As excitement for the 2014 NFL season ramps up with the Draft approaching, it's important for you to take a moment to consider your Quarterback options for this year. Whether you raised a championship trophy or carry the burden of defeat from 2013, it's a whole new ballgame, baby, and your QB is the most important facet of today's NFL fantasy game. Think back to the champion of your league last year (if it was you, simply smile and nod). Was Peyton Manning mysteriously on that roster? Think back to years past if you can. Brees, Rodgers, Brady. Those are the guys that win titles, both Lombardi-style and fantasy alike. The QB is the queen on your chess board, so valuable, sometimes vulnerable, and difficult to win without. Difficult, but not impossible.
2014 is poised to be another record-breaking year with more passing yards, completions, and touchdowns than ever before. This, you should note, is a good thing, since you are going to draft a QB early, bank on a stud, back him up with a boom/bust slinger, and call it a day. So now, it's time to layout the studs, the boom/busts, the "ehhhh," and the avoids.
The Studs AKA "Your Date to the Prom"
Aaron Rodgers - back from injury and not a moment too soon. That 4th quarter TD shot to get the Packers into the playoffs was legendary, reminiscent of another Cheesehead. The man has the goods, he's in the "sweet zone" at just 30 years of age, and will probably hold the ball even more often due to Green Bay growing defensively. His credentials need not be listed. Draft early, draft often.
Tom, The Brady - the prettiest mother-lover in all the land, no matter what combination of names and numbers are on his receivers' backs, he will be getting them the ball. Yes, it's true he had his first sub-30 TD season in 4 years, but worry not! The Brady, his beautiful hair, and a replenished roster of hungry WRs will shower your team with puntos frescos (fresh points?)
Drew Breesy - diminutive in stature, gargantuan on playmaking, Drew is a conundrum wrapped in a quandary. Take a look at his home/away logs from last year. Do it... Now you see the problem. The man is sheer fantasy liability on the road. Straight up gambles. 27 of his 39 TDs came at home. That's a sweet average of 3+ TDs, but what about the other 8 games?!? The major problem with Mr. B is that when he's on your roster, you can't bench him unless you have brass balls. So yes, he's still a stud for sheer volume, but tread carefully and be ready to trade him before a few road games in a row.
Boom/Bust AKA "Yes, yes, yes! No, no, no!"
Cam "Superman" Newton - TD celebrations are important and he's got one of the best. To go along with that bravado, he's improved his completion % and total passing TDs in each of his 3 seasons, minimizing turnovers, and still putting up those juicy rushing yards and TDs. Arguments can be made that he will struggle mightily without quality receivers, but the talent simply cannot be denied. You must consider him if the studs have been taken.
Nick Foles - it's fair to say that 80% of fantasy football fans fell in love with this guy, whether he was theirs or not last season. Coming in after a weird Eagles start, he goes Super-Saiyan and drops 1 million (number inflated for emphasis) touchdowns, including a silly 7 TD performance. The Eagles have lost DeSean, but added a nifty, sure-handed speedster in Darren Sproles, and Foles sure did like throwing to Riley Cooper anyway.
Matthew Stafford - the emergence of Calvin Johnson as the league's preeminent athlete has lifted his QB to mythic proportions, heaving about 5,000 yards in 2011 and 2012, and 4,650 last season with 29 TDs. Having Megatron and now Golden Tate across the field should spread some things out for Stafford, providing some more time for him to make quality decisions. He's only had one season completing at least 60% of his passes and 2014 looks to be his best opportunity to set career marks in comp % and QB Rating.
Andrew Luck - why isn't he under the studs category? At least that's what you're probably thinking. Well, he's not there yet, damn it. 23 TDs on the season is not studly. Not yet. Maybe in 2015.
Philip Rivers - perhaps some firm faith, a bevy of children, and bolo ties are all that a man needs to improve his lot in life. Rivers went from schmo to YO in a single season filled with only his best passer rating ever, 32 TDs, and nearly 4500 yards, all while just missing the coveted 70% completion milestone. Get some.
Andy Dalton - "so kiss a little longer, make it last a little longer, Longer with Big Red!" Well, Big Red went pretty big with his first season with more than 4,000 yards and 30 TDs to date. Of course, he paired that up by throwing the ball to the opposite team 20 times, which knocks him down a peg. All in all, he has some great weapons with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Sanzenbacher, and Sanu, plus his O-line knows how to keep his jersey relatively clean. In a pinch, you should be A-OK with Big Red on your roster.
Jay Cutler - on the road to full recovery, Jay let down everyone last year with a terrible Week 16 sack-fest. If you put him in your championship or playoff week due to an injury to your top guy, you were crumbled. However, he still has one of the best receivers in all the land (B-Marsh), Alshon coming into his own, and the crazy-skilled Matt Forte coming out of the backfield. If he stays healthy, 30+ TDs is a safe bet.
Michael Vick - stats a-plenty, injuries too, the truth is the guy can play. You won't get 16 games, you'll need to roster at least 2 other QBs, but if you believe in a committee approach to the game and want to play the matchup salsa dance with the fantasy gods, he's your guy.
Joe Flacco - potential rebound year with some real talent around him in Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Marlok Brown, Steve Smith, and Jacoby Jones. It sure doesn't look like they'll be running much considering Ray Rice's negative YPC (slight exaggeration).
The Avoids AKA "Don't step on this flaming bag of..."
Matt Ryan - what do you call a complete loss of faith in a human being? A Matty Ice. Will he rebound from a career high in interceptions? Maybe, but is it worth the risk? The Falcons fell so hard and so fast. Sometimes, it's just too hard to recover.
What? You thought there'd be more avoids, didn't you? Well, to be honest, 2014 will not be the year of the Ryan, simple as that. Fantasy Football is as much about the gut feelings than it is the statistics. Stats are king, but as Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away,Know when to run" If you see Matt Ryan on the draft board, run.