Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Quarterbacks

Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Quarterbacks

Positional Analysis

Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Quarterbacks

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

Quarterback remains the marquee position in the NFL; look no further than the 2016 Draft for proof, as the Rams and Eagles traded multiple-pick packages to move into position to select their hoped-for quarterback of the future. However, the position has become a victim of its own success in the fantasy universe. With the number of productive quarterbacks growing each year—and fantasy leagues still primarily in the eight-to-12 team range—fantasy owners can wait on the position and still put up a reasonable fight on the scoresheet.

So, do you overpay for the rock-steady consistency of the elite quarterbacks? Roll the dice on a late-round sleeper? Or stream the position and hope to catch lightning in a bottle on a week-to-week basis? To help answer these burning questions, here’s a breakdown of the position’s productivity over the past decade as well as each NFL team’s recent passing-game production—and what’s in store for the upcoming campaign.

Position Totals by Year

Year Passes Comps Pass Yards YPC Pass TD Int Runs Rush Yards Rush TD
2006 16,350 9,786 112,038 11.4 643 516 1,425 5,221 44
2007 17,023 10,414 116,615 11.2 715 534 1,305 4,001 40
2008 16,486 10,060 114,456 11.4 638 463 1,316 4,435 48
2009 16,992 10,356 118,600 11.5 703 517 1,336 4,292 45
2010 17,236 10,476 120,755 11.5 746 510 1,420 5,659 46
2011 17,357 10,437 124,886 12.0 741 503 1,571 6,075 66
2012 17,766 10,823 125,687 11.6 753 466 1,587 6,577 66
2013 18,110 11,088 128,953 11.6 799 501 1,707 7,737 57
2014 17,849 11,183 128,581 11.5 803 449 1,647 6,646 47
2015 18,284 11,519 132,563 11.5 840 436 1,630 6,565 61

In something less than a shocking development, NFL quarterbacks established new highs in attempts, completions, passing yardage and passing touchdowns last year—while throwing the fewest interceptions in the past decade. With all that throwing, it’s no surprise that quarterback rushing has tailed off slightly, though the numbers still ranked in the top four posted in the past ten years.

Top Ten Quarterback Totals

Year Passes Comps Pass Yards Pass TD Runs Rush Yards Rush TD FF Pts
2006 5,161 3,118 36,985 222 451 2,123 18 2,474
2007 5,319 3,434 40,090 315 287 674 14 3,416
2008 5,490 3,505 40,904 263 417 1,289 13 3,305
2009 5,356 3,554 43,778 294 303 746 12 3,219
2010 5,487 3,547 40,917 290 392 1,399 14 3,431
2011 5,750 3,669 45,839 334 430 1,519 32 3,972
2012 5,937 3,753 44,990 295 522 2,427 33 3,741
2013 5,939 3,812 43,950 313 451 1,699 20 3,738
2014 5,841 3,830 44,683 318 443 2,051 14 3,795
2015 5,698 3,663 43,285 334 518 2,202 25 3,325

And here’s more proof that quarterback productivity is up across the league: despite posting across-the-board statistical highs, numbers put up by the top 10 quarterbacks were barely among the top half of annual performances this decade—except for passing scores, where the top 10 QBs matched a 10-year high with 334 scoring strikes. Also worth noting is that despite all the record-setting passing numbers established by the position, the top ten quarterbacks posted the lowest fantasy numbers since 2009. Clearly the position is becoming less top-heavy and more bottom-loaded—exactly why so many fantasy owners are willing to wait to select their quarterback.

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Arizona Cardinals

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 572 17 362 15 4,274 12 24 15 22 28
2014 566 15 319 24 3,980 17 21 19 12 8
2015 562 19 353 19 4,775 5 35 3 13 17

At age 36 Carson Palmer is enjoying a career renaissance. Last season he posted career highs in yardage and touchdowns while leading the Cardinals to the NFC title game, and over the past two years he’s averaged almost five fantasy points per game above his career average. Arizona once again spent the offseason upgrading its offensive line, plus the Cards have a deep receiving corps and a solid backfield rotation as well; in fact, the cupboard is stocked across the board except at quarterback, where fantasy owners have no desire to see Drew Stanton under center. Just put Palmer’s six playoff interceptions out of your mind—or better yet, bring them up at your draft or auction to help drive his price down.

