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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Dynasty Rankings
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

Once the NFL Draft draws to a close, the vacation for dynasty-league owners typically comes to an end. For the new dynasty player, startups are around the corner. For those owners already committed to at least one dynasty league, rookie drafts tend to fill the dog days before training camp.

Dynasty leagues are intriguing for the simple fact that, unlike redraft leagues, long-term potential often outweighs current production in a lot of owners’ minds. Whereas redraft leagues’ primary mindset is what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, dynasty owners typically embrace more of a what-can-you-do-for-me long-term approach.

Before we start the ranking, let’s first review the criteria that I will use to rank the quarterback position:

Considerations for QB

  • Six (or more) years of elite production remaining
  • Age
  • Age/skill of supporting cast
  • Talent
  • Durability
  • Proven consistency
  • Coaching/scheme stability

Over the next 10 weeks, I will be submitting a different position group for your review every other week. The fifth and final installment will be a big board of sorts – minus the bells and whistles of my traditional Big Boards near the end of the exhibition season – that can serve as a resource for your own dynasty startup draft. As per usual, nearly all of my leagues use PPR scoring and six points for all touchdowns, so that will be the basis for these rankings as well. With the semantics now out of the way, let’s get started.

Chg Rk Player Team Bye
1 Aaron Rodgers GB 4
Tier 2
2 Andrew Luck IND 8
3 Cam Newton Upside CAR 4
4 Drew Brees NO 7
5 Russell Wilson SEA 12
6 Colin Kaepernick Upside SF 9
7 Robert Griffin III Risk Upside WAS 5
Tier 3
8 Matthew Stafford Risk DET 9
9 Tom Brady NE 10
10 Matt Ryan ATL 6
11 Peyton Manning DEN 9
Tier 4
12 Ryan Tannehill Upside MIA 6
13 Jay Cutler Upside CHI 8
14 Tony Romo DAL 11
15 Sam Bradford STL 11
Tier 5
16 Eli Manning NYG 9
17 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 5
18 Josh Freeman Upside TB 5
19 Joe Flacco BAL 8
20 Andy Dalton CIN 12
Tier 6
21 Jake Locker TEN 8
22 EJ Manuel BUF 12
23 Matt Schaub HOU 8
24 Philip Rivers Risk SD 8
25 Christian Ponder MIN 5
26 Alex Smith KC 10
27 Geno Smith NYJ 10
28 Michael Vick Risk Upside PHI 12
29 Brandon Weeden Upside CLE 10
30 Carson Palmer ARI 9
Tier 7
31 Tyler Wilson OAK 7
32 Kirk Cousins Upside WAS 5
33 Nick Foles Upside PHI 12
34 Matt Barkley PHI 12
35 Ryan Mallett Upside NE 10
36 Chad Henne JAC 9
37 Matt Flynn OAK 7
38 Blaine Gabbert JAC 9
39 Kevin Kolb BUF 12
40 Mark Sanchez NYJ 10
Tier 8
41 Mike Glennon TB 5
42 Matt Scott Upside JAC 9
43 Ryan Fitzpatrick TEN 8
44 Tyler Bray Upside KC 10
45 Landry Jones PIT 5
46 Dominique Davis Upside ATL 6
47 Brock Osweiler DEN 9
48 Ryan Nassib NYG 9
49 Matt Moore MIA 6
50 Brian Hoyer CLE 10

Tier 1

No quarterback fits all the above criteria better than Rodgers. He has finished in the top three of fantasy scoring at his position for five straight seasons. He has a plethora of young weapons to throw to as well as a running game that should take some pressure off of him in 2013. He won’t turn 30 until late December (about the time quarterbacks are supposed to hit their prime) and has missed only game due to injury since becoming the starter in 2008.

Tier 2

The second tier of quarterbacks begins with a pair of former No. 1 overall picks beginning the season with new play-callers. Luck trades in the vertical passing game favored by Bruce Arians – the Arizona Cardinals’ new coach – for the same man who called plays for him at Stanford, Pep Hamilton. As a result, it is a good bet Luck’s efficiency and completion percentage will go up, his sacks will go down and the running game will get much more work than it did in his rookie campaign. With that said, there are enough questions about his supporting cast (Reggie Wayne’s age, T.Y. Hilton’s fit in the new offense, etc.) to keep Luck out of the top tier. Newton didn’t get much help in the draft and lost OC Rob Chudzinski, who was named the Cleveland Browns’ head coach. In Chudzinski’s place is Mike Shula, who served as Newton’s QB coach the past two seasons. While familiarity should only help the situation, there should be legitimate doubts as to whether or not Shula has the same kind of play-calling savvy as his predecessor, which he likely does not.

