In the coming weeks, I will be presenting a series of articles to help prepare you for your upcoming fantasy football drafts. Doing your homework is essential to having a successful and smooth draft. A great pre-draft tool that will really help during your actual draft is “tiering.”
Tiering is essentially the grouping of players at all positions into several small sets. Players of similar projected production are grouped together to determine value. Subsequently they are ranked in order inside of each of their respective tiers.
For example if you look back at last season’s quarterbacks, your first or highest ranking tier would look like this in rank order:
Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Mathew Stafford and Cam Newton.
This group separated themselves from the rest of the QBs, thus they would have formed your first tier of QB’s. When drafting, you would have selected them in that order while understanding that once Newton was off the board, there was a drop in value at the QB position to the next highest ranked QB.
When establishing your tiers, it’s important to understand your leagues starting lineup rules and scoring system. Tiering prepares you for building a strong team and can help keep you from panicking when it’s your turn to draft.
We have all been in the situation when your pick is approaching and you have your mind set on drafting a certain player and then he is taken right before you pick. The key is to stay calm and look over your tiers to help keep you from making a bad pick.
For instance, let’s say it’s the 4th round and you’re looking to grab the last QB in your 2nd tier but he gets picked right before you. Instead of panicking and selecting the next highest QB ranked (like most inexperienced GMs would), you don’t panic. If your 3rd tier has, for instance, five QBs of similar value, you know you can wait to grab one in the next round, comfortable that one of your five will be there when you pick next. This allows you to grab another position of need, for example a WR of better value, and you can come back and pick another QB from your 3rd tier in the 5th round, who is going to give you similar production. By not “wasting” your 4th round pick on a QB just because you had been locked on to a QB, you strengthened your WR corps.
Although this is not a foolproof system, it will add another weapon to your draft and help to separate you from the competition. Do the best you can in setting up your tiers. There are always injuries and surprises throughout the season that you can’t foresee, but there is nothing you can do about that. Trust your rankings and your tiers, and you will be one step ahead of your competition on draft day.
How do this year’s QBs compare? While we don’t have the exact answer to that question, I will give it my best shot.
Below are my quarterback tiers. Remember, not only are they ranked by tier, they are also ranked in order inside their respective tiers:
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Dree Brees.
You might be a little surprised at Brady listed first. The way I see it, Brady was terrific again last season. Both Gronk and Hernandez are matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Couple that with a motivated Wes Welker, and Brady has weapons the rest of the league would die for. Add in Brandon Lloyd, who has thrived with Josh McDaniels, along with veterans off the system who know this offense in Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney and let’s not forget Deon Branch. Brady and Lloyd have looked really good so far in camp. Brady looks primed to approach his 2007 numbers.
Rodgers is, in my opinion, the safest pick of the top 3. Being a lot younger makes him more durable in my mind. He has a ton of weapons as well, and the development of Randall Cobb only adds to his already impressive stable of receivers.
Drew Brees rounds out the big 3, and he only threw for an NFL record 5,476 yards last season! There are no signs of him slowing down. I am little nervous on how the “Bountygate” suspensions will affect the Saints, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on that.
Mathew Stafford and Cam Newton
While both enjoyed breakout seasons last year, I anticipate a slight drop in production from them. It would be tough to expect another season like we saw from Megatron last year. Titus Young looks like he’s primed for a breakout year this season, and if Ryan Broyles is healthy to add a very good possession TE, Stafford should approach his production from a year ago.
Can Newton can’t possibly rush for 14 TD’s again, and while the addition of Mike Tolbert will help in the passing game, he will also take away some short TD runs from Newton. They still lack a legitimate threat to go along side Steve Smith.
Michael Vick, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers
This is a group that I will be targeting in my drafts, They round out my top ten and provide excellent value and production especially where you can draft them in most leagues, in the 3rd to 5th round. While certainly a drop off from the “big 3” getting one of these guy later will allow you to grab a # 1 and a # 2 RB and/or 2 #1 WR’s, while still getting very good production from the QB position.
Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub
This group still provides some excellent value. I’m very nervous about Peyton Manning. Coming off multiple neck surgeries and a full year off could be a recipe for disaster. If he can stay healthy, then he would be a great bargain, but that is a big question mark in my opinion.
Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer
Dalton should progress this season, and having AJ Green certainly helps. Freeman benefits from the addition of veterans Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark. RG3 is a big question – will he be another Cam Newton? I don’t see it, at least not this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker, Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Andrew Luck, Kevin Kolb, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert
If one of these is your starting QB, you either hit the jackpot elsewhere, or you are in some trouble. I’m looking forward to seeing how Luck translates to the pros. Locker has some nice upside and Cassel could surprise us.
Feel free to tweak these tiers based on your individual leagues and scoring systems, or your own thoughts for that matter. No one knows for sure how it will play out. The most important thing is to create your tiers and use them as a tool during your draft. Every little advantage helps, and have a little fun along the way. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
Coming up next week: Running backs and “Charting”
By Paul DeAngelis
Follow Paul on Twitter @fantasyinfo_PPI