After the first few elite quarterbacks, there is minimal difference in the next ten. Waiting to draft a fantasy quarterback is popular and makes sense. But knowing which quarterback to take is critical since you’ll only start one in most leagues. This preview looks at the current quarterback situations for each NFL team.
The overall stats for quarterbacks declined slightly last year but were still among the best ever. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees topped the fantasy rankings but only marginally over the rest of the field. There is still an advantage when getting the top quarterbacks but it isn’t much and that’s only if you get it right. The difference between the No. 4 and the No. 12 quarterback last year (or any year) is usually around two or three points per game.
The NFL is a passing league and that extends to most teams. Brees and Rodgers have long been elite quarterbacks and are an advantage to own. But so many of the rest post fantasy relevant stats that taking one early is hard to justify. Consider that last year there were 13 quarterbacks that passed for over 4000 yards. Ten years ago the 13th best quarterback only passed for 3051 yards.
Position Totals by Year
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||YPC||Pass TD||Int||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
While most categories declined slightly from 2015 to 2016, there was one very notable drop – passing touchdowns. They fell 8% from a record high of 840 down to 779. Still healthy and in line with recent years but a sign of just how successful passing was in 2016.
There was a corresponding increase in overall rushing touchdowns. 2016 witnessed a historic low of just 293 rushing scores by running backs but rose 24% to a 363 – a seven-year high. That is the take away – passing attempts and yardage remain high but the running backs are once again getting the ball at the goal line.
Top Ten Quarterback Totals
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||Pass TD||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD||FF Pts|
The same reality held true with even the top ten quarterbacks. They passed for slightly better yardage and yet dropped in passing touchdowns from 334 to 305. There is still plenty of overall fantasy value from the position. And you probably only have to start one.
Arizona produced top ten passing stats for the last two years and OC Harold Goodwin enters his fifth season. This is a mature offense and that is a concern. Carson Palmer turns 38 years-old and is second only to Tom Brady in tenure. There is conjecture that this will be his final season and his star player (Larry Fitzgerald) is the elder wideout at the age of 34 years-old. And he declined significantly as last season wore on.
There is hope for improved play from John Brown who struggled with injury and his sickle cell trait. J.J. Nelson could step up but Michael Floyd is gone. The offense is trying to wring the final productivity from Palmer and Fitzgerald while hoping both remain healthy.
The second season with Kyle Shanahan paid off big with top stats in all the passing categories. The complicated scheme took time to bear fruit and now – he’s gone. After bouncing around USC, Washington and Alabama, Steve Sarkisian comes in to run the offense. That should still inject youth and offensive flair but it is a new system to learn right after the last one finally started to excel.
All the same receivers return and Taylor Gabriel was re-signed after being a surprise last year. But this is still mostly pitch-and-catch with Julio Jones. The third-round pick from last year in Austin Hooper is hoped to make a bigger splash. Matt Ryan has been good for 4500 yards per year but his fantasy value spiked in 2016 when he threw 38 touchdowns after only managing 21 in 2015. The new scheme should rely heavily on the pass but will take time to be installed. Ryan did not become an elite fantasy option until Shanahan’s system matured.
The Ravens had enjoyed lighter schedule lately and that extends to 2017 as well. Despite ranking No. 1 in pass attempts for the last two years, the touchdowns have not increased and the yardage indicates a lack of a credible deep threat. Marty Morinwheg took over in the middle of last season but his West Coast scheme isn’t going to throw downfield as much anyway.
Steve Smith left and Dennis Pitta blew out his hip for the final time. They were two of the top three receivers. Joe Flacco had a career high 4375 yards last year but only 22 touchdowns. Danny Woodhead adds to the passing game but Flacco needs Breshad Perriman to realize at the potential he carried as a first-round pick in 2015. And someone has to emerge as a tight end threat after the loss of Pitta.
A favorable schedule helps and the offense depends on a ton of short passes, but there’s a lot more uncertainty with the receivers this year.
HC Rex Ryan and OC Greg Roman are long gone and the rebuilding under OC Rick Dennison is underway. But this passing game will have all new personnel, scheme and coaching. Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods are gone. Tyrod Taylor returns as the starter with little behind him to challenge. The Bills drafted Nathan Peterman in the fifth-round but he won’t be a factor until 2018 at the earliest.
Taylor was a much better fantasy quarterback than an NFL quarterback. He rushed for 580 yards and six scores to boost his otherwise anemic passing stats (3,023 yards, 17 touchdowns). There are plenty of question marks with a receiving corps that features the oft-injured Sammy Watkins and the second-round pick Isaiah “Zay” Jones. Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Jeremy Butler and Rod Streater are also new to the team and all vying for a likely insignificant No. 3 role.
Taylor is a risky fantasy start and that won’t change in a new offense with all new players.
Despite OC Mike Shula entering his fifth season, this should be a different offense. Cam Newton lost Ted Ginn and Corey Brown but the Panthers picked up Samuel Curtis with their 2.08 pick. He leaves college early after working as both a running back and a receiver at Ohio State. They will likely use him in the slot but he has the ability to be used in many ways.
Even more important is the addition of Christian McCaffrey with their 1.08 pick. The Panthers have rarely used running backs as receivers and yet drafted one of the best multi-use backs. Newton also inherits a much better schedule this year than last. He should rebound from a disappointing 2016 but how they use their new weapons is hard to call. He may not repeat his 45 touchdowns form the Super Bowl year, but he’ll improve on the 24 from last season. He’s being as under-drafted this summer as he was over-drafted in 2016.
The Bears enter their second season with OC Dowell Loggains but were never more than average in any passing category. The Jay Cutler era is over after eight seasons and 2017 is shaping up to be a year of much change. Mike Glennon was signed for $14.5 million per season for the next three years to give every indication that he would be the franchise quarterback.
Then the Bears surprised when they selected Mitchell Trubisky with their 1.02 pick in the NFL draft. Glennon is expected to remain the starting quarterback for 2017 though it would be a surprise if Trubisky never saw any playing time. That all injects much risk in relying on the quarterback here.
Alshon Jeffery is gone and the Bears will rely on Cameron Meredith. They also added Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz. Kevin White gets another chance to justify his first round pick in 2015 and seems healthy for the first time. The risk of Glennon giving way to Trubisky depresses what is already a below average fantasy situation.
OC Ken Zampese enters his second season but Andy Dalton declined from when he tossed 31 passing scores in 2015 to only 18 last year. Dalton relied on a new set of receivers outside of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert with mixed results. John Ross was added in April with the 1.09 pick and his combine record speed will offer a much needed way to stretch the field,
No changes in quarterback here and the offense should be on the upswing with the additions of Ross and the running back Joe Mixon. There still is no reason to expect more than average stats that heavily favor A.J. Green.
The Browns dropped to bottom five stats for passing yards and scores last season. The Bengals changed offensive coordinators annually for the previous five years. Hue Jackson remains the head coach and will call the plays for the second straight season which offers rare continuity in Cleveland.
The only remaining quarterback is Cody Kessler. The Browns shockingly traded for Brock Osweiler in a salary cap ploy but have yet to get rid of him. They also drafted DeShone Kizer who joins a three-way battle for starting quarterback that may not be over just because the season starts.
The Browns lost their top two receivers of Gary Barnidge and Terrelle Pryor while adding only Kenny Britt and the rookie David Njoku. There is no reason to expect bigger passing stats for 2017 and the starting quarterback is almost certain to change throughout training camp and into the season. Kizer will be the eventual winner but it is just yet another rebuilding year in Cleveland.
So much change in one year. Tony Romo is gone to the broadcast booth. Dak Prescott blew away all expectations including those of the Cowboys and the greater Prescott family when he won the starting job as a rookie. Buoyed by a dominating rushing game, Prescott turned in a solid season with 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns along with six rushing scores. More importantly, he only threw four interceptions as a rookie and completion percentage (68%) were on the level as most any veteran.
Assuming he can avoid a sophomore slump – never a given – Prescott is poised to improve his yardage and scores. A healthy Dez Bryant will make a difference but the same set of receivers return.
The decline in passing stats without Peyton Manning was expected. But this is at best only an average passing team despite having Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wideout. Trevor Siemian handled almost the entire load last year but only managed to throw for 3,401 yards and 18 scores over 14 games. Paxton Lynch was the first-round pick that played little and that will challenge for the starting role in training camp.
This is another situation that is likely to change until the 2016 draft pick either steps up and takes the job or finally proves he is not capable. In either case, there is more risk and less fantasy value from this offense. Training camp will determine the Week 1 starter but by no means the guaranteed Week 17 starter.
Two seasons with Jim Bob Cooter as the offensive coordinator offered little progress though losing Calvin Johnson hurt. Matt Stafford enters his ninth season still good for 4,200+ yards but he has tended to remain around 22-24 scores in recent years. That’s above average but not by much.
The Lions have no new starting receivers so there is continuity. Third-round pick Kenny Golladay may figure in at some point this year but Stafford will still be relying mostly on Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick to provide the bulk of receptions.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers enters his fourteenth NFL season and remains the premier quarterback in the league. His final drive in Dallas during the playoffs only further cements his eventual place in the Hall of Fame. Rodgers should be the first quarterback drafted in every fantasy league and deserves that confidence. The Packers even have an easier schedule this year. All the same wide receivers return and the tight end spot was upgraded with Martellus Bennett.
This is another team deciding between the mediocre veteran and the hot rookie. The Texans shipped Brock Osweiler off to the Browns and hope to erase all memories of a disastrous 2016 season at quarterback. Tom Savage is the starter at least for training camp but the fourth-year player played in just four games so far.
He will compete with the rookie Deshaun Watson and Savage’s experience should see him start the year. But Watson was their 1.12 pick and comes off a National Championship. It is only a question of time when they feel he is ready and that is almost certain to be sometime during this season. Both quarterbacks are an upgrade over Brock Osweiler but in fantasy terms, there is a learning curve both quarterbacks will face. And eventually, Watson takes the starting spot with a bright future but with a normal low expectation for his rookie year.
Andrew Luck enters his sixth season hoping that his shoulder injury doesn’t continue this year. He continues to rehab and is expected to be ready for the season. He injured his shoulder in early 2015 and it never completely healed. He had surgery in January and spent most of the offseason resting.
Luck was still one of the better quarterbacks even with an injured shoulder for the last two years. But his last fully healthy season was 2014 when he passed for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns. When 100%, Luck is one of the best fantasy quarterbacks and returns with all the same receivers from 2016.
There could be very nice fantasy value with a bargain price this year with Blake Bortles. Or… he could disappoint again. Bortles passed for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015 but his third NFL season only produced 3,905 yards and 23 scores. The Jaguars had a very tough schedule and very little rushing offense. And even less decent blocking. But the schedule is improved and the offense upgraded at running back and offensive line.
Bortles has also been working out with QB guru Tom House in the offseason and again this summer. All the same receivers return and Leonard Fournette should help the rushing effort. Dede Westbrook was the fourth-round pick that may eventually challenge for a slot role but Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee already provide enough targets for Bortles. There should be a turn-around this year but the intention is to throw fewer passes with a rushing game to rely on.
Kansas City Chiefs
OC Brad Childress made a difference with the Chiefs passing for 3,912 yards but they still only managed 18 touchdown passes. Alex Smith returns for at least one more year but has never offered fantasy relevant production.
The departure of Jamaal Charles is a nonevent since he barely played last year. Smith will never be more than fantasy depth with an entire career that never exceeded 3,486 passing yards or 23 scores in a season. There is no reason to expect that to change.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers move to Los Angeles which is never good for a quarterback. But Rivers enters his 15 NFL season and has yet to miss a game in his 13 years with the Chargers. Ken Whisenhunt remains the offensive coordinator to help with continuity for the up-rooted team. Rivers has been consistent with around 4,200 yards and 30 touchdowns as his floor every year. Like Ben Roethlisberger, his lack of rushing stats limits his fantasy value.
Rivers has remained productive even in the face of constant injuries to his receivers. Stevie Johnson is gone and the Chargers used their 1.07 draft pick to grab Mike Williams. Keenan Allen again tries to remain healthy long enough to help and both Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams return after solid 2016 seasons.
