points per game

Jonathan Bales takes an in-depth look at Brees, explaining why 2012’s No. 1 QB isn’t nearly as safe as you think. Brees was No. 10 on my Most Overvalued List for this very reason. He projects to be one of the worst picks in 2013.

11. Eli Manning – 12.9 points per game

Eli constantly shows up in my QB articles because his lousy projections offer a counterpoint to the more optimistic outlooks for other players. He features prominently in How Not to Play Late Round QB but not because of his floor.

12. Philip Rivers – 12.8 points per game

Of course, if you want safety at bargain basement prices, Rivers is the unappealing veteran you want to own. Might there be more downside here than the Sim Scores see? Check out Charles Kleinheksel’s piece on the inevitable collapse of Rivers and Michael Vick to see for yourself.

13. Colin Kaepernick – 12.7 points per game

The Sim Scores might be a little confused by Kaepernick’s unusual sample, but the algorithm doesn’t care for his unique rush/pass blend. I still wouldn’t be scared to build my strategy around Kaep.

14. Russell Wilson – 12.7 points per game

Wilson didn’t have a clear set of games to eliminate, but if you simply chuck the first five his projection jumps to 14.5. That would move him above Matt Ryan. I’ve suggested Wilson is the only other player in the QB1 tier who seems to have no trap qualities. If you want a fuller explanation, check out the excellent work Kleinheksel has done on the matter.

15. Andy Dalton – 12.5 points per game

When you’re starting to pick up buzz as a breakout player in the fantasy underground, a 15th place safety ranking only underscores your promising nature as the perfect risk-adjusted bet. Dalton is going to win the breakout battle with Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill, but even if he doesn’t, he fits perfectly into most committees.

16. Sam Bradford – 12.4 points per game

What’s interesting here is who Bradford slots in ahead of. The Fantasy Douche has suggested Bradford compares favorably to Matthew Stafford and our safety rankings concur. I’m much more concerned about Bradford’s ceiling than his floor.

17. Josh Freeman – 12.3 points per game

If you’re a believer in the Bucs quarterback, he retains plenty of breakout appeal while also maintaining at least a semblance of safety. On the other hand, my most recent QB article focuses on Freeman, and the conclusions weren’t nearly as optimistic. His accuracy problems make him difficult to effectively use in a platoon.

18. Matt Schaub – 11.8 points per game

The narrative on Schaub focuses on his weak-armed, game-manager tendencies. Most people are worried about Schaub’s ceiling, but I’ve shown how he’s poised to put on an aerial show reminiscent of 2009. Somewhat counterintuitively, the concerns about Schaub show up in his floor. It’s not very high. The run-heavy nature of the Texans offense undercuts him here.

19. Michael Vick – 11.8 points per game

Vick is toast. He’s not going to be the starter. (But if he is, you could do worse.)

20. Andrew Luck – 11.6 points per game.

Speaking of worse, the Sim Scores hate Luck’s lack of efficiency as a rookie. That should be remedied by Pep Hamilton’s conservative approach. Of course, that conservatism will give fans and fantasy owners other things to hate.

21. Carson Palmer – 11.5 points per game

Anybody who quarterbacked the 2012 Raiders is going to end up with a questionable profile in terms of floor. It’s easy to discount all of this with the move to Arizona, but the last Bruce Arians QB didn’t have a good profile either.

22. Alex Smith – 11 points per game

This is why very few people outside RotoViz like Alex Smith. He’s got excellent breakout potential as the captain of Andy Reid’s offense, but it’s certaintly possible that he remains an uninspiring game manager.

23. Jay Cutler – 10.6 points per game

Mike Tice is no longer calling plays, but we’ve all been enticed by the Cutler siren song before. His ADP remains very palatable because he is definitely not a safe option.

24. Brandon Weeden – 10.5 points per game

Weeden isn’t a star like the rest of the 2012 rookies, but this is a decent profile for a rookie (even a super old one). Perhaps a Weeden/Bradford committee wouldn’t be so bad after all.

25. Matthew Stafford – 10.3 points per game

Everybody thinks Stafford is bouncing back this year. And I guess I’m not sure why. Stafford is one of my five favorite NFL players, and yet I’m terrified by the downside. In case you haven’t been keeping track, the Lions are poised to field the NFL’s best defensive line. If they suddenly develop the defensive identity Jim Schwartz would prefer, their attempts are going to plummet. Recent news suggests Detroit is trying out Steve Breaston, Chaz Schilens, and Laurent Robinson. Does that sound like a team brimming with confidence in their young receivers?

26. Christian Ponder – 10.1 points per game

I have no comment on the Vikings’ bust but want to reiterate that Stafford is sandwiched between Weeden and Ponder.

27. Nick Foles – 9.5 points per game

Jon Moore recently explored Foles’ auspicious start and compared him favorably to Andrew Luck. This projection would likely be higher if you could manually add a few more games played.

28. Blaine Gabbert – 9.3 points per game

29. Ryan Tannehill – 8.5 points per game

This disastrous projection is sponsored by the Committee to Rein In the Irrational Ryan Tannehill Enthusiasm. If you slot in between Gabbert and Locker, you’re a prime example of How Not to Play Late Round QB.

30. Jake Locker – 8.3 points per game

31. Mark Sanchez – 5.5 points per game

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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