Now that the NFL injury report has eliminated the designation of “probable”, the questionable tag will include players who are anywhere from 50 to 99-percent likely to play. With this new development you will definitely need to check here every week before locking your lineups to make sure that you don’t get burned by a player whose injury status you miscalculated. I will use a combination of Injury Science and my experience as a Doctor of Physical Therapy to give you a more precise description of whether you can trust these players on your fantasy roster.
Matthew Stafford (DET) Finger sprain
With much of the season long fantasy action already completed, and many of the NFL games being meaningless, I will stick to the games that mean something this week. No game will mean more than the Green Bay Packers vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday night, so this looks like a good place to start. I wrote about Stafford a couple of weeks ago, prior to the Detroit Lions game vs. the New York Giants. Although Stafford continues to be left off the injury report, I warned that his injury was serious and that he should be avoided. If you didn’t listen to that advice, you were rewarded with a whopping 11.2 point performance against the New York Giants, followed by a pedestrian 14.5 points against the Dallas Cowboys. Stafford’s middle finger dislocation and the spraining of the ligaments around that finger are making him less effective, in my opinion. Stafford has not been lighting it up this season by any means, but I think the completion percentage over the last few games is the biggest tell that his finger is making a difference.
How Stafford’s finger holds up this week will play a big role on the fantasy landscape, as many DFS players and anyone else who is still invested in fantasy football are likely to be targeting this game. Not only will Stafford’s injury limit his output, but it may turn what most believe will be a shoot out into a slow-paced methodical game. As a rule of thumb, you should give players with soft tissue injuries about three weeks to recover. However when it comes to injuries…… Read the rest on FantasyPros.com later today.
I used weight, speed, experience, football IQ, injury history, position norms, and other factors to create a rating system that predicts which fantasy football players are the most reliable. I call this my SEP Rating as it primarily consist ofSCIENCE, EVIDENCE, and PERFORMANCE. I put just a pinch of subjective into these ratings as I believe there are simply some things that you have to assess with your eyes and not through data.
For the Quarterbacks I ranked 33 players. The most reliable Quarterback earned a rating of 124 while the least reliable earned a rating of 73. I rated the players that I expect to be starting caliber and I included the 2 first round draft picks. Here we go!
Click here to see quarterback rankings 33 through 23. Click here to see rankings 22 through 16. Click here to see quarterback rankings 15 through 11.
“The best ability is availability”-Herm Edwards
10. Derek Carr: SEP Rating – 102
This may be the only place you will see Derek Carr on a top ten list anywhere on the internet…..at least for now. In my opinion, Derek Carr played one of the more polished rookie seasons of any QB in recent memory. Rookies are notorious for making poor decisions that cause them to get sacked or run the ball; both usually end up leading to excess hits, but for Carr this was not the case at all. In fact when you compare him to his rookie mate Blake Bortles who was sacked 55 times, it is glaring that 55 is the combined total of Derek Carr’s rushes and sacks for last year. Now I won’t lie and say that I watched every snap of his last year but I saw enough to give him a slight edge on the other young quarterbacks and give him a 3 out 5 for his decision-making and release time as he simply gets rid of the ball quicker than most young QB’s. I think this only gets better with the addition of his first real number one option in Amari Cooper. I am not big on studying offensive lines but what I can say is that his offensive line was 5th best at protecting the quarterback and I would attribute about 75% or more of that success to Carr and his veteran like decision-making. Unless last year was a fluke, I think you can count on Derek Carr to stay on the field as well as produce more this year.
9. Andy Dalton: SEP Rating – 102
Ok I am 2 for 2 now. Andy Dalton is another QB that won’t be in many top ten fantasy football list. I actually love this about this list, because to me its more interesting than seeing the same regurgitated list that does not really give you any new information. How many times can you hear the same names over and over with the order just slightly tweaked based on who had the most recent success. To think that so many people get paid to regurgitate “Brady, Rodgers, Manning, Luck”, or a few years ago “Manning, Brady, Brees”. Frankly it gets boring to listen to after a while. Now back to Andy Dalton who only edged Derek Carr by fractions of a point. I know many of you won’t draft him, but the facts are that he never misses a game, has pretty good size at 220 lbs, and hangs about middle of the road with sacks taken. Dalton generally gets a bad rap for his post season play, but during the regular season you can count on Dalton to do what he does. As you can see I spent half the paragraph talking about other QB’s and the second half trying to say something good about Andy Dalton…..I don’t think it worked. I don’t think many of us will scramble to pick up Andy Dalton based on his quality of play, but the numbers don’t lie….he is at least reliable.
