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NFL Fantasy: Five quarterbacks to think twice about before drafting

Sore shoulders, bad offensive lines, improved running games, and even a devious owner are making me think twice about drafting these quarterbacks.

Draft day is rapidly approaching and every fantasy player is searching for that bit of information destined to propel him to the top of his league standings.

Mock drafts and early drafts are providing data on average-draft-position (ADP). As always, we see several instances where owners are buying the hype and drafting certain players too early.

These quarterbacks might be risky picks at their current ADP. If any of them slide down the draft board, grab them.

But if you jump on them early, don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (ADP- QB8)

Luck’s ADP dropped from the number five position as worries over his shoulder makes him questionable to start the season. Certainly, his physical status should be a point of concern, but there are other reasons you might think twice before naming him your fantasy starting quarterback.

Fantasy football owners have cherished Luck’s consistency, averaging between 21 and 25 points-per-game over three seasons, when healthy. While it is true that injuries are a risk to any quarterback, putting a guy with a surgically repaired shoulder behind one of the worst offensive lines in football is a much higher risk.

An aging Frank Gore is not going to take much heat off the Colts passing game. The fans are excited about rookie Marlon Mack’s performance so far, but that offensive line will limit the entire offense.

There are probably 15-16 quarterbacks worth starting each week in fantasy. That means there are safer options than an already-injured passer who spends half his game getting bounced around by defenders.

2. Kirk Cousins, Washington (ADP- QB9)

The obvious issue Cousins-doubters have is the loss of his top two receivers from 2016, replaced with a converted quarterback and an unproven second-year player coming off a freakish injury.

Cousins’ backers point to his franchise-player status and the fact he is playing to earn a $100 million contract next year. They expect him to have another banner season like the last time that happened, which was just last year.

Our thought is that Washington’s head coach, Jay Gruden, will go a long way in determining Cousins numbers. Anywhere else, we would think the coach would love to see his quarterback throw for another 4,900 yards and 25 touchdowns. But this is Washington… and things are just completely messed up there.

Gruden has announced that he will take over the play-calling this season. We expect that to mean more running and shorter passes to help his suspect defense… and possibly allow the Redskins’ owner to say “Neener! Neener! Neener!” about the top-shelf contract Cousins turned down after last season’s stellar performance.

3. Cam Newton, Carolina (ADP- QB10)

Newton’s ADP also dropped a couple of notches this week on concern about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. Newton has been observing and working with the offense but has not thrown a real pass yet.

Carolina’s medical and coaching staff do not seem too concerned about things, though, so we are reasonably confident Newton will come back in time for Week 1. We are also sure he will throw the ball with authority and may even improve his accuracy as he concentrates on the mechanics learned during his rehabilitation.

So why does he make this list? Because Newton appears to be about to change as a quarterback. He can not continue to take the type of beating he has taken so far in his career if he expects to play into his thirties. We expect to see him running the ball less than he has in the past, which will hurt his fantasy numbers.

The bigger change will be in the Panthers passing game. The addition of Chris McCaffrey and receiver Curtis Samuel gives Newton two great targets in a short, quick-hitting passing scheme they seem determined to adapt to. It’s a new offense in Carolina. Newton might be a comeback player of the year candidate, but his fantasy value will suffer as a result.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (ADP- QB12)

The thing with Ben Roethlisberger is that you need to have a second good quarterback to use when Ben plays away games. While playing home-and-away odds is usually a fool’s errand in fantasy football, it is an accurate predictor in this case of how the quarterback will perform.

Pittsburgh’s passer threw 20 touchdowns and had a QBR of 116.7 in front of the Steelers faithful last season. In his away games, Roethlisberger threw nine touchdowns and sported a QBR under 80.

Then there is the whole “I might retire” thing. Is Ben really into this football thing anymore? Does ceding the top dog slot to Le’Veon Bell diminish his enthusiasm? Is the physical beating taking its toll? He has not made it through a complete season since 2014.

Pittsburgh’s management seems bent on making another Super Bowl run with their longtime QB. We think that will translate to a lot more Bell and company and a lower reliance on their aging passer. Look for other options at quarterback this year.

5. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (ADP- QB23… or QB6)

Doug Marrone’s announcement that the Jaguars’ starting quarterback slot is an open competition predictably resulted in Blake Bortles’ ADP dropping like an anchor from its previous number six.

However, with only Chad Henne and last year’s sixth-round draft pick on the roster as options, there is a good chance Marrone lit enough of a fire that Bortles retains his role.

In that case, and especially if Bortles puts together a good preseason game, we expect many fantasy team owners to look at his run of top-ten fantasy finishes and jump back on that bandwagon. Don’t do that.

Jacksonville’s new management team realizes Bortles is not a franchise-type quarterback. They will cover-up that fact by running, running, and then running some more. Their already-improved defense will spend less time on the field and keep games close enough to limit the garbage time that propelled Bortles into fantasy relevance the past few years.

Bortles’ current QB23 will be closer to reality even if he is the Jaguars’ starter.

Heard enough? Let the debates begin and don’t forget to check back after the season to see what you should have listened to.

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Pat Opperman

Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.

NFL Fantasy: Five quarterbacks to think twice about before drafting

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