Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Drew Brees & The Safest QBs in Fantasy Football

There's safe QBs, then there's safe QBs, and then there's Drew Brees.
There's safe QBs, then there's safe QBs, and then there's Drew Brees.

One of the most fundamental aspects of fantasy football is weighing risk and reward, upside and downside, ceiling and floor – whatever you want to call it. There’s a time and place for each of those things and fantasy owners have been successful when shooting for extremes on both ends.

There are certain players in the game, however, that are known commodities where the risk is minimal and the reward is usually a given based on history. These are what I consider “safe” players and over the upcoming days I’ll run down my top 3 safest fantasy football players at each position. I’ll even throw in some notable guys that for one reason or another didn’t quite make the cut. I might surprise you with some of the names that didn’t make it.

For part one, we’ll start off with quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are a bit different than other positions when assessing safety because by design the QB is going to take far fewer hits. Injuries inevitably still happen, but they are more rare and typically less serious, meaning level of production and consistency of production become larger factors than normal in defining who is or isn’t safe.

1. Drew Brees

Drew Brees has been nothing short of a machine since signing with New Orleans in 2006. A player left for dead due to a shoulder injury, he’s been unbelievably reliable and productive since surgery. He’s only missed 2 games in the past 10 years, both times in week 17 to preserve him for the playoffs. Brees has exceeded 4,000 passing yards for 8 straight years and over 5,000 the past 3 seasons. He’s finished among the top 2 quarterbacks in fantasy points 5 of the past 6 years and has been top 9 every year since 2004. With no signs of slowing down in sight, Brees is as good and as safe as it gets.

2. Aaron Rodgers

If not for Brees’ longevity, Aaron Rodgers would have just as good a claim to the top spot. After taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers has lit up the NFL and fantasy football like none other before him. With less passing volume than Brees and some of the other typical names, Rodgers put his feet to good use and finished as a top 2 fantasy QB five straight years from ’08 to ’12. Unfortunately, he had a fluky collarbone break in 2013 and he tumbled all the way to #22 after missing 8 games. Prior to that, however, he had missed just 1 game as a starter. The healed bone isn’t worth mentioning going forward and at age 30 Rodgers remains the premier talent at the position.

3. Andrew Luck

Luck is one of the few preordained star quarterbacks coming out of college that actually lived up to the hype. Going to one of the worst rosters in pro football, Luck has put the Colts and fantasy teams on his back. Despite maxing out at 23 passing touchdowns a year so far, Luck has been a top 8 QB back-to-back because of his scrambling, including this past season where he finished #4. The way Luck knows when and how to run, in addition to his incredibly burly body type, he should be able to maintain even better than Rodgers-level numbers on the ground consistently and stay healthy doing it. That already makes him a very safe QB1 to draft, and his passing numbers will only get better with more experience and as the team surrounds him with better targets.

Honorable mentions

Peyton Manning – Manning almost guarantees elite production when he’s on the field and in 16 years he’s only missed one stretch of games from a single injury. But because the injury was to his neck, the number of surgeries it required (4), and the side effects of diminished arm strength, that one injury has to weigh more than most others. At 38 years old, Manning is also nearing the end of the road, and even though quarterbacks last a long time, it’s usually best to avoid fantasy players in that position. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still quite safe, but not a lock.

Tom Brady – It would have been inconceivable for Brady to not make the top 3 safest QB list before last year, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Other than a fluke ACL tear that wiped out 2008, Brady’s never missed a game to injury. What has held his fantasy numbers back at times in his career is lack of weapons. That’s what did him in in 2013 and while this upcoming year should be better, Brady is not yet back to being the safe top option as he once was.

Cam Newton – Zero missed games and three straight top 4 seasons to start his career, Newton is well on his way to becoming one of the safest high-end plays at QB. Like Luck, the rushing stats Newton provides are enough to elevate him even when the passing isn’t there. But Newton doesn’t have the same natural passing talent as Luck and Cam’s overall numbers have declined in consecutive years. Offseason ankle surgery and a totally new receiving corps make me uneasy, but if he rises to the occasion this year there will be no doubts going forward.

Philip Rivers – Rivers had a poor 2011 and 2012 that led many to believe he was done, but he bounced back in a major way last year as he transitioned from a deep ball offense to a short ball offense that better suits him now. Rivers hasn’t missed a start since taking over in 2006 and he’s been a top 8 QB three times in the past 6 years. If he truly is back, he has the track record, talent, and offensive targets to be a safe starting fantasy QB once again. He’s still only 32.

Eli Manning – If nothing else, Eli deserves to be mentioned for starting 153 consecutive games. That alone goes a long way towards being a safe player for fantasy, but the younger Manning has also been an underrated fantasy performer. 2013 was the first time since his rookie year that he did not finish inside the top 15 quarterbacks and he has broken the top 6 twice. If we give him a pass for last year, Eli has been one of the safest and cheapest back-end QB1 streamers for a long time.

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  • boomNation

    I was surprised to see Eli Manning on your honorable mentions for “safe” players but I guess it makes sense the way you explained it. I didn’t realize he did so well up until last season. That makes him a perfect late round backup QB.

    • atlJAGSfan

      I didn’t think he was like that either until I saw it now. Good to know for like a 12-14 team league or 2 QB.

  • camtheman1

    I think Peyton Manning should be in that top 3 and Luck should drop out. I know he is old but this year isn’t going to be the year he stops being good and even if he falls off a lot he will still be a top 10 for sure.

    • 999Bronco

      Peyton should be #1 he is over the neck injury and he was MVP last year with 55 touchdowns. How is that not safe?

    • coltsfanbrasil

      luck deserve the list. he not gonna get any worse than rookie year which already top 10. look at the size of that guy he can take hits.

  • clownyking90

    Tom brady should be #2 or #3 I mean he had one year that wasn’t great but he had a lot of rookie Wrs plus gronk hurt

    • coltsrockjcr

      Gronk is always hurt…

  • diablox440

    good list i agree with everyone except for rivers on the honorable mentions

    • ChampBailey24

      Rivers is legit. Always healthy and he was an elite QB for years before all his receivers left town like VJax and Gates got old. Now he has Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green.

  • drewdat

    :) no one is better than Brees. Nice try Rodgers! lol