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“Big Rigg” QB Draft Strategy and Rankings 2017

In 2016, we saw Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota have somewhat breakout campaigns before injuries prematurely ended their seasons.  From year to year, it is rare that the #1 QB in fantasy football repeats the next year.  In 2015, Cam Newton was the best quarterback in fantasy football, putting up 35 passing TD’s and 10 TD’s on the ground.  In 2016, Newton regressed and came back down to earth, but as I will discuss in my rankings, 2016 may be the new normal for Newton.  In 2016, Aaron Rodgers was the #1 QB in fantasy football, but his numbers weren’t off the charts compared to his usual stats, other than he stayed healthy the entire year.  Last year, Matt Ryan’s numbers were off the charts, throwing for one of the best yards per attempts in the history of the league, a stat that will be very hard to replicate, meaning Ryan is likely to regress in 2017 similar to the way Newton did in 2016.  Heading into 2017, there are quarterbacks who are sure to surprise us for the good and the bad.  Hopefully, we can separate the good from the bad before draft day.

As far as the draft is concerned, quarterbacks either go very early or very late.  Most of the newer fantasy football players will draft a QB with one of their first few picks thinking quarterbacks score the most points so it’s important to get one.  On the other hand, the more veteran fantasy football player will hold off on drafting the position until later rounds because you typically only need to start one, and the drop off from the QB1 to the QB12 is far less impactful than the drop off from the RB1 to the RB12.  Personally, I am targeting a few QB’s ranked in the 6-15 range and will draft one once the QB run starts in each respective draft I do.

Average Draft Position (ADP) – When evaluating whether you want to take one of the stud QB’s this year, you need to consider what skill position players you will pass on in order to draft a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, in 12 team standard scoring leagues, Aaron Rodgers has an ADP of 2.12 and Tom Brady has an ADP of 3.04.  Towards the tail end of the 2nd round and the start of the 3rd round, players such as Lamar Miller, Amari Cooper, Doug Baldwin, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks and Alshon Jeffery have been getting drafted.  You need to ask yourself if you are willing to pass on one of these players in order to get a sure-fire fantasy producer like Brady or Rodgers at the QB position.  On the other hand, if you wait on the QB position, you can select Lamar Miller as your RB2, or Doug Baldwin as your WR2 and snag somebody like Russell Wilson in the late 7th or Kirk Cousins in the middle of the 8th round.  By selecting Wilson or Cousins, you would be forgoing players like Emmanuel Sanders, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Pierre Garcon, all of which have similar ADP’s.  The question you need to ask yourself is, would you rather have Tom Brady and DeSean Jackson on your team, or Kirk Cousins and DeAndre Hopkins? I will take Cousins and Hopkins all day and solidify the QB position with a solid backup with a later pick.

That being said, here are my top 15 fantasy QB’s for the 2017 season.

1 – Tom Brady – New England Patriots (ADP 3.04) – In 2016, Tom Brady was the #7 QB in standard scoring formats even though he was suspended the first 4 games of the season.  To me, an even more telling stat is that Brady put up those numbers even though the Patriots as a team ran the ball the 6th most in the league last year at 43.59%.  It should be noted that Brady accounted for 64 yards rushing and 0 rushing TD’s in 2016.  In 2015, the Patriots ran the ball the 2nd least in the league, behind only the Jaguars, running the ball 35% of the time.  The Patriots let LeGarrette Blount walk in the offseason and added Brandin Cooks.  This leads me to believe that the Patriots are more likely to revert back to the 2015 Patriots than the 2016 Patriots.  Brady is going to have the most weapons at his disposal since having Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Ben Watson and Wes Welker at his disposal in 2007 and is primed for a big year.  Oh yeah, Brady did what he did last year with Rob Gronkowski playing in 8 games, starting only 6 of them.  Looking ahead to the Patriots schedule, they have tough matchups week 1 against Kansas City, week 3 against Houston and week 10 against Denver.  Other than those 3 weeks, the Patriots have a fairly easy schedule.  Even during those tough 3 games, you need to start Brady in season long, I would just fade him in DFS those weeks.

