With the emergence of young quality quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Matt Ryan, the dividing line in the quarterback talent pool is a lot closer than it has ever been.
The older, more weathered quarterbacks, who are nearing the end of their careers offer more concerns (minus RG3) and in Tom Brady’s case, his receiving core isn’t what it used to be. For Peyton Manning; the only Manning worth starting on a consistent basis, it’s hard to ignore the major surgery done on his neck a year ago. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers should go one and two sometime between the latter-first and second round. Here’s the order quarterbacks were taken in a mock I did the other today:
1. Aaron Rodgers (GB, pick 10)
2. Drew Brees (Ind, 14)
3. Peyton Manning (Den, 21)
4. Tom Brady (NE, 29)
5. Cam Newton (Car, 36)
6. Matt Ryan (Atl, 42)
7. Colin Kaepernick (SF, 45)
8. Robert Griffin III (Was, 57)
9. Matt Stafford (Det, 63)
10. Russell Wilson (Sea, 73)
This gives you two or possibly three tiers to work with and 10 quarterbacks already off the board. This leaves you with a player some may not consider a sleeper now, that in my opinion, should be a guy taken before some of the guys already mentioned. In a ten or twelve team league, this leaves you with a late-round pick–sometime after the eight or ninth round to take your top 10 quarterback and this would allow you to invest more time in every other position.
However, unlike any other position, Luck is the only quarterback worth starting outside that list. Tony Romo has gone before him in some leagues, but because of my overwhelming passion for the 49ers I find it impossible to draft him (but you can eat your Tony Romo heart out). After Romo the usual suspect is Andrew Luck to go next in mock drafts and quarterback rankings. But if there was one player at the position you could deem a sleeper and start; Luck is that guy.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The 23-year-old second-year quarterback out of Stanford is the last of a third tier at his position. He’s is a player I’ve drafted, so I’m just as invested in him as you would be and despite the loss of an offensive coordinator, there’s not a big risk. He is going much later than he should be which will allow you to stuff your skill positions with talent, while sitting back to swipe Luck. He lived up to expectations in 2012, throwing for 4,374 yards and 28 scores (five on his feet). Luck also had six 300-yard games through the air, which was more than Griffin, Wilson, Kaepernick, Newton and the same number as Aaron Rodgers.
Unfortunately for Luck the Colts focused on defense in the draft so the only noticeable addition at wide receiver was Darrius Heyward-Bey. Consider the fact that Reggie Wayne improved his numbers with Luck as a rookie with 31 more receptions, 395 more receiving yards and 10 more 20-plus yard receptions. T.Y. Hilton is also a receiver to highlight, underline and put a star next to in your rankings. Hilton has wheels on par with the fastest receivers in the league and was able to grab seven scores, 50 receptions and 861 yards in Luck’s inaugural season. An additional reason I like Luck this year is because of his schedule. Indy starts off the year with Oakland at home and finishes the season hosting Jacksonville. They also play San Diego (twice), St. Louis, Tennessee (twice), and Kansas City.
Let others invest a second-fifth round quarterback in the draft. Luck will be available after the eighth round and I’ve observed via mock drafts, the great teams that assemble when picking at the tail end of the snake draft.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer may be the second happiest guy in Arizona (behind teammate Larry Fitzgerald) now that he’s out of Oakland. Palmer is a definite upgrade for Bruce Arians and his new coaching staff. Fitzgerald may have been bored the last couple seasons, playing for awful quarterback after awful quarterback. For that reason Fitzgerald owners will be happier [than I was last year] and Rashard Mendenhall is an added bonus that also improves a position. If Palmer can stay off his back this season, Arizona may be competition for San Francisco and Seattle. It’s easy to forget the 4,000 yard, 22-touchdown season he had in Oakland. With an environment like Arizona Palmer is a reliable backup for any QB without the week 9 bye.
I’d expect Palmer isn’t a guy you would draft to start, but being that he’s a quarterback ranked outside the top 20 he’s a great backup to have behind Luck…or whoever else you decide to go with on draft day.
Geno Smith, New York Jets
Don’t let Geno Smith become an afterthought during your draft. Ranked outside the top 30 quarterbacks in most QB rankings I’ve seen, the 22-year-old rookie is the most likely backup to start a few weeks into the season. Rex Ryan’s Mark Sanchez is beginning to loosen up a bit and so is the USC quarterback’s grip of the starting job.
Smith has been impressive in camp and I wouldn’t be surprised if he outplays Sanchez well enough in pre-season. Don’t sleep on Smith, make him a sleeper. He’s got the tools to become a strong pro and if started now he’d easily make his way into the top 25 strictly because of the potential he offers. Smith is looking to become a “franchise quarterback” like he stated after the draft. And with goals as high as that and a quarterback ahead of him named Mark Sanchez, Smith will certainly get a chance to prove his worth and those who passed on him wrong.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Schaub is similar to Palmer in that he’s a guy that tends to be ignored in mock drafts/rankings. Like Palmer, he too is being draft and ranked outside of the top 20 quarterbacks. He’s got one of the best RB/WR combo’s in the game with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Schaub also just became teammates with arguably the best receiver taken in the draft. DeAndre Hopkins is a large athletic receiver that will make Johnson’s job a bit easier in Houston. No disrespect to Kevin Walter, but Hopkins will most likely be the best No. 2 receiver Houston has had since they become a team in 2002. If you haven’t already, mark Hopkins down as a sleeper and do the same with Schaub.
Like Luck and the Colts, Houston faces the same cupcake schedule that their AFC South counterpart will face. It’s an added bonus worth notice come draft day. Don’t make Schaub your starter but if your starting quarterback goes down Schaub is one of the best backups you can have this season.
E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
There’s a reason the Bills shocked everyone by taking Manuel over Smith with their No. 16 pick. He is considered a longterm project that projects to be a solid starter at some point. He’s well worth a late-round flier and should definitely be owned in leagues that have 12 or more teams.