Although the NFL draft is still a month and a half away, dynasty owners are already chomping at the bit to get a leg up on the competition for the 2013 season. With combine, draft, free agency, and training camp season scattered across the winter, spring, and summer months, the NFL is a year-round event. Fantasy football has followed suit, with dynasty-league commissioners spreading owner responsibilities across the entire offseason.
The legendary Chris Wesseling has, of course, handled the Rotoworld dynasty rankings for years, but he recently moved on to greener…err…equally-green pastures. I’ll do my best to fill his gigantic shoes with my first run at 2013 dynasty rankings.
Before I get started, I wanted to briefly discuss my philosophy. If you’re familiar with my work, you know I come from ProFootballFocus.com. In turn, I’ve essentially done enough analytical analysis to make the casual football fan’s head spin off their shoulders.
I won’t be doing that here.
Although we can learn a lot about a player’s abilities through analytics, dynasty rankings have a strong subjective nature. The ever-important “How good is this player?” question is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a long list of follow-up questions to be answered: “How much longer will this player be in the league?” “Does the current coaching scheme support long-term success?” “How much of a threat for playing time are the players ahead/behind him on the depth chart?” The list goes on and on.
Like anyone else creating dynasty rankings, I’m placing a significant amount of weight in the ‘player skill’ and ‘age/experience’ categories. The rankings aren’t necessarily based on a three-year or five-year window. Rather, I put myself in the shoes of a league owner. If I’m drafting a team today, how can I maximize both short and long-term success?
Without further ado, let’s kick this thing off with the ever-important quarterback position.
It’s early in fantasy draft season, but smart owners are already fully aware of the unprecedented amount of depth at the quarterback position. That goes for both redraft and dynasty leagues.
Consider that Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Matthew Stafford will all be under the age of 26 when September 1 rolls around. You could make a case that all six are top-12 redraft options at the position, which really bodes well for the future at the position.
If you’re a savvy fantasy owner, noticing depth at a position is a major advantage. It allows you to focus on shallower positions earlier in your draft, waiting until later to attack the position in question. In 2013 start-up dynasty leagues, you should be waiting quite some time before selecting your first quarterback.
Note: Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2013, which will be near Week 1 of the upcoming season. The draft year and round is shown for each quarterback.
Rodgers is almost in a class of his own at the position, but the new-found depth/youth movement at the position has brought his value back to earth a bit. He’ll be closing in on 30 when the 2013 season begins, which means he should have, at least, five or six more years of superstar production left in the tank. There’s no one else I’d rather have at the position…Newton’s 2012 season was one of two halves. Through eight weeks, a sophomore slump was in full effect with the Carolina offense averaging a pathetic 1.7 offensive touchdowns-per-game. The Panthers improved that mark to 3.1 the rest of the way, which, extrapolated over the entire season, would’ve ranked as the league’s third-highest mark. With Newton under center, Carolina has quietly had one of the league’s top offenses over the last two seasons. With improvements at the wide receiver position, it’s possible we haven’t yet seen Newton’s best work.
The Luck vs. RGIII debate rolls on. In one corner we have the pass-first quarterback in an improving offense who should make sophomore-season leaps with a more conservative approach. In the other corner, we have the read-option/scramble-heavy quarterback who already has an injury red flag attached to his name, but has proven to be the more-productive of the two on a per-play basis. Griffin has a ton of fantasy appeal, but I’m building my franchise around the guy taking fewer hits, especially since he arguably has the same amount of upside.
After breakout 2012 campaigns, Wilson and Kaepernick are locked in as top-10 dynasty quarterback options. After a slow start, Wilson had the Seattle offense among the league’s elite during the second half of the season. They averaged a remarkable 3.5 offensive scores-per-game from Week 8 on. Kaepernick didn’t take over as starter until mid-season, but was so good that the 49ers were confident in him enough to trade Alex Smith to the Chiefs. Both quarterbacks have added fantasy value thanks to the ability to put up yardage and touchdowns with their legs.
I feel like I’m a bit lower than I should be on perennial fantasy studs Brady and Brees, but the emergence of the under-26 club in 2012 has me devaluing the older guys. Brees is 34, but signed an extension through 2016 last offseason. Brady’s recent extension takes him through 2017. Because they’re still elite redraft options and all but locked into a starting job for the next few seasons, they get the edge over the likes of Ryan and Stafford. Still, if I’m building my team for the long-term, I’m going with players who will rival them in 2012 and have a longer shelf life (Luck, Wilson, Kaepernick).