Atlanta Falcons

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 658 3 444 3 4,549 4 26 11 17 19
2014 632 3 418 2 4,758 5 28 11 15 16
2015 621 8 410 5 4,602 6 21 23 17 25

The arrival of Kyle Shanahan and his beloved stretch zone running game bumped the Atlanta aerial attack down every so slightly as they slipped out of the top five in attempts and yards and dropped from 11th to 23rd in touchdowns. But even the run-happy Shanahan won’t let Julio Jones go to waste, and the Falcons spent free agent and draft capital on more pass-catchers for Matt Ryan. Matt Schaub returns in a backup role to make Atlanta’s quarterback situation one of the most stable options for fantasy owners.

Baltimore Ravens

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 619 8 363 13 3,914 19 19 26 23 31
2014 555 16 344 17 3,986 16 27 12 12 8
2015 675 1 425 3 4,452 9 21 24 21 30

Funny, Marc Trestman takes over the offense and the Ravens rank first in passing attempts. Get used to it, Baltimore; with the addition of an athletic, pass-protecting left tackle, a speed receiver and a pass-catching back on draft day, this team is shedding its defense-first skin and joining the new millennium. Joe Flacco may not have an elite receiving corps at his disposal, but between the existing talent and the expected opportunity he should easily outperform his ADP. Ryan Mallett has yet to develop into a legit NFL starter, but he’s an adequate short-term option in a pinch. Just hope that pinch doesn’t come early because Flacco isn’t recovered from the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2015 campaign.

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Buffalo Bills

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 522 24 299 26 3,373 28 16 30 15 16
2014 578 13 363 15 3,856 18 23 15 13 13
2015 464 31 294 30 3,596 29 23 21 9 6

Bills quarterbacks ranked 29th or worse in attempts, completions, and passing yards—but thanks to rushing stats that ranked behind only Cam Newton’s, Buffalo quarterbacks ranked a robust 12th in fantasy scoring. Tyrod Taylor returns in a similar role this year, but his ADP more accurately reflects the success he had in 2015. The Bills remain a run-focused squad, but between Taylor’s rushing contributions and what he can do connecting with Sammy Watkins he’s far from a fantasy afterthought. We’ve seen enough of EJ Manuel to know we’ve seen enough of EJ Manuel; better to have Cardale Jones develop his game in the background for when Taylor’s run in Buffalo comes to an end.

Carolina Panthers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 473 30 292 28 3,379 27 24 18 13 13
2014 545 19 327 19 3,828 19 23 16 12 8
2015 502 27 300 29 3,873 23 35 5 10 8

Twenty-seventh in passing yards, 28th in completions, 30th in attempts… how did Cam Newton win an MVP and outscore all other fantasy quarterbacks by 50 points or more? Ten rushing touchdowns certainly helped, as did rushing yardage that would have ranked him 30th among running backs. And don’t overlook Newton’s 35 passing scores, 11 better than his previous career high. Everyone returns for a repeat performance, with the added bonus of a healthy Kelvin Benjamin, but to live up to his ADP he’ll have to do it all again—and that’s asking a lot. Not that whomever the Panthers would have to turn to in the face of calamity would be a major downgrade, but a depth chart of Derek Anderson and Joe Webb has Carolina saying daily novenas for Newton’s continued health.

