As I throw out my yearly preseason rankings there’s a lot to take into account as the season approaches. We haven’t even reeeeally gotten the season started yet except for the Hall of Fame game, so there’s tons left to figure out. Several teams still have to name a starting QB (a group that now includes the NY Jets- thanks to Geno Smith’s big mouth). And after last night’s first big round of preseason games, there’s still tons of teams with glaring questions for the immediate future.
One thing that we can count on is that fantasy football is back and ramping up for another exciting season. While there is no definitive source for rankings in the world (yes, even Matthew Berry gets it wrong A LOT), there are a lot of great options to outsource when considering your drafts for the upcoming seasons. And while teams having gone from feature running backs to running back by committee; some have almost exclusively become passing teams. So what’s a QB good for now? You guessed it. If he’s mobile or big, there’s a chance he’s gonna become the next Mike Tolbert (touchdown vulture).
So here’s my take on the top 20 QBs available (because a standard 10-team league better not be drafting any deeper than that)
- Andrew Luck. No, he’s not the best QB in the game. Is he close? Maybe. Does that matter in fantasy football? Not in the least. Luck is mobile, smart, and instinctive. He’s got enough talent around him in speedster TY Hilton, sure-handed Andre Johnson, and dynamic TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, along with a couple slot/speed guys looking to provide some punch (i.e. Donte Montcrief, Griff Whalen, Vincent Brown, and Phillip Dorsett). And finally a proven back to hand the ball of to, he’s got Frank Gore over for the depleted 49ers. After a big year with an aging Reggie Wayne as a secondary, it’s obvi someone will step up. And with a division filled with games against teams with mediocre offenses, he’s going to get plenty of possessions.
Aaron Rodgers. He won’t get the gaudy passing stats every week because his team will be likely be ahead more often than not. But the TDs will come in spades and the INTs won’t be too high. With a stable of receivers lead by Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb with a beast RB in Eddie Lacy in the backfield, Rodgers is gonna have a good year. Who’s the X-factor this year? Ty Montgomery. The dynamo from Stanford is gonna be a big-play guy from day one. Drafting Rodgers in the 1st round isn’t a great idea, but you could do worse.
- Ben Roethlisberger. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. But in fantasy, he’s golden. The Steelers offense is now their calling card. Once a team caught in the same mold as every other team in the division (run-first, run-second, run-third), Pittsburgh now has one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Antonio Brown helps, Le’Veon Bell (though missing some games) helps, and a reliable QB really helps. Is going to light the league on fire again this year? My guess is yes. Why? Because they have a shitty defense again. And if you’re giving up points, then you’ve gotta score more to win. And unfortunately, I think the Steelers should do plenty of that once again. Still, look for Big Ben to be available in the 4th round and later.
- Tony Romo. Again, not my favorite guy. But last year he lead the league in QBR. He might not be a winner, but he racks up great numbers. With Dez Bryant out to prove that he’s worth the money that was paid this offseason, Romo’s season looks headed in a good direction. While having a bad running game wouldn’t be great, having an okay running game will help the pass game in terms of numbers. On top of that, the Eagles are the only divisional opponent with a half-decent defense. The other two teams will yield lots and lots of points. QBs are worth even more this year and Romo will be a guy worth taking in the 3rd in your draft.
- Russell Wilson. Not saying this is out of default, but Wilson isn’t ever going to light the world on fire. Still, he’s good for his fair share of rushing TDs and should be elevated a bit in the passing game with the new addition of Jimmy Graham at tight end. With the Seahawks likely giving Marshawn Lynch a few less carries, the ball has got to go somewhere. If Paul Richardson can play more consistent ball and/or rookie Tyler Lockett can step in to play, Wilson should be worthy of a pick in the 5th round or sooner (depending on how dumb the other people are in your league).