8. Eli Manning: SEP Rating – 103
The Iron man himself! That is not an Avengers reference. For those who are not aware, Eli Manning is following in his brothers foot steps (that is before the neck injury) and has now started 167 regular season games straight, which makes him the current “Iron Man” of the NFL. Brett Favre holds the all time record with 297 regular season games. Now we all remember those crazy Superbowl throws from Eli when he escaped 5 or 6 people and made historic throws under duress, and this is the talent that I believe allows Eli to suit up week after week. Eli runs the ball less that any other quarterback on this list and despite an average offensive line, he is in the bottom half of this list when it comes to how many times he has been sacked over the past 3 years. Eli has shown that he can stay healthy with an average line and average receivers and win Superbowl’s. Now I don’t know what to rank his offensive line this year , but with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and the addition of a career third down back in Shane Vereen; we may see the best and most reliable Eli Manning we have ever seen.
7. Matt Ryan: SEP Rating – 104
In some ways Matt Ryan really slips under the radar. All that Eli Manning/Iron man talk made me notice that Matt Ryan has played 83 games straight. He earns a near perfect 4 out 5 on our decision-making scoring as he is another quarterback that consistently gets the ball out and avoids taking the big hits. Matt Ryan makes this list for various objective reasons but instead of looking at that, just look at the 2014 season. The Falcons loss 80% of their starting lineman and somehow Ryan was only sacked 31 times. Not only did he lead them to be in the better half of the league in regard to giving up sacks, but he did this while being the 3rd most passing team in the league. When it comes to reliability you can see that some times it’s the players youth that makes them reliable, sometimes its their size, and for some players it may just be the system they are in, but as we get near the top of the list you will notice that the most reliable quarterbacks are generally the most cerebral quarterbacks. Matt Ryan may be one of the most under-rated cerebral QB’s in the league today. If you add in a healthy Julio Jones and at least 9 games in a dome, then it may not get better than Matt Ryan this season.
6. Drew Brees: SEP Rating – 105
Drew Brees may be the biggest anomaly in this top ten. Brees represents the only quarterback in this top ten who is under 210 lbs and under 6 foot tall. Everyone knows that Brees is a small QB but when you look in the recent history of the NFL, there really is no one like him. When I think of small quarterbacks, I think of Doug Flutie, but he obviously never reached the status of Brees. I think of Michael Vick who could never stay healthy because of his style of play and his size. I now even think of Russel Wilson who may end up having a Brees like career in some ways but Brees probably throws more footballs in warm ups than Wilson throws all game. It is borderline amazing that he can throw so many passes year after year and almost never miss a game. Drew Brees in fact has thrown the most passes of these QB’s over the past 3 years but yet still finds himself on the bottom half of this list with sacks taken. Brees has lost his 2 biggest weapons in Sproles and Graham over the past 2 years and the word on the streets is that the Saints will be converting to a more physical running team. If this is so, then I believe Brees will be even more reliable. You would be hard pressed to name a Saints running back before Mark Ingram who was not a Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush type, and as Brees winds down his career, I believe this is just what he needs….a running game.
5. Tom Brady: SEP Rating – 108
Tom Brady is only the second player on this list to get a 5/5 on my decision-making/release time rating and across the board he shows no weaknesses when it comes to reliability (at least not due to on the field issues). Now we all know there are some other threats to Brady being on the field but I hate that story so much that I refuse to mention it. Tom Brady is essentially the perfect QB at 225 lbs, with no desire to scramble and get hit but just enough mobility to move in the pocket and evade pressure; enough talent to get the job done but not so talented that he gets in trouble by extending the play too long; smart enough to read defenses and make the right throw but stupid enough to go crazy face and start head butting offensive linemen really hard! At this point you should know the stats that matter when it comes to reliability and Tom Brady shines being the 3rd least sacked over the past 3 years. Ironically the only 2 players who beat him in the sack category have the same last name. Interestingly, Brady is one of the few this high on the list who will rush the ball fairly often. That is somewhat misleading as those who watch the Patriots know those runs are mostly quarterback sneaks. All in all, if you can make it through the games he will miss due to suspension, Tom Brady is likely the best mix of reliability and greatness on this list.