2 – Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers (ADP 2.12) – In 2016 Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,428 yards and 40 touchdowns.  Rodgers is elite, benefits from a somewhat easy 2017 schedule and is not facing any elite pass defenses.  Jordy Nelson will be another year removed from his 2015 torn ACL, Davante Adams is fresh off a breakout, Randall Cobb should be healthy, and the Packers acquired a serious red zone option this offseason in Martellus Bennett.  When you consider Rodgers’ abilities, his weapons and the lack of a stud running back on the roster, things are shaping up nicely for Rodgers to have another top 5 fantasy QB season.

3 – Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts (ADP 5.08) – People seem to be worried over the fact that Andrew Luck hasn’t participated in Colts practices yet after his offseason shoulder surgery, but I think we need to focus on something else.  Andrew Luck put up 4,240 yards, 31 TD’s and ran for 341 yards and 2 more TD’s on the ground with a torn labrum in his shoulder.  If Luck can do that when injured, what is he going to do while healthy? As long as Luck doesn’t miss more than 2 games coming back from his shoulder surgery, I would draft him as a top 5 QB.  The Colts lost Dwayne Allen in free agency but they should be okay in the red zone department as long as Donte Moncrief can stay healthy.  One thing to keep on the radar, however, is that the Colts play against Seattle, Houston and Denver, all of which are top 5 passing defenses.  In addition to that, the Colts face the Jaguars twice who recently signed AJ Buoye in free agency.  Pairing Bouye with Jalen Ramsey may prove to be a lethal combination but we need to see how the scheme fits Bouye before we declare the Jaguars a top flight defense.

4 – Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints (ADP 4.06) – Drew Brees is coming off a 2016 season where he threw for 5,208 yards and 37 TD’s. He is elite.  To me, it looks like the Saints are trying to mold their roster similar to the way it was back in 2009 where they featured both Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush in the backfield, Lance Moore, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson at wide receiver.  Oh yeah, the Saints had Jeremy Shockey at tight end that year too.  Instead of Thomas and Bush, the Saints will roll out Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.  Colby Fleener will take the place of Shockey, Michael Thomas is a more athletic version of the big bodied Marques Colston, Ted Ginn Jr. is the Devery Henderson burner on the outside, and it is yet to be seen who the other starting receiver will be.  Like I said, it appears the Saints are looking to mold their roster like it was in 2009.  Back then, Brees threw the ball 514 times for 4,388 yards and 34 TD’s, which would be a drop from 2016 where he threw the ball 673 times.  It looks like the Saints are trying to control the game on the ground more in 2017, but even if that is the case, Brees should still eclipse 4,000 yards passing and 30 TD’s, making him an elite option.  Additionally, the Saints do not play an elite pass defense the entire 2017 season, making Brees a solid start throughout the season.

5 – Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks (ADP 7.08) – Russell Wilson had a “down year” in 2016 due to nagging injuries and he was still the #10 fantasy quarterback in standard scoring leagues.  Wilson was not his normal mobile self last year, rushing for a career low 259 yards, running the ball the fewest times in his career.  Wilson’s 259 rushing yards was less than half of his previous low since 2013.  The Seahawks upgraded their offensive line in the offseason, added Eddie Lacy to their running back group, will have a healthy CJ Procise and Jimmy Graham on the roster, and are returning all of their wide receivers for 2016.  With the improved supporting cast around him, a schedule that only presents matchups against 2 elite passing defense and another year of continuity under Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell, things are shaping up well for Wilson in 2017 to be a top 10 fantasy QB at a minimum.

6 – Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 8.09) – Jameis Winston is going to be my main QB target in 2017 fantasy drafts.  Winston, along with the other QB’s in the NFC South, has a strength of schedule that is on the easier side.  The only elite pass defense the Buccaneers are facing this year is the New York Giants in week 4 of the season.  Winston was considered to be somewhat of a disappointment last year, taking only a small sophomore leap with 4,090 yards passing, 28 TD’s but 18 interceptions.  Heading into 2017, Winston will have the best group of playmakers he’s ever had at his disposal.  As I discussed in my WR article last week, the Bucs added a legitimate deep threat to their passing attack in DeSean Jackson.  Winston loves to throw the deep ball and for the first time in his career he will have a true burner who can take the top off a defense that he can throw to.  With defenses surely rolling coverage towards Mike Evans and O.J. Howard creating problems up the middle, DeSean is sure to have a big year with the big armed Winston throwing it to him.  As long as the Bucs can stay healthy, Winston is poised to make a big leap after finishing as the #15 QB in fantasy football last season.

