Fantasy Football: 2015 Quarterback sleepers and busts


Fantasy Football: 2015 Quarterback sleepers and busts

We're not here to debate Andrew Luck vs. Aaron Rodgers (though that debate will be coming soon).

Everybody knows those are the best two quarterbacks to own in fantasy football. It's just obvious, like this stellar graphic during a Padres broadcast this spring:

We're also not here to argue whether Luck and Rodgers are worthy of a first-round draft pick (they probably are). We're here to discuss 12 other names in the QB circle, guys you could fill your roster with if you don't land Mr. 1A or Mr. 1B.

Top Targets

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: What’s there not to like about Roethlisberger’s situation? He has arguably the best receiver in football in Antonio Brown, a major deep threat in Martavis Bryant and an electric running back out of the backfield in Le’Veon Bell. He’s also got a reliable red zone target in Heath Miller and an improving receiver in Markus Wheaton. The weapons are there for Roethlisberger to be the third best quarterback in fantasy this year. Don’t miss out. - John "The Professor" Paschall

Tony Romo, DAL: While the rest of the world debates Rodgers vs. Luck, my plan in every league I'm in will be to wait until the middle rounds to get my quarterbacks. Yes, plural. There are so many quality QB options in fantasy today that you can easily acquire two really solid guys and play the best matchups on a weekly basis. Romo's average draft position on ESPN leagues is 75th overall, putting him in the seventh round in 10-team leagues. I'll take that every day of the week from a guy who has consistently been a Top 10 QB during his career and playing behind a dominant offensive line with Dez Bryant as his top target. - Tony Andracki

[MORE - CSN Fantasy Football Podcast: Previewing Raiders, AFC West]

Ryan Tannehill, MIA: You’d be hard-pressed to find a quarterback who has risen up the rankings in the past calendar year more so than the former Texas A&M wide receiver. Tannehill was a revelation for fantasy owners last year, finishing with 266 total points, making him a Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Heading into the 2015 season, with a plethora of weapons at his disposal in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Jordan Cameron and Lamar Miller, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Tannehill continue to climb that ladder and cement himself among the NFL’s elite. - Scott Krinch

Russell Wilson, SEA: It’s been quite the offseason for Ciara’s boyfriend, but when Week 1 rolls around there isn’t a quarterback not named Luck or Rodgers that I’d want leading my fantasy squad. With a brand-new contract, brand-new tight end (Jimmy Graham) and same fantasy-friendly offense in hand, expect Wilson to again lead all QBs in rushing yards and touchdowns, while getting an additional bump in the red zone with Graham around. Chances are someone will reach too early for him, but if he’s still available in the 4th round I’d pounce on him. You can play the strategy of waiting on a quarterback and roll the dice every week, or you can select a guy who hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and will get you 6+ points on the ground alone each week. Easy decision. - Mark Strotman


Drew Brees, NO: Gone are the days that Brees was considered at worst a third-round fantasy selection. The gunslinging Saints quarterback has been passed up by young bucks’ Luck and Wilson, and he no longer has his favorite target in Graham. But fear not Brees fans, there is still a lot to like about his prospects heading into the season. Getting Brees at his current ADP of 53 or later is tremendous value. Expect Brandin Cooks and Josh Hill to become Brees’ go-to-guys and fill up the box score each week. Add a healthy and explosive C.J. Spiller to the mix and Brees has more than enough weapons in his arsenal, and should easily outperform his ADP in 2015. - SK

Colin Kaepernick, SF: Kaepernick rushed for the second-most yards (639) of any quarterback last season, but somehow only found the endzone once on the ground. If he had four rushing TDs (a moderate - not crazy - boost), Kaepernick would jump from the 18th-ranked Fantasy QB to the 13th. If he had five total rushing touchdowns, he would be tied for 11th among QBs. First off, that depicts just how close the pool of QBs is in Fantasy (another reason why you shouldn't reach for one) and it illustrates how valuable Kaepernick can be as a Fantasy option. In the midst of a disappointing season, the only thing that kept him from being a Top 13 QB was a statistical oddity that should not happen again. Sure, things are still a muddled mess in San Francisco, but Kaepernick should be rejuvenated now that he's out from under Jim Harbaugh's ire and he's still got a solid group of weapons around him. Expect a re-entry into the Top 10 QBs. - TA

