Last week we took a look at the top 50 wide receivers. This week we will get into the signal callers and break them down into tiers as we did with the receivers. Jim Hackett and I will get even deeper into the quarterbacks in our weekly podcast that will be posted tomorrow. I am also pleased to announce that Jim and I will be hosting a new show on WEEI 93.7 called “The Fantasy Football Hour.” Our first episode airs Aug. 10 at 7:30 a.m., and we’€™ll be on every Sunday throughout the NFL season. If you missed my article on high-value targets, give it a read. It points out some nice value opportunities based on average draft position.

2014 features perhaps the deepest group of fantasy quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. For years, Rotobahn has been preaching patience when drafting passers — and never has that approach been more prudent than it is for this season. There simply is no way you can get shut out at the position. Sure, some outcomes are better than others, but you are not taking a big risk by waiting on a quarterback because, quite simply, they will not be depleted unless you are playing in a league that allows teams to start more than one quarterback.

If you are looking for more information on any particular quarterback or player, go to rotobahn.com and check out our top 400. If your player isn’t listed there, you should strongly consider getting him off of your redraft board.

Tier 1 (1)

Peyton Manning, Broncos

Yes, for fantasy purposes he’€™s all alone. If there is a valid argument for taking an early quarterback, it’€™s Manning’€™s scoring gap over second place. Even though I expect a mild statistical regression, there’€™s still Manning and then everybody else. Yes, he lost a very reliable option when Eric Decker signed with the Jets, but the Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer. Latimer has a skill set that ultimately could make Denver fans forget about Eric Decker. Check out Latimer’s Rotobahn scouting report if you haven’t already.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Drew Brees, Saints

Just about all of Rodgers’€™ arrows are pointing up. As long as he avoids another season-ending injury, he’€™s about as safe as it gets as a performer and his receivers are talented and deeply immersed in the Green Bay offense. Brees is the definition of consistency. That’€™s why he’€™s an elite option, and that’€™s why people overdraft him in most leagues. Though he’€™s showing some signs of age, that should be counter-balanced by the influx of young receivers. We are very high on Kenny Stills, who played 60 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie, and this year’€™s first-round selection, Brandin Cooks. This could give Brees the kind of shot in the arm that Manning got from Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in 2012.

Tier 3 (4-7)

Matt Stafford, Lions
Andrew Luck, Colts
Nick Foles, Eagles
Robert Griffin III, Washington

By my math, you have three very secure options at the top of this tier. Stafford, Luck and Foles all are in very good situations and they’€™re all big strong-armed passers with quality targets. Griffin also has quality targets, and we like new head coach/offensive coordinator Jay Gruden‘€™s offense in terms of its flexibility. Griffin is the lottery ticket of the group. He is one of the few players who could outscore everybody, but the injury risks are obvious and real. If you do choose to roll the bones on RGIII, you’€™ll want to back him up with a strong option, ideally from the next tier.

Tier 4 (8-14)

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Jay Cutler, Bears
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Cam Newton, Panthers
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Tom Brady, Patriots
Tony Romo, Cowboys

This is perhaps the crucial tier to understand if you are going to use our drafting advice. Even after every team in the league has drafted its starter, there should be a Tier 4 option on the board. Tier 4 protects you. Tier 4 is your buddy. It’€™s your pal. Think about it — no matter what happens at the position in the early to middle rounds, you will almost always be able to get a quarterback from this tier. These are all desirable options with elite upside. My general strategy is to nab a quarterback from this tier in or around the ninth round. If the quarterbacks are going later than expected and I have a middle draft position, I will push the envelope and wait even longer.

And, even if other owners are getting antsy and drafting their backup quarterbacks early, you still have another two tiers of startable options coming up.

