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August 2010
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Yesterday, I noted that you can expect 8-9 of the top 12 QBs to be between the ages of 25-30 and entering his 2nd – 8th year of play. The market (ADP) says there are 9 this year: Rodgers, Romo, Rivers, Schaub, Cutler, Kolb, Ryan, Flacco and Eli Manning.

I’m working on a system that gets away from trying to nail precise projections and moving toward a system that seeks to reduce overall risk while incorporating the principle of expected performance. One way to do that in fantasy is to identify and then minimize risk factors- especially for the first few picks of your draft as you work to build the core of your team.

I start with the previous year’s offense and then determine whether that offense stayed the same, got better, or got worse/unpredictable. Same and ‘got better’ are safer than worse/unpredictable. Pittsburgh, Philly and Arizona were top 12 passing offenses last year- they become unpredictable for a variety of reasons, and thus I wouldn’t want to invest a high pick in their QBs.

Based on opportunity/expected performance, as well as the age and experience ‘sweet-spot’, here are your safest bets, ranked by expected performance assuming teams threw the exact same number of times:

1)      Philip Rivers, SD, (ADP 41)

2)      Aaron Rodgers, GB (10)

3)      Tony Romo, DAL (37)

4)      Eli Manning, NYG (90)

5)      Matt Schaub, HOU (43)

6)      Matt Ryan, ATL (80)

7)      Joe Flacco, BAL (87)

8)      Carson Palmer, CIN (108)

9)      Alex Smith, SF (209)

Now, if you want to take a chance, I’d take it on these guys, in order:

1)      Drew Brees, NO (13)

2)      Peyton Manning, IND (21)

3)      Tom Brady, NE (35)

The interesting thing here is we are focusing on how to spend those high picks (rounds 1 – 6); yet there are a couple of guys here you can get past the sixth round. Certainly, Palmer and Smith become interesting options for backups if you can nab one of the other guys, especially as a way to hedge your bet if you take a risk early.

Favre, if he comes back, certainly could crack the top 12 again. But he’s a huge risk both in terms of age and experience. Teams learned that they could stop that potent offense by hitting Favre often and hard. And keep in mind that these rankings are based on equalized value- assuming these teams are throwing the ball the same number of times. With Mad Martz in Chicago, there a decent chance Cutler edges out Smith on this list simply because they’ll throw the ball more.

I’m also ignoring teams who have had recent success passing the ball but something big changed- Arizona lost Warner and Boldin; Philly lost McNabb; Steelers lose Big Ben for at least 4 weeks and perhaps 6, as well as the departure of Santonio Holmes; Minnesota lives and dies by Favre’s whim and health along with Harvin’s migraines.

The thing to remember is- these 12 guys have a much better chance than average to end the season in the top 12.

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