ASL's Chad Samuels gives his thoughts on what to do with aging QBs in redraft settings.
For those of you that know me, I'm primarily a dynasty league guy. Dynasty and rookies really are the core of what I know and do. It was a freeing challenge to rank the top-20 quarterbacks from a seasonal perspective. It does create a puzzle we must all solve that I would like to call "the Tom Brady Conundrum". As quarterbacks approach forty years old their skills begin to erode. For the journeymen it is a non-issue because they can spend years on the bench to finish their time in the NFL. For the elite starter they retire rather than finish their career as a fizzle. Peyton Manning finished with a Super Bowl ring. His 2015 season was painful to watch and confirms what I am writing about. This brings us to Tom Brady.
First, say there is another quarterback the following applies to. I really think you need to look at skills decline from age 38 on for a quarterback. This year it is not just Tom Brady, we also need to be concerned about Drew Brees. While they have yet to hit the 38 year-old threshold, the quartet of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer are on our radar for also being at risk of declining. The good news with these four quarterbacks is that they don't have the elite status of Drew Brees and Tom Brady. It's easy to take one of these guys later in addition to another top option, so this quartet is mostly safe.
The good news is athletes are keeping in far better shape in the off-season than they ever have. Often players like Tom Brady have experts monitoring their diet in order to keep their bodies in prime condition so that they can compete. The downside is that they are still aging and their bodies take more time to recover from injuries, nicks and dings. Excessive reps can also wear down an arm. This leads to the question of how do you quantify the aging factor of these quarterbacks in a seasonal format. All you need is a one-and-done attitude because you only need his stats this season. After all these are redraft leagues.
As a fantasy owner I think you should start with optimism and assume that the quarterback in question will match his stats from last year. When I look at the stats I look at his per game averages. This gives a truer measure of the performance while the quarterback was on the field because it evens-out missed time. In Tom’s case ,there was his four game suspension. Big Ben missed time due to injury. I recommend using these per game averages to slot these quarterbacks into your personal rankings. There is hardly, if any, discount for potential decline and age. The next thing you may want to assess is the strength of the offensive talent around the quarterback. If the receivers are great and the team has a solid offensive line, then the team will be able to cover for a season if quarterback play starts to slip. However, if the team has a solid running game, it can actually add risk to a QB's fantasy value because the team will be likely to adjust to sliding QB performance by running the ball more.
What you can do as an owner of one of these players is insulate your roster. If you grab a Tom Brady or a Drew Brees you may want to follow up quickly in your draft with a capable backup quarterback. What round you do that in is up to you depending on your tolerance for risk, but the important thing is that you do it. Odds are it will also affect your roster because you are drafting one less quality sleeper when you take a backup quarterback early. Ideally, I like Kirk Cousins as a yardage hog but he is seeing top 12 QB status from redrafts leagues in MFL, so he may not be available. Cousins' week five bye covers Brady but be careful because it matches Brees. If Cousins is not available Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Eli Manning make solid targets. Rivers has the same bye-week as Brady, so keep that in mind if you plan to draft him. If you want to play a gambit at quarterback and risk not having insulation from injury, then you might consider Jay Cutler so you can save a draft pick on QB and put that pick toward strengthening your team in another position. He has the experience in Adam Gase’s offense to be productive and should cost far less than an elite QB that requires you to spend another pick on a decent 2nd.
I ranked both Tom Brady and Drew Brees in the top 5, but a little lower than ADP because I would rather have the security of the players above him. Yes, Andrew Luck is an injury concern and I can see seasonal owners dropping Luck a spot or two. But, I still would take him because the shoulder issue should be cleared up early in the season and he should be ready for a fantasy playoff run. As for the two aging vets to consider, here are my thoughts. I do think Tom Terrific is the safer play with a receiving corps of Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Short of injury I expect him to have a good year number 17. Drew Brees is a little riskier. The Saints traded Brandin Cooks leaving Michael Thomas as their number one wide out. Thomas had an excellent rookie campaign but has yet to prove he can handle double coverage for a full season and the rest of the receiving corps are not marquis names. Wide receivers Ted Ginn and Willie Snead are not names that strike fear into opposing defensive coordinators. Luckily they drafted running back Alvin Kamara and he helps shore up the receiving game as the Saints like to throw to their running backs. If Drew starts to slip in arm strength and accuracy you cannot expect the receiver play to carry him. Definitely grab a capable backup for him.
In conclusion, players like Tom Brady create a conundrum in redraft leagues. They are good enough to be elite starters but carry some risk. If that risk is realized it can ruin your season, so insulate your roster by grabbing your backup quarterback earlier than you normally would.