Tier 5 (15-17)

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Andy Dalton. Bengals
Philip Rivers, Chargers

This tier may not be exciting, but you’€™ll get solid weekly output. Rivers could be ranked higher, but he has a schedule with a lot of tough matchups. The Chargers get the NFC West in 2014. Big Ben has plenty of appeal and just missed the fourth tier. His weapons are better in 2014 and his health is looking good. Dalton has outstanding talent around him and should continue to post respectable numbers. His fantasy performance the last two seasons has been better than a lot of people realize.

Tier 6 (18-23)

Eli Manning, Giants
Johnny Manziel, Browns
Carson Palmer, Cardinals
Sam Bradford, Rams
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Joe Flacco, Ravens

There are a lot of flavors in this tier, but there’€™s one commonality, and it is value. These quarterbacks will be playable in plus matchups but also have the potential to be weekly options if things go well. Bradford and Palmer play in the nastiest division in recent memory, so they likely will stay in the matchup play column. Tannehill, Manning, Manziel and Flacco could all surprise and they all have the potential to be weekly starters. Manziel is no lock to start. If he was we’€™d have him a tier higher. As I said through the offseason, Manziel’€™s fantasy value should exceed his real football value. His foot-point potential is special. The important takeaway from this tier is, again, depth. You could roll with a guy like Tannehill as your starter if you had to.

Tier 7 (24-29)

Josh McCown, Buccaneers
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Alex Smith, Chiefs
Jake Locker, Titans
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Texans
EJ Manuel, Bills

Again, the depth is staggering. I may not want these guys in my lineup just yet, but they all have scoring potential for one reason or another. McCown and Fitzpatrick have great surrounding talent. Smith, Locker and Manuel have the ability to augment their passing stats with foot points, and that raises their floor. Bridgewater has both surrounding talent and above-average mobility. He’€™s here for his upside in Norv Turner‘€™s offense. We’€™ll move him back if Matt Cassel ends up starting, but we don’€™t see that happening — and if it does, it won’€™t be for long.

Tier 8 (30-32)

Geno Smith, Jets
Chad Henne, Jaguars
Matt Schaub, Raiders

The only guy with upside here is Smith, but drafting him as a backup is chancy in that Michael Vick could take the job quickly if given the chance. Henne is a solid bye week option if his receivers stay healthy, but you can do better in almost any scenario. Schaub is a poor bet for value, and the Raiders have a rookie in waiting. None for me, thanks.

Tier 9 (bonus tier)

Michael Vick, Jets
Derek Carr, Raiders
Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
Matt Flynn, Packers
Kirk Cousins, Washington

You probably don’€™t want to be drafting any of these guys in redraft leagues with the possible exception of Vick, who has plenty of fantasy upside if he is starting in Marty Mornhinweg‘€™s offense. Carr has great ability and some nice depth at receiver, but Schaub is going to play for a while, it seems. If and when Carr gets in there, he has some fantasy upside. Glennon would have value if he starts at some point because of all the weapons. It’€™s the same deal for Flynn and Cousins in Green Bay and Washington, respectively. When the Bears announce a backup, that player will get added to this list. Our early money is on Jimmy Clausen, who could post some nice stats throwing to all the beasts in Chicago’€™s offense.

To keep up with future articles and crucial fantasy information, follow me on Twitter.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson


FOXBORO — What’s a little competition to Tom Brady, even if it comes in training camp?

FOXBORO — What’s a little competition to Tom Brady, even if it comes in training camp?

The Patriots held their third straight day of padded practice Thursday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium and it was a big day for the defense.

Darrelle Revis intercepted Brady on a pass over the middle intended for Kenbrell Thompkins as the offense worked on being backed up against their own goal line. Brandon Browner and Devin McCourty broke up a Brady pass intended for Brandon LaFell in the end zone.

“They’€™re both great players, so when you make a mistake, they make you pay, and I think that’€™s the mark of a really good corner,” Brady said of Revis and Browner. “As a quarterback, you’€™re always trying to find the weak link in the defense, and neither of those guys are weak links. Sometimes, we’€™ve got to go after them, [and] we’€™ve got to try to see if we can make a play. But like I said, if you miss a little bit, they end making the play. It’€™s great work for us, and you understand what you’€™re up against.”