Chicago Bears

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 579 16 373 9 4,450 7 32 6 13 13
2014 609 6 396 6 4,035 14 30 9 19 30
2015 523 25 334 23 3,843 25 21 25 12 14

In a tug of war between the philosophy of John Fox and that of Adam Gase, the head coach won; as a result, Bears quarterbacks ranked 23rd or worse in attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Now Gase is gone as well, after helping Jay Cutler post the lowest interception total of his career, at least in a season where he played at least 11 games. The Bears also continue to lowball their receivers, with Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett already gone and Alshon Jeffrey likely a year away from joining them. Doesn’t bode well for Cutler’s 2014 season to be anything more than an anomaly in a career of fantasy mediocrity. Brian Hoyer is a decent addition to the depth chart; if anyone can go toe-to-toe in INTs with Cutler, it’s Hoyer.

Cincinnati Bengals

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 586 13 363 14 4,296 11 33 3 20 25
2014 501 26 320 23 3,472 26 19 26 17 24
2015 505 26 334 24 4,104 18 31 11 9 5

Hue Jackson’s play-calling kept a lid on the Bengals’ passing totals the past couple of seasons, but now he’s in Cleveland; will Cincy turn Andy Dalton loose? That might be tough given that the Bengals lost two of their top three receivers and elite pass-catching tight end Tyler Eifert is hurt again. But even if the Bengals remain who they are, it’s generally been enough to make him worthy of fantasy consideration—a borderline starter with some upside to his game. We saw enough in five games of AJ McCarron to determine the Bengals are in good hands if he’s pressed into action… but that fantasy owners can do significantly better.

Cleveland Browns

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 679 1 378 5 4,361 9 25 13 19 20
2014 502 25 275 32 3,686 21 12 32 16 19
2015 609 11 371 12 4,156 16 20 26 12 15

(Camp Watch) Add another name to the ignominious list of Cleveland’s starting quarterbacks, with Robert Griffin III expected to open the season under center for new coach Hue Jackson. RG3 hasn’t taken a regular season snap since 2014 and hasn’t been truly fantasy-relevant since his rookie campaign two years earlier. Can Jackson do for him what he did for Andy Dalton in Cincinnati? That’s the hope, because the backup plan is Josh McCown, who at 37 is coming off his most productive fantasy season—eight appearances in which he put together the only season in which he averaged better than 19.5 fantasy points per game. There’s talk rookie Cody Kessler might be Jackson’s next Dalton-esque project, but with three possible hats in the ring it’s clear that—once again—the Browns really have no idea what they’re going to do at quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 586 12 375 7 4,226 14 33 4 12 10
2014 476 31 328 18 4,008 15 37 4 11 7
2015 528 23 334 22 3,678 27 16 29 22 31

The Cowboys’ passing game wasn’t quite as prolific as anticipated in the wake of DeMarco Murray’s departure, but with Tony Romo limited to four games no further explanation is necessary. Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore were unable to pick up the slack, and two of the three are no longer on the roster. Instead, the Cowboys hope a surgically repaired Romo can wring one more season out of his 36-year-old body while fourth-round pick Dak Prescott understudies from the sidelines. Prior to last year’s debacle Romo was a pillar of fantasy consistency, posting eight consecutive campaigns with at least 21 fantasy points per game. He’ll get a (presumably) healthy Dez Bryant back as well. Even if the Cowboys load up rookie Ezekiel Elliott with a DeMarco-like workload Romo is capable of starter-level fantasy stats—so long as he remains off the injury report.

Denver Broncos

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 675 2 461 1 5,572 1 55 1 10 5
2014 607 9 399 5 4,779 4 40 2 15 17
2015 606 12 368 13 4,216 14 19 28 23 32

The Broncos won a Super Bowl in February, but within two months they were looking for a new quarterback after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Texans. Given the shutdown ability of the Denver defense, the front office didn’t feel the need to tax themselves in the search, settling for much-maligned Mark Sanchez and last year’s seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian. Paxton Lynch also fell into their collective lap on draft day, but the Broncos would prefer to bring him along slowly. Given that last year’s Denver quarterbacks were mediocre at best (12th in attempts, 13th in completions, 14th in passing yards) and lousy the rest of the time, the feeling may be they can get by with sub-standard quarterbacking. Fantasy owners of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders might not be too excited about that.