After a massively-productive start to the 2012 season, Ryan finally had the looks of an elite fantasy quarterback. He tailed off as the year progressed, however, sliding back in as a better real-life quarterback than he is fantasy asset. Still, with Julio Jones and Roddy White catching his passes in the Atlanta’s new, pass-first scheme, Ryan remains locked in as decent QB1 option…One year after entering the “elite” conversation in fantasy circles, Stafford took a big step back in 2012. Inconsistent accuracy and questionable decision-making have analysts wondering if Detroit’s pass-heavy offense and Calvin Johnson are making an average quarterback look like a good one. Regardless, Johnson isn’t going anywhere, Stafford will only be 25-years-old, and there’s no sign Detroit is moving away from the pass.
Roethlisberger hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2008. Although that’s certainly a concern, the fact remains that he consistently puts up QB1 production when healthy. In fact, he finished the 2012 season as the No. 21 scoring quarterback, but was No. 11 in fantasy points-per-game…After finishing 2011 as fantasy’s No. 6 quarterback, Manning regressed to No. 17 during a disappointing 2012 season. A healthy Hakeem Nicks and emerging Rueben Randle will help his rebound chances in 2013, but little brother is closing in on 33 years-old. He’s no more than a borderline QB1 in 12-team leagues.
I have Romo ranked as the top backup quarterback in your standard 12-team leagues, but he’s right there with Roethlisberger and Manning. Between the three, Romo is usually the guy you’d want for one game, but he’s also the oldest. It’s not crazy to think Dallas could begin grooming a long-term replacement for Romo this year…The older Manning brother likely has another year or two left in the tank, but considering his age (about to turn 37) and recent health issues, there’s reason to be concerned if he’s your top quarterback option. Start him confidently in 2012, but make sure you have a capable backup.
Flacco may have peaked during the Raven’s 2012 playoff run, but he makes the list as a decent QB2 option for a variety of reasons. He’s on a great team, is still only 28-years-old, and is about to get a long-term commitment from his team. He doesn’t have the ceiling of a Philip Rivers or Michael Vick, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a solid player over a lottery ticket for bye weeks and short-term injuries…Tannehill was better on tape than in the boxscore during his rookie season. It certainly didn’t help that he had one of the worst set of pass-catchers in the league, and that the team scored an unsustainably high number of their touchdowns on the ground. At least prior to the draft, Tannehill is the most-intriguing, young player on the 12-team-league QB2 list…and makes for a borderline starter in deeper formats.
A few years ago, I thought Rivers was one of the best quarterbacks in football. Whoops. He’s lost of a lot of his weapons due to free agency (which includes some GM incompetence) and injury over the past few seasons, but his overall effectiveness has certainly underwhelmed. He has QB1 upside, but at age 31, we’ve likely already seen his best work…Vick is definitely a wild card, but with Chip Kelly in town, he has major upside during, at least, the upcoming season. His age (will be 33), declining play, and injury resume are concerns, but his high ceiling gives him a slight edge on the rest of our fourth tier.
Dalton isn’t overly exciting on paper, but he quietly finished as the No. 12 fantasy quarterback in 2012. In fact, at one point, the Bengals were a top-five team in offensive scoring. As long as A.J. Green is in the equation, 25 total touchdowns will be in reach for Dalton…Bradford had a promising rookie season in 2010 before suffering through an injury-plagued 2011 campaign. The Ram’s front office gave him the ultimate vote of confidence by essentially trading Robert Griffin III for draft picks prior to what turned out to be a decent 2012 season for Bradford, especially later in the year. I think Bradford will top out as an average quarterback, but with what should be the best group of offensive weapons he’s had so far in his career, 2013 is finally a make-or-break year.
Freeman actually threw for 4,000 yards and finished as the No. 13 fantasy quarterback in 2012, but there are already doubts that he has a future as a starting quarterback at the NFL. Still just 25-years-old, there’s some upside here, but he’s not going to be an elite passer and his carries are progressively declining…Outside of Brandon Marshall, Cutler didn’t have much to work with in terms of offensive weapons in 2012. Chicago figures to finally exterminate what’s left of the Mike Martz stank by adding their first strong pass-catching tight end since Greg Olsen this offseason. Add that to an emerging Alshon Jeffery and a new coaching regime under Marc Trestman, and there is some reason for optimism; just not enough to put him in the QB1 conversation.