4. Joe Flacco: SEP Rating – 109
One of the biggest reasons Joe Flacco makes it so high on this list is his weight. Most may not think of this when thinking of Flacco, but he is at the very least the second biggest quarterback in the league at 245 lbs. Despite their listings, I consider Cam Newton to be bigger although they are both listed at the same weight. So not to make this about Cam, but imagine if Cam Newton stayed in the pocket, made quick decisions, almost never ran the ball, and made his best throw almost every time…..and you would just have imagined Joe Flacco. Flacco is a little higher on the sack list, but with that type of size, a sack is a completely different type of event for him as compared to an average size quarterback. I do not dispute Flacco taking a top 5 spot, but I would keep an eye on what the Ravens offensive scheme transitions to with Trestman in, and Kubiak out. Now it could have very well been Jay Cutler who tainted Marc Trestman’s system, but in many ways Trestman’s system may get Flacco in some riskier situations as compared to the run first style of Gary Kubiak. On the other hand this may be Flacco’s chance to combine that reliability with a system that allows him to put up flashier stats.
3. Andrew Luck: SEP Rating – 111
The Prodigy Andrew Luck is not too far away from Cam and Flacco when it comes to size as he weighs in at 240 lbs. Luck adds the gift of youth on his side to go with his size and talent, and frankly that is why he is reliable. He is a big, young, and very talented. The Indianapolis Colts picked up Frank Gore in efforts of having some semblance of a run game this year which may help manage the little risk that Luck is exposed to by being top 6 in pass attempts, but even if that run game doesn’t work out, Andrew Luck seems to have a body type that can withstand most hits at this age. Andrew Luck has had no injuries of mention so far, despite being in the top half with taking sacks and with rush attempts. Those who end up with Luck heading your fantasy team can hope that the combination of maturity and a running game will bring those rankings down closer to the other quarterbacks who occupy the top of this list. I would have no hesitation with drafting Andrew Luck this year but if his sack and rushing statistics do not begin to conform to the numbers that are more the norm for the great QB’s of the past and the present, we may see that age advantage fly out of the window on one fateful play.
2. Matthew Stafford: SEP Rating – 112
This list has been full of surprises for me as I would have never thought of Matthew Stafford as one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league before compiling this data. Stafford simply does not miss games, is still pretty young at 27, and is a pretty big quarterback at 234 lbs. I rated him a 3 out 5 when it comes to decision-making, as I have never really felt like I could trust Stafford in a big situation. As I look at the numbers though, Stafford has only taken 5 more sacks than Drew Brees over the past 3 years and has taken less sacks than Andrew Luck. When you consider that almost half of his sacks over the past 3 years came last year during a bad season for the Lions offensive line, it makes Stafford look a bit better than I thought. The Detroit Lions have revamped their offensive line, Stafford has the closest thing to two number one receivers in Megatron and Golden Tate, and for the first time since Barry Sanders the Lions seem to have a talented backfield with the return of Bell and the emergence of Ameer Abdullah. In the end, I still may not believe in Stafford enough to have this very high reliability ranking make me pick him above many of these guys; but the supporting cast and the objective stats make a good case. Hopefully you can take my SEP Ratings and blend it with a little Michael Fabiano, Rotoworld, Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio,The Fantasy Authority and Matthew Berry to come up with the perfect players for your team.
1. Peyton Manning: SEP Rating – 124
This may be surprising for some considering his age and the trending media coverage on Peyton Manning which describes him to be an old man in the twilight of his career who can no longer throw the ball down the field. But the fact is that Peyton has only had one real injury in his career and aside from that neck injury, he has never missed a game. Peyton was on his way to breaking Brett Favre’s Iron man record before the end of his Colts tenure was derailed with a neck injury. He played 208 regular season games straight and with playoff games added in, he made it to 227 games before his streak came to an end. In my mind, the cervical fusion that Manning underwent in 2011 has no bearing on his current status. Those who have watched Peyton Manning over the years understand that his arm was never his Ace in the hole and although he does seem to have lost a little arm strength, it is his IQ that has always made him the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. Now that Peyton is transitioning to an offense that will utilize the run and play action more under Gary Kubiak, Peyton should be even safer than he normally is. The normal safe that Peyton represents is throwing the 5th most passes and being sacked the absolute least. Even when Manning does get sacked or hit, his size is deceiving as he weighs in at 230 lbs and 6′ 5″. Of course Peyton Manning is the 3rd and final QB that gets a 5/5 for his decision-making/release time. I could poke a few holes in his future by talking about the changes in Denver’s offensive line or that Manning will have to throw on the run in Kubiak’s offense; but it would really be a waste of time. We will see the same Peyton Manning we have seen forever–lots of passes, very few sacks, and a great regular season. So you can take Aaron Rodgers and get a few 30 burgers, or pick a running QB like Russel WIlson to get those desired rushing touchdowns and rushing yards at your QB position; but if you want someone who will be there week to week and especially come fantasy playoffs, Peyton Manning is your guy.