1. Peyton Manning
Expect another great season from him. I don’t think he can repeat last season’s numbers, but has the offensive weapons to be the top quarterback again. He has Emmanuel Sanders now who was very productive in Pittsburgh. He joins Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas as quality pass catchers in Denver. In terms of where to pick him, I’d say lower first round. I’m not passing on an elite fantasy running back for him. The only exception may be if your league counts passing touchdowns as 6 points, then he has the ability to win your league for him and should be chosen top 5.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Before he got hurt he was on track to be right there with the top quarterbacks in fantasy. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and continues to put up great stats. With great wide receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb there’s no question he can still put up his 2011 NFL MVP season. He has the talent to be right up there with Peyton Manning so getting him in the second round instead of investing a first round pick is a good spot for him.
3. Drew Brees
The last three seasons Drew Brees has posted at least 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. It is more likely he will continue putting up these types of stats under Sean Payton’s offense and with Jimmy Graham as his top target. Along with Graham, he has decent receivers in Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Robert Meachum and newcomer Brandin Cooks. Brees is an elite fantasy quarterback worthy of a pick in the second round.
4. Matthew Stafford
We are out of the elite category now, but Stafford really is not a bad option as a starting fantasy quarterback. He was given some new weapons this off season in Golden Tate and Eric Ebron who should help take some of the pressure off Calvin Johnson. Stafford throws as much as anyone in the league and is always a candidate to put up huge yards. He does however have a few occasional bad games where he forces the ball and throws a high amount of interceptions. This is evident from the last four games of the year finishing with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. There is a defiant buyer beware on Stafford and is in that second tier group of fantasy quarterbacks. He does have a ton of upside given his 2011 season with over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns.
5. Andrew Luck
Can Andrew Luck make a leap into being an elite fantasy quarterback? The signs look good heading into his third season as the starter for the Colts. Last year he finished fourth out of fantasy quarterbacks even without his top wide receiver, Reggie Wayne, for half the year. This year he has a young emerging wide receiving core around him to help him become a very good fantasy starter. A concern is whether he can get his passing touchdowns up from just 23 last year. I don’t think he becomes elite, but he is a very consistent starter week to week.
6. Cam Newton
Cam Newton had a great fantasy year last year finishing third among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Part of this came due to him putting the most points out of any quarterback on the ground with 585 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. So why did I drop him in this year’s fantasy rankings? Look around at his supporting cast. Last year he had an alright wide receiving core with Steve Smith, Brandon Lafell and Ted Ginn. Now not one of those wide receivers is still with the team, and the projected starters are Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers do have a good tight end in Greg Olsen, but this cast will make it tough for Cam to be productive. If you want an example, look what a bad supporting cast did to Tom Brady’s numbers last year. It is a huge question mark what kind of numbers Cam can put up, but his talent gives him top 5 fantasy quarterback potential.
7. Nick Foles
One of the riskier picks of this year’s fantasy draft is Foles. Nick Foles broke out in 2014 second half of the year and was definitely a present if you were lucky to pick him off the waiver wire. With such a small sampling though the obvious concern is if he can keep that production up. That’s not the only concern… there is also the loss of Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin’s health is still up in question. However, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in a little over half a season is tough to ignore. He was even more productive than Peyton Manning the second half of the year. The upside is top three fantasy quarterback, the downside is he doesn’t have the weapons to produce the same stats and he’s a fringe fantasy starter. I personally expect Foles to continue producing and end up a solid fantasy starter in Chip Kelly’s offense.
8. Russell Wilson
Wilson is an extremely talented quarterback through the air and on the ground. He finished last year as the 8th highest scoring fantasy quarterback and that’s where I put him in my rankings. The problem with Russell Wilson actually has nothing to do with him, the Seahawks do not throw the ball very often as he has one of the least pass attempts in the league. With Wilson you do get a consistent performer who will throw a couple touchdowns a game and get yards on the ground. If the Seahawks decide to open it up a little more in his third season as the starter, Wilson will have some serious fantasy potential. However, if they stay with the same type of play calling look for him to produce the same numbers and be limited in his fantasy production.
