Week 6 Fantasy Football Drop List: Giving up on Stafford

With the quarterback position as deep as ever in fantasy football, Stafford isn't getting it done. Are other quarterbacks cut-worthy?

There are many strategies invoked when filling a fantasy football roster, giving owners headaches when mulling the options.

Some choose to roster two quarterbacks, two tight ends -- and in some cases two defenses. Others prefer carrying only one quarterback, tight end, and defense, leaving room on the roster for upside wide receivers and running backs hoping to hit on that one lottery ticket. 

The fantasy landscape changes daily, and owners have to be able to adjust based on league, injuries, and player production.

With five weeks in the books, the quarterback position has provided many surprises. Injuries to Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger had fantasy owners scrambling for quarterback replacements over the first part of the season.

Fortunately, there has been a hefty amount of serviceable quarterbacks each week. In Week 5, Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown passed for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns. Because of this depth at the quarterback position, Week 6’s drop list starts with a few quarterbacks that could be cut league to help get through the heavy upcoming bye weeks.

Many cuts are based on league size and scoring, so apply it in accordance with your league. The list is not suggesting these players must be dropped, but if there is a player available you want to take a shot on, these guys are no longer must-holds.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, Quarterback

Yahoo Ownership: 99%
ESPN Ownership: 99%

The Denver Broncos were expected to rely more on the run this season with last year’s second half breakout C.J. Anderson taking pressure off of Peyton Manning's nearly 40 year old arm to move the chains. Hitting constant brick walls, the running game has been almost nonexistent, and Manning hasn’t been able to orchestrate drives like seasons past.

At 17th in the league, the Broncos average just 22.6 points per game. Luckily for Broncos fans, the defense has been dominant and has the team off to a 5-0 start. Allowing just 15.8 points and 278.0 yards per game, our algorithms rate the Broncos as the best in the NFL in terms of Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. NEP indicates how a team or player performs relative to expectation-level.

Manning has thrown one or zero touchdowns in three out of five games this season. Against the Raiders in Week 5, Manning was picked off twice by fellow octogenarian Charles Woodson, giving him seven interceptions on the season to go with only six touchdown passes.

Manning’s Passing NEP per drop back has gone down in each of his three seasons as a Bronco. Out of 32 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, Manning has the eighth worst Passing NEP per drop back (0.00) through five weeks. Whether it is age, injury, offensive line problems, the running game, or the Gary Kubiak offense, the excuses are mounting up. Manning hasn’t been Manning this season. Though his numbers are likely to improve, there’s a good chance other players are available to help your team. 

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, Quarterback

Yahoo Ownership: 72%
ESPN Ownership: 67%

After throwing for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions last season, Ryan Tannehill was on many sleeper lists entering the season. Expectations to build on last season’s success and establish himself as an every week start for fantasy owners has yet to come to fruition. In 2014, he completed his first season with a positive Passing NEP per drop back with 0.07 in his third season.

Instead of improving on last season’s progress, Tannehill’s Passing NEP per attempt has dipped back into the negative at -0.09 on 1,080 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Behind only Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles, Tannehill has the third worst Passing NEP per drop back out of 32 quarterbacks attempting at least 100 pass plays this season.

The offense and defense have been dysfunctional all season, leading to the firing of head coach Joe Philbin entering their Week 5 bye. With so many quarterbacks producing, there may be better options available while waiting for Miami to figure it out.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, Quarterback

Yahoo Ownership: 75%
ESPN Ownership: 65%

How many season does a player get to prove he’s better than average? At this point in his career, it’s time to accept the fact Stafford will never be in the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL. Going into Week 5 the Lions had just a 2.4% chance to make the playoffs based on our algorithms. Last week, our own Jason Green asked the question “Should the Detroit Lions Consider Moving on From Matthew Stafford?”

Of course, even though he hasn’t produced a victory yet this season, there isn’t an abundance of NFL ready quarterbacks waiting in the unemployment line. Just because the Lions are stuck with Stafford doesn’t mean fantasy owners have to be.