Brees is essentially Rodgers from a dynasty perspective in the sense that he has almost everything going for him, except for the fact that he is five years older. He’ll get aggressive HC Sean Payton back after his year-long suspension, but it isn’t as if Brees fell off much statistically without Payton – even if the team suffered overall as a result of his time away from the team. Age is the biggest strike against Brees, who will turn 35 during the NFL Playoffs this winter. If there are two wild-cards to challenge Rodgers for the top spot in the near future, one might very well be Wilson. Seattle’s front office was adamant Wilson had the same kind of qualities that allowed Brees and Jeff Garcia to be successful despite their lack of ideal size – and they were right. Consider for a second that no quarterback was more productive in this scoring system than Wilson over the final five weeks of the season (about the time OC Darrell Bevell opened up the offense) and there’s reason to believe he’ll be even better in 2013. It’s also hard to believe the addition of Percy Harvin will do anything other than make him an even more attractive fantasy quarterback.

Like Wilson, Kaerpernick could soon challenge Rodgers for No. 1 QB honors in dynasty leagues. One gets the sense that while he showed us a ton in 2012, he could just be getting started. The only qualities keeping Kaepernick from ranking higher on this list is consistency over a longer period of time than a half season and the loss of Michael Crabtree, likely for all of 2013. The former Nevada standout does his fair share of running, but is smart about avoiding punishment, making durability much less of a concern for him than someone like Griffin. RG3 brings up the back of this tier thanks in large part due to the fact he is recovering from his second torn ACL as we speak. While Griffin exceeded even the wildest expectations many had for him as a rookie, his injury history combined with an average supporting cast is enough reason for me to be slightly less optimistic about him than I am about the four players ranked above him on the list.

Tier 3

Stafford gets something of a pass for a disappointing 2012 here. A number of unlikely events (such as Jahvid Best’s injury or Calvin Johnson getting tackled at the 1-yard line six different times as he was going for a score) conspired to keep Stafford from coming anywhere close to replicating his breakout 2011 season. With Reggie Bush joining the best receiver in the league, Stafford stands a great chance at bouncing back in a big way. Brady loses security blanket Wes Welker and has a cast of unknowns to replace Brandon Lloyd at the other receiver spot. Rob Gronkowski continues to be a question mark and Aaron Hernandez has yet to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season as well. Still, the main reason Brady finds himself as low as he does is because he will turn 36 during training camp.

Ryan is an interesting quarterback in the sense that he can never seem to please his critics. His passage yardage and touchdowns have increased each season, yet he is occasionally knocked for a lack of consistency in fantasy. He finds himself separate from the other young guns ranked higher on the list because he will almost certainly lose trusted TE Tony Gonzalez at the end of the season. While Julio Jones only figures to improve, Roddy White is likely to begin a slow but steady decline over the next few years. Manning enters 2013 with perhaps the most receiving talent in the league, but the chances of him maintaining his current level of play for more than two years is probably not realistic considering he turned 37 in March.

Tier 4

At first glance, Tannehill’s place on this list appears to be a mistake since the No. 8 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft threw for more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) as a rookie. However, part of Miami’s dramatic offseason overhaul was getting Tannehill someone to throw to besides Brian Hartline. In Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller, the Dolphins gave him the tools to stretch the field and work the middle of it. At this point, it’d come as a mild shock if he doesn’t live up to this ranking. Cutler’s early appearance on this list will probably surprise just about everyone, but he is arguably working with the most talented supporting cast he has ever played with in seven NFL seasons. New HC Marc Trestman is a sharp offensive mind and made upgrading the entire offense a priority, including the Bears’ troublesome offensive line. Brandon Marshall is as dominant of receiver as there is in the league, Alshon Jeffery should emerge as a threat this season and Martellus Bennett showed us what he could do early last season before injuries slowed him down over the second half.

Romo suffers in fantasy due to the perception that he isn’t “clutch” and wilts under pressure. Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t, but owners can’t argue that over the last four seasons he has played all 16 games, he has thrown for at least 4,104 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also hasn’t been supported by a consistent running game in years – mostly due to Jerry Jones’ inability/unwillingness to address the offensive line and keep that part of his team fortified. Bradford has done well to play 16 games in two of his first three seasons considering how poor his supporting cast has been. After enjoying a career year last year, expect Bradford to take another large step forward with an improved offensive line, a sizable upgrade at tight end (Jared Cook) and enough talent at receiver to make up for the loss of Danny Amendola. The departure of Steven Jackson will hurt the offense as a whole, but will likely force Bradford to put more on his shoulders. In fantasy, that’s usually a good thing.

