By Rodgers' lofty standards, last season wasn't great. But it wasn't completely his fault, either. A preseason injury to Jordy Nelson left the Packers without their top receiver for the entire season. That left Rodgers with a grab bag of wideouts who underwhelmed. When 31-year old James Jones is your best receiver for a stretch, that's a problem. Nonetheless, A-Rod was still the seventh-best quarterback in fantasy football last season. With Nelson expected back and healthy plus the addition of tight end Jared Cook, Rodgers will once again vie to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in most redrafts.
What needs to be said about the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player and a man who was head and shoulders better than everyone else in fantasy football? Newton posted his best campaign since a breakout rookie season. It was a season made all the more impressive by the absence of any real receiving threats after the loss of Kelvin Benjamin due to a preseason knee injury. No problem. Newton merely accounted for a career-high 45 touchdowns while throwing a career-low 10 interceptions. This year's outlook appears even more promising with Benjamin expected back to go along with a (hopefully) improved Devin Funchess and the steady-as-ever Greg Olsen. Expect Newton to be one of the first two quarterbacks off the board.
The first few weeks of the 2015 season didn't bring anything remarkable from Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback posted just one 20-point fantasy performance through his first nine games. Then something clicked. Over his final seven games, Wilson threw 24 touchdowns and just one interception to close the year as the third-best player at his position. And we didn't even mention his 553 rushing yards. Seattle's pass-catching weapons aren't particularly intimidating on paper but it seems that Wilson has found a rapport with this group. With his continued ability to pick up fantasy points as a runner, Wilson should once again project as a top five fantasy quarterback in 2016.
Had Big Ben remained healthy in 2015 he probably would have finished at the back end of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks for the season. When he was starting, he was a top option with a huge ceiling each and every week. He did have some duds too, especially in the fantasy playoffs. Still, the Steelers offense remains one of the most prolific in the NFL thanks to a slew of offensive weapons which puts Roethlisberger right back into the QB1 tier for 2016.
It seems the tenor around Carson Palmer heading into 2016 is unfairly monopolized by memories of his playoff failings. Indeed, Palmer struggled from Week 17 through the Cardinals' defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. However, it seems foolish to let that erase a dominant season where he averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, the highest among NFL starters. Palmer led a downfield offense with strong weapons, and scored under 18 fantasy points just four times last season. He offered both a tremendous ceiling and floor. With just about the entire offense back intact for another championship run in 2016, why wouldn't Palmer be a fantasy starter? Unless he suddenly hit an age cliff late last season, expect another top-10 quarterback season from Palmer.
Brees has experienced a steady decline in production over the past several season. But that just means that he's throwing for 4,900 and 32 touchdowns instead of 5,200 yards and 40 touchdowns. We should all hope to undergo that sort of decline. However, there have been some changes in the Saints offense. The team dealt its main playmaker, Jimmy Graham, to Seattle before last season. This offseason, New Orleans cut times with stalwart Marques Colston. Never fear since 2015 brought us the Brandin Cooks breakout season, introduced us to previously unheralded rookie Willie Snead and featured a career year from veteran Ben Watson. New to the roster in 2016 is former Colt Coby Fleener, who will try to fill the void left by Watson's departure. At 37 years old, Brees might not be the quarterback he once was but he's still good enough to be a top tier option at the position.
Tom Brady finished as the second-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy this year after a white-hot start. As his teammates slowly dwindled away with injuries, Brady averaged just 13.28 points per game in the last four weeks of the season. The Patriots quarterback will be back in the saddle for another season this year, and with his main weapons all healthy, Brady should have far more winning weeks than the alternative. The trouble with selecting the future Hall of Famer is that, unlike last year, you will have to pay the iron price to draft him. There is also the inevitable age cliff, in the form of a Peyton Manning 2015-like season to worry about with Brady. Last season taught us that waiting on quarterbacks is the less risky strategy.
