Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
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Hitting on your quarterback is so important in every league type because they’re generally the most consistent source of points. While a wide receiver can get blanked, that doesn’t really happen with passers.
One question I was recently asked that I think is pretty interesting is if it’s better to use just one or two quarterbacks in GPPs (and really one or two stacks) and then fill in values around that, or to use the same core group of players and mix and match various stacks.
My answer is “It depends.” Every week is different. Last week, there weren’t many passers I liked, and thus I was less likely to diversify my stacks. This week, there are a bunch of potential options, and I think we could see some really big DraftKings scores because of the number of quarterbacks in quality situations.
Although there are general heuristics that play out over the long run, we don’t always need to side with those numbers. Analyze every position at the micro level first and foremost—the specific matchup, stack, and so on—before diving into the overall numbers.
Cream of the Crop
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (vs WSH) – $6700
Ryan is currently in my top five quarterbacks this week just in terms of his projection. He’s just eighth in salary, though, facing a Washington offense that’s pretty good against the run but awful versus the pass. Only one team is projected by Vegas to be better than the Falcons this week. I think this play will be super chalky in tournaments (pairing Ryan with Julio Jones), so that’s something to consider.
Philip Rivers, San Diego (vs PIT) – $6200
There are a ton of positive trends that suggest Rivers is in for a big Week 5. The Chargers play on Monday night, which has historically added value for quarterbacks. His salary has dropped for some reason, and the Steelers have been horrific against the passing game over the past 12 months. Rivers to Allen will be a popular GPP stack to which I will have a lot of exposure, and I also think Rivers is very much in play for cash.
Michael Vick, Pittsburgh (at SD) – $5100
Last week was the game we were supposed to be all over Vick. He was playing on Thursday night and set to run all over Baltimore. Now I have a feeling many will get away from him after his stinker, but he’s in a better matchup and costs just $5100. The Chargers have allowed 2.3 points per game above expectation to quarterbacks over the past year. With Pittsburgh projected to lose this game, Vick is in a really nice spot to rack up attempts both through the air and on the ground.
Tom Brady, New England (at DAL) – $7800
This is a tough game to project for Brady. The Cowboys’ defense is decimated and they have the potential to get killed by Rob Gronkowski over the middle. However, they also run the ball whenever they can—which includes literally almost every first down, despite statistics showing it is very dumb—which shortens games and ultimately helps their defense (in terms of not allowing a ton of fantasy points, not in actually winning games). Still, Vegas likes the Pats more than any offense this week and Brady accounts for such a high percentage of their scoring that he’ll probably be my top high-priced passer.
Middle of the Pack
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia (vs NO) – $6000
The Saints have allowed the third-most points above expectation to quarterbacks over the past 16 games. Bradford has shown he isn’t really comfortable in the Eagles’ offense, yet he’s still been able to produce decent numbers at times just because of bulk attempts. I think there’s a decent chance this game turns into a shootout, and I really like Bradford for GPPs.
Drew Brees, New Orleans (at PHI) – $7200
I will likely have Brees and Brady ranked closely together. I like the $700 savings on Brees, but I’m still worried about his health. Subtract Sunday night’s fluky overtime game-winner to C.J. Spiller and Brees really didn’t have a great game. What I do like here, obviously, is the matchup against a poor pass defense in a game that should see a lot of plays.
Kirk Cousins, Washington (at ATL) – $5300
Road dog. Projected above 20 points. Will need to throw the ball a ton. Coming off two quality fantasy performances. Almost min-priced. There’s a lot to like about Cousins this week.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo (at TEN) – $5800
Taylor’s rushing ability gives him a high floor that I like in cash games; he hasn’t scored fewer than 15 points this season. His upside is probably lower than what people believe, but I do think he’s at least worthy of consideration in cash games. Note that there are reports that Taylor has a bad ankle, although it’s one that he’s supposedly had all season.
Rest of the Field
Carson Palmer, Arizona (at DET) – $6600
Palmer has exceeded his expected fantasy output in all four games this year, scoring at least 19 points in each. Given how much Arizona throws the ball, he’s underpriced in almost any matchup at $6,600. He also has clear stack potential for GPPs.
Alex Smith, Kansas City (vs CHI) – $5500
Smith offers value at $5500 and I do like tight end Travis Kelce with him this week. You could make an argument he has limited upside, though Kansas City is projected extremely well by Vegas at just under 28 points. That means something to me—and to Jamaal Charles—but if Charles isn’t the one to get into the end zone for the Chiefs, Smith could have a bigger-than-expected day.
Peyton Manning, Denver (at OAK) – $7000
I do think there’s something wrong with Peyton Manning, but I also know he’s still going to air out the ball, especially in Oakland against a poor Raiders defense. He’s not worth consideration in cash games, but Manning-to-Demaryius might be an under-owned tournament stack.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (vs STL) – $7900
Rodgers is absolutely the most consistent quarterback in the NFL, and in my opinion, the best one. This week, though, he won’t be on my radar for cash games because the Rams’ defense is legit. Over the past 12 months, they’ve allowed 2.2 points below salary-based expectations to quarterbacks; only the Bills and Seahawks have been better.