9. Colin Kaepernick
Kapernick could be set for a big year in fantasy after getting a new contract this off season. He has Michael Crabtree healthy, Anquan Boldin back for another season and the 49ers acquired Steve Johnson this off season. Not to mention he has one of the top tight ends in the game in Vernon Davis. Kaepernick had a nice end of the year after a slow start and finished with the 9th most fantasy points out of the quarterbacks. With Kaepernick you’ll have to take the good with the bad as he is a little inconsistent. However if he plays like he did from week 11 to the end of the season last year, you will have yourself a top five fantasy quarterback.
10. Matt Ryan
Last year was a tough year for Matt Ryan. You had a shaky offensive line, the loss of Julio Jones, the injury problems of Roddy White and a lack of a running game without Steven Jackson. If you look at Matt Ryan’s production when he did have Julio Jones, he was one of the top quarterbacks around. After he lost Julio Jones, his stats became a little inconsistent. He did put up similar yardage to his great 2012 season, but the touchdowns were down. Expect a comeback year with Matt Ryan and his touchdowns to increase with his offensive weapons back.
11. Tony Romo
Tony Romo gets quite a bit of criticism and some of it is deserved, but when it comes to fantasy football he’s a starter. The problem is many people transfer this criticism over to fantasy football and he goes lower than he is supposed to. The past three seasons, Romo has finished as a top ten fantasy quarterback. He also has a top wide receiver target in Dez Bryant, a very good safety net in Jason Witten, and a running game with Demarco Murray. Not to mention a poor defense that will require the Cowboys to win by throwing and scoring a lot of points. The only question mark I see with Romo that could cause him to fall out of the top ten fantasy quarterback producers is his health and age. After back surgery this off season and turning 34 it is only a matter of time before Romo’s stats start to decline. For right now, Romo is a low end fantasy starter.
12. Tom Brady
It may surprise you how low I have Tom Brady, but let me explain. First let’s start with the Patriots, there is a clear lack of quality wide receivers on the roster. Danny Amendola can’t stay healthy, Julian Edelman is not a number one wide receiver and the rest of the wide receivers are way too young and inexperienced to be counted on. Gronkowski is great, but he hasn’t made it through an entire season since 2011. Now let’s move on to Tom Brady himself. Since 2011 Tom Brady’s yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and quarterback rating have declined each year. He’s not getting any younger either at 36. Point is Tom Brady is not the elite fantasy quarterback that he used to be. That being said he is still a very good quarterback who will give you about the same numbers he put up last year where he finished 13th for fantasy quarterbacks and possibly a little bit higher if Gronk stays healthy all year. Buyer beware though, he’s getting older and someone in your draft will take him higher just off name recognition. If you pick him know you are getting a lower end fantasy starter.
13. Phillip Rivers
Phillip Rivers had a breakout this past year, finishing 6th in points for quarterbacks. Part of the reason for this boom in production is the emergence of Keenan Allen. Along with Keenan Allen, the tight end play has been outstanding with ready to breakout star Ladarius Green and of course the all-time great Antonio Gates. Phillip Rivers has continued to limit his interceptions while increasing his touchdown production. The risk is that the year before he was the 21st fantasy quarterback. So was last year’s breakout year just a fluke or has Phillip Rivers turned it around and ready to be a weekly fantasy starter.
14. Robert Griffin III
Fantasy owners that drafted RGIII had to be disappointed. He had his fair share of quality games, but overall a disappointing season with just 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He will have a chance to turn it around with Desean Jackson coming from Philadelphia and Pierre Garcon returning. He will also have Jordan Reed coming back from injury which should give him a good tight end option. However, it is tough to trust his health and whether he will get back to rookie form. He takes a few too many hits and relies on his legs too often. There is a chance he can come back and be a top ten quarterback again with new deep threat Desean Jackson, but I’d much rather spend a high pick on a quarterback that is going to be consistent and healthy.