It wasn’t just the secondary showing off. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich helped stop Stevan Ridley for a loss on a red zone run inside the 10, causing Devin McCourty and the rest of the defense to celebrate jubilantly.

Brady says its all part of camp.

“There are a lot of competitions out there, so every drill, a coach pits the offense against the defense, and when we review the film at night there’€™s one side that’€™s getting praise and the other side is getting the opposite. You want to be the one who gets praised all the time, but in situations like this, it all kind of balances out. The defense makes a lot of good plays out there and we make our fair share. Hopefully when we play a different opponent, both of us are clicking the way we need to.”

The Patriots will return to practice Friday inside Gillette Stadium for a workout for season ticket holder and residents of South Walpole and Foxboro.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their seventh session of training camp and fifth in pads Wednesday. It was a beautiful summer morning, and the workout ran for just over two hours in front of a big crowd on the practice fields behind Gillette. Here are a few quick notes:

Matthew Slater was back on the field in pads, and Josh Boyce was also among those returning to practice. Meanwhile, linebacker Cameron Gordon was not on the field for the first time this summer. In addition, center Bryan Stork, tight end Michael Hoomanwanui, running back Tyler Gaffney and offensive lineman Chris Martin were among those not present.

– The highlight of the morning likely came late in the 11-on-11 drills. With the Patriots offense working at their own 1-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back and zipped a pass over the middle. Cornerback Darrelle Revis stepped in front of the pass and took it back roughly six yards for the score. The play drew a big cheer from the crowd, as well as the rest of the defense. Later in the same series of drills, the defense bottled up running back Stevan Ridley in a goal-line drill — the defense was cleared fired up.

Marcus Cannon was getting a lot of work at right guard with what appeared to be a reasonable facsimile of the starting offensive line. Last year’s starting right guard Dan Connolly got a lot of work at center, likely giving Ryan Wendell a bit of a rest because Stork wasn’t on the field.

Rob Gronkowski was in pads again, but didn’t appear to be involved in any of the 11-on-11 drills. He did get his daily dose of work on the side with Brady, and once again, Revis worked to provide some level of defense on Gronkowski.

– In that same vein, Alfonzo Dennard was again back on the field in pads, but didn’t appear to get any work in the 11-on-11 drills.

Julian Edelman and Roy Finch worked as punt returners.

– No fireworks from Brandon Browner, who spent a relatively quiet morning going through drills with the rest of the defensive backs.

– In 11-on-11s, at the end of a Brady pass for James White, the rookie busted into the secondary and got popped by Revis, drawing a cheer from the crowd. In the same series of drills, Ryan Mallett found Shane Vereen out of the backfield, and the running back took off down the sideline for the end zone on a crisply executed play.

– The 6-foot-8, 275-pound Justin Jones is a massive and intriguing presence at tight end. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he presents himself as a massive target, and when a quarterback is able to get the ball in his general vicinity, he makes the catch. (He dropped a laser from Mallett in 7-on-7 drills Thursday morning.) He made a great catch in the back of the end zone in 11-on-11 drills on a ball from Mallett. While he’s probably behind D.J. Williams on the depth chart at this point in the summer, Jones is certainly one to watch as the preseason and camp continues.

Jimmy Garoppolo continues to be a mixed bag, to be kind. He badly overthrew a receiver in an early 7-on-7 drill, and missed a throw to Brian Tyms. Later in the same drill, he overthrew Tyms on an attempted deep ball. (For what it’s worth, Tyms has grown into Garoppolo’s favorite target — the combo could be this summer’s version of Tim Tebow and Quentin Sims.) And at the end of practice, Malcolm Butler picked off Garoppolo in 11-on-11s, and almost directly after that, was almost crushed by Michael Buchanan coming off the edge. There’s no sign that any sort of deal is imminent, but if Garoppolo continues to struggle this summer, I’m not sure the Patriots would be inclined to trade  Mallett.