Last season was something of a lost year for Luck. The Colts quarterback struggled to begin the season, throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first three games while battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Just when it looked like he was beginning to turn a corner (Luck averaged better than 22 fantasy points from Weeks 6-9), he suffered a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscles which ended his season. The good news is that Luck should be fully healed entering the season and will hopefully look more like the quarterback that many hoped could be a top three option last season. With plenty of offensive skill position weapons, Luck could once again push for a top-five fantasy finish.
At this point, there's little doubt about what kind of fantasy quarterback Eli Manning is. He'll have a few good games, a few not-so-good ones and in the end land somewhere near the bottom of the top 10 at his position. That was the case in 2015 and should be so yet again in 2016. With rookie Sterling Shepard and a potentially healthy Victor Cruz joining Odell Beckham Jr., Manning no longer has just one reliable playmaking target. He'll have a new offensive coordinator with Mike Sullivan taking over the position, but Manning can still lean on former OC Ben McAdoo who was bumped up to head coach after the departure of Tom Coughlin. You can wait on Manning in your drafts and gain a solid every week starter.
Tony Romo played in only four games this season, completing just two. The Cowboys just couldn't shake the injuries, and Romo was their top loss. For this year, Romo could be quite the draft value. The Cowboys still have Dez Bryant, a strong offensive line and a foundation-like running game. Romo had a masterfully efficient season in a near identical environment just back in 2014. The issue with him is now that the injuries seemingly just keep cropping up, and at 36 years old, you have to wonder if they will stop anytime soon. When he plays, however, there is little doubt that he produces as a low-end QB1.
Another season, another QB1 finish for Philip Rivers. Despite a cripplingly poor and injured supporting cast, Rivers led the NFL in pass attempts and completions in 2015. His touchdown rate actually fell from a 5.3 career average to 4.4, but considering he was throwing to reserve level talent at wideout come season's end, it's easy to forgive. With Keenan Allen set to go for another season, and the team almost certainly set for a more fortuitous season in the injury department, Rivers should produce starting fantasy numbers again. Yet, he'll still be a draft bargain taken in the double digit rounds, as he is every season.
After a rough rookie season, Blake Bortles had a major sophomore surge to finish as a top-five fantasy quarterback. He threw 35 touchdowns after recording just 11 in his rookie season. The Jaguars opened up the offense as Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns emerged as one of the NFL's best receiver duos, and Julius Thomas held steady at tight end. However, there is reason to think Bortles regresses as a fantasy passer. His 58.6 completion percentage and NFL leading 18 interceptions point to the idea that his fantasy scoring was a bit better than, and not indicative of, his real life performance. Bortles led the NFL in red zone pass attempts, and throws inside the 10-yard line. If the Jaguars go more run-heavy this season he may fail to meet expectations.
In his second season in the NFL, Carr had an up and down year from a fantasy perspective, but made major improvements from his rookie campaign. The Raiders finally got some talented wideouts for him to work with in Michael Crabtree and first-round pick Amari Cooper, who combined for 15 of Carr's 32 touchdown passes. Through Week 12, Carr had posted six games with 20 or more fantasy points. He struggled down the stretch though with more than 14 fantasy points in just one game from Week 13 through 17 due to some bad decision making and interception issues. With Crabtree locked up until 2020 and the young Cooper still developing at the NFL level, Carr should continue to grow. It's tough to call him a top-10 fantasy quarterback for draft season, but the upside is definitely there.
After being a fantasy punchline for the past couple of seasons, it was Dalton who was laughing for the first two months of the season. The Red Rifle fired true, tallying 18 or more fantasy points in 10 of the 13 games he played. Unfortunately just when everyone was preparing to have Dalton lead their fantasy teams into the playoffs, he suffered a broken thumb. By all reports, Dalton is throwing the ball well and will be ready for the start of the 2016 campaign. The next question will be how he fares with a new offensive coordinator after Hue Jackson took over as the Browns head coach. Dalton will also need to build a rapport with free agent acquisition Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyler Boyd, who take over for Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who both left in free agency. Well ... at least there's always A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert (once he returns from yet another injury). There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Dalton repeating last year's success, but he'll still be a fringe QB1 in most leagues.