Tier 5

Eli Manning probably deserves slightly more credit than he gets on this list since last year’s down season can be blamed largely on Hakeem Nicks being injured for most of it. Be that as it may, Nicks is an injury risk seemingly every year and the Giants lost red-zone beast Martellus Bennett. Manning’s durability will make him an attractive player for any fantasy owner – as long as he can maintain it – but 2011 is likely going to go down as his career year, especially considering he typically has trouble cracking 4,000 yards. Roethlisberger finished as the No. 8 quarterback in points-per-game in 2012, but hasn’t put together a full season since 2008. He lost game-changing Mike Wallace to the Dolphins and Heath Miller is coming off a torn ACL, although the addition of rookie Le’Veon Bell should help given that he is a plus in the passing game. While OC Todd Haley’s offense seemed to agree with him, the lack of durability and erosion of his supporting cast pushes Big Ben into mid-QB2 territory in dynasty leagues.

In a lot of ways, 2012 was a career year for Freeman. This offseason hasn’t done anything to help his dynasty stock, however, as his name seems to pop up along with Glennon’s in every interview HC Greg Schiano conducts. Freeman famously dropped off the map after Week 11 last year as the Bucs faded badly over the second half of the season. Glennon is being brought in as competition, but with his second year in OC Mike Sullivan’s system, better luck in the injury department up front and a rapidly-improving team overall, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Freeman move up several spots next year. Flacco probably enjoys the most job security of any NFL quarterback, given his new contract. However, it is unlikely that Dennis Pitta can make up for all of Anquan Boldin’s production out of the slot or that Baltimore will find a receiver that will have Boldin’s impact. One of the keys to Baltimore’s Super Bowl run was throwing the ball less, so while Flacco may be more efficient than ever, it seems unlikely he will crack 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career.

Dalton also feels like a bit of a snub for being ranked this low as well – given his age and supporting cast – but it does seem as if he is regressing more than progressing. The third-year quarterback out of TCU was charted with 17 “coverage sacks” in 2012 (highest in the NFL) and it just seems as if he may never be the dynamic downfield thrower A.J. Green needs him to be in order to reach his full potential. He’ll have more talent at his disposal this season than he’s ever had, so he still possesses great upside in dynasty leagues.

Tier 6

Locker has the talent and necessary supporting cast now to be a top 10-12 dynasty quarterback, so this ranking is an indictment on his play thus far and the Titans’ inability to mold the offense to Locker’s strengths to this point – namely his ability to get outside of the pocket and throw deep. The lack of a consistent running game did not help matters last year and the interior offensive line was abysmal, both of which figure to be strengths in 2013. Just like the most recent NFL Draft, Manuel is the first quarterback in his class to be selected. There’s little question he has the physical talent and enough of a supporting cast to be successful. The real question is whether or not rookie HC Doug Marrone and new OC Nathaniel Hackett can cultivate his talent into something real. If Manuel proves to be a quick study, there is definitely top10 fantasy QB potential for him down the road. If not, the Vince Young comparisons may not be far off.

Schaub was another quarterback that faded badly down the stretch, although it has been rumored he was playing with an undisclosed injury. Either way, the fact that he has a legitimate threat opposite Andre Johnson for the first time (first-rounder DeAndre Hopkins) may be enough for HC Gary Kubiak to coax 3-4 more productive seasons out of the soon-to-be 32-year-old. Rivers’ stock has taken perhaps the biggest tumble of any quarterback over the last two seasons…and for good reason. Former GM A.J. Smith let his offensive line erode in his final days with San Diego while playmakers such as Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles were allowed to leave. Antonio Gates is clearly in decline, which makes him even harder to love. While Rivers has a lot of receiving talent to work with, the Chargers are very much in a rebuilding phase.

Ponder is like a injury-prone version of Freeman, at least based off last season. The third-year quarterback started out reasonably strong, but it was clear by the second half of the season that Minnesota was managing him. Was it due to the season-ending injury to Percy Harvin, the lack of receiving depth behind him and/or Ponder’s incompetence? We’ll find out soon enough as the Vikings signed Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to give him some respectable talent at receiver. Alex Smith is an interesting case. Is he the creation of the offense put together by HC Jim Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman in San Francisco or has he really involved into one of the better decision-makers at the position? At age 29 and with Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and rookie Travis Kelce at his disposal, Smith has a solid foundation to work with in the coming years.

