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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It’s been quite a strange year for quarterbacks thus far, with a lot of the elite players at the position turning in some mediocre performances. That’s increased the value of mid and bottom-tier passers, but I think we need to not be quick to overreact to a month worth of action.
There’s little doubt that top passers are overvalued in season-long leagues—the late-round quarterback approach is smart in almost every situation—but top passers still offer a ton of value on DraftKings. The reason is safety. Yes, you might have been burned by some top-priced quarterbacks through the season’s first five weeks, but it’s unlikely that trend will continue; that makes it okay to “overpay” for a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, at times, because you know what you’re getting. That’s especially true in cash games, where a narrow range of outcomes is generally a positive thing.
Keep this in mind in tournaments, too. I’d imagine we’re going to see higher-than-normal ownership on cheap quarterbacks in Week 6 just because the current narrative is that those guys are offering the most value right now. This idea ignores the fact that 1) you still need to select which cheap quarterback will perform well and 2) long-term data suggests recent trends aren’t going to continue.
Cream of the Crop
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (vs SD) – $7700
Rodgers isn’t the top quarterback in a strict dollar-per-point sense, but I will likely be on him in cash games because of the safety. I think there are some cheap quarterback options who are intriguing, but none I really trust for cash. The Chargers have allowed 1.3 points per game above expected to quarterbacks over the past 16 contests.
Tom Brady, New England (at IND) – $8100
I prefer Rodgers to Brady in cash games, mainly because of projected game flow. However, I do think there’s a great chance that Gronkowski rebounds from a mediocre Week 5 performance considering the Colts are vulnerable over the middle of the field. I’ll end up considering Brady in cash games, but as of now, I prefer Rodgers.
Carson Palmer, Arizona (at PIT) – $6600
The mid-tier passer who interests me most right now is Carson Palmer. The Steelers are getting blown up by opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 4.9 points per game allowed above salary-based expectation—the second-worst mark in the NFL. This price is too low for a quarterback who has exceeded salary-adjusted expectation in every game this year.
Drew Brees, New Orleans (vs ATL) – $7000
If you’re playing in Thursday night contests, I think Brees should be on your radar. Is his shoulder still hurting him? Maybe, but he’s proven he can still produce even when hurt, so being 100% healthy is somewhat of a bonus, especially at this price tag. Being a home dog is a really nice situation for him.
Middle of the Pack
Philip Rivers, San Diego (at GB) – $6300
I wouldn’t count on Rivers in cash games, but he’s a really interesting tournament option pretty much every week. His game is really high-variance, and he already has two performances with at least 358 yards passing this year. He’s likely to be down and chucking the ball late against a good-but-not-great Green Bay defense.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia (vs NYG) – $6000
Why do I still feel like a Bradford breakout performance is on the horizon? Mainly because he’s posting decent 20-point games and he’s not even playing well right now. Is Week 6 his time? I’m willing to take the chance against the Giants at only $6000.
Eli Manning, NY Giants (at PHI) – $6800
Coming off a big game on Sunday night, Manning is overpriced at $6800. He obviously makes for a quality GPP stack with Odell Beckham, though, especially given the likely increase in plays run for the G-Men. He shouldn’t be on your radar in cash games.
Jay Cutler, Chicago (at DET) – $5200
Ugh. Cutler. Woof. This is just a matter of cost, as Cutler should probably be closer to $6000 or so. I honestly don’t think I’ll have much exposure, though, because of a lack of a high ceiling and floor.
Rest of the Field
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (vs CHI) – $5300
This is going to be tempting. Stafford is playing awful football right now, but that is priced into his salary as he’s almost at the minimum in a juicy matchup against the Bears. I still have him with the fifth-highest ceiling of any quarterback this week.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (vs BAL) – $5000
As long as Kaep keeps running, I’m going to kaep considering him. See what I did there?
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo (vs CIN) – $5600
Taylor has a really difficult matchup against a Bengals defense that has allowed 2.3 points below salary-based expectation to quarterbacks over the past year. However, he’s somewhat matchup-proof in that his legs give him a high floor because his fantasy production isn’t reliant on beating the opponent with his arm.
Be sure to check Taylor’s availability on Sunday. Taylor suffered a sprained MCL last week, and it was first reported that he would miss multiple weeks. However, he did practice in limited fashion on Wednesday, and he said he “expects to play” on Sunday.
Peyton Manning, Denver (at CLE) – $6600
Literally every Monday I say to myself “Peyton is finished. You should know better. Stop doing this to yourself.” Then every Sunday I roster him in tournaments. THIS IS THE WEEK!