Let’s just call it what it is: I don’t value quarterbacks very highly in fantasy. In my quarterback preview released earlier this off-season, I mentioned that the position was deep and that it allowed for streaming. Then I unveiled the TE-TE strategy, one that requires going with late round quarterbacks. Heck, I told you Peyton Manning was overrated. But as much as I may besmirch the position, you do need a quarterback each week for your lineup and it is a position that generally scores plenty of fantasy points. If you want those points at a value, I have for you 5 late round quarterback targets for 2014. All 5 of these players are quarterbacks you could get after half of your league (12 teams) has a starter AND a backup already. I think that drafting two of them in the later rounds of your draft, perhaps even your last two picks before defense and kicker, can make for a certifiable gold mine of value (all ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator).
Carson Palmer, Cardinals
ADP: 18 (13.05 Overall)
Much has been made this off-season of Cardinals skill players like Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington. Many people like Larry Fitzgerald to have a solid season as well in year two of Bruce Arians’ offense in Arizona. The team also just drafted T.Y. Hilton clone John Brown in the third round of May’s draft. Where do all of these players intersect? The quarterback, Carson Palmer. He and the team grasped the offense much better in the final half of last season, which reflected in their point totals, as the Cardinals jumped from 20 to 27.3 points per game after their week 9 bye. It also reflected in Palmer’s fantasy numbers, which we can see via the RotoViz Game Splits App:
Palmer went from unstartable to a back-end QB1 after the bye, and there is no reason to think he can’t be even better this year with another offseason and another full compliment of weapons at his disposal. And if you’re worried about the division he plays in, don’t be:
Palmer was actually BETTER against the vaunted NFC West than he was against the rest of the league. This includes two horrible performances against Seattle. He scored 18 or more fantasy points in all four games against San Francisco and St. Louis (5 points/TD pass). Palmer also has two juicy matchups to start the year (three if you include the Niners) with the Chargers and Giants. Expect Palmer to be, at the least, very streamable early in the season.
Johnny Manziel, Browns
ADP: 20 (13.10 Overall)
Call me crazy, but I think it is pretty clear that Johnny Football is the most talented quarterback the Browns have. That being said, I love the talk about Brian Hoyer starting week 1 for Cleveland as it only depreciates Manziel’s value. I love the upside for him in the Kyle Shanahan offense, one that produced top 5 numbers for Robert Griffin III in his rookie year (2012). And don’t let his draft position fool you, Shawn Siegele made a great case on RotoViz for Manziel to be one of the best quarterback prospects EVER. And if you’re worried about the Browns supposed run heavy offense and lack of weapons, I would like to remind you that the Redskins ran the ball 519 times in 2012 (3rd best in the league) and that the immortal Josh Morgan led the team in targets. I also found this split interesting from RG3’s rookie season:
RG3’s fantasy points were actually HIGHER with his top receiver (Pierre Garcon) off the field in 2012. It is easy to see that his rushing numbers went way up in the absence of a number one receiver, and there is no reason to think a similar type of usage pattern would not happen should Josh Gordon’s suspension be upheld at a season. Gordon or no Gordon, Manziel is going to have a terrific chance for fantasy numbers this year in Cleveland.
Alex Smith, Chiefs
ADP: 22 (14.05 Overall)
A QB13 fantasy finish from 2013 is not keeping Alex Smith out of the fantasy doghouse in drafts this season. It is a shame, considering that Smith posted 20 or more fantasy points 8 times last year. He is also one of the few quarterbacks who performed better in losses than wins:
The reasons for this split are easy to pinpoint. When the Chiefs had leads, they could continue to run the ball with Jamaal Charles and the turnover-averse Smith would just dump the ball off to receivers on short routes rather than take shots deep. From behind, Smith was forced to throw more and deeper down the field, resulting in more fantasy points. Do you think the Chiefs will lose more games this year than last year? I do, and Vegas agrees with a projected win total of 8 games for the Chiefs in 2014. Smith also plays very well against the division:
In his five divisional games last season (Smith sat out week 17 against the Chargers), Smith averaged over 8 more fantasy points per game than against the rest of the league. In fact, he only had one game with less than 26.7 points of the five. I like Smith a lot as a matchup play this year, especially in those all-important divisional games.
Jake Locker, Titans
I love that Sam Bradford is being drafted this season and Jake Locker is not. The fourth year player from Washington was actually playing like a back-end QB1 last year before being injured in week 10 against the Jaguars:
On less than 30 attempts per game, he was able to produce very well at the quarterback position last season. Ken Whisenhunt’s offenses have averaged 575 pass attempts per season (about 36 per game) over the last 8 years, which could lead to a large spike in 2014 production. And in case you aren’t yet a believer of how big of an impact the Wiz has on quarterbacks, Chargers QB Philip Rivers had the highest point average of his career last season (19 per game) after averaging 17.47 points per game over his prior 5 seasons. The injury concern is real with Locker, but since you have to invest literally nothing to obtain him, the risk is well worth the reward.
Geno Smith, Jets
More Geno I say! I simply cannot get enough of the second year Jets quarterback this season, and he is my favorite player on this list for 2014. Smith finished 2013 with a bang:
He averaged basically ten and a half more points per game in the last 4 games, with a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio as well as improved work on the ground (48.25 yards per game). And that isn’t all. As I mentioned in my best ball targets piece, Geno was a monster in Jet wins last year:
Again, Geno was a top FIVE quarterback for HALF of the season last year. That is a decent sized sample and shows just how great of upside the young signal caller has. Oh, and he did that with Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes, and David Nelson as his top three receivers last season. With Eric Decker, Jace Amaro, Chris Johnson, and a clean bill of health for the aforementioned Kerley as well as third year wideout Stephen Hill, Geno should have enough firepower to more consistently hit his highs and raise his lows. Also, here are the pass attempts for Marty Mornhinweg (the Jets OC) offenses over the last 8 seasons:
2013 – 480
2012 – 618
2011 – 554
2010 – 561
2009 – 553
2008 – 606
2007 – 577
2006 – 544
Which one of these is not like the others? It may be more likely to see a huge uptick in pass attempts for Smith than we think.