[MORE - CSN Fantasy Football Podcast: Previewing NFC West]

Eli Manning, NYG: It was an ugly start to 2014 for Manning, but a sexy finish. Losing Victor Cruz hurt, but gaining Odell Beckham Jr. was a huge boost to Manning’s fantasy value. He could be this year’s Roethlisberger, a fantasy star who is being drafted right now in the mid-to-late rounds. A full offseason with Ben McAdoo’s offense can only help everyone on the Giants. The addition of Shane Vereen is an enormous boost for Manning, who now has a great check-down target. The only thing holding Manning back may be his offensive line, but he’s a top QB2 with a QB1 upside. - JP

Jameis Winston, QB: The NFL’s top pick couldn’t be coming into a better fantasy situation this fall. With bookend receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, no clear-cut running back (all of whom can catch, by the way) and a defense that allowed more than 25 points per game a year ago, Winston is going to be cut loose to throw early and often, and late and often. He’s looked great in the preseason and has star written all over him. Whether that stardom blossoms in Year 1 remains to be seen, but I’ll feel very comfortable snagging him as my QB2 in the later rounds of the draft this year. - MS


Peyton Manning, DEN: It’s usually a good rule of thumb to draft a quarterback who can feel his fingertips. Unfortunately, we may be seeing the last run of one of the all-time greats, who failed to top 13 fantasy points in any of the last five games of the regular season. The offseason wasn’t kind to him, either, as the Broncos lost Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, hired run-oriented Gary Kubiak as head coach and Manning turned 39. Look, odds are he’ll finish as a Top 5 or 6 quarterback this season because he’s still elite and has Demaryius Thomas running circles around secondaries. But in most leagues, he’s going to cost you a third- or fourth-round pick, and that’s just asking for trouble. Unless he miraculously fell to the 6th round (he won’t), I won’t have him on any of my teams this season. - MS

Cam Newton, CAR: Newton was overrated before his top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury. Now, he’s at the top of my “Do not draft" list. Newton will always hold some semblance of value due to his ability to pick up big chunks of yards on the ground, and someone in your league will always draft him a few rounds too early because of that. According to ESPN Stats and Info, only two quarterbacks (Michael Vick and Kordell Stewart) have rushed for over 500 yards after their fourth NFL season. Newton should come close to that total, but he just doesn’t provide enough value with his arm to offset his added rushing value. He’s fool’s gold. Stay far away in 2015. - SK

[MORE FANTASY: Get ready for your Fantasy Football draft by checking out our coverage]

Matt Ryan, ATL: The hype is starting to wear off on me. Sure, he has an All-Pro receiver in Julio Jones to throw to. But after Jones, there’s a lot of concerns and question marks. The Falcons don’t have a legitimate tight end threat in the passing game. Roddy White is really starting to show his age and is undergoing elbow surgery. Is Devin Hester really a legitimate weapon in the Falcons offense? So many question marks for Ryan that I don’t feel comfortable targeting him in my draft this year. - JP

Matthew Stafford, DET: Every year, fantasy owners look at Stafford's physical skills, check to make sure the Lions still have a surplus of weapons around him led by Calvin Johnson, reminisce on his 5,000-yard, 41-TD 2011 season and salivate. They draft him too high based on all of these things and sit back, thinking they just got the steal of the draft. Ten weeks later, they're sitting there with their head in their hands, wondering where their fantasy team went wrong. Fact: The only way to properly draft Stafford to avoid a potential "bust" label is to get him as your second QB and understand that if he suddenly makes good on that jaw-dropping potential, you're set. If he doesn't, you still got a solid starter in place who is not Matt Stafford. - TA

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”