I love this time of the year; it’s my favorite. Summer is officially here!
This is the time of Rookie Minicamps, OTA’s and in just a little over a month, Training Camp.
Everything is fresh. New players whose 2015 campaigns came to an abrupt end are returning. Busts last year have a fresh new start. New regimes have been put in place, teams have (tried to) relocated to new areas, and players have come and gone. Organized football is here for the first time since February.
Jay has been putting together is notorious rankings for 2016 over these past few weeks, much to our delight. Last year, however, Razzball finished with an accuracy rate of 57.5%, landing at 22nd out of 123 experts in 2015. So, no pressure!
Jay’s first set of rankings, Quarterbacks, is a position that should frighten us, and it does. Many have won or lost seasons because of their picks in drafts, so we have to be extra cautious when determining when/where, and who. Even this year, there were many surprises with names like Blake Bortles (4th in 2015), Ryan Fitzpatrick (11th), and even the #1 guy last year, Cam Newton, all putting up stellar fantasy seasons that very little thought was possible to do. Meanwhile, very little could have guessed that Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, and Peyton Manning would have such awful seasons. Quarterbacks are a highly volatile position, which brings a different and totally unique drafting style compared to the other positions on your team (but you already knew that).
A quick note: You may wonder what I have to say about the top guys, like Luck, Rodgers, Palmer, or even Cam Newton. I think Jay said it best: “The top-5 is generally a place you could put the names in whichever order you please and no one will complain too much.” Everyone may have an opinion on the order of the top guys, but let’s dig a bit further to unearth some better plays, shall we? And if you were wondering, current ADP given is for a 12-team Standard League. I’ll list the overall pick, and to make it easier to understand, the round they’ll go in. ADP doesn’t say everything, and players might go higher or lower depending on the people you play with, but it should give you a little bit of an idea of what players are going when.
In this series, I will analyze and talk a little bit about Quarterbacks this year. Hopefully by the end of this article (might take a few revisions or additions as the preseason begins), I will have labeled the sleepers, breakouts and busts for 2016.
Let’s do this!
Don’t get caught. These guys can be found late in the drafts, yet offer tremendous upside, and all of the pieces are there.
Joe Flacco (ADP: 159th, Early 14th) – I love Joe Flacco this year. Here’s why I do. First off, it’s a great big benefit to Flacco that Marc Trestman is returning in ’16. Because believe it or not, this is the first time since 2011 that Flacco will have his OC returning for another year. Familiar offenses and schemes makes a huge difference (just look at what Alex Smith did in San Fran before Harbaugh). His system even greatly benefits Flacco, as Trestman’s offenses are below league average in total rushes and % of rushing plays, yet are above league average in total plays and total passes. Second, the Ravens did a great deal of work to improve their weapons over the offseason, adding veterans Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson, and adding/drafting rookies such as Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds (who set the FBS rushing record by a QB last year, converted to WR). Also, with the return of Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta, and even Breshad Perriman, the former 1st rounder last year who didn’t play a single snap in the NFL due to a knee injury, could only help. Pair that with a semi-solid run game, and very weak defense (causing Flacco to throw more if the Ravens find themselves down in games). Also, it should be noted that although many things can change in an offseason, with new DC’s and regime changes, Flacco still has the easiest home schedule, and 2nd-easiest schedule of all QB’s in 2016. Get excited.
Matthew Stafford (ADP: 136th, Early 12th) – Let’s face facts. Stafford has burned many over the course of the last few years, and no one wants to draft him especially now, as he is without Calvin Johnson. But over the offseason, Detroit added a very talented WR in the likes of Marvin Jones, to go along with an already good corps of guys with pass-catching HB Theo Riddick, Golden Tate, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Fuller, and Eric Ebron. Stafford is also in one of the best offensive systems in the game under OC Jim Bob Cooter, who is a freak of nature in fantasy. Detroit’s offense as a whole finished 8th in the NFL in total passing attempts. Even Stafford thrived in his final 6 games under Cooter with a 72% passing rate, 17 TD’s, with only 1 INT. In 2016, Stafford has one of the, if not the easiest schedules among all QB’s. Early ADP numbers has Stafford currently sitting at 136 overall in 12-team standard leagues, or in the 12th round. I’ll take that and say “Thanks for playing fellas!”