Certain to be one of the most frequently pegged breakout quarterback candidates, Marcus Mariota will be a popular late-round pick at the position. Mariota started his rookie season on fire with a perfect passer rating, and closed with several strong efforts. Much of his work came through the air, as he only had one game where he ran more than five times -- he went for 112 yards and a score in that spot. Mariota did miss four games, in separate stretches of two games, so that is something to monitor. However, the stars look aligned for Mariota to at least post multiple high-end streaming weeks. If Dorial Green-Beckham takes a step forward, and/or Mariota starts running more, there could be something even bigger here.
The big fear surrounding Jameis Winston entering 2015 was his propensity to turn the ball over. Those fears seemed realized early in the season when the draft's No. 1 overall pick coughed it up eight times in the first four games. Not long after that, the light apparently came on as Winston went four straight contests without a turnover. He finished the year with 15 interceptions -- too many for fantasy owners to fully feel comfortable with, but there were signs that he had the makings of a productive NFL starter. A second season in the NFL with a (hopefully) fully healthy Mike Evans should have Winston pushing to be a fringe QB1 in 2016.
You like that? If you had Cousins on your roster at the end of last season, you certainly did. Washington made the pivot to giving Cousins the starting job at the beginning of last season ... and nearly regretted it. In his first six games, Washington's "other" 2012 draft pick averaged slightly better than 12 fantasy points per game thanks to eight interceptions to just six touchdowns. But things seemed to click for Cousins after he led a thrilling comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (leading to the best NFL catchphrase of the year). Over his final nine contests, Cousins tallied 19 or more fantasy points seven times. This year he returns to Washington with a new contract and the security of knowing he's the unquestioned starter. Was 2015 a mirage or the start of something big in the nation's capital? Only time will tell.
Last summer when rumblings began that Tyrod Taylor could win the Bills starting quarterback job, many dismissed the talk as far-fetched. Yet by the time the first month of the season had passed, it was nearly impossible to ignore T-Mobile. Taylor scored 22 or more fantasy points in three of his first five games before an injured knee kept him out of two games. Consistency was an issue for Taylor last season, but his ability to run made him a threat to post decent totals each and every week. That mobility was key for a player who failed to throw for 300 yards in any game. With a solid, young receiving corps led by Sammy Watkins there's hope that Taylor can improve upon a nice 2015. Still, he won't be drafted as an every week starter in most leagues.
Stafford's 2015 season was really a two-part story. The first seven weeks, he struggled (along with the rest of the Lions offense) and posted fewer than 14 fantasy points in four of his first five games. He had an awful 12-9 touchdown to interception ratio through Week 7 and threw for over 300 yards just once. But when the Lions made coaching changes and Jim Bob Cooter took over in Week 8, Stafford's season turned around. From Week 9 to the end of the year, he recorded no fewer than 15 fantasy points in a game with a 20-4 touchdown to interception ratio and posted five games with 20 or more fantasy points. Looking ahead to 2016, Calvin Johnson's retirement certainly damages Stafford's fantasy stock, but he may still be able to post solid totals with the duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. He is in the mix as a QB2 for 2016.
Many expected 2015 to be a breakout campaign for Ryan Tannehill in his fourth NFL season. However, he merely hovered around usability on a week-to-week basis, and finished as just the QB17 on the year. Once again, Tannehill struggled pushing the ball down field, checking in with the 17th highest yards per completion figure in the NFL among passers with at least 100 attempts. New head coaching hire, Adam Gase, brings some optimism after solid work with Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler, but not enough to vault Tannehill into the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks. Tannehill is inching quite close to "he is what he is" territory, and so far through his career, that isn't very helpful for fantasy.