Detroit Lions

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 634 5 371 10 4,650 3 29 8 19 20
2014 602 11 363 14 4,257 12 22 17 12 8
2015 632 4 420 4 4,463 8 33 8 14 21

Things will be different in Detroit with the retirement of Calvin Johnson, who has helped boost Matthew Stafford into consistent top-10 finishes in attempts, completions, yardage and touchdowns. Note that the year Megatron missed three games, the Lions fell off to 11th or lower in all of those categories. But Stafford still doesn’t have an established rushing attack behind him, so expect offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to spread the wealth. Though the absence of Johnson will be felt, this is still a pass-first offense—not NFL-record pass-first like in 2012, but more than enough opportunity for Stafford to outperform his ADP. The depth behind Stafford is wafer-thin, with only Dan Orlovsky and rookie Jake Rudock behind him on the depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 570 18 366 12 4,538 5 25 12 16 17
2014 536 20 349 16 4,261 8 38 3 6 1
2015 573 18 348 20 3,825 26 31 12 8 4

The Packers’ passing game numbers remained for the most part solid, with the exception of a nosedive from eighth to 26th in yardage; credit the bulk of that to Jordy Nelson’s injury. Green Bay’s deep threat is presumed healthy, giving Aaron Rodgers the downfield weapon that seemed to be the X-factor in pushing the Packers’ offense from good to great. The offensive line returns intact, Eddie Lacy has been working out to help shore up the ground game, and Jared Cook has been added to a receiving corps that gained experience in Nelson’s absence. It’s all laid out for Rodgers to assert himself as an elite quarterback. Last year’s fifth-round pick Brett Hundley is the top backup, but Green Bay’s plan for him is to tease him in the preseason before trading on his potential like they’ve done with Matt Hasselbeck and others in the past.

Houston Texans

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 633 6 371 11 4,183 15 19 25 22 28
2014 483 30 293 28 3,445 28 21 20 13 13
2015 617 10 357 16 4,058 20 28 15 12 12

After yet another season cobbling together the position—Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, TJ Yates, and Brandon Weeden all took significant snaps for the Texans—Houston backed up the Brinks truck for Brock Osweiler in the offseason. Upgrade? Both had one 300-yard game and Hoyer had five more multiple-touchdown games and twice as many 20-plus-point fantasy efforts than Osweiler—and he was throwing to one legit receiver instead of two. Fantasy owners are similarly nonplussed, slotting Osweiler in the bottom third of the league’s quarterback options. Osweiler is five years younger, so there’s hope he can develop with the weapons the Texans have placed at his disposal. But Houston would be happy if Osweiler merely didn’t turn the ball over and let JJ Watt do the heavy lifting.

Indianapolis Colts

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 582 15 350 18 3,952 18 23 19 10 5
2014 660 1 410 3 5,062 1 42 1 16 19
2015 619 9 355 17 3,928 22 26 17 19 28

Often times getting hurt in a contract year is a bad thing. For Andrew Luck, forcing the Colts to play nine games without him certainly loosened the purse strings and expedited the contract process. After topping the league in attempts, passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2014 the tag-team entry of Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley dropped Indy to ninth, 22nd and 17th in those categories. Luck is back to right the ship, Indy spent some draft capital to upgrade the line in front of him, and all the expectations building up to last season are still in play for 2016. None of the aforementioned backups remain on the Colts’ roster; if tragedy strikes again, Indy will turn to Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris or Josh Woodrum.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 589 11 347 19 3,722 21 14 31 21 27
2014 553 17 322 21 3,400 31 14 31 18 26
2015 606 13 355 18 4,428 10 35 4 18 26

No sophomore slump for Blake Bortles, as he tossed 35 touchdowns and ranked between Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in fantasy production. While the Jaguars’ young receiving corps returns intact and Jacksonville believes they’ve upgraded their offensive line as well, an encore may be difficult. Not because Bortles will regress, but the Jags have also improved their defense so they may not be playing from behind as frequently as in 2015. Jacksonville also added Chris Ivory to their running game, which may drain some opportunities as the offense becomes more balanced; the signing also likely means Bortles won’t lead the league in red zone attempts (97) or throw another 25 red zone scores—19 of them inside the 10. Such skepticism appears built into Bortle’s ADP; he’s currently going off the board as a low-end starter. Chad Henne remains as the insurance policy, but there’s no question the Jags have become Bortle’s team to lead.