Peyton Manning. The dude is regressing. He’s quite possibly the best ever at his position (though Brady would have something to say about that in terms of wins and Marino might have something to say as far as production), and yet what you did last year doesn’t mean dick with regards to what you are going to do this year. Demauryius Thomas is back and getting paid. Emmanuel Sanders should be solid if not spectacular again this year. And Owen Daniels will be a nice plug-in after losing Julius Thomas to free-agency (provided he can stay healthy). CJ Anderson needs to continue improving after breakout success last year. And Manning needs to stop aging. Not sure that’s going to happen. His release his quick as ever, but his feet are slowing down. Manning’s numbers will still be very good this year. He’s just not going to win games for you single-handedly like he did a few years ago.
- Cam Newton. I’m not a huge fan of this guy either. But he’s gotta get better at some point. With a tough defense and an improved receiving corps, there’s no reason why Newton can’t improve this year. The guy has always been a tank and running the ball is something he can do, even if he won’t be doing it as often. With Devin Funchess lined up opposite to big boy Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers will have an imposing tandem few other teams can match in terms of physical presence. Don’t be surprised to see a 4,000 yard year out of Cam.
- Matt Ryan. Okay, so Roddy White is declining. But did anyone pay attention to what Julio Jones was doing while playing injured towards the end of last year? He’s a fucking stud. Ryan is gonna throw some INTs, but the Falcons defense is so porous that it makes me think of one of the funnier signs ever seen on College Gameday (to the right). With a young runner in Tevin Coleman and some other plug and play guys, Ryan will get plenty of chances to sling it to his fave guys (that sounded wrong). And what’s better? You can get him for a bargain in the 7th round or later (likely much later) if you play your cards right and again if you aren’t drafting with idiots.
- Drew Brees. No, I didn’t forget him. But last year wasn’t great. In fact, look past all the passing yards. Look past the terrible team record. Even with a decent run game, Brees isn’t doing as much as the Super Bowl year (and coinciding several other great years). His receiving talent continues to dwindle and Marques Colston is hardly a #1 guy anymore. Without Jimmy Graham, what can we expect? Well, Drew Brees is a great player still, just one in decline. So he’s going to get his numbers somehow. It will probably just be at the expense of those trusting him to score 20 points every week.
- Philip Rivers. If he had a better cast to back him, then it would be easy to call Rivers a top-5 guy. He continues to show out in fantasy and in real life. While Antonio Gates might be all but done, there’s no reason to believe we won’t see this dude rack up another 4,000 or more yards with 30-plus TDs. If someone other than Keenan Allen can consistently catch the ball and Melvin Gordon is as good as advertised, then we will see the same old guy drafted low and producing at a high rate. Starter quality? Probs not, but definitely worth taking a flyer yet again.
- Ryan Tannehill. This guy is quickly becoming a star player in the NFL (how do you like them apples Johnny Football?). With a hodge-podge of talent surrounding him in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, and a hopefully healthy Jordan Cameron, there’s not an elite option but at least there’s something. And Lamar Miller is a whole hell of a lot better than given credit for. With an expensive defense that better play up to their salaries, this might be the year the Dolphins emerge as contenders. Sadly, the Bills look good (sans QB) and the Cheaters….whoops I meant the Patriots are still around.
Tom Brady. See what I did there? So you might think it’s just because he’s missing a quarter of the season (Yes, 4 is twenty-five percent of 16) doesn’t mean he couldn’t be higher. Brady has been sliding down fantasy drafts for a few years now. The guy wins by any means necessary. And whether we like it or not, he’s a winner. But is he a fantasy must-have? It depends on how early we’re talking. It doesn’t really matter who is running the ball. Jonas Gray proved that for us last season. Who other than Rob Gronkowski will be catching the ball? Brandon LaFell? He kind of disappeared towards the end. Julian Edelman? He runs five yard routes. So yes for PPR. In terms of fantasy numbers, Brady’s real value will show itself by how many TDs he gets. So try to get a stacked lineup if he’s your main guy or just get someone else.