– Edelman continues to have an excellent camp. The receiver has consistently been where he needs to be when it comes to routes, and as far as I can tell, there haven’t been any cases where Edelman and the quarterback weren’t on the same page. (Not to mention the fact that he’s caught everything that’s been thrown in his direction, particularly when going up against Revis.) He had a great catch on a deep ball against Arrington late in camp in 11-on-11s. At this point, Edelman appears to be poised to have a terrific year.

– Backup offensive lineman Jordan Devey took a lap late in practice for an unknown transgression.

– Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk was on the sidelines watching practice, and spent time chatting with Brady during the workout.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price


FOXBORO — When defensive back Brandon Browner got in Kenbrell Thompkins face Wednesday, the Patriots receiver didn’t take it personally.

FOXBORO — When defensive back Brandon Browner got in Kenbrell Thompkins face Wednesday, the Patriots receiver didn’t take it personally.

After all, the receiver has been making big play after big play on him and figured the time had come in the training camp one-on-one competition for Browner to rise up. He did, with an interception, his first of training camp and a strip of a ball on another play against Thompkins.

Thompkins said the early sparring session in Wednesday’s padded practice was not something that will carry over to another practice.

“I don’t think so,” Thompkins said. “We still have a lot of practice against each other. We’re just out there being competitive. He’s competing against the wide receiver position. We’re competing and those things happen. At the end of the day, we go in the locker room and we all see each other’s faces and we have another six hours together. Hopefully, we’ll crack a couple of jokes later.”

Earlier in practice, during red zone drills, Browner got so frustrated he just pushed Thompkins in the back as he was beaten on a corner route in the end zone. Minutes later, in another passing drill, Browner had seen enough and got physical and loud.

The sparring session caused receivers coach Chad O’Shea to intervene, naturally defending his receiver. Browner didn’t take kindly to that and got in the face of O’Shea.

“The receiver position, it’s our job to make sure we get open and make sure we catch the ball,” Thompkins said. “Our coach always preach those two things.”

They may have wanted to rip each other apart for a brief moment Wednesday but both praised the other after practice, including Thompkins, who said he’ll benefit from going up against a 6-foot-6 defensive back at the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a tremendous athlete. All of those guys are tremendous athletes,” Thompkins said. “Brandon has great length. You just pretty much have to work against every DB we have out there. We have to make sure we work on our releases and are getting open.”

Thompkins said the important lesson of Wednesday is to learn from the emotion on the field and use the passion to make better plays.

“Hopefully we can just get better from it,” Thompkins said. “Just leave it on the field.”

Asked if he would “hug it out” with Browner as Browner said he did with O’Shea, Thompkins said he would just settle for some civil conversation.

“We’ll talk it out,” Thompkins said.

Thompkins made a point to tip his cap to the entire Patriots secondary as a group, not just newcomers Browner and Darrelle Revis.

“I don’t think it’s [only] two,” Thompkins said. “We have a great group, a great bunch at the corner position right now. I think they’re all competitive and they’re all working hard and we’re all trying to make each other better at the end of the day.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
With a new attitude, tight end D.J. Williams is primed for his best season yet (AP).

With a new attitude, tight end D.J. Williams is primed for what could be a breakout season (AP).

FOXBORO — For tight end D.J. Williams he’€™s been in the NFL for three years with the Patriots being his third team. After being cut three times last season, including once by the Patriots and having only nine career catches and no touchdowns, the 25-year-old has a new outlook on how to approach the game.

“It came with sitting on the couch for a couple of weeks not having a job waiting on a phone call,” Williams said after practice on Wednesday. “I don’€™t want to be that guy who is sitting at home saying he didn’€™t get his chance because of a hamstring or anything like that. I want to say I gave it my best, everything I had and it didn’€™t work out, but I couldn’€™t say that. I don’€™t want to let that opportunity slip through my hands again.”