At this point, owners are clinging to seasons past when wide receiver Calvin Johnson dominated the opposition and holding out hope Stafford will return to that form. Johnson appears to be slowing down in his age 30 season with his lowest Reception NEP per target since his rookie year. Megatron’s Reception NEP has been above 0.80 in each of the last five seasons.

Stafford sported a plus Passing NEP per drop in all five seasons since his rookie year, but this season his Passing NEP is an abysmal -0.07. Stafford has the fifth worst Passing NEP per drop back out of 32 quarterbacks who have attempted 100 passes or more through Week 5. On average, every time Stafford attempts a pass, the Lions chances of scoring drop.

Averaging 241 yards per game, Stafford has thrown 8 interceptions in 5 games with only 6 touchdown passes. Benched in the third quarter for career backup Dan Orlovsky after throwing three interceptions Sunday at home against the Arizona Cardinals, Stafford just hit rock bottom. Even though Lions head coach Jim Caldwell says Stafford is still the Lions' starter, it doesn’t mean he needs to be wasting space on your roster.

C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos, Running Back

Yahoo Ownership: 93%
ESPN Ownership: 95%

Drafted in the first round in many leagues, the writing has been on the wall for Anderson for weeks. Anderson’s Rushing NEP per carry of -0.36 ranks last out of 38 running backs with at least 40 attempts this season.

The struggles continued in Week 5 as he rushed for 22 yards on 11 carries and caught 2 passes for 18 yards. Having yet to score a touchdown this year, Anderson’s best game of the season came in Week 4 with 70 total yards. Sporting a 0.05 Rushing NEP per carry this year, Anderson’s platoon mate Ronnie Hillman has been more effective on the field, and our numbers show it.

With quarterback Peyton Manning’s play declining, the Broncos can’t continue to feed Anderson the ball while he is averaging 2.6 yards per carry. The running back position has imploded this season, so cutting Anderson in deeper leagues is less likely. For shallow leagues, cutting ties with Anderson may be the fantasy therapy needed after what’s looking like an early-round bust. Denver ranks 31st in Adjusted NEP per play, meaning they've been a better offense than only the Chicago Bears through Week 5.

Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles, Running Back

Yahoo Ownership: 52%
ESPN Ownership: 64%

When given opportunities, Darren Sproles has produced throughout his career. Always dangerous through the air, Sproles has posted a positive Reception NEP per target in seven of nine seasons in the NFL. This season he’s posted a Reception NEP per target of 0.49 and a Rushing NEP per carry of 0.08. The problem is that the opportunities have been limited.

Sproles has touched the ball six times or fewer in over half the Eagles games. There isn’t enough carries to go around in a crowded Eagles backfield, led by top-dollar free agent running back DeMarco Murray. Ryan Mathews and Sproles share time and fight for the remaining scraps.

Slightly more usable in point per reception leagues, Sproles has 16 catches on the season. Annually overvalued by fantasy owners, his value to the Eagles doesn’t usually translate into fantasy start status. Sproles' limited usage keeps him from being a player owners can trust, and the fact that the Eagles rank 30th in Adjusted NEP per play doesn't bode well for his upside.

Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers, Wide Receiver

Yahoo Ownership: 56%
ESPN Ownership: 62%

Last week’s drop article found Smith’s teammates tight end Vernon Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the cut list. Deep threat Torrey Smith can’t escape the putrid offense the 49ers display each week. After a solid showing in Week 5, the 49ers rank 23rd in Adjusted NEP per play, but they were 30th heading into the weekend. Averaging just 45 yards a game on only 11 receptions through 5 weeks, Smith’s short time in San Francisco hasn’t gone as he and fantasy owners had hoped.

Kaepernick has targeted him on just 19 passes this season. Smith scored double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career last season but saw his yardage total dip to the lowest of his career at 767. Smith has just one 100-yard game and one touchdown this season and is on pace to set a new career low 726 yards receiving.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco could use Smith right now with the multitude of injuries to the wide receivers in Baltimore. Never the less, Smith is now a 49er and not seeing the targets needed to be a consistent fantasy producer.