Fantasy Football Takeaways from ESPN's QB Rankings
ESPN’s Mike Sando posted a ranking of the NFL’s 32 starting QBs according to a panel of 35 coaches and executives. It’s an extremely insightful piece chock-full of quotes from the league insiders.
It’s available only to ESPN Insiders. (Unfortunately, ESPN isn’t paying us to pimp their Insider package.) But here’s a look at the most interesting fantasy football takeaways from the article.
Arm strength and mobility are concerns for Peyton Manning
An anonymous defensive coordinator said that arm strength and mobility are major concerns for Broncos QB Peyton Manning heading into 2015. "He is still smart and that will never change, but you have to get the ball there, too," the DC added.
Manning chucked 10 INTs over the final 8 games last season -- 3rd most in the league. And he was held under 235 yards in 4 of his final 6 outings. Some of that had to do with the quad injury he played through. But the 39-year-old is clearly nearing the end.
Still, the league insiders ranked Manning 5th among the league's 32 starting QBs -- behind Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. Manning is still capable of another big fantasy season in 2015, but he comes with more risk than he did earlier in his career.
Drew Brees on the decline?
Multiple NFL coaches and executives told Sando that Saints QB Drew Brees is on the decline.
"He doesn't throw as well," an OC said. "His lower body is not as good. He's been nicked up a little bit. He is just losing his juice. Things have to be perfect for him to be himself."
"When guys get older and start getting hit, especially guys with vision problems, they start playing a lot faster, almost too fast, and panic shows up,” a HC added. “I saw some of that in Drew last season."
Brees turned in another top-3 fantasy finish last year, but he set 5-year lows in yards per attempt (7.5) and TD rate (5.0%). Brees still completed a sizzling 69.2% of his throws, though, so it's tough to believe his accuracy is waning much.
The bigger concerns for his 2015 fantasy football outlook are the losses of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas and the move toward a more balanced offense.
Eli Manning trending up?
League insiders told Sando that Giants QB Eli Manning is trending up at age-34.
"He had the drop-off in 2013, but I thought he really started to come on last year," a personnel director said. "Finally getting him weapons and guys with speed is really going to help him going forward. He is now throwing timing routes that he had not done before in his career ... I'd be surprised if he did not have a good year this year."
It took Manning most of last offseason to settle into new OC Ben McAdoo's offense. But he finished with a personal-best 63.1% completion rate, 4,410 yards and 30 TDs. Manning ranked 9th among QBs in fantasy points.
With another offseason in McAdoo's scheme -- plus the return of Victor Cruz and the arrival of Shane Vereen -- Manning could be even better in 2015.
The NFL is high on Derek Carr
Oakland's Derek Carr ranked highest among last year's QB class. He finished 20th among all QBs -- 3 spots ahead of Teddy Bridgewater and 7 ahead of Blake Bortles.
Carr averaged a league-low 5.5 yards per pass attempt last year but chucked 21 TDs vs. just 12 INTs. Those highest on Carr believe he'll excel with a better supporting cast.
"I think he is strong in the pocket, and just watching him, it feels like he is in command, knows where he is going with the ball and has plenty of arm strength," a personnel director said. "The lack of talent around him is pretty apparent. You get the offensive line and run game going, surround him with some better players and he makes a big jump."
Carr got some help this offseason with the additions of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Roy Helu and Clive Walford. But this is still an underwhelming group of pass-catchers. We're not expecting Carr to ascend beyond mid-range QB2 territory this year.
NFL coach: RG3 is "done"
An anonymous offensive coach told Sando that Redskins QB Robert Griffin is "done." The coach explained, "The [knee] injury slowed his legs, and his ego will not allow him to hit rock bottom and actually grind his way back up the right way."
There's been some positive buzz on RG3 this offseason, but a collection of 35 NFL coaches and executives isn't buying it. It ranked Griffin 28th among the league's 32 starting QBs -- ahead of only Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel and Geno Smith.
We're still not throwing in the towel on RG3 as a fantasy option because of his rushing ability, even if it is diminished. Plus, it only costs a late-round pick to take a shot on him. But it's plenty possibility that he busts again in 2015 and eventually flames out of the league.
NFL bashes Bills QBs
A group of 35 NFL coaches and executives didn't have anything good to say about Bills QBs Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel.
Cassel "is not accurate, has a long motion, a big over-stride, a flat ball and he just looked like he has regressed," an offensive coach said. Most of the group couldn't believe Buffalo signed Cassel to be a potential starter this season.
The word on Manuel wasn't any better. "Manuel has no instincts after the ball is snapped," a personnel director said. "He's a great kid, has some talent. But he could not decipher or make quick decisions in college, and I do not see him doing it now."
The underwhelming top of the depth chart is why QB Tyrod Taylor has a chance to start for the Bills. But he completed just 52.7% of his college passes and has attempted just 35 throws as a pro.
Buffalo's giant question mark at QB is a major concern for the team's pass catchers -- especially WR Sammy Watkins.