Most fantasy football players would probably agree that the top three fantasy QBs for 2014 are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. There’s a widely believed draft strategy that if you can’t grab one of those elite QBs, you should wait on QB and focus on other skill positions first. I won’t go into whether or not I recommend that strategy right now, but which QB do you draft if you do go for one of the top three?
Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of those QBs. Because all three have incredible arms and passing skills, I’ll focus the analysis on two factors: offseason team changes and strength of schedule.
The majority of the fantasy community has Manning locked in as the top QB, and I understand why. Manning had a record-breaking career year in 2013, throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs. But players don’t often have back-to-back record-setting seasons, especially not late in their careers.
The Denver Broncos bolstered their defense this offseason after the beating they took in the Super Bowl. Denver signed free agents CB Aqib Talib, SS T.J. Ward and DE DeMarcus Ware and also drafted CB Bradley Roby in the first round. With a much stronger defense to close out games, Manning won’t need to sling it as much for the Broncos to win games.
The Broncos also had one of the easiest schedules in 2013, and now they have one of the hardest in 2014. Manning will face defenses like the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots as well as the entire NFC West. It doesn’t mean that he can’t still be great, but I doubt he will come close to matching his stats from last season.
Brees is a perennial top-3 QB option, throwing for 5,162 yards and 29 TDs in 2013, and this year is no different. Brees may have lost Lance Moore and Darren Sproles on offense, but Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas and others will step right into their roles. Oh, and Jimmy Graham will continue to dominate.
The New Orleans Saints also boast a much-improved defense, but there are two differences between Brees’ and Manning’s defensive situations. First, while the Saints’ defense has improved, it’s still not as good as the Broncos’ defense on paper. Second, Sean Payton doesn’t care if his team is winning. He will send out Brees to run up the score if he can. Brees should see plenty of opportunity again in 2014 to vie for the top QB spot.
As for his schedule, the Saints don’t have that tough of a schedule this year. The main worries are the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10. Also, Brees will face the Panthers at home in Week 14, the first round of fantasy playoffs.
Rodgers missed half of the 2013 season due to a broken collarbone, but that shouldn’t worry you too much. That was the first time he’s missed significant time since becoming the starting QB for the Green Bay Packers, and he threw for 4,295 yards and 39 TDs in 2012.
As for offseason changes, the Packers still have at best a middle-of-the-road defense. Rodgers will need to throw plenty to win games, and he has a great returning supporting cast of Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to help him move the chains.
Finally, the Packers will face a few elite defenses in 2014, but overall they have a fairly decent schedule given what their offensive unit can do. The lower production weeks would likely be Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks and Week 7 against the Panthers. The playoff weeks are mostly clear with the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.
Top-3 QB Ranking
I rank the top three fantasy QBs for 2014 in the following order: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and then Peyton Manning. Manning is unlikely to match his 2013 stats, and his first round ADP is way too high. Brees and Rodgers are very close, but ultimately I dropped Brees to second because he is playing the Panthers in the first round of fantasy playoffs.
Don’t overpay for Manning and don’t get knocked out of the playoffs by Brees. Aaron Rodgers (unfortunately for this Chicago Bears fan) is the way to go in 2014.