7 – Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans (ADP 9.03) – In 2016 Mariota was fantasy football’s 16th highest scoring QB with a 7.6 yards per attempted pass.  Mariota put up 3,426 yards and 26 TD’s while playing in only 15 games.  The 3rd year pro is entering the 2017 season with the most weapons he’s ever had at his disposal.  Not only did the Titans draft Corey Davis in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL draft, but they also signed Eric Decker after he was released from the Jets.  The addition of Decker gives Mariota one of the best red zone WR’s in the NFL at his disposal, which should greatly aid his touchdown numbers.  Although Mariota only had 26 passing TD’s in 2016, he rushed for 349 yards and scored 2 touchdowns on the ground.  The 46.9 fantasy points he scored on the ground is the equivalent to over 11 passing TD’s through the air.  Mariota’s upside with his running ability and added weapons makes him one of the most intriguing QB picks in 2017 fantasy drafts.

8 – Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons (ADP 5.12) – I am going to try to avoid Matt Ryan this year because it is extremely unlikely he repeats his 2016 season.  Ryan’s yards per attempt in 2016 was 9.3 which is almost 2 full yards higher than his career average of 7.4 yards per attempt.  Simply put, 2016 appeared to be the perfect storm for Matty Ice.  After losing Kyle Shanahan, the best play caller in the NFL, a repeat really isn’t looking good.  Matt Ryan will, however, still be fantasy relevant.  As I mentioned before, the entire NFC South seems to have a soft schedule this year in regards to pass defense and the Falcons didn’t lose any play makers to free agency which bodes well for a strong, but maybe not historic, 2017 season.

9 – Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins (ADP 8.08) – Cousins lost some of his favorite targets from 2016, losing DeSean Jackson to the Buccaneers and Pierre Garcon to the 49ers, but these play makers will be replaced by Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson who played sparingly in his rookie year because of Achilles soreness.  The Redskins lost their offensive coordinator but Jay Gruden remains so Cousins should have some continuity there.  If Doctson can remain healthy, the Redskins receiving group may actually be better in 2017 than it was a year ago and Cousins may ascend.  Pryor and Doctson are taller than the departing Garcon and Jackson, which may help Cousins improve on his 25 passing touchdowns from a year ago.  Cousins is likely to repeat as a QB1 but I need to see Josh Doctson play this preseason and stay healthy through late August before I draft Cousins as my starter.

10 – Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals (ADP 12.03) – In 2015 Andy Dalton finished as the #17 QB in fantasy football while only playing in 13 games, but you can’t really count the week 14 game against the Steelers when he went down after throwing only 5 passes.  Dalton finished with 315.28 fantasy points, which was 26.27 fantasy points a game in standard leagues.  At the pace Dalton was at, scoring 26.27 fantasy points per game, he was on pace to put up 446.59 points, which would have been second to only Cam Newton.  In 2016, Dalton lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency and he missed them dearly, throwing for only 4,206 yards and 18 TD’s.  Dalton also lost Tyler Eifert, Gio Bernard and AJ Green for a decent chunk of the season due to injury.  The Bengals reloaded their offense in 2017, drafting John Ross in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL draft, and Joe Mix in the 2nd round, while also getting A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert back from injury.  The Bengals have some question marks on the offensive line this year after losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, but are teams really going to stack boxes against the Bengals with the likes of Eifert, Green and Ross stressing defenses vertically? I doubt it.  To me, Andy Dalton is likely to finish 2017 closer to his 2015 than his 2016.  To me, Dalton is a back-end QB1 and if I am unable to get Jameis Winston in my drafts, Dalton is a nice consolation.  It should be noted that the Bengals are only playing two elite passing defenses this year, the Texans in week 2 and the Broncos in week 11.

