Friday, June 5, 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Quarterbacks for 2015

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Welp. Let's be real. There is a QB out there and available....every single week....that will get you big points. It's kinda like defenses, right? Even a mid-level defense can have a stellar day against a homecoming favorite. It's for that reason that we approach QBs a little different. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a lot of value in having a top-tier QB. One might say that it is impossible to win without one. But, let's be real, there aren't many QBs each year that are going to consistently get you 30+ points a game. So, if you are in a large league and you have a bottom pick....well....plan accordingly. 

First thing is first. We have covered running backs and recievers so far. If you haven't read those, do so.

#WWZD? Well, again, that just depends. Like most people, I try and go for a knockout QB just like everyone else. But, like I said, if you are mid-round pick or later, those SURE FIRE guys are probably long gone. You know, those guys like Keenan Reynolds who never throw....they just run? Or maybe Braxton Miller (the joke was on you)? Or Connor Halliday that is sure to throw for at least 300 yards per game? Yeah, so what if those guys are all gone ?

Now, just for the record, I am talking about 20-man leagues, which is what we use. Last year I was the last pick in the draft, which meant that I got the first pick in the second round. I went with a slightly risky pick in Bo Wallace because I could turn around and nab Treadwell with the very next pick. And, I decided to draft a TE really early and I went with Evan Engram, another Ole Miss player. Why? Well, Wallace historically has run a lot, especially inside the 10. Though he tended to throw a lot of picks, I got the stability of rush yards and any rushing TDs, since the Rebels had no ground game. Additionally, I would double up on any points to both Treadwell and Engram, both of which were premier players at their positions. That ended up working until I hocked them all mid-season when the Freeze shine wears off. Personally, I don't draft QBs from outside the power 5. Just too much risk. Now, that may all change come week 4 when they prove themselves, but I just don't like the risk.

Anyway...the point is that aside from those 5 ridiculous QBs, there is a free agent out there every single week waiting to blow up that week.....just waiting for you to do your homework. 

But, let's talk about those top guys in the power 5. Then we will discuss some other guys in the other conferences. To be honest, though some gamebusters come from outside the Power 5, I have a hard time relying on them, week to week. Though they excel against other inferior competition, their upside against premier opponents is shaky at best. And, when it comes playoff time, you don't want your QB to be playing a homecoming special roll in Bryant-Denny, do ya?

ACC
The ACC has a few legitimate fantasy QBs. UNC's Williams had a fantastic fantasy year, which (along with Watson from Clemson) will put him on top of most people's boards. Miami's Kaya was the breakout star last year, especially down the stretch. But, few people took notice to Florida transfer and NC State starter Jacobi Brissett. By midseason, both of these guys were solid producers for fantasy. However, I would go with Brissett over Kaya. Kaya had an NFL-talent running back in Johnson (who happened to be a top fantasy producer) as well as a top-flight receiver turned NFL rookie Dorsett. That's 1600 yards and 10 TDs of rushing play-action-pass decoy that is gone and 900 yards and an astounding 10 TDs of vacancy. Furthermore, I believe in the sophomore slump. And, I believe in Tommy Tuberville and the Bearcats on a Thursday night. How about a Chizik led Tarheels D? I don't think he has ever lost as a D-coordinator.  And, I FIRMLY believe going to FSU isn't going to work out. Throw in a game against a (hopefully) re-surging Nebraska team and you have a fairly tough schedule. 

Brissett and the Wolfpack have a month long cake walk that ends week 5 against Louisville. But, it's at home. From there it is almost all ACC play. While it may be prudent to hock him at that point, keep in mind that the Pack is a throw heavy team and, despite playing at FSU and Virginia Tech, even a blow out loss can be a good thing. Brissett is a seasoned and gritty upper-classman. To me, he is worthy of serious consideration as a late 1st or 2nd round consideration. 

