There’s no position more predictable than quarterback on a week-to-week basis. Not only is there a pretty strong week-to-week correlation in terms of efficiency, but quarterback production is also fairly binary; they’re either able to produce top-tier numbers or not because workload is responsible for the bulk of their fantasy points. That means much of quarterback forecasting comes down to projecting opportunity.
With that said, let’s take a look at this week’s top quarterback plays.
|Robert Griffin III||WAS||HOU||$8,200|
Top Five Quarterbacks
Peyton Manning, Denver vs Indianapolis, $10100 – The Broncos’ matchup with the Colts is a fantasy owner’s dream—a projected total creeping above 56 points. Even though Denver is favored heavily here, you have to think Manning is going to air it out enough to have an opportunity to return value. He’s almost a necessity in GPPs, even as the most expensive quarterback on DraftKings this week.
Drew Brees, New Orleans at Atlanta, $9700 – The Atlanta Falcons ranked as the third-worst defense on DraftKings last season. The only real concern here would be the Saints getting up big early and Brees not accounting for their touchdowns, but with the spread on this game less than a field goal, you have to like the chances of a shootout.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit vs New York Giants, $9000 – Stafford’s matchup with the Giants might be a good one, especially since he’s at home, but it’s interesting to see him as the third-most expensive quarterback this week. The hope here is that Stafford can rack up the attempts necessary to give you top-tier production. This might be a situation where you throw a Stafford/Megatron pairing into a couple tournaments just because you know the cost might be prohibitive enough to drive down usage.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay at Seattle, $8800 – Rodgers is a really interesting play this week. He faces the Seahawks in Seattle, which is about as difficult of a matchup as you can get. That’s at least partially reflected in his cost, though, since Rodgers is $900 cheaper than Brees—more than the difference between A.J. Green and Andre Johnson at wide receiver. Like Stafford, Rodgers could be a contrarian tournament option.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia vs Jacksonville, $8500 – It feels like Foles is being written off a bit as a product of Chip Kelly’s system. I don’t think that’s the case, but even if it is, he’s still in Kelly’s system, right? That’s really all that matters as Foles gets the Jags at home. The issue will be Foles’ workload in this one; Jacksonville tends to not give up a ton of bulk fantasy points to quarterbacks just because they’re losing so often, so you could be paying near an elite price for non-elite production. That might mean Foles is best used in cash games as a high-floor quarterback in Week 1—very likely to give you a nice return, but perhaps not a player with all that much access to top-three output.
Five Mid-Priced Quarterbacks
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis at Denver, $8300 – Luck is one of the most attractive options at quarterback in Week 1. Not only is he in a game projected to be high-scoring, but he’s also on a team that’s a touchdown underdog. You have a squad that is likely to score a lot of points and also likely to be losing in the fourth quarter, which is a recipe for fantasy points through the air.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco at Dallas, $8000 – The Dallas secondary is horrible, and they aren’t getting any favors from a pass-rushing unit that might be even worse. They’re also going to be down cornerback Orlando Scandrick, which means Kaepernick’s biggest worry is just picking out which open receiver he wants to hit on any given play.
Jay Cutler, Chicago vs Buffalo, $7800 – If you look at Cutler’s numbers in Marc Trestman’s offense, you see that he was on pace for quite the season in 2013 before going down. The Bills’ defense is underrated, but Vegas still has Chicago projected to score around 28 points. As always, monitor the wind speed in Chicago at kickoff, which can always wreak havoc on the passing game.
Russell Wilson, Seattle vs Green Bay, $7700 – Wilson has been unbelievably efficient early in his NFL career, so it’s just a matter of how many attempts he’ll have. The Seahawks figure to give him a longer leash in 2014, starting in Week 1 against the Packers. Note that Green Bay figures to increase their tempo this season, which means not only more Rodgers attempts, but also more throws for the opposing passer, too.
Tony Romo, Dallas vs San Francisco, $7500 – Romo’s matchup is a poor one, but he has two things going for him. First, the Cowboys figure to air the ball out early and often in this one. They’re a five-point underdog, but it’s also highly unlikely that they’re going to have a significant lead on the Niners such that Romo isn’t airing it out in the fourth quarter. Second, Romo’s price—cheaper than Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer—is really attractive.
Five Value Quarterbacks
Ryan Tannehill, Miami vs New England, $7000 – One of the ways to find value on players early in the year is to jump on certain trends before others realizing they’re happening. The Dolphins are set to run an up-tempo offense, meaning Tannehill might not need to be that efficient to return value because he should see a heavy workload, regardless of Miami’s run/pass balance.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati at Baltimore, $6800 – Dalton’s matchup in Baltimore certainly isn’t a positive, and he’s probably not the best play in cash games. With the cheap price tags for both Dalton and Green, however, a Dalton/Green stack would give you lots of upside and, in all likelihood, a very unique lineup.
Geno Smith, New York Jets vs Oakland, $6500 – Certain players are simply better fantasy options than real-life players, and Smith figures to be one of them, at least early in his career. This game is projected to be low-scoring, so don’t count on Smith in any heads-up leagues or 50/50s. Pairing Smith with Eric Decker—one of the more underrated wide receivers in the league—is perhaps a smart GPP play.
Jake Locker, Tennessee at Kansas City, $6100 – Locker is a very comparable player to Smith this week; he has a fairly difficult matchup, but will give you some points on the ground. Most players will avoid Locker because he plays the Chiefs, but it’s not a death sentence; Kansas City actually allowed the eighth-most passing yards in the NFL last year.
Josh McCown, Tampa Bay vs Carolina, $5600 – Was McCown’s efficient play in 2013 entirely the Marc Trestman effect? I’m not sure, but he’s probably worth the gamble to find out at only $5600.
Recapping Week 1 Quarterbacks
Week 1 is really interesting with the passers because there aren’t any very obvious values. Luck in Denver might be my favorite option, but it’s not like he’s an automatic plug-and-play. You could make a very legitimate case for going either high or low at the position in Week 1, using Manning or Brees for the safety, or else simply scrolling down the salaries and trying to hit on a cheap option like Dalton.
One thing to keep in mind is that it often makes sense to pay up for your quarterback in cash games, while you have a lot more freedom in tournaments. Quarterback play is pretty consistent, so you want to secure that high floor in your heads-up and 50/50 leagues. In GPPs, you should be willing to take on more variance, which is exactly what the medium and low-priced passers offer.