15. Jay Cutler
As far as fantasy production goes, Jay Cutler is actually pretty consistent. In every game that Jay Cutler finished, he had at least one touchdown and double digit fantasy points. He did struggle to stay healthy, but was having a very good year outside of that. Part of the reason is his offensive weapons and a very improved offensive line. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall may be the best 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. They also have a good red zone target with tight end Martellus Bennett. Jay Cutler has the potential to be a top ten fantasy quarterback with the offensive weapons around him and his strong arm. It is just a question if he can be consistent all season and stay healthy. He has never played a full 16 game season in Chicago or thrown for over 27 touchdowns. This could be the year he breaks out.
16. Ben Roethlisberger
For being 16th on this list, Ben Roethlisberger really is a great top end backup option. He finished 12th in fantasy points last year and was very consistent almost the entire year. He had a pretty good year with new number one wide receiver Antonio Brown. However, this off season he lost his number two wide receiver in Emmanual Sanders. If he can continue off last season where he stayed healthy and threw the most touchdowns for him since 2007, you should have yourself a very good backup or fringe fantasy starter.
17. Andy Dalton
Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and… Andy Dalton? Yes that’s right, Andy Dalton finished as the fifth highest scoring quarterback last year. However he played incredibly inconsistent this past season. He had four games with scoring single digits and also three games with over 30 points. He had a career high in touchdowns and interceptions, if he can cut down the interceptions and become more consistent look for him to be a viable starting fantasy option this year. He does have a lot of talent around him as his top wide receiver AJ Green is unbelievable along with Marvin Jones who had a career year. The tight end position is stacked also with Tyler Eifert in his second year and Jermaine Gresham still there. Andy Dalton could make a fantasy owner very happy if he can cut down on the turnovers. His struggles at times throughout the season causes me to hesitate to draft him as my top quarterback, but his ability to put up big numbers makes him have upside as a possible every week fantasy starter.
18. Josh McCown
Josh McCown is the wildcard at the quarterback position. He did a great job replacing Cutler when he was out with an injury and put up some very good numbers while in. Now he has moved on to Tampa Bay as he will be taking the starting role with some talented players around him. He has very similar wide receivers in Tampa Bay like he did in Chicago with two big targets in Vincent Jackson and newcomer Mike Evans. They also have Doug Martin coming back from injury to take some of the pressure of McCown. However, it is very risky to trust a 35 year old quarterback whose track record before this has been mediocre at best. It’s a risk taking McCown, but if you can get him late enough it could pay off if he continues of his breakout year from last year. Last year could also be a bit of a fluke and he could possibly continue the same struggles he had earlier in his year. Personally, I think he will be a fringe fantasy starter, but the risk is too great to take him high.
19. Eli Manning
Last year was a nightmare year for fantasy owners that drafted Eli Manning. 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions are definitely not the stats of a fantasy starter and he will have to turn that around to have any consideration of starting. He has the help from new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was the old quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers. They have focused on short, quicker passes in the new offense. McAdoo’s goal for Eli Manning was to be at a 70% completion percentage this year which would be a dramatic increase from his 57% completion percentage this past year. Eli could still get back to form and have a comeback year with this offense. Just look at the breakout year Phillip Rivers had this past season with Mike McCoy’s new offense. With talented wide receivers Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle and newcomer Odell Becham Jr. around him, expect a bit of a bounce back year for Eli.
20. Joe Flacco
Flacco was another player, along with Eli Manning, who had a down year. Flacco threw a career high 22 interceptions after never throwing more than 12 in his career and only finished with 19 touchdowns. Part of this had to do with the lack of a run game with Ray Rice having a down year. Flacco also had to deal with a shaky offensive line and losing his top wide receiver in Anquan Boldin. Honestly Joe Flacco has never been a fantasy superstar and at most has been a solid backup. There’s not much upside in picking Flacco other than him getting back to his normal numbers and being a solid fantasy backup.