Welcome to the unofficial beginning of the fantasy football pre-season! Now that the draft is over and free agency is calming down, we can finally make educated guesses on team rosters and depth charts. After all, the fewer hypotheticals, the better.
To be clear, when I say “Dynasty” rankings, I don’t mean “Career” rankings. For keeper leagues, I’m focusing on the first few years of players’ contracts. After that point, a lot of unpredictable scenarios arise. They could be traded, their team could get significantly better/worse, they could shoot themselves in the foot (literally or figuratively), get abducted by aliens… You get the idea. With that said, the first few years of a player’s career are just as much (if not more) about their situation and opportunity as they are about talent. The best fantasy players will have a combination of BOTH!
[Note: If you’re interested in where the rookies stack up in redraft rankings, those will be coming at a later date]
Leading up to the draft, all the hypothetical scenarios involving QBs were overwhelming to the point of being ridiculous. All that matters is what actually happened. Bortles was taken early, while Manziel waited a couple hours. Ultimately it feels like the QBs landed in their appropriate spots. Some of the later picks are in more favorable situations than Bortles, despite getting lesser contracts. But, none of them are sure bets to start Week 1 of the upcoming season.
1. Johnny Manziel – Browns
Finally! an end to the speculation about which team is going to draft Manziel (how insufferable was Jon Gruden during the first round). Upon being drafted, Manziel said, “Cleveland? Damn. Well at least they’ve got Josh Gor… Wait, he did what now?!” To make matters worse, the Browns didn’t draft a single WR in the draft. So either Browns’ management is unbelievably incompetent, or the Gordon rumors are way overblown. I’m still ranking Manziel first because Hoyer is a good incumbent (less pressure), he has great weapons (Gordon, Cameron, Hawkins, Tate), and the Browns have two first-round picks next year to build around him. He’ll put up some nice passing and rushing stats eventually (assuming he doesn’t get injured while “improvising”), just don’t expect too much in 2014.
2. Teddy Bridgewater – Vikings
Experts say that Bridgewater had a bad pro day, but he’s impressed me where it counts: in the games. Minnesota has some good receivers, and Bridgewater has the accuracy to make defenses pay for focusing on the Purple Jesus. If he plays 16 games, Bridgewater could easily match the combined 3645 yards and 18 TDs achieved by Cassel, Ponder and Freeman in 2013 (the most frustrating three-headed monster since this one 40 years ago).
3. Blake Bortles – Jaguars
The man more commonly known as “that quarterback with the really hot girlfriend” isn’t moving far – heading from Orlando to Jacksonville. Unfortunately for him, Jacksonville’s offense is a mess. Their best receiver is indefinitely suspended and RB Toby Gerhart isn’t going to strike fear into any opposing front 7s. Having a couple talented rookies will help if they learn quickly, but Blake’s confidence is going to be tested. GM Caldwell says Bortles won’t start until 2015. I don’t buy it, but I would still avoid him in redraft leagues. He’s a long-term fantasy prospect.
4. Derek Carr – Raiders
As with many of the other rookie QBs, Carr is likely to develop for at least a year. However, Matt Schaub showed us last year that he’s vulnerable. Derek Carr has the necessary skills and a potential opportunity to be productive. The Raiders have made some significant improvements on both sides of the ball, so unlike previous young QBs in Oakland, Carr can actually succeed.
5. Tom Savage – Texans
used an early pick waited too many rounds to take its QB of the future. Savage has the physical tools, but needs some time to develop (which boosts Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stock in 2014). But, if you invest in Savage long term, it could pay off. However, if the Texans throw him into the fire too soon, it would be detrimental.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo – Patriots
This one is plain and simple. It’s Tom Brady’s job until he decides to retire with his supermodel wife. Garoppolo has the skills to succeed, but I would only draft him in a keeper league if I needed Brady-insurance.
7. Aaron Murray – Chiefs
Alex Smith is a good-but-not-great quarterback. Murray has average physical attributes, though if anybody can make him a starter it’s Andy Reid. Unfortunately the Chiefs receivers leave a lot to be desired.
8. Logan Thomas – Cardinals
Logan Thomas will develop behind Carson Palmer, but like many analysts, I’m not convinced that he has the skills to be an NFL starter. I think the Cardinals will be looking for another QB in the 2015 draft.
[Click the links below for more rookie evaluations and rankings]