11 – Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders (ADP 6.08) – Derek Carr put up 3,937 yards and 28 TD’s through week 16 in 2016 before suffering a broken leg.  It should be noted that Carr was off to a great start and then his production slowed after suffering a broken finger against the Panthers during their week 12 game.  Carr plays behind one of the best offensive lines in pro football and his receivers have another year of experience under their belts.  Everything is pointing to Derek Carr continuing his ascent as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, but the Raiders have a tough schedule starting in week 4 of the 2017 season.  Between weeks 4 and 13, the Raiders will play Denver twice, Kansas City twice and the Giants, all of which are considered to be elite passing defenses.  If these defenses continue to dominate, it may be wise to draft a solid backup to pair with Carr in case you don’t feel comfortable with those matchups.

12 – Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills (ADP 11.10) – Tyrod Taylor can run.  Across 29 starts over the last 2 seasons, Taylor has amassed 1,148 yards rushing and 10 rushing touchdowns.  Although Taylor’s passing numbers will hover around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns which may seem pedestrian, he more than makes up for it with the numbers he puts up with his legs.  In standard scoring formats over the last 2 seasons, Taylor has scored 174.8 fantasy points with his legs alone.  In 2016, Taylor had more rushing yards and touchdowns than running backs such as Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon, respectively.  I know that doesn’t seem earth shattering, but when you couple Taylor’s rushing totals with his pedestrian passing numbers, you get a QB1.

13 – Philip Rivers – LA Chargers (ADP 10.03) – The Chargers have Ken Whisenhunt as their offensive coordinator this year which really works in Rivers favor.  Another thing working in Rivers favor is that Hunter Henry has emerged as a play making tight end, Tyrell Williams has emerged as a deep threat receiver, Melvin Gordon broke out, and Keenan Allen has returned from the torn ACL which ended his 2016 season in week 1.  The Chargers also selected Mike Williams, a receiver out of Clemson in the draft which gives them a lot of depth at receiver.  Rivers doesn’t look to be slowing down and possibly has the best cast of play makers he’s had since LT left San Diego and Antonio Gates was in his prime.  However, the Chargers play in the AFC West.  In 4 of the Chargers first 7 games they play against Denver, Kansas City, the Giants and Denver again, all of which are elite pass defenses.  After week 7 things get a little better for Rivers as he won’t face another elite pass defense until they play Kansas City in week 15.  Rivers is going to be a solid fantasy option for 2017, but you may want to consider drafting a solid backup to pair with him.

14 – Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers (ADP 7.07) – Cam Newton fell from fantasy graces in 2016, finishing as the 16th highest scoring QB after finishing as the #1 QB in fantasy football the year before.  Newton’s combined passing and rushing touchdown total fell from 45 down to 24 in 2016.  Newton was slowed by a shoulder injury for much of 2016, and may not be 100% by the time the regular season starts as he waited until March to have surgery on it.  Based on the Panthers offseason additions of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel through the draft, it appears the Panthers are trying to give Newton some short to intermediate weapons in the passing game.  Both Samuel and McCaffrey look to be matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Because the Panthers didn’t finish well in 2016, they will have a fairly easy schedule in 2017, as will most of the NFC South because it is their turn to play the AFC East and NFC North this year, none of which feature teams with elite pass defenses.  Although the Panthers appear to have a softer schedule as of right now, the days of Cam Newton being an elite fantasy producer may be over.  Newton has only thrown for over 4,000 yards once in his career, and in today’s NFL, 4,000 yards passing is the new 3,000.  Newton has only thrown for more than 24 touchdowns once in his career, and that was his historically great 2015 season where he threw for 35.  What makes Newton great is his ability to use his legs to get touchdowns and rushing yards.  In 2016, Newton ran the ball 90 times, which was a career low.  Newton ran for 5 touchdowns in 2016 which ties a career low and ran for 4.0 yards per carry which were also a career low.  Newton put up these numbers while banged up but the thing is that he’s still banged up.  Based on the Panthers offseason additions of McCaffrey and Samuel it appears they are trying to get Newton going more in the passing game and less with his legs, but he simply isn’t that great of a passer completing only 52.9% of his passes last year, and they may be jamming a square peg down a round hole.