Tom Brady (ADP: 64th, Early 6th) – What? Yep. Tom Brady is not a sleeper, but I wanted to include him in here for a few reasons. First off, I have to mention the suspension. It’s anyone’s guess about what will happen in the next few months as Deflate-Gate is into 500+ days. However, until we get a definite confirmation, Brady should miss 4 games. That should concern some folks, and I don’t know many that want to use a high/middle round pick on someone who might miss 4 games. It’s also an issue if Julian Edelman will miss some time due to his foot injury. Because Belichick is Belichick, it’s anyone’s guess to how long he could miss if he could miss any at all. Because of these two factors, Brady has been slipping in mock draft’s and his ADP is slowly getting higher in MFL Leagues. Like I mentioned before, Tom Brady is not the classic definition of a sleeper, but if you’re in a league with the average Joe’s (as in non-experts) you can possibly see owners getting nervous if nothing changes in his suspension, causing Brady to fall in drafts. He may not fall too late at all, and could go in the middle rounds, but you should see some slide. The same thing happened last year, and Brady went ape on his opponents for much of the year. So if Brady falls to us in a draft, what should we do? Here’s how I would draft Brady, if all things are equal with his suspension remaining intact. Draft Brady when he falls to you, whether it’s in Round 5, 6, or even 7. Then, I would draft a QB whose schedule is unreal for the first 4 games, and could possibly go overlooked in drafts. Here are a few guys:
- Phillip Rivers: @KC, JAX, @IND, NO (Jay’s Rank: #10)
- Derek Carr: @NO, ATL, @TEN, @BAL (Jay’s Rank: #12)
- Joe Flacco: BUF, @CLE, @JAX, OAK (Jay’s Rank: #24)
- Brock Osweiler: CHI, KC, @NE, TEN (Jay’s Rank: #25)
If you can manage rostering two QB’s, and having one of these guys above while Brady serves the 4 games, and having great games against these easy opponents, then rostering an angry Tom Brady, you may be in an early prime position to cause some damage in your leagues. You can even sell high on one of these QB’s to land a crucial player to get your team over the edge.
We should all be excited about what these guys can bring to the table this year, yet because of the slight risk of it not paying off, we can probably get them for a slight discount.
Philip Rivers (ADP: 88th, Early 8th) – I like facts. You like facts. Here’s a good one: In 2013, Rivers finished as the 5th-best QB under OC Ken Whisenhunt. After a couple of years being the Head Coach of the Titans, Whisenhunt is returning to his old gig in 2016. His offenses love to pass the ball, and Rivers should benefit greatly from it this year. Here’s another stat from last year-
|Philip Rivers||847 (8th in NFL)||7.8% (11th in NFL)|
|Cam Newton||630 (11th in NFL)||7.6% (12th in NFL)|
|Aaron Rodgers||406 (17th in NFL)||-1.0% (17th in NFL)|
DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) are two stats that measure how relevant a QB’s performance is compared to the replacement levels, and how valuable the average QB is game performance (Courtesy of Football Outsiders). For both, the higher the better. We can clearly see how valuable and accurate Phillip Rivers was in 2015. Not saying he was better, but it’s good to see how good Rivers actually was last year, finishing 12th in fantasy last year. The issue is however, is the time to use Rivers. By now, we all know the stereotype of Rivers: he only plays well for the first half of the season. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this could possibly happen too in ’16. Although certain defenses change coordinators, schemes and players, Rivers still has a fantastic schedule for the first five weeks. However, he has a very tough schedule from Week 6 onward, facing Denver twice, Carolina and Houston to name a few. However, he still has some things going for him. First, the Chargers added WR Travis Bejamin and their TE of the future, Hunter Henry in the offseason. These two additions are the icing on the cake to an already lethal offensive attack, as Rivers will have Danny Woodhead, a healthy Keenan Allen, a healthy Stevie Johnson, the deep threat of Dontrelle Inman, and whatever Antonio Gates can still bring to the table. In addition to the addition of offensive threats, I don’t believe Melvin Gordon will get it done this year. With a significantly better defense that San Diego now has (including adding Joey Bosa) compared to the previous years, it might hinder River’s upside, as he won’t find himself throwing the ball 50+ times (like he did against Green Bay last year) if he’s down. Just an observation to keep in mind.