Kansas City Chiefs

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 546 21 333 20 3,561 25 24 17 8 1
2014 492 28 319 25 3,422 29 18 27 6 1
2015 472 29 309 28 3,490 30 20 27 7 2

For a guy widely considered to be a passing guru, Andy Reid has been non-relevant of late in Kansas City. Each of the past two seasons Chiefs quarterbacks have ranked 25th or lower in passes, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Even with—or perhaps because of?—Jamaal Charles going down with an injury last year, the Chiefs failed to generate any sort of buzz in the passing game. What Smith does is not turn the ball over; last year the Chiefs threw the second-fewest interceptions after tossing the least picks each of the two previous seasons. Smith also brings a little to the table as a runner—fourth-most rushing yards among quarterbacks last year—but even that barely pushes him to the rim of fantasy relevancy. Charles returns from injury, the Chiefs didn’t upgrade a mediocre-at-best corps of pass catchers… same old same old. Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan wait in the wings, which doesn’t exactly stoke the fires either.

Los Angeles Rams

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 504 28 301 25 3,360 29 22 21 11 7
2014 513 23 325 20 3,658 22 20 24 16 19
2015 469 30 272 32 2,911 32 11 32 11 10

(Improving) Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Sean Mannion… the Rams couldn’t put enough on the table to entice the Titans to part with the first overall pick, allowing Jeff Fisher to make Jared Goff the centerpiece of Los Angeles’ new franchise. Seeing as the Rams haven’t ranked inside the top 10 in completions, passing yardage or passing scores since the Marc Bulger area and ranked no higher in 21 in those categories the past three seasons, it was time for a change. There’s some talk the Rams won’t rush Goff into the starting lineup, but… Keenum, Mannion, Foles. The best way to ease the rookie into NFL life may be to have him hand off to Todd Gurley a whole bunch; between Fisher’s run-first ways and the Rams’ still-developing (and that’s being kind) collection of receivers, Year One does not project to be a fantasy wonderland for Goff and the Rams.

Miami Dolphins

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 594 10 357 16 3,966 17 24 16 19 20
2014 594 12 394 7 4,066 13 27 13 12 8
2015 587 17 364 14 4,222 13 24 18 12 13

After a couple steps forward Ryan Tannehill backslid in 2015—but not too far, and there were reasons: a first-round wide receiver waylaid by injury, a banged-up and underachieving offensive line, a coaching staff on its way out the door. Another year, another system and this time things are looking up for Tannehill with Adam Gase calling the plays. Gase wrung a couple more quality seasons out of Peyton Manning before moving to Chicago and making Jay Cutler more efficient. Now he’ll sit in the big chair and priority one is making Tannehill the franchise quarterback the Dolphins have been waiting for. The offensive line is healthy and added Laremy Tunsil, the receiving corps gets a healthier DeVante Parker and rookie Leonte Carroo, and Gase’s future is invested fully in Tannehill’s success. Optimism abounds in South Beach!

Minnesota Vikings

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 546 20 325 23 3,645 23 18 28 19 20
2014 517 22 322 22 3,566 24 17 29 18 26
2015 454 32 294 31 3,246 31 14 31 9 7

So long as Adrian Peterson remains a Viking, this will be a run-first team. That’s why the Vikings posted the lowest or second-lowest number in attempts, completions, passing yardage and passing touchdowns last year. In fact, they haven’t cracked the top 20 in any of those categories since Brett Favre’s consecutive games streak was intact. Teddy Bridgewater was drafted to plug this gaping hole in Minnesota, and while he’s been solid he is by no means a viable fantasy option. Laquan Treadwell should help improve Bridgewater’s numbers, but this is still AP’s team—and as such, there’s a very low ceiling to the purple’s passing game numbers.