UNC's Williams is a player that will be an early pick from most every league because of his ability to run and throw. The converted WR had a fantastic fantasy year with his 21 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs. However, he had 9 INTs. He returns his top 2 WRs and 12 of those TDs. The best news is that the Heels play 1...maybe 2, depending on how VT turns around....defenses all year. The opener is against SCAR and the Cocks weren't exactly good on defense last year. What you should worry about is that most offensive coordinators want to do the D-word to running QBs. Yep, they want to develop them. So, instead of letting him run....they will spend all year trying to get him to throw first. As a fantasy guy you DONT WANT THAT. You want him to throw. It's a 2:1 point advantage on yards, no sharing of points with receivers, and it provides stability. But, they don't want him getting hurt and all....What I am trying to say is, in his last year, expect to see a "polished" Williams who throws first. He isn't a top talent doing that, so, I might be wary to take him early.

Watson from Clemson is getting a lot of love, despite coming off injury and being fairly unproductive. But, he is talented and he has the benefit of being under a wonderful offensive system in a league without good defense. They do get a good Louisville defense on a Thursday night game, which I think benefits the Cardinals. What I would REALLY look at is that the Tigers will also look at that came, which comes on 5 days rest after an Appalachian State game. It would not surprise me for Watson to be a healthy scratch OR to struggle against the giant killers Following that are 5 straight weeks of good teams like Notre Dame and Florida State. They end against SCAR. Watson probably has the best upside from anyone on this list....but that's all it is to me. I don't think I could take a chance.

Give me Brissett. 

Big 12

Boykin from TCU. Case closed. He is literally the only guy from the Big 12 that I can take without much risk. After being snubbed last year, the loaded TCU Horned Frogs are going to run the score up on everyone they can. The dual-threat Boykin is JUST the guy to do it. TCU also has a fantastic defense which will give Boykin a lot more possessions. That's a rarity in the Big 12...who doesn't really know what defense is. 

In the rest of the Big 12, there are a few things to note. We know that Art Briles has a very good system for QBs. Would I draft the next big arm? No. I might consider one late in the draft because  Baylor has several very good WRs which I think are legitimate fantasy options.

Oklahoma looked to have a star in Trevor Knight in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, What happened? Big Game Bob has pumped out some GREAT QBs over his career, but 2014 was just a mess at times. 

The same goes for some of the perennial offensive powerhouses in the Big 12. 

Only Texas Tech, a team who traditionally throws the ball around, has anything resembling a possible candidate in Webb. Kingsbury knows how to get the most of his QBs. They have a few tough matchups, but expect the Raiders to play from behind against Arkansas. Otherwise, keep a close eye on Webb. 

Boykin is the clear favorite for me and he will be a top 5 pick in most drafts. Webb is a solid pick, however.

Big 10

The Big 10 had the most legitimate top fantasy talent, esp if you consider all the QBs that Urban Meyer has. 

Keep an eye on the presses as it gets close to draft time. I have a suspicion that the QB race in Columbus will go down to the wire. For that reason, I won't be in a big hurry to draft any of them.

I'd happily take Connor Cook, who is really the embodiment of stability. He is going to give you a solid 25 each and every week. If you can draft the other positions well, he will be a boon. He comes back after a solid 3200 yards 24-8 season in 2014. He looses Langford in the backfield, which allowed him to push the ball down the field to Lippett, who is now with the Dolphins. MSU has been excellent at replacing every skill position each year, so I don't have much worry that 2015 won't be the same. He isn't a running threat, but like his predecessors, he is gritty and durable. The MSU gives him a lot more possessions than many teams, so don't be surprised for him to have a NFL-talent like year. 

Nebraska's Armstrong is an interesting possibility. 6 rushing TDs. 22 passing TDs. But, 12 INTs. Without Abdullah, Armstrong may have to take on more of a role running the ball. Though he passed for a lot of yards last season...he was just too inconsistent. 

Penn States Hackenburg had a typical sophomore slump in his first year under James Franklin. No surprise. That's why I didn't take him when I had the chance. He has now emerged as a top overall pick because of his size, ability to take hits, and cannon of an arm. He has one of the best receivers in college football to throw too and a terrific coach. The front half of their schedule is an absolute joke. If you get into midseason with a lot of holes in your line up, hock him. He has Ohio State, Northwestern, and Michigan State in the back half.