Eli Manning (ADP: 99th, Early 9th) – I’m really excited to what Manning can bring this year. For the longest time, it seems Manning always has the potential to have a breakout year, and things don’t work out. Same with the Giants in general. Everything seems to set up right for a NFC East title, yet things don’t go as they should. But with a new coach under the hood, teams may take a year to adapt to a new system, schemes, and even personnel changes, but that’s not the case with the departure of Tom Coughlin. Ben McAdoo will take over for the former HC, as he steps into his new role. However, the team will not have to adapt to a whole new situation, as McAdoo was the former OC from last year. That means Manning won’t have to adapt, the system is still there. Over the offseason, McAdoo and Co. got to work early, with vast upgrades at OT to go along with former 2015 1st-rounder Ereck Flowers. But the biggest additions may have come at the draft, as New York selected one of the best rookie talents in the draft in the form of Sterling Shepard at 40th overall. With the addition of Shepard, to go along with Odell and Larry Donnell, and with Victor Cruz coming back from injury, to go along with the passing downs role that the Shane Vereen holds, his offensive help is finally here. Mixed with a greatly improved O-Line, a defense that could force the G-Men to play from behind, a lack of stud HB talent, with a very easy schedule, everything is in the right place.
Marcus Mariota (ADP: 122nd, Early 11th) – Marcus Mariota’s 2016 fantasy impact will come on the ground, not the air. Let’s take a look at Mariota’s Heimsan-winning 2014 season versus last year with the Titans:
|Period||Rushing Att||Rushing Yds.||Rushing TD’s||Yards/Game|
Not that rushing was the single reason for why Mariota won the Heisman and solidified his first round pick, but it certainly helped. Over the past few years, we have become enthralled with the idea of a mobile QB in fantasy, with guys like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, and at one point, Colin Kaepernick. They offer more upside than the traditional pocket passers that we have seen before, providing more fantasy relevance with their ability to get it done in the air as well as on the ground. But here’s the issue with Mariota: It didn’t happen the way we wanted it last year, with the Titans only giving him 34 rushing attempts (Colin Kaepernick rushed for more yards than Mariota did last year). Former HC Ken Whisenhunt certainly played a large role in this, and now Tennessee is looking to give Mariota the chance to show why he won the Heisman. In an interview with PFT Live, new HC Mike Mularkey indicated that he won’t shy away from letting Mariota use his legs, saying that they’ll give him a chance to run more often, but “we’re not going to run him like they run Cam Newton with some of these designed counter plays and things up the middle that are going to expose him by any means, but I think he’s such a threat in the run game for defenses”. With the potential for a bigger workload, Mariota should definitely improve off of his 22nd-place finish in fantasy with a greatly improved offensive line with the addition of Jack Conklin, the new addition of WR’s Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews, and returning help with Dorial Green-Beckham, Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, and Delanie Walker. Pair that with a low ADP (currently projected in the 13th round in a 12-team standard draft), more freedom to run and a good schedule and you’re looking at a good candidate for a breakout year with tremendous upside.
I’m a negative guy, so I thought it would be fitting to start it off with this category. The name says it all.
