Fantasy football has exploded in popularity in recent years. Thousands of people all over the world play every season. There are countless magazines and websites dedicated to stats, draft strategies, player rankings, as well as sleeper and bust picks. However, rarely do you see any time or research dedicated to the back-up quarterback.
Depending on what type of league you happen to find yourself in the starting quarterback will have varying degrees of importance. But, the position many fantasy team owners do not put much thought into is the back-up QB. Granted in a perfect season the back-up QB would only play during the bye week, but the injury bug could bite at any time.
With that in mind here are some QB choices to fill out your roster or could be picked up throughout the year which could prove to be the difference between your team being a playoff contender or a mediocre frustration.
1. Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers
Smith could wind up being the steal of the season. He is a former number 1 overall pick when the Niners took him in 2005. He will go into this season as the starter. This is also the first time in his NFL career he will be playing in the same offensive scheme two seasons in a row. After taking over as the starter last year he threw 18 touchdowns in just over 10 games. Smith also has two explosive weapons he can utilize in Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Smith also has the benefit of a solid running game with Frank Gore taking the hand-offs. Many will overlook Smith so he should be available in later rounds or as a midseason pick-up. He is definitely on my radar and I plan on drafting him late.
2. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
I know it goes against all football logic to recommend any Detroit Lion, but Stafford could be changing those trends. He too is a former number 1 overall pick. He put together a solid rookie season last year if not a spectacular one. Do not look for him to throw up huge fantasy numbers, but he should be steady and if healthy a serviceable back-up. With Calvin Johnson and Nate Burelson as receivers Stafford has the potential to throw a few touchdowns. The Lions also brought in former Broncos’ tight end, Tony Sheffler who is a good receiver, and by all accounts the Lions have improved their offensive line as well. Stafford does have the disadvantage of a rookie and unproven back in Jahvid Best though I have often seen him described as “electric”. Stafford should be available whenever you would want to draft him. I suggest letting Stafford go because more than likely he will be there on the free agent list at least early in the season. If he gets off to a hot start however, snag him quick.
3. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Flacco got off to a good start last year before injuries caught up with him and took their toll. The Ravens are known for having great defenses with an emphasis on turnovers. This naturally leads to more scoring opportunities for Flacco. The team also upgraded the wide receiver core by adding Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. The Ravens have a stellar running game with Ray Rice carving up defenses. If Flacco can avoid the injuries this year he should put up good numbers. He may go undrafted, but if you have your eye on him he could be worth the risk.
4. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
This is probably a pipe-dream as Cutler is going to get drafted maybe even as someone’s starter. However, if you play in a league which deducts points for interceptions and sacks given up he may slip through. I have seen Cutler ranked as high as 9th on QB ranking lists. The only real addition the Bears made was bringing in Mike Martz and his pass-happy offense. The Bears’ running game should be improved with Chester Taylor now sharing the load. The real wild card for Cutler is the offensive line. They could either be really good or fall on their face bad. Whichever way the offensive line goes will determine Cutler’s value. Other QB’s with lesser talent have thrived under Martz’s watch which does bode well for Cutler. His receivers are young and unproven but Johnny Knox is on the verge of becoming a star. If Cutler is available in a late round, take him.
5. Honorable Mentions
Carson Palmer coming off an injury plagued season could have a bounce-back year with a decent veteran receiving core.
Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets led his team to the Playoffs last season in his rookie year. If he can avoid a sophomore slump he should take strides in improving his fantasy stats.
Chad Henne in Miami has a new target in Brandon Marshall which could spell fantasy success for the Dolphins’ quarterback.
Matt Leinart should he decide to focus on actually playing football instead of the lifestyle associated with being a player could become a good fantasy QB.for Arizona. He also has probably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald to throw to.