This is the first in a series of posts ranking players' fantasy potential for the 2014 NFL season. This post focuses on quarterbacks:
1.) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Although he might not put up the colossal numbers that he did last season, there is no safer selection at the quarterback spot than Peyton Manning. As always, he will get a ton of attempts, and although the loss of Eric Decker hurts, Peyton still has plenty of solid offensive options at his disposal. Manning has a very good shot to lead all quarterbacks in fantasy points.
2.) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: As consistent as they come, all Brees does is put up big numbers season after season. Brees has thrown at least 39 touchdowns and passed for over 5,000 yeards in each of the last three years, and little slippage is expected this season.
3.) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers is poised for a bounce-back season after a sub-par 2013 that saw him toss only 17 touchdowns while playing in just nine games. The emergence of Eddie Lacy as a go-to-guy in the backfield should help open up the offense, and Rodgers will have every opportunity to return to his 2012-self, which saw him post over 40 total touchdowns.
4.) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck has had two solid seasons, and year three could be his big breakout. He has totaled 23 passing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, but he cut his interceptions in half (from 18 to nine) last year, improving his accuracy and making less mistakes. With Hakeem Nicks joining T.Y. Hilton and a healthy Reggie Wayne, Luck is in perfect position to put up big numbers and establish himself as a top fantasy quarterback.
5.) Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Brady’s slip out of the top tier has as much to do with his surrounding cast as it does with his own play. Rob Gronkowski will be able to play at the start of the season, which is great for the Patriots and Brady, who only tossed 25 touchdowns last season with Gronk out of the lineup. Brady will always put up some stats, and if his top target is able to stay out on the field, he is still a solid selection.
6.) Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford throws a lot of interceptions, which is a drawback, but he also gets a ton of opportunities and is going to toss some touchdowns. He has thrown 90 total touchdowns over the past three seasons, and having Calvin Johnson as a top target doesn’t hurt. The addition of Golden Tate provides Stafford another option, and the quarterback is in for another high volume season; for good or bad.
7.) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Another quarterback positioned for a bounce-back year is Matt Ryan. Ryan lost top target Julio Jones for a good chunk of the season last year, but still put up 26 touchdowns and 4,500 passing yards in a down-season statistically, and for his team. Ryan doesn’t miss games, and he has tossed at least 20 touchdowns in each of the last five seasons. While he may not be a top-tier fantasy quarterback, you know what you’re going to get with Ryan.
8.) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton’s biggest asset is his ability to get it done with his arm, and his feet. He has 14 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons to go with 42 TDs in the air, so he is going to put up some points. The lack of viable options at Newton’s disposal hurt his overall value however, as he will need to make a lot happen on his own.
9.) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Like Newton, Kaepernick can put up points with both his arms and legs, although he doesn’t run as often as his Carolina counterpart. Over the past two seasons Kaepernick has demonstrated his ability to move the ball down the field, and between Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis he certainly has some weapons. He has a chance to surpass his 25 total touchdowns from last season.
10.) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Romo’s reputation isn’t the best, especially come clutch-time, but when he comes to fantasy, he puts up points. He has thrown 90 touchdowns over the past three seasons, and he can be counted on to compile close to 4,000 yards through the air. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten provide Romo with a couple solid targets on a Cowboys team that will put up some points.
11.) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks ride Marshawn Lynch heavily, and thus Wilson doesn’t get a ton of attempts, but he makes the most of his opportunities. He tossed 26 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and a healthy Percy Harvin provides Wilson with a nice outlet option. Wilson is also good for close to 500 yards from the ground, making him a well-rounded option.
12.) Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: Foles had a big year last year in Chip Kelly’s offense, and everyone is quite curious to see what he does as an encore. The loss of DeSean Jackson hurts as it takes away Foles’ best deep-threat, but the return of Jermey Maclin and the addition of Darren Sproles should help keep the offense alive. In Kelly’s offense, Foles will have again have the opportunity to put up points.
13.) Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: With a year under his belt since surgery, Griffin will be looking to get back to his 2012 form where he put up 27 total touchdowns and had only five interceptions. The addition of DeSean Jackson as a pass catcher should help Griffin’s cause.
14.) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler has a couple good receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery that can put up points. If he can stay healthy (Cutler missed five games last year), then he should be able to post some solid stats, and work as a serviceable QB2.
15.) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: Rivers is inconsistent, and that has prevented him from ever staking his claim as a consistent top-tier fantasy quarterback. He is capable of putting up big points, but he also makes mistakes, i.e. interceptions. Rivers has 58 touchdown tosses over the past two years, along with 26 picks, and he is known for incorporating both into his game. Still though, with an improved line and a solid receiving corps, Rivers could be positioned to do some fantasy damage.
16.) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben is never the most highly-hyped fantasy prospect, but the quarterback is consistent. At this point in his career, you know what you’re going to get from Roethlisberger: 28 touchdowns, 3,800 yards, and a couple monster weeks. He may not be starting caliber anymore, but he is a great backup option.
17.) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton has 60 touchdowns over the past two years, but he also has 36 interceptions over that same span. That’s what you’re going to get with Dalton: some good, some bad. He is too inconsistent to be a starter at this point, but he should make a good-to-great backup option.
18.) Eli Manning, New York Giants: Manning is a back-up only candidate at this point, but with that said, he is positioned for a bounce-back season. He had his worst year as a pro last year, but the addition of Odell Beckham and solidification of the line should help him rebound and eliminate some of his league-high 27 interceptions from last year.
19.) Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Bucs: McCown could be an upside pick, as it is yet to be seen how he performs in Tampa Bay. He looked solid in Chicago last season, and he again has some solid receivers to throw to with the Bucs. He remains a question mark, but should have a solid opportunity to put up points.
20.) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: Palmer is getting old, but he can still put up points when he needs to. Yes, he had 22 interceptions last season, but he also tossed 24 touchdowns and threw for over 4,000 yards. Gone are the days of Palmer as a starter, but he is still a legitimate option as a spot starter or reserve.
21.) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: Without a high-quality group of receivers, Flacco is destined for fantasy mediocrity. Flacco, who will toss around 20 touchdowns, is a decent QB2, but nothing more.
22.) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: With Smith you know what you’re going to get. His numbers aren’t flashy, but he is consistent. He will get plenty of passing opportunities in Andy Reid’s offensive attack.
23.) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: Tannehill doubled his touchdown total last season, and another season with deep-threat Mike Wallace should help him continue the trend. If he can improve his accuracy, he could continue to improve statistically.
24.) Sam Bradford, St. Loius Rams: Bradford misses a lot of games, and the team doesn’t have a lot of offensive options to compliment him.
25.) Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: Durability is also a question mark for Locker, who has missed half of his games over the past two seasons. If healthy, Locker will have an opportunity to show his stuff.