Tyrod Taylor (ADP: 126th, Mid 11th) – From his ADP right now, he isn’t the exact true definition of a bust, as he isn’t being drafted too early, yet there are some feelings going around about his sleeper potential, and I wholeheartedly disagree. There are two reasons why I’m not keen on drafting Taylor. First off, the regime and coaching system is not good for his fantasy potential. Simply put, Greg Roman, his OC, likes to run the ball a lot. His offenses are above league average in both % of rushing plays, total rushes, and % of carries by a RB1, yet are below the league average in total number of plays, total passing plays, and QB fantasy points/game. Even in the Redzone, where Taylor finished in the bottom of the league in total passing attempts (Andrew Luck had more than he did). With being in a bad passing offense, it didn’t help his 2016 stock with Sammy Watkins breaking his foot during the offseason, which leaves Robert Woods and Charles Clay as his main targets, as Chris Hogan departed for New England over the offseason. Even if the Bills do rush Watkins back to Week 1, he won’t be where he can be for Taylor to benefit from it. It also doesn’t help that Taylor has one of the worst schedules, as in addition to the routinely trips to NE and the Jets, he’ll have to face both a number of tough teams, in addition to Seattle on the road in Week 9. The biggest thing he has going for him is his ability to use his feet, yet it shouldn’t make a difference.
Ryan Tannehill (ADP: 149th, Early 13th) – Tannehill saw a ton of hype last year, and was one of the bigger busts in 2015 , failing to capitalize on a newly-revamped team and a familiar coaching staff. Now, he’s getting the hype again, mostly as a late round sleeper that can do it for your team, and that’s all due to Adam Gase. Labeled the “QB Whisperer” due to his success as a QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator in Denver from 2011-2014, and from the success of being the Bears’ OC last year because he “revamped” and made Jay Cutler “great again”. The Chicago Bears offense was not that good last year. They finished 18th in the NFL in total offense, 23rd in total points, 21st in total yards, and most importantly, their offense finished 23rd in total passing yards. Even Jay Cutler himself finished 17th last year in total QBR (Not as bad as Tannehill, who finished dead last in the NFL). So why on Earth do we love Adam Gase? Because he was headed an offense for 3 years in Denver with one of the greatest to play the game with some of the best WR’s in the league at that time? With a very tough road schedule and schedule in general, with a lack of significant help (Landry-Parker-Stills doesn’t instill confidence in me), I’m not sold on him this year. I don’t believe he’ll be the very worst QB out there, but I’m not buying the hype that comes with Gase, and I would prefer someone else.
Andy Dalton (ADP: 110th, Early 10th) – Andy Dalton was really good for most of last year until he went down in Week 14. In fact, the Cincinnati Bengals as an offense as a whole was really good too, finishing in the league at 7th and 3rd in total points and yards per attempts. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton had one of the best years of his careers, and one of the best among all QB’s in the NFL last year. He finished 4th in the league in DYAR, 2nd in DVOA (more on those stats below), and 5th in total QBR. So why am I so low on Dalton this year? First off, during the offseason, the Bengals lost some crucial pieces in Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, and replaced them with Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyer Boyd. Not exactly great replacements. But most impacting, they lost OC Hue Jackson to Cleveland. Not that he was the single reason, but Jackson played a very crucial role in the Bengals’ offensive success, with his high tempo and passing efficiency-style of play. Now he’s gone, and that is a big blow for Dalton. Taking his place is Ken Zampese, who has served as the Bengals QB Coach since 2003. It’s hard to tell how Zampese will do things this year, as we don’t know if he is more oriented towards running or throwing the football, but with the latter being most likely. Also, and possibly more significant is the injury of Tyler Eifert. It was confirmed a little while ago that Eifert will have to undergo Ankle Surgery for an injury that can be traced back to the Pro Bowl in January. It’s looking that Eifert will have to miss at least 3 months, which means no participation in OTA’s, Training Camp, and possibly the 4 preseason games before the start of the season. Even more drastic could be the fact that Eifert could be placed on the PUP list, causing him to miss six weeks. Without Eifert, Hue Jackson, Sanu and Marvin Jones, I’m not too thrilled about Dalton this year.
Alright guys, thanks for sticking around! Hopefully you guys have started to get an idea of what QB’s you want to target in drafts, and which to stay away from. As always, if you have a question, or disagree with a name on the list, feel free to leave a comment below. Stay tuned in the next few weeks or so as I’ll be finishing up some more Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts but this time for HB’s, WR’s, and TE’s.
Go read a book.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @ohuhave12.