New England Patriots

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 628 7 380 4 4,343 10 25 14 11 7
2014 609 7 392 8 4,291 11 34 5 9 4
2015 628 5 403 7 4,776 4 36 1 7 1

The position will look different, at least for a month, as Tom Brady sits out his four-game Deflategate suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo has 31 regular season passes; Brady had 15 games (including playoffs) with that many attempts or more last year alone. The last time Brady missed a game (2008), the Patriots plugged in Matt Cassel and still squeezed a top-10 fantasy season out of their passing game, so there’s at least cautious optimism Garoppolo can hold down the fort for a month. After that it’s back to business as usual, which means so long as Rob Gronkowski is in the mix the Patriots’ passing game will produce helpful fantasy results—and once Brady is back, top-10 caliber numbers.

New Orleans Saints

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 651 4 446 2 5,162 2 39 2 12 10
2014 659 2 456 1 4,952 2 33 6 17 24
2015 666 3 460 1 5,205 1 32 10 12 11

The last time Saints quarterbacks didn’t post a top-six fantasy season, Aaron Brooks was their signal caller and Drew Brees was a Charger. That’s 10 years of rock-solid consistency, and last season was no exception. Despite a game plan to run the ball more, despite Brees missing a game early on and playing through a foot injury later in the season, the Saints were once again top-three in attempts, completions and passing yards and 10th in touchdown passes. New Orleans added a first-round receiver and a free agent tight end to Brees’ receiving corps, setting him up for Year Eleven of fantasy excellence. And if age starts catching up to him, Luke McCown demonstrated he’s at least capable of short-term success.

New York Giants

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 567 19 325 22 3,875 20 18 27 29 32
2014 606 10 383 10 4,470 7 30 10 14 15
2015 623 6 392 8 4,504 7 36 2 14 19

With his brother retired, maybe Eli Manning will finally get the credit he deserves? Nah, probably not. Despite winning two Super Bowls and posting consistently solid numbers in the media epicenter of the world, Manning continues to find a way to be underrated. Last season was no exception, as the Giants ranked in the top 10 in attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. New York drafted another receiver to help Odell Beckham Jr. and hopes to finally get Victor Cruz back as well. Meanwhile, their running game remains shaky at best. It’s all set up for another sure-to-be-overlooked quality campaign for the Big Blue passing game.

New York Jets

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 474 29 263 31 3,202 31 13 32 22 28
2014 496 27 286 30 3,168 32 16 30 15 18
2015 604 15 362 15 4,170 15 33 9 16 23

(Camp Watch) As the Jets’ roster currently stands, there’s concern. Geno Smith was replaced last season after two mediocre campaigns as the starter, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to re-sign with the team. The latest speculation has Fitz rejoining the team during training camp, so depending on when your fantasy draft is you may not have all the information necessary to make an informed decision. What we know is that Smith can run—six rushing scores as a rookie—and was pretty good (316 yards, two TDs) in one start against the Raiders last year. We also know that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has worked wonders with the likes of Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler, Tyler Thigpen and yes, even Fitzmagic himself. The Jets return the same stable of pass catchers who helped spark Fitz’s success last year, and they added pass-catching back Matt Forte to their mix. While it leaves Gang Green thin at the position, with untested Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg backing up Smith, the Jets going with Geno provides fantasy potential at a bargain price. Fitzpatrick won’t come at the same value, but if he returns to the Big Apple fantasy owners know full well what he’s capable of in this offense.