If it were me, I would take Hackenburg in the first, then another QB in the second. That QB would be a late developer or someone with a cupcake back half schedule. I would hock Hackenburg for a premium. Cook is hard to disagree with. If you want someone that you can circle and KNOW you are going to get your QB points, take him. 


Pac-12
Like the SEC this year, a plethora of top-tier talent left the West Coast. No more Hundley, who was the premier guy in the conference in the preseason, nor is there Mariotta who took all the tophies...and the fantasy stats. Also gone is every fantasy guy's dream, Halliday, who would throw it 60 times a game.

Who is back? How about the guy that quietly torched everyone last year. Though the Trojans sported 3 losses, Kessler threw for 3800 yards and an astounding 39 TDs to just 5 INTs. That is simply amazing. He losses 2 of his top 3 WRs to the NFL, but he returns JuJu Smith. He also returns what many are calling the best offensive line in college football. It's no secret that USC had recruited some of the best WRs, but I wonder how Coach Sark will stack up to what Kiffin had stockpiled. 

Though Leach will have someone running his Air Raid offense that will be productive, as will Helfrich at Oregon with his fast-paced attack, Kessler is far and away one of the top over all QBs and should be considered an overall Top 10 in any league.

If you are looking for a very late round pickup, consider Stanford's Hogan. He hasn't been a highly productive guy in his career at Stanford, but he will be a senior play caller who can do some things. He ran for 5 TDs on top of his 19 passing TDs and 2800 yards. If you miss out on a top tier QB, but have top talent at RB and just need some week to week production, consider Hogan. 

UCLA has a kid names Rosen that could be another late round steal....if things go the way many think. With Hundley gone, Neuheisel is the only experienced QB. But, he is a game manager at best with limited upside. Rosen comes in as the #2 Overall player in the country out of HS AND he enrolled early. Rosen was 11-17 with 2 TDs and an INT, stealing the Spring Game show. The Bruins start off with two easy-ish tune up games against UVA and UNLV. If you can get this kid as a 2nd or 3rd QB, you have the ability to check him out. People are very high on this kid and in the Pac-12 conference where offensive numbers are huge and shootouts are aplenty, a stash QB who pans out is a gold mine. 

SEC

I can't recall a year with so much turnover as this year presents. So many good fantasy QBs have come out of the SEC the last two years and now we are presented with the ramifications of that. Alabama doesn't have a clear starter. Though the Nick Saban era has been a game managing type attack, Kiffin showed that he could score points in mass with a 3rd tier QB. Imagine what he could do with real talent. The question will be, regardless of who gets under center, will Saban let him? South Carolina is without a known starter, as is UGA and Florida. The list goes on. The only established starter resides in Fayettville with Allen, who isn't really a fantasy option outside of SEC-Only leagues. In Columbia Mo, Mauk will try to rebound from a disappointing season, despite losing a generational best WR core. Of the two, Mauk has real fantasy value because of his running ability 
and the fact that the Tigers have a very easy schedule, minus a game with BYU, though I would put my money on Mauk having a monster game in that one. Come a game to Athens, he is worth sitting....as well as a game against the Hogs. However, he is a solid starter for much of the year. 

What do you have left? Dobbs at UT is a surprising favorite for a breakout year. After filling in as a freshman (and a rocky few games at that). Dobbs finished the season for Worley on a hot streak. Dobbs has the ability to run, which he has done so admirably in his first two years. However, that will be misleading to a lot of fantasy guys, all of which may be surprised when he doesn't do that this year. Why? Tennessee entered 2014 without a returning starter on both lines. Dobbs had to do a lot of running to prevent getting killed. Tennessee will return a lot more experience in 2015, which will alleviate the reason to run. Though he is getting hyped on Rocky Top after his bowl game performance, I just don't see much value in him, on top of the fact that he has several really tough games ahead of him AND a very talented backfield. But, there are certainly some games where he is an option. But the back half of the season could be very tough. If the Vols are in contention, but will be because of a heavy run game.

