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Fantasy Football 2014: Quarterback Rankings (Or Why I am Doubling Down on Jay Cutler)

Image (1) Jay-Cutler-Bears.jpg for post 219551

Last year, I called Jay Cutler my breakout quarterback of 2013 for several reasons. The Bears were going from Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Tice to Marc Trestman. They were making major upgrades on the offensive line. Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett were moving into the lineup, replacing Devin Hester and Kellen Davis.

On a personal level, that prediction was wrong. Cutler got hurt again, missed 5 games, and finished only 23rd in fantasy points as a result.

On a team level, it was very much right. The Bears put up one of the best offensive seasons seen in Chicago since Johnny Lujack and Sid Gillman were sharing a backfield. Chicago finished 2nd in points scored, and finished with the 4th most team fantasy points at the quarterback position. Josh McCown came off the bench and played lights out. He also got the benefit of two games against Minnesota and Dallas, where he averaged nearly 10 yards a pass and threw 6 touchdowns. McCown parlayed that into a new contract and a potential starting gig in Tampa Bay with new coach Lovie Smith.

So I am doubling down on Jay Cutler again. It feels much safer this time. I didn’t know that the offense would be that much better, that Alshon Jeffery would breakout. Now, it’s a matter of “can Cutler avoid a big injury?” He hasn’t been able to so far, but some of these injuries have been of the fluke variety.

In an offense where Brandon Marshall and Jeffery are both being drafted top 10 at WR, Matt Forte is being drafted top 5 at RB (and very involved as a receiver), and Bennett is being drafted as a top 12 TE, there is a disconnect. Jay Cutler is being drafted 14th at QB. Either he is undervalued, the other players are overvalued, or the fantasy community is expecting a snapped collarbone by week 10.

When I put together my rankings, I don’t just sit down and bang out a list. I put together team projections on offense in both passing and rushing, based on recent history, and roster moves. It’s still guesswork, but at least it’s educated guesswork where my rankings will be internally consistent. And in the case of Chicago, even with some regression figured in, I’ve got them as a pretty good passing offense. Getting the quarterback of that offense outside the top 12 would be a huge value. Only three other times in the last decade has a team passed for between 30 and 35 touchdowns on offense, then had the starter drafted outside the top 10 by ADP. Aaron Rodgers was taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, Kurt Warner was competing with Matt Leinart the same year in preseason, and Eli Manning in 2011. All three finished top 6 in fantasy points at QB.

Jay Cutler is smoking in training camp with a sweet 'stache

Cutler is part of a huge tier. Sometimes you can get blinded by looking at specific ranking slots. The QB market this year is a top 3 of Manning, Rodgers, and Brees, then a large second tier that is as big as I can remember, going from 4 to 16. If you don’t get one of the top 3, the strategy should be to get two of the next 13 and have a high quality platoon at value. There is not much value difference between the 10th and 15th projections, which we will see when I release auction values.

After the top 20, there are plenty of question marks. I noted those situations where the quarterback is not set. Johnny Manziel would rise into the tier with Alex Smith and Tannehill if he was for certain to be the starter, based on rushing production.

Here is my full list of all 32 teams:

  1. Peyton Manning, DEN
  2. Aaron Rodgers, GB
  3. Drew Brees, NO
  4. Andrew Luck, IND
  5. Cam Newton, CAR
  6. Nick Foles, PHI
  7. Jay Cutler, CHI
  8. Colin Kaepernick, SF
  9. Matt Stafford, DET
  10. Russell Wilson, SEA
  11. Tom Brady, NE
  12. Robert Griffin III, WAS
  13. Matt Ryan, ATL
  14. Tony Romo, DAL
  15. Philip Rivers, SD
  16. Andy Dalton, CIN
  17. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
  18. Ryan Tannehill, MIA
  19. Alex Smith, KC
  20. Carson Palmer, ARI
  21. Johnny Manziel, CLE+
  22. Jake Locker, TEN
  23. Eli Manning, NYG
  24. Joe Flacco, BAL
  25. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN+
  26. E.J. Manuel, BUF
  27. Geno Smith, NYJ+
  28. Sam Bradford, STL
  29. Ryan Fitzpatrick, HOU
  30. Josh McCown, TB+
  31. Blake Bortles, JAC+
  32. Matt Schaub, OAK

+ = competing to be opening week starter

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