Oakland Raiders

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 517 25 296 27 3,591 24 16 29 20 25
2014 628 4 365 12 3,456 27 22 18 16 19
2015 605 14 373 11 4,129 17 34 6 14 20

Progress in Oakland, as David Carr improved his completion, yardage, and passing touchdown numbers despite fewer attempts; that’s called efficiency. Expectations are bigger and better this year, with Amari Cooper solidifying himself as a go-to receiver and the Raiders building a rock-solid offensive line in front of Carr. The Raiders are also well-stocked in the insurance department, backing up Carr with Matt McGloin and hoping to develop rookie Connor Cook as well. The Raiders have come a long way since the doldrums of the later Al Davis era, rebuilding the franchise with Carr as the centerpiece and restoring the franchise to one that Oakland (for one more year, at least) can be proud of.

Philadelphia Eagles

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 507 27 310 24 4,406 8 32 7 9 3
2014 622 5 385 9 4,581 6 27 14 21 32
2015 623 7 405 6 4,341 11 23 20 18 27

The Chip Kelly era had its moments, most notably top-10 rankings in attempts and completions the past two seasons despite a nondescript group of quarterbacks that’s included Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford. Kelly is gone now, as are Foles and Sanchez, but Bradford remains to bridge the transition to Doug Pederson and first-round pick Carson Wentz. Philly’s new coach hopes to employ the same succession plan that saw Pederson start while Donovan McNabb spent a year acclimating to the NFL. That gives Bradford—or backup Chase Daniel, who followed Pederson from Kansas City—one season to replicate the mediocre passing game number the Chiefs posted with Pederson calling some of the plays. While the future of the Eagles’ offense is Wentz, who has Alex Smith-like skills and upside, the present is most likely some mix of Bradford and the rookie—with neither delivering much in the way of fantasy help.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 584 14 375 8 4,261 13 28 9 14 15
2014 608 8 408 4 4,952 3 32 7 9 4
2015 590 16 391 9 4,822 3 26 16 21 29

Ben Roethlisberger has the Pittsburgh passing game humming along at an elite level, posting matching (and career-best) 23.6 fantasy points per game the past two seasons and topping 20 fantasy points per game four straight years and six of the past seven. The only hiccup is the beating Big Ben takes; he’s managed to stay on the field for all 16 games just three times in his 12-year career. Last season that proved costly when Michael Vick and Landry Jones were forced to take meaningful snaps; this year Bruce Gradkowski returns from last year’s injury to help in those two or three games Roethlisberger is bound to miss. Martavis Bryant’s suspension won’t help, but with Antonio Brown to throw to the Steelers’ quarterback situation remains as fantasy-friendly as ever.

San Diego Chargers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 544 22 378 6 4,478 6 32 5 11 7
2014 573 14 380 11 4,296 10 31 8 18 26
2015 667 2 442 2 4,855 2 30 13 13 18

The complete and utter lack of a ground game forced the Chargers into the second-most passing attempts in the league—and Philip Rivers was more than happy to respond with a career-best 4,793 yards and 29 touchdowns. Rivers has been a steady supplier of fantasy goodness, with three straight seasons of 21.8 fantasy points per game or better and seven of his last eight with 21-plus fantasy points per game. A healthy Keenan Allen and free agent Travis Benjamin more than offset the retirement of Malcom Floyd, so once again Rivers will have plenty to work with; he should also benefit from an offensive line that can’t possibly be as injury-ravaged as last year’s unit. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger back up Rivers, but at age 34 he shows no signs of slowing down.

San Francisco 49ers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 420 31 267 30 3,508 26 27 10 9 3
2014 485 29 292 29 3.407 30 20 23 10 6
2015 526 24 322 26 3,646 28 16 30 12 16

(Camp Battle) The Niners split their 2015 quarterbacking between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, and that’s the dilemma Chip Kelly faces in his first year on the job in San Francisco. While Kaepernick posted a career-low 15.2 fantasy points per game prior to his season-ending injury, Gabbert’s 20.8 fantasy points per game were a career best by more than eight points per game. He looks to be the favorite heading into 2016, but while Kelly has boosted quarterback numbers through sheer volume the Niners’ wafer-thin receiving corps and the likelihood of Kaepernick getting at least a test drive at some point more than offset the projected bump.