After being drafted by the Packers out of the University of Arkansas in the fifth-round in 2011, he was cut before the start of the 2013 season and picked up by the Jaguars. He didn’€™t record a catch in seven games with Jacksonville and was let go.

With injuries at tight end the Patriots claimed Williams in late November, but after just one game he was let go once again as fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was deemed healthy again. Then, a week after being cut he was re-signed when Rob Gronkowski went down with a season-ending ACL tear.

This brings Williams to his fourth training camp, one he is looking to make the most of.

“I have the attitude now after being cut three times in one year — you stop pointing fingers saying this guy got paid, it didn’€™t work out in this system — the only person that has anything to do with it I found out is myself,” Williams said. “Looking back at it, I got comfortable. That is a terrible thing to do. Once I realized it was all my fault I stopped beating myself each and everyday. I approach everyday as a new day that you can get better and I don’€™t want to beat myself anymore.”

After working out for much of the offseason with fullback James Develin, a player he became close with in his short time with the organization last year, Williams is ready to compete for a spot on the final 53-man roster.

“It was intense. I got together with my boy James Devlin. We were in the weight room getting after it and when we were away from each other we were sending video messages to each other seeing who could lift more weight,” he said. “He has me right now.”

With the team not having a true backup for Gronkowski, Williams is looking to be that guy as he is versatile in the fact he can both block and catch passes well. Currently the Patriots have five tight ends on the roster, with two rookies — Justin Jones and Asa Watson. In all likelihood the team will carry two or three tight ends on the final 53-man roster, so with Hoomanawanui missing the last two days of practice, Williams could have an upper hand at making the team.

“I’€™ve started to learn you can’€™t control the hand that is dealt, you can just control how well you play,” Williams said. “I am here now. I really love the system and I am going to do my best to make sure I can be as productive as I can not for myself, but for the team.”

Williams, who when was signed last season compared the offense to a attractive Hispanic lady, with his new approach on the game could be primed for his best season yet.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — Third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard says he is now fully committed to his football career. It’s a career that is on life support after multiple run-ins with the law.

FOXBORO — Third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard says he is now fully committed to his football career. It’s a career that is on life support after multiple run-ins with the law.

All of it began the weekend he was drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots in 2012. In his final game at Nebraska in 2011, Dennard was ejected for fighting with South Carolina receiver and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. In the same month, he had a not-so-great Senior Bowl in front of scouts and coaches, causing his stock to plummet.

Then things got really messy.

Dennard was arrested in April 2012 for assaulting a police officer in Lincoln, Neb. and found guilty in February 2013, and the conviction carried a 30-day jail sentence to begin March 1, 2014 and two years of probation. Dennard was arrested again in July 2013 for suspicion of driving under the influence, which was ruled as a violation of his probation, and he was given an extra 30 days in jail and another year of probation.

Dennard was released after 38 days for good behavior after spending 35 days in the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility in Nebraska this year.

On Wednesday, his second day back on the practice field after missing spring OTAs and minicamp, Dennard spoke to the media for the first time since he was released from jail in April.

“It’s a very good feeling,” Dennard said. “Just move forward, just moving forward. It’€™s all about football now. Just trying to provide for my family.”

Dennard began training camp on the physically unable to perform list before getting cleared to practice on Tuesday. He only practiced for an hour Wednesday before working on his conditioning. He admitted that he is still a ways from being a full-go in practice.

“It’€™s been very tough because I just want to go out there and compete with my teammates and learn from the older guys,” Dennard said. “I’€™m just taking it one day at a time. I’€™m feeling better and better every day.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the intensity of Brandon Browner and how it spilled over into shouting at teammates Kenbrell Thompkins, rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea at Patriots training camp practice Wednesday.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia