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What Did We Learn - Preseason: Quarterbacks

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Well, here we are again. Camps have started and we fantasy junkies will retreat to our 'nerderies' to attempt to determine which round to take a quarterback, what third-tier running back will provide the most value to our teams this year, and whether last year’s breakout performers will repeat or not. This is what we do. We take the available data/evidence/information/stats and we make educated guesses based on what we’ve seen in the past and how we would expect things to go in the future. It is once again the time to beg the question: What did we learn … about quarterbacks?

It’s a big two, not a big three. My contention is that there are just two top-tier quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. In my book, Drew Brees is a cut below them. Rodgers is coming off one of the truly incredible statistical seasons we’ve seen, posting 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Keep in mind he did that in 15 games, as he sat out the regular season finale. Brady put up more than 5,200 yards, he had one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and he just added a true No. 1 receiver in Brandon Lloyd and an old offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels. The same McDaniels who had him throwing 50 touchdowns in a season just a few years ago. Brees is good, but he’s lost Robert Meachem and Carl Nicks, and losing Nicks will hurt. I think he’ll come up just a bit short of last year’s numbers, which is still fantastic, but I think the absence of head coach Sean Payton is going to be a bigger deal than some believe. Don’t get me wrong; he’ll still be the No. 3 fantasy quarterback, but I’m taking Rodgers and Brady before him, and probably won’t land Brees on any of my teams.

After the Top 5, there’s a severe dropoff. I, like many others, have a Top 5 consisting of Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton. Stafford and Newton each added their names to this list with remarkable 2011 seasons. Stafford threw for more than 5,000 yards and managed to stay healthy all season, while Newton burst onto the scene as a true double-threat quarterback, seemingly right out of a video game. But however you slice it, and regardless of your personal preference after that Top 5, the dropoff is huge. The next five look something like: Tony Romo, the Manning brothers, Michael Vick and Philip Rivers (this is how I’d rank them). But I can poke holes in every one of them. My advice: get a Top 5 signal-caller. If you miss out, wait until number nine or 10. You can stockpile value elsewhere and still get virtually the same quarterback. And even then, my 11th and 12th quarterbacks are Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Not bad, right?

Don’t ignore your backup. Take it from a guy who had Tom Brady in 2008 and figured, I’ll start Brady every game and can just grab someone off of waivers. Three quarters into the season, my fantasy team was as reliable as Brady’s blown knee. I chalk that particular hit up to being a fluke, but if you’ve got a guy with injury risk like Stafford or Peyton Manning or a running quarterback like Newton or Vick, draft a backup like Jay Cutler or Matt Schaub in the middle rounds.

Carson Palmer is a quarterback sleeper. Once Palmer arrived in Oakland and got back into the swing of things, he really had a pretty good season. After his Week 8 bye, Palmer put up an average of 15 points per game the rest of the season, which is more than serviceable. Are there safer bets? Of course, but Palmer might be getting a look as a late round value on a few of my teams.

I hesitate to invoke his name, but … Tim Tebow. Say what you want about the non-stop coverage of a quarterback who is still learning to throw spirals, but Tebow is a gamer. Typically, “gamers” don’t provide all that much from a fantasy perspective. If you can’t measure it, assess it or add it up, I can’t use you on my fantasy team. Tebow, however, has found a niche as a throwback quarterback, with a Tyrannosaurus Rex arm and bruising running skills. As I said time and time again last year, you can put him in your lineup, but under no circumstances should you watch the game. His throws are hideous, and he takes too many hits. But at the end of the day, you can’t debate his fantasy production.

Tebow will get snaps at the beginning of the season, and Mark Sanchez is not good enough to hold him off for long. Sanchez will get an improved Buffalo Bills defense in Week 1, then play at Pittsburgh, at Miami, and host the San Francisco 49ers. Don’t be surprised if Tim Tebow is the starting quarterback for the New York Jets by their Week 5 tilt against the Houston Texans … on Monday Night Football.

Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at drewmagyar@gmail.com. The “What Did We Learn?” column will be posted on Tuesday mornings throughout the regular season.