Fantasy QB draft tiers: Don't draft Andrew Luck

When will Andrew Luck trade in that hat for a helmet? (AP)
Quarterback Shuffle Up: Don’t draft Andrew Luck

Quarterback is the most important position in sports. It’s the third or fourth-most important position in fantasy football.

We never said this fake game was a perfect replication of the real game.

The Quarterback Shuffle isn’t as interesting as the other positions because the stakes are relaxed. While quarterbacks score the most points in the majority of standard formats, the mass availability of them — and the scant starting requirement in basic formats — makes it a very easy position to navigate.

There are several workable paths to a fantasy quarterback. You can do well at any price point; in some shallower formats, that also includes the waiver wire. Sure, some QBs will bust and some will do notably better than expected, making them the positive and negative needle movers, but it shouldn’t be difficult to at least identify someone you want to draft.

I’ll rattle off some regular Shuffle Up disclaimers, and then away we go.

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The prices you see are not suggested auction prices — those numbers are so room-contextual, it would be a fool’s errand to suggest any one size fits all. The dollar values below are merely used as a way to compare the players and give you a sense of where the tiers lay (in my opinion, anyway); where talent clusters and where it falls off. I also construct each positional Shuffle Up on its own, so don’t bother trying to compare Kelvin Benjamin, say, with Mike Gillislee. That’s not the exercise.

Players at the same price are considered even. And honestly, a $1-2 difference isn’t a big deal. I’m not going to pretend some lofty level of certainty with these prices when I know what a snow-globe league the NFL is.

Want to take a shot at my knees? Head over to Twitter and let me know what you think: @scott_pianowski.

Tier 1
$31 Aaron Rodgers
$29 Tom Brady
$28 Drew Brees

Tier 2
$23 Russell Wilson
$21 Matt Ryan
$21 Jameis Winston
$20 Marcus Mariota
$19 Cam Newton
$18 Kirk Cousins

Tier 3
$15 Ben Roethlisberger
$14 Dak Prescott
$14 Andy Dalton
$14 Philip Rivers
$14 Matthew Stafford
$13 Derek Carr
*$12 Andrew Luck

Usually the first absolute rule of fantasy is no absolute rules. We try not to speak in absolutes; we try to avoid directives like “always” and “never.” But the situation with Luck falls into a corridor I feel strongly about, and given the depth of this position overall, I feel comfortable with a specific stance.

Luck is coming off shoulder surgery and as you probably know, he hasn’t been playing, or throwing, all summer. The Colts still don’t have a timetable for Luck’s return, and it’s not clear if Luck will be ready for the season opener.

This is where one of rules of thumb applies nicely:

Luck has been a Top 4 fantasy quarterback in three of the past four years, so it’s natural for some owners to make excuses for him. I understand why there’s in inclination to draft him proactively. But let’s go through the case against selecting Luck.

— He might not be that cheap. His price has merely dipped in my recent drafts, not collapsed. Maybe you’ll get a giveaway cost for Luck later this summer and be swayed. You have to decide that for yourself. In the rooms I’ve been navigating of late, he’s only been mildly marked down, not enough for me to consider him.

— The Colts offense, and team, might not be good. I dare anyone to say something exciting about the Colts offense that isn’t related to T.Y. Hilton. Luck’s obviously hurt. Frank Gore broke in with the leather helmets. The offensive line is banged up and suspect. Donte Moncrief has multiple years of disappointing us (and there’s unimpressive depth on this WR depth chart after him). Tight end Jack Doyle is a solid player, but doesn’t have the skill set of a star. Maybe a healthy Luck could elevate this group on his best day or in his best season; I don’t see how the supporting cast would be capable of carrying Luck if he’s not close to 100 percent.

If the team doesn’t contend, other issues come into play down the road. Maybe the Colts are incentivized to delay Luck’s injury timetable, or encouraged to end his season prematurely.

— It’s already easy to find a quarterback. Look at the Top 20 or so names on this list. If you can’t find at least 14-15 guys you’re eager to draft, you’re difficult to please. The NFL has made its game into a pass-friendly league, and most teams are digging in and taking advantage.

And because it’s easy to find a QB, we have to consider a related point . . .

— Luckily hitting on more than two quarterbacks seldom equals a windfall. Okay, so say you draft Luck as your future star QB, and decide to get a value pick later to hold down the fort. Maybe Matthew Stafford starts fast for you, or Carson Palmer hits the ground running (look at that juicy opening schedule). When Luck returns, now you have two strong quarterbacks. Perfect trade bait, right?

That sounds nice in theory, but it’s rarely true in reality. Every fantasy season I routinely field start-sit questions from owners who have more than one strong option at quarterback. I’ll usually implore these owners to try to trade from this surplus if they can, and it’s usually met with “I’ve tried, no one’s biting.” In the current shape of the NFL, it’s simply not that difficult to fill the QB position. Depth elsewhere will have a market; your bonus QBs generally don’t sell themselves.

— It cost resources to fill in for Luck. Anyone who drafts Luck in a standard league will have to take a placeholder quarterback, which means you’ll have one less fluid spot for other pickups and speculations. This opportunity cost always matters greatly to me, especially in leagues with modest bench size.

— I want a quick start. My goal in any fresh season is to get to a position of leverage as soon as I can. I want to be a 3-1 team, or a 4-2 team, that type of thing. Maybe Luck will return and be sharp quickly, but that’s an assumption I’m not willing to make, given that he’s off surgery and has been out of action this long.

— Denver awaits in Week 15. I try not to put too much stock in the late-season schedule. Too much changes between now and then. But while I can’t be sure the Broncos defense will be a nasty matchup in December, that’s certainly the way I’d bet.

Perhaps I’ve oversold the case, and I’m sure some of you will disagree. And if Luck has a snappy return, I’m sure I’ll hear about it often (to which I’ll probably say, “congrats, you have a strong QB like most of your opponents do”). Bottom line, quarterback is a Buyer’s Market in 2017, and I’m not going to talk myself into a best-case scenario for someone tied to this much physical uncertainty. Injuries are going to find us sooner or later; I won’t meet them halfway. And there are all sorts of dicey things in Indianapolis, not just Luck’s status, that make me nervous.

Your witness. State your pro and con arguments in the comments.

Tier 4
$10 Eli Manning
$10 Carson Palmer
$8 Sam Bradford
$7 Carson Wentz

Tier 5
$7 Tyrod Taylor
$5 Brian Hoyer
$4 Joe Flacco
$3 Alex Smith
$3 Jay Cutler

Everyone Else
$2 Trevor Siemian
$2 Jared Goff
$1 Josh McCown
$1 DeShone Kizer
$1 Mike Glennon
$1 Tom Savage
$1 Chad Henne
All others, $0
(*-$6 Blake Bortles)

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