Geno Smith is probably a long way from fantasy relevancy despite having the necessary physical skill set. Santonio Holmes is coming injury, Stephen Hill is a long-term project and Dustin Keller is no longer around. The Jets need a lot of skill-position help over the next year or two if Smith is going to give any of his owners more than low-end QB2 production (once he is entrenched as the full-time starter). Vick easily has more redraft appeal than anyone else in this tier, but his injury history and age (will turn 33 in June) are working against him in dynasty. Vick has reportedly added bulk and is excited to be working with new HC Chip Kelly, but the odds are long he’ll be relevant in fantasy for more than 2-3 years.

Weeden has been unfairly hammered for being an old rookie and already pegged as a disappointment in some circles despite being stuck in a system that obviously didn’t fit his strengths or those of his receivers in 2012. This is not to say that Cleveland won’t bring in his successor in 2014, but at least he’ll get a shot in an offense that highlights his strong arm and the athleticism of Josh Gordon as well as Jordan Cameron. Palmer turns 34 two days after Christmas, so his time is the league is coming to a close as well. However, Arizona upgraded its woeful offensive line in the draft and offers Palmer enough skill-position talent to succeed. There’s a chance Palmer could give fantasy owners up to three solid seasons before his contract runs out after the 2015 season.

Tier 7

Wilson is a good bet to take the starting job in Oakland by midseason, if not Week 1. The bigger question is how quickly the Raiders can put an offensive line in front of him if he hopes to avoid the same fate he suffered at Arkansas. Until RG3 becomes a more cautious runner, Cousins will remain a priority for Griffin owners and a high-upside stash for non-RG3 owners. Foles showed enough after Vick’s injury last season to earn a spot on this list ahead of Barkley, although the rookie might have a slight leg up on Foles long-term because he was a selection made by the new regime

Mallett is perhaps the most talented of the remaining quarterbacks, but he is under contract in New England for two more years. He’s not going to be relevant without a trade or an injury to Brady, neither of which looks overly likely right now. Even though the Jaguars are working with their third different coaching staff in three seasons, it’d probably be a mild upset if Henne didn’t beat out Gabbert for the starting job in 2013. With undrafted free agents Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers on the roster, however, neither player may be long for Jacksonville. For the second straight season, Flynn will probably see his chance at a starting gig come to an end before he gets a chance to make a name for himself.

Kolb probably should win the job in Buffalo in 2013, but his lack of durability and the presence of Manuel will probably make Kolb’s stay in the starting lineup short. Sanchez could win the No. 1 job in New York, but will it really matter? He’s going to need to start off very fast and, even then, he’d be lucky to make it through 2013 as the starter. It’s even more unlikely he’ll find a starting job when he is inevitably released.

Tier 8

Glennon was drafted in the third round as “competition” for Freeman and probably possesses more arm talent than any other quarterback in this draft, but he had just as many – if not more – consistency issues in college as Freeman had last season. Unless Freeman falls on his face early, Glennon isn’t a real threat to Freeman anytime soon. Scott isn’t getting much buzz as a real threat for the starting job in Jacksonville. However, the University of Arizona standout has enough athleticism to give the Jags a bit of what Russell Wilson gave Seattle last season, albeit not nearly at the same level. Fitzpatrick has a decent shot at playing time in the event Locker gets hurt again, but his limited arm strength is a bad fit for all the deep threats in Tennessee. Bray has enough arm talent to be the Chiefs’ starter when Smith’s contract runs out at the end of the 2014 season, but he’ll need to eliminate some of the poor decisions he makes on the field in order to do that. Jones is almost certain to get some run because of Big Ben’s recent injury history, but he is obviously no threat to Roethlisberger’s job.

Davis is a player few people even know about outside of Atlanta and needs a Ryan injury to make any noise. Still, his incredible athletic ability warrants a spot on this list. His fantasy upside is as high as any quarterback in this tier. Osweiler appears to be the next in line after Manning’s career comes to an end, but whether that comes after 2016 (when Manning’s contract expires) or after that is anyone’s guess. Nassib is essentially in the same boat as Osweiler, except that he is behind the younger Manning. Moore remains one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league and would do a more-than-serviceable job filling in should Tannehill get hurt, but he’s only going to be a reserve until he becomes a free agent in 2015. Hoyer is a favorite of new Browns GM Mike Lombardi, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he got some playing time in the event Weeden fails. However, he is not the long-term answer.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and 2011. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday this past season. Doug regularly appears as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.