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Going Deep: QBs could offer holiday surprise for 2014

Now that we're through the gift-giving portion of the holiday season, it's time to look at what you've received and sort through those presents that seem to have been chosen with care and those that feel like they were grabbed from the checkout register from your local 24-hour convenience store.

It was definitely great getting that sweet new watch or a pair of leather jogging pants. But what exactly are you supposed to do with a crocheted nosewarmer? The only hope is to give your loved ones a better scouting report for next holiday season.

Similarly, that Matt Ryan second-round draft pick looked pretty genius in August. Then Roddy White couldn't get completely healthy. And Julio Jones went down. And the Falcons fell apart. Suddenly you were kicking yourself for not having drafted Philip Rivers. I mean, how did you not see that coming?

Never fear, our holiday gift to you is a look at some of the quarterbacks worth paying attention to in Week 17 and keeping in mind when it comes time to make your selections next season. And if our way-too-soon projections don't work out, remember it's the thought that counts. Plus, this beats the heck out of a robotic Elvis head.

5. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

You're probably wondering how Manuel ended up on this list. I promise I didn't get into any bad egg nog. Manuel's biggest issue in 2013 was an inability to stay on the field. Injuries forced the rookie to sit out five games this season -- he still has a chance to play in the season finale -- but it wasn't all bad when he did get a chance to take snaps.

In his 10 starts, Manuel averaged 13.3 fantasy points per game. But before you scroll down out of ennui, it's fair to point out that it was a better average than Mike Glennon (11.9 PPG), who was a sleeper for a good portion of the season. Manuel also scored more points per game than veterans like Carson Palmer and Jason Campbell, who had far more dangerous weapons.

Don't be fooled, the Bills offense is still built around running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. But if Manuel can stay healthy, having another year to work with Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, he could be a sneaky backup QB option next season.

Way-too-soon 2014 draft projection: Low-end QB2 in Rounds 12-15

4. Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Credit Glennon -- he knew where to go with the football in order to have success under center. The rookie targeted Vincent Jackson early and often after taking over as the team's starter in Week 4. But he also helped make a fantasy option out of then-unknown tight end Timothy Wright.

As Glennon got more starts, his comfort level within the offense showed. In the seven games from Weeks 6-12, the young QB scored 15 or more fantasy points in six of those contests -- including in games against the Panthers and Seahawks. Next season he'll have those same weapons and hopefully a fully rehabbed Doug Martin in the backfield, which should help occupy a few safeties.

Way-too-soon 2014 draft projection: Low-end QB2 in Rounds 12-15

3. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

While we were scratching our heads over Robert Griffin III's woes and wondering about the ups and downs of Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill quietly had himself a nice sophomore season. Tannehill entered Week 17 firmly in the top 20 among fantasy quarterbacks and had turned things up a notch in the second half of the season. Beginning in Week 9, Tannehill was averaging nearly 17 fantasy points per game -- better than Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers.

No one talks about the Dolphins passing game in the same terms that we mention teams like the Broncos and Packers -- and for good reason -- but the group is more productive than you realize. Depending how the regular-season finale goes, Miami could have a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, while Charles Clay asserted himself as a tight end worth paying attention to.

There is a bright future ahead of a young quarterback who is writing his name in the franchise's record books alongside Dan Marino. I'm not quite ready to put him in Marino's shoes just yet, but the larger point is that there's reason to believe in him as a player who could make the leap in 2014.

Way-too-soon 2014 draft projection: High-end QB2 in Rounds 9-11

2. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

There might not be another quarterback who will cause as many draft day headaches next season as Dalton. Through the first 16 weeks of the season, Dalton is the fifth-highest scoring fantasy quarterback. But that number could be a little deceiving.

When he was good, he was very good -- see his 30-point games in Weeks 8, 14 and 16. But when he was bad, well, it was pretty awful. On three different occasions, Dalton failed to score double-digits. In two of those contests, he posted fewer than seven points.

Next year will be Dalton's fourth season in the NFL and he'll have a host of proven weapons. In addition to A.J. Green, he'll have Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to throw to. Tyler Eifert is an emerging tight end and Giovani Bernard is dynamic in the backfield. Dalton will find himself on the verge of being a top 10 fantasy signal-caller in plenty of leagues next season.

Way-too-soon 2014 draft projection: Low QB1/High QB2 in Rounds 6-10

1. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

There isn't much to be said about Foles that hasn't been said over the past few weeks. After taking over for the injury-prone and inconsistent Michael Vick, Foles has deftly led the Eagles' high-powered offense and become a big-time producer both on the field and in fantasy.

Sure, there's the possibility of a letdown next season, but Chip Kelly's offense seems to have found its stride. It certainly doesn't hurt that LeSean McCoy is arguably the premier dual-threat running back in the league and DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper form a pretty nice tandem on the wings.

The part that helps Foles' value as much as anything is his ability to take care of the football. He's thrown just a pair of picks all season. Contrast that to Eli Manning, who averages nearly two interceptions per game. If Foles can manage anything close to that sort of ratio next season, he could be close to a top-five fantasy quarterback.

Way-too-soon 2014 draft projection: Mid QB1 in Rounds 4-7

Just for good measure, here are a couple honorable mentions: Geno Smith, Jake Locker

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