Naturally, I am high on Jeremy Johnson, as many are. He has a very good offensive line, minus losing Dismukes at center. He has an NFL 1st round receiver....but not much after that. The rest of the Auburn receivers haven't blown me away with their abilities, though there are a few younger guys who could really benefit from the attention that Duke Williams will command. What I don't like is that despite his obvious arm talents, the SEC West is won with a great ground game, which Auburn does have. Though Johnson is capable any week to throw for 300 and 3 TDs, the chances of that happening in consecutive weeks is slim. Keep in mind that he has to do that each week to keep up with the other dual threat QBs who can outscore him by throwing for half that amount and running for 100 yards and a TD. That being said, you can't really risk leaving him on the board past the 2nd round. 

The rest of the conference doesn't have starters, though guys like Kyler Murphy at TAMU could be an instant star. But, can you take the risk of drafting a kid who hasn't played a game? You have Towles at Kentucky that looked like a star at times, but wilted against any sort of competition.

What I am getting at is this, to be successful with a QB in the SEC, the player has to be a legitimate Heisman candidate. Not from just a talent perspective, but from a production side as well. Big times numbers are something that few SEC QBs, esp in the west, are going to get UNLESS they are getting propped up by their coaches for a Heisman run. 

In that respect, there are only two players that have a shot at that. Mauk and Johnson. Mauk will most likely lead a high scoring MO Tigers attack again, but without the established pass catchers he has had, he will have to do a lot of running...which is good for fantasy guys. However, Mauk and his team have had crushing defeats at times which you will have to expect. On the other hand, Johnson has the ability to make all the throws. He has a great primary reciever and good line in front of him. But for a 300 3 0 day, you will score 36 points, which is what you have to have to win. Do you really think he can do that all year against the best defenses in college football, vs a QB who runs for 100 and a TD, throws for 200 and 2 TD, which nets 40 points each week? 

Believe it or not, I have to go with Mauk. 

Independents

There are four teams here and three of them have real-deal fantasy QBs. 

Hill from BYU was a stat monster in 2013 but he suffered a season ending injury early in 2014. The question will be, will he regain his starting roll against Stewart who was 2600 25 and 9 filling in? 

Zaire will presumably be the starter for the Fighting Irish, and he has real upside. He was excellent in spot duty...which was extremely limited. He has the talent. But, this guy would be a long shot for an early round pick. He is worth stashing either late in the draft or as a free agent. 

Navy's Reynolds is as much a "can't miss" as there is in fantasy. 1100 rush yards and 23 TDs. He threw the ball for 800 6 and 3, which isn't good. But, that 2:1 advantage on rushing is huge. 2014 was actually a slight down year for him compared to 2013. However, he rushed for at least 1 TD in all but 1 game. He had as many as 6. Conversely, he throws for a TD in every other game. I expect him to have a huge year. He is a must have. 

And Elsewhere

Gunner Kiel. 3200 31 13 in 2014. BBBUUTTT....he did the majority of his damage early in the season before settling in to be rather pedestrian. He had 14 TDs in the first 3 games. The rest of the year was a roller coaster where he would throw for 1 or 0 TDs one week and bounce back with a 3 or 4 TD performance. Kiel seems to excel against better competition, having his better games against Ohio State and East Carolina. He enters his sophomore campaign and I don't expect to see a slump. This is a kid who has been around for awhile and I expect Tuberville to demand better of him. Additionally, they play a very light schedule. 

Doughty from Western Kentucky ought to have a lot of people salivating. The senior QB threw for...hold your breath....49 TDs and only 10 INTs in 2014. What else is there to say?  He is a top 5 draft pick.  


Overall Top 5

Doughty (Western Kentucky)
Reynolds (Navy)
Kessler (USC)
Boykin (TCU)
Whoever Urban Myers names at QB for Ohio State
If Meyer doesn't name one by your draft, Hackenburg from Penn State