- Eli Manning. The Giants are so frustrating. They suck. They win the Super Bowl. They suck. They win the Super Bowl. They suck. They suck. Some guy burns his fingers off. Their coach won’t retire. Eli is color blind and throws the wrong guys. And then Odell Beckham becomes a bonafide superstar. And it’s Beckham that puts Eli this high. If we’re talking overall value, he’s still probably right around here. But with a suspect running game it’s not crazy to think Manning might put up numbers similar to his brother. 10th round or later.
- Matthew Stafford. Since when did Calvin Johnson stop being Megatron? It feels like no one thinks this guy is the best receiver in the game. Well, if that is indeed the case, at least Golden Tate is better than we thought. I haven’t given much of a look at the Lions roster but their defense is swiss cheese and their running game can’t be lead by Joique Bell so what’s Stafford going to do till he’s blue in the face? Yep, he’s gonna throw the ball. If he cuts down on the INTs then he might be top 10, otherwise this is about right for the guy.
- Joe Flacco. I’m not a homer. If I was, I would have been Broadway Joe (did I stutter?) higher than this. Unfortunately, Steve Smith isn’t fast and won’t be racking up the yards even at the rate of last year (before he got old and tired). And even with Dennis Pitta out again (will he ever play?), there’s reason for hope in Charm City. Justin Forsett is out to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, while Breshad Perriman will be looked to as Torrey Smith’s replacement for big plays and dropped passes (oops). Worth taking a flyer on towards the back end of your draft.
- Carson Palmer. Old faithful. His team isn’t that great. It’s not that bad. Andre Ellington is okay. The o-line is kind of improved. Larry Fitzgerald is still alive (right?) and the defense is still relatively elite. Palmer was doing great last year before getting injured. He’s got one more very good season left in him before he’s toils in mediocrity to wind down his career.
- Sam Bradford. I want to believe this kid is going to be good. But he’s still yet to play a full season after being the first pick in the draft what feels like a lifetime ago. The cast of characters catching the ball is never terribly impressive. After DeSean Jackson left people wondered if Jeremy Maclin could be a #1 guy and now he’s gone to KC. Is Jordan Matthews a top of the line receiver? Probably not. But this system that Chip Kelly has will make the season interesting, provided Bradford stays healthy. At least he’s got both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews (with a little Darren Sproles mixed in) to hand the ball off to.
Jameis Winston. And now a guy that I don’t really like or want to see succeed. But with the talent surrounding him at receiver, how can it not work? Well, both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson has reputations as jackasses. If both can stay out of trouble and Winston can avoid sexual assaults and standing up in large venues and yelling profane statements, then the Bucs should be okay. They’ve got great talent and a back in Doug Martin who was once a top-10 fantasy pick. Will the offensive line protect them? We will find out.
- Teddy Bridgewater. With All-Day (beating his son) Adrian Peterson back in the fold, Teddy ball-game has a security blanket with jacked biceps and a year under center to match. Mike Wallace should help some as well as a seasoned Charles Johnson and vet Kyle Rudolph along with rookie playmaker Stefon Diggs to toss the ball to whenever the occasion arises. Look for bigger than expected numbers assuming he takes care of the ball. Probably not a guy worth starting more than a handful of times, but certainly worth keeping from your opponents.
- Derek Carr. Did I just do that? Did I skip over Culter, Griffin, Kaepernick, Foles, Smith, Mariota, and Dalton to tell you that this guy is ten times the player his brother could have ever been (assuming he’s not still a backup with Giants, even so who gives a fuck?). Last year with little to play with Carr had a pretty good rookie season. Forget what is being said about his accuracy and decision-making problems. Honestly, he’s not going to start regularly anyways, but the talent he’s working with is enough to give him a look. Amari Cooper is a great start. Adding a diamond in the rough in Michael Crabtree ain’t half bad either. Whether Latavius Murray is more than just a one-game phenomenon or Trent Richardson decides that football is actually worth the effort, there’s a decent chance the Raiders offense doesn’t suck. Hell, with Khalil Mack and company on the other side of the ball who knows what might happen?