15 – Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions (ADP 10.08) – Stafford is heading into year 2 with Marvin Jones on the roster and he should continue to build chemistry with him with a full season together under their belts.  The real wild card with Matt Stafford is whether Eric Ebron is going to stay healthy and complete a full breakout season.  Ebron has elite athleticism and size but hasn’t been fully utilized in the red zone.  If Ebron can come on this year, then look for Stafford to really hit a home run.  If you draft Stafford, remain patient with him, because the Lions start the season playing against the Cardinals and Giants, two very good pass defenses.  He may have a rough start, but give him a few weeks to see how he does.  If you do not draft him and you are unhappy with the quarterback you drafted, keep an eye on the waiver wire, because somebody may grow impatient with Stafford if he starts poorly and drop him prematurely.

Honorable Mention:

Eli Manning – After a horrible 2016 season, I need to see Manning perform like he did in 2015 before I place him back on my fantasy roster unless it’s as a backup.  The addition of Brandon Marshall really works in Manning’s favor.

Dak Prescott – Limited body of work.  The Cowboys lost 2/5 of their offensive line and Zeke Elliott looks like he could be in trouble.  2016 was a perfect storm for Dak, but now he looks to face some adversity and teams have a full year of tape on him to prepare.

Carson Palmer – I am fearful that Palmer lost some of his arm strength.  The supporting cast and Bruce Arians’ scheme is good, but I don’t want to be on the Carson Palmer train when his career goes off the side of the cliff.

Blake Bortles – If Bortles doesn’t bring the ball down to his hip every time he throws the ball in the preseason, he may creep into my top 15.  Until then, I will not rank a player who relies on garbage time production as a top 15 QB, nor will I draft him as my starter.  If you do draft him as your starter, don’t watch Jaguars games until the 4th quarter.

Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben averages 334 yards, 3 touchdowns and 8.86 yards per attempt at home, and only 268.7 yards, 1 touchdown and 7.52 yards per attempt away.  These splits are concerning.  Ben’s injury history is also concerning.  Roethlisberger played in 14 games last year, had 0 touchdown passes in 3 of those 14 games, and 1 or fewer touchdowns in 6 of those 14 games.  In 2015, Roethlisberger only started 11 games and scored 1 or fewer touchdowns in 6 of those games.  Big Ben may get you 5 TD’s one week, but he has been very inconsistent with his production over the last few years.

The Big Rigg Wrap Up

My QB rankings were not in line with the ADP’s established as of July 20, 2017.  Although Cam Newton is being drafted in the 7th round as a QB1, I don’t like Cam as a potential starter this year because he cannot pound with his legs forever.  It is yet to be seen if 2016 was simply an outlier or if 2015 was Newton’s last great fantasy season.  If Newton doesn’t run a lot, he isn’t elite, and I don’t want to be a Cam Newton owner when it all breaks down for him.  I like Andy Dalton more than quarterbacks such as Derek Carr and Philip Rivers because of Dalton’s weapons and easier all around strength of schedule.  Dalton showed what he can do in 2015 with a great supporting cast around him, and I expect Dalton to put up similar numbers in 2017, barring injury.  I understand that I have Matt Ryan ranked lower than most, but I simply don’t want to invest a high pick on him after losing Kyle Shanahan as his play caller.  Don’t forget, Matt Ryan wasn’t even being drafted in some leagues at this time last year and he wasn’t really a world beater in prior seasons either.  I think Ryan may come back to earth just a little bit, which is fine, he will still be good, most likely a top 10 QB, but in my opinion, not worth a 5th or 6th round pick.

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to draft a QB, it’s all up to you and your preferences.  You don’t need to draft a QB early, but if you feel confident in skill players later in the draft and you think you can “outdraft” the rest of your league, by all means, go for it, pay up and take Brady or Rodgers early.

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Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and he focuses on spot starting low owned pitchers. His articles publish every Sunday morning.

I've been coaching lacrosse since 2002 and playing fantasy football since 2006. I've racked up several championships over the years including a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Fantasy Football State Championship in 2016. I started drafting running backs late before it was cool.

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