Seattle Seahawks

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 417 32 244 32 3,210 30 21 22 8 1
2014 453 32 286 31 3,475 25 20 22 7 3
2015 489 28 333 25 4,061 19 34 7 8 3

With an injury to Marshawn Lynch scuttling their usual game plan, the Seahawks loaded more of their offense on Russell Wilson. Attempts climbed slightly, but completions and yardage improved substantially and touchdowns jumped significantly. Lynch retired in the offseason and his 2015 replacement, Thomas Rawls, is still recovering from an injury, so the logical expectation is for Wilson to keep doing what he’s doing. Whether Wilson can match the ridiculous efficiency of his numbers over the second half of 2015—29.8 fantasy points per game, seven straight multiple-touchdown games to close the regular season—remains to be seen, but fantasy owners aren’t betting against him as his ADP puts him in Rodgers/Luck/Brees territory. The same receivers, an improved (in theory) offensive line, and an offense that runs through him instead of the ground game—all signs point towards that ADP being more accurate than not.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 510 26 290 29 3,179 32 21 23 12 10
2014 530 21 301 26 3,623 23 21 21 20 31
2015 535 22 312 27 4,042 21 22 22 15 22

Jameis Winston’s first regular season NFL pass went for a touchdown—the other way. The rookie recovered to post solid though hardly spectacular passing numbers, riding an unexpected six rushing scores to the cusp of fantasy relevancy. Winston’s sophomore season sees his supporting cast returning, including a young and improving offensive line and now-healthy lead receiver Mike Evans, and his current ADP places him right on the borderline between fantasy starter and quality backup. It’s a gray area where fantasy owners will have to decide for themselves whether a sophomore slump looms or Winston can ride Evans to a higher level of fantasy productivity.

Tennessee Titans

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 533 23 328 21 3,710 22 22 20 16 17
2014 513 24 299 27 3,738 20 20 25 16 19
2015 550 21 341 21 3,852 24 24 19 17 24

Second overall pick Marcus Mariota burst out of the gate with eight touchdowns in his first three NFL games; while his pace slowed after that and injuries cost him a total of four games over the course of the season, he still flashed brightly with multiple touchdowns in half his games. Tennessee augmented his supporting cast with upgrades to the offensive line (first-round pick Jack Conklin), receiving corps (free agent Rishard Matthews and fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe), and ground game (trading for DeMarco Murray and drafting Derrick Henry). The latter moves may negatively impact his opportunities as the Titans attempt to feed two workhorse backs, but overall the roster additions give Mariota more weapons to work with. His numbers won’t be gaudy, but Mariota proved last season he can blow up with the best of them—a trait dice-rolling fantasy owners can appreciate.

Washington Redskins

Year Pass Rank Comp Rank Passing Yards Rank TDs Rank Int Rank
2013 611 9 355 17 4,057 16 20 24 19 20
2014 546 18 364 13 4,461 8 18 28 18 26
2015 554 20 386 10 4,294 12 30 14 11 9

Selecting Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of the same draft in which they overpaid for Robert Griffin III paid dividends last year, as Cousins built on his 2014 spot-starting success by beating out RG3 and posting a top-10 fantasy season. Cousins got paid in the offseason via the franchise tag, but the Redskins apparently need to see another year of success before committing to any sort of long-term deal. For his audition year he’ll have first-round pick Josh Doctson added to his array of weapons, and the departure of Alfred Morris leaves the Redskins without a proven running game threat—suggesting Jay Gruden’s offense will lean even more heavily on Cousins and the pass. In that scenario Cousins seems undervalued at his current ADP—even moreso when you consider he closed out the regular season with a final month that included three 300-yard games and three games with at least three touchdowns. Toss in the additional motivation of long-term financial security and fantasy owners are bound to like what Cousins brings to the table in 2016.

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

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