Weekly Motivation: Texas High School Football
Photo via Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Hey guys, it’s your resident fantasy football nerd. I’m starting my preseason ranking columns by giving y’all the dish on how I feel about the quarterbacks. I’ve separated the top 24 into four tiers.

Tier 1

Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) celebrates while leaving the field after defeating the New Orleans Saints 45-32 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Drew Brees (Westlake High School, Austin, TX)
4. Matt Ryan
These are the elite. Get one of these dudes, and you are set at the QB position. Most fantasy football experts will tell you to wait on a QB, and while from a value-perspective, that is the correct thing to do, there are many ways to win a fantasy championship, and QBs are far less likely to bust than RBs or WRs (and they score more than RBs and WRs too). Rodgers, Brady and Brees are obvious. But I’m going to throw Ryan into this tier as well.
First off, we have the same last name, meaning we must be related in some way, and us Ryan’s have to have each other’s back. More importantly, he was last year’s MVP, had the highest yard-per-attempt average (9.26) since Kurt Warner in 2000, and posted career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, despite throwing his fewest pass attempts since 2009.
His pass attempts will likely tick back up this coming season, and more pass attempts usually equates to more fantasy points. Some are expecting a major regression from my long lost cousin. They say Ryan isn’t going to be the same without offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who took the 49ers coaching job during the offseason. They say last year was a blip in the radar for a guy who had been mostly an average fantasy quarterback through his first eight years in the league. But do you know what I have to say to that?
I don’t think the OC change is going to affect him much. The entire offense returns mostly intact, and if Sarkisian is smart, he’s not going to deviate too far from what the Falcons were doing last year. While expecting mild regression from Ryan’s spectacular 2016 numbers is probably reasonable, I think it’s being overblown. I believe last season was the start of new era for Matt Ryan, not a statistical anomaly.

Tier 2

Nov 3, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) sets to pass during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Indianapolis Colts defeat the New York Giants 40-24. Mandatory Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports
5. Andrew Luck (Stratford High School, Houston, TX)
6. Kirk Cousins
7. Russell Wilson
8. Ben Roethlisberger
9. Derek Carr
10. Marcus Mariota
11. James Winston
12. Matthew Stafford (Highland Park High School, Dallas, TX)
13. Phillip Rivers
This is why most fantasy experts tell you to wait on a QB. You only need one of them, and because of that, there are plenty of capable starters in the later rounds. To be honest, if I don’t reach for one of my Tier 1 guys, I’ll probably be the last guy to take a QB, and I’ll just take whoever falls to me. Maybe I’ll take two of them and play the matchups. That’s not a bad strategy. I’m probably not taking Wilson at his current value because I’m not a huge fan of running QBs. They seem to be less consistent than the pocket passers and they’re more likely to get injured.
Talking about injuries, Roethlisberger has played a full 16 game season only twice in the last eight years, and Luck still isn’t practicing and might not be a go for Week 1 following offseason shoulder surgery. In the 5-8 range of this tier, Cousins is probably the only one I like at that value. He was a soft pitching wedge from a 5,000-yard season last year.
Carr/Mariota/Winston are good, young QBs who could be headed toward breakout seasons, and Stafford/Rivers are models of consistency. Stafford has started all 16 games six years in a row and thrown for at least 4,200 yards every year. Rivers hasn’t missed a game since 2005, good for the 4th longest streak in league history, and his four straight years of at least 4,200 yards and 29 touchdowns is only matched by Drew Brees.

Tier 3

Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports
14. Cam Newton
15. Dak Prescott
16. Tyrod Taylor
17. Eli Manning
I considered putting all four of these guys in tier 2. Newton was the #1 QB in fantasy football two years ago, so we know what he’s capable of if he puts it all together. He could easily exceed my expectations. But as I said earlier, I’m not a huge fan of running QBs, and I’m not sure if the changes Carolina is making to the offense actually benefit him. Prescott had a terrific rookie year, but I got a funny feeling he’s headed towards a sophomore slump. Very interested to see how he plays in the first six games without Zeke to hand the ball off to.
Prescott’s completion percentage was 13 points lower with Elliot off the field compared to when he was on it. Taylor has quitely produced two solid seasons of 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. That’s starter material, but I have my doubts on whether he can do it three years in a row. Manning has been consistently inconsistent throughout his fantasy career. Which Eli are we going to see in 2017? I have no clue, but with the Giants adding Brandon Marshall to a WR crew that already features Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, this is the best group of pass catchers he’s had in quite a while.

Tier 4

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
18. Andy Dalton (Katy High School, Katy, TX)
19. Blake Bortles
20. Carson Palmer
21. Joe Flacco
22. Jay Cutler
23. Carson Wentz
24. Alex Smith
Truthfully, I wouldn’t touch any of these guys, not even with a backup role. Backup QBs aren’t actually necessary in fantasy football. Sure, injuries do happen. But not as often at the QB position as the other spots, and because each team only starts 1 QB, there are always replacement-level guys on the waiver wire. I consider all of these dudes to be just that, replacement-level players.


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