There is no position that defines an NFL team like a quarterback does. In fantasy football, having a good QB is imperative to having a successful season. Years on the fantasy football calendar are remembered for emergent QBs. Last year was the year Cam Newton exploded on the scenes, the year before it was Michael Vick who came off waiver wires and brought people championships.
The top of the QB class is solid. Everyone pretty much agrees that Rodgers/Brees/Brady are the top three with Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton hanging just on the fringes of that power troika. The next level includes a number of QBs that make up one tier that runs from about #6-#12. However, there is almost guaranteed to be a top 10 QB that will rise from outside that group. In fact, there’s probably a top 10 QB that will be ranked outside the top 20 that will put together a good enough season to make him a solid start even in one QB leagues.
The trick is figuring out who that guy is this year. These are three QBs I see having a shot to finish in the top 10 who are not being ranked/picked there at this point in the preseason. Let me make sure I’m clear here. I wrote about overrated QBs, but I would not take any of these guys ahead of Eli Manning or Cam Newton. These are sleeper QBs that are going in the later rounds that I think will finish as a value at their draft position.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben is ranked outside the top 10 in almost every ranking I’ve seen. He struggled last year after sustaining the high-ankle sprain against the Browns. The problem with Roethlisberger (besides fitting his name in the box on your draft board) is his offensive line. They let Big Ben get hit and hurt way to often last year and the Steelers offense and eventually their season were ended because of it. There’s reason for concern there, to be sure, and that’s why his ranking is low.
The upside though is enormous and in my opinion he’s worth a later pick if you miss the elites or want a top-shelf backup in single-QB leagues. The Steelers running game may struggle with or without Rashard Mendenhall. That may hurt the Steelers, but it could be a huge boost for Ben’s value. With Todd Haley in as the Offensive Coordinator, the Steelers are expected to have a pass-heavy system. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown lead a dynamic group of receivers provided Wallace gets a new deal and gets into camp.
Big Ben should have the opportunity and the weapons to be a top 10 QB once again this year as long as he can stay healthy behind the Steelers rebuilt O-line.
Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Griffin’s contract situation has been resolved and he’ll be in camp from day one which is huge for a rookie. The Redskins have invested in every way possible to set up RG3 to succeed. They have a solid running game with Roy Helu Jr. coming off a breakout season. At wideout, the Redskins brought in Pierre Garcon to ge the #1 WR and added Josh Morgan to give them some added depth. Don’t forget about Leonard Hankerson either who looked good before getting injured last season.
Griffin’s weapons will be vastly superior to what the Colts have for his fellow first round pick Andrew Luck. RG3 should have more fantasy value than Luck at least short-term. Can Griffin be Cam Newton 2.0? Probably not, but he does have a more refined passing game and is joining a pretty good team.
I thought he would be drafted as a top QB but the rankings I’ve seen have him from 15-20. He is definitely worth a mid-round pick as a backup or second QB and he could easily finish in the top 10 if he can combine his running game and passing game into a Newton-esque first year int the league.
Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams
It wasn’t long ago that Bradford was a sleeper darling of many fantasy football owners and experts. Coming into last year, some thought he was ready to make the leap to QB1 status. Unfortunately for Bradford, the only leaping he did was out of the way of the oncoming rush as the Rams line allowed him to get pummeled and he was forced to miss six games throughout the course of the season. He’s ranked around 20 on most pre-draft boards and with good reason after last year’s disappointment.
I think there’s a good chance that Bradford bounces back this year. While I don’t think he can reach to top 10, he can be a top-level backup or QB2 in double-quarterback leagues. Bradford had a new system with Jeff Fisher in place as his new head coach. Fisher made it clear when he took the job he had faith in Bradford and though he could develop him. For that to happen, Bradford will need to be able to stay upright an in the lineup so he can regain his confidence. Another important factor will be if any of the stash of young wide-receiving talent can emerge as a top WR for Bradford.
If he can stay healthy, I expect Bradford to finish in the top 15 of QBs as he turns things back around under Fisher and the Rams start to head in the right direction.
Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans
Locker is the ultimate Wild Card right now. He may not even start to open the season since he has to compete with veteran Matt Hasselbeck. However, if it’s a true competition, I think Locker can win it. Even if he doesn’t, I expect him to be in the starting lineup before the end of the season.
The Titans offense is stacked with play-makers. Chris Johnson may not be CJ2K anymore but he should bounce back for about 1,200 yards and be a weapon defenses have to focus on. At Wide Receiver, the Titans have some great pieces in place with Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, and newly-drafted Kendall Wright. The WR corps seems to have a focus on stretching the field and more of a vertical passing game which plays to Locker’s strength.
In his three games last year with significant playing time, he threw 4 TDs and no INTs. His best game was against the Saints as he threw for 282 yards and almost led the Titans to a win. I’ll be targeting Locker in my drafts since he’s ranked 30 or higher and makes a good late-round gamble.