The move to Los Angeles and the prospect of being a visitor every week will have an effect. But the Bolts have a rushing game now and Rivers has always been better than the bad situations he so often faced in recent years.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams never produced much fantasy value from their quarterback during HC Jeff Fisher’s tenure. That includes ranking dead last in passing scores for the last two years (11 and 14 respectively). Jared Goff was the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft but struggled with only seven games played. He ended his rookie year with only 1089 passing yards and five touchdowns. Playing in an offense that went off the rails was no help.
That should change this year. The Rams brought in Steve McVay from Washington to act as head coach and to call the plays. McVay ran the Redskins offense for the last three years and helped Kirk Cousins to throw for nearly 5,000 yards last year.
This will be an entirely different offense than the stale, punchless unit from last year. Kenny Britt is gone but Robert Woods was acquired and Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds were drafted. The Rams also added Gerald Everett to pair with Tyler Higbee in an offense that intends to use their tight ends as receivers. Goff has a chance to get his career on a much better track and will improve, but any shortcomings or failures from now on cannot be blamed on anything but himself.
Ryan Tannehill enters his sixth NFL season but his first year with HC Adam Gase and OC Clyde Christensen was a disappointment. He struggled to throw for more than 225 yards in his final 10 games played and missed the final three weeks with a partially torn ACL. The Dolphins relied on Matt Moore down the stretch and then lost to the Steelers in the Wildcard Round.
Tannehill gets a second season in the same offense. There is some cause for optimism though that is said every year. The same set of running backs and receivers return plus Julius Thomas reunites with his old offensive coordinator of Gase. Tannehill is good enough to be a fantasy backup but so far lacks the production to merit weekly fantasy consideration. Nothing has changed this year outside of adding Thomas.
The Vikings posted average passing stats last year which was better than usual since everything went wrong to start the season. It was a lost season with Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater out and OC Norv Turner left mid-way through the season. The last-minute search for a starting quarterback netted a trade for Sam Bradford. He turned in a career year with 3,877 passing yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
That was with almost no rushing support in a unfamiliar offense that had the coordinator walk out. Teddy Bridgewater is not expected to play this year but is still in the long-term picture. There are reasons to expect an even better year for Bradford with an upgraded offensive line, a promising rookie running back in Dalvin Cook plus Latavius Murray in the backfield. Michael Floyd was picked up and Laquon Treadwell shows signs of making good on his first round selection last year.
This will be a new offense with many of the holes filled. That won’t doesn’t mean Bradford becomes a fantasy starter but it at least gets him into the conversation as a viable fantasy backup.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady is 40 years old and apparently intent on proving himself immortal. He ended his suspension-shortened season with the greatest comeback in the history of the biggest game in the world. The Patriots still ended top seven in passing yards (4,456) and touchdown passes (32).
Brady could be even better this year. Rob Gronkowski appears healthy again and Brandin Cooks came over from the Saints. And Dwayne Allen is there in case Gronk has any more injury issues. This is also one of the lighter passing schedules that the Pats will enjoy.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints get their 12th season from Drew Brees who turns 38 years old. He comes off his second best yardage total (5,208 yards) and threw for 37 scores last year. Brandin Cooks is gone but Michael Thomas turned into a rookie stud in 2016 and should only get better. Ted Ginn Jr. was added as well.
The biggest concern is that Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram will turn the Saints into a less pass-happy offense. This is a team that ranked No. 1 in pass completions in each of the last three seasons. This offense won’t change much since Pete Carmichael is the most tenured offensive coordinator in the NFL. Brees is one of the elder starters in the league but is still two years younger than Tom Brady.
New York Giants
The Giants declined in passing production last year despite adding Sterling Shepard and did nothing to boost the rushing effort. It remained mostly pitch-and-catch with Odell Beckham and not enough with the rest. The Giants have once again tried to improve the receivers.
Victor Cruz is gone and replaced by Brandon Marshall. Shepard now has a year under his belt and the Giants drafted Evan Engram to bring back production to the tight end position. Engram was their 1.23 pick and is expected to contribute more as a receiver than a blocker even if it takes until 2018 for him to make a difference.
The same lackluster rushing offense should force Manning to throw and there will be better targets for 2017. But Manning has a way of never seeming to quite meet the potential of any given year.
New York Jets
The Jets were a big surprise when they posted big passing stats in 2015 and featured two wideouts with more than 1,000 yards. And only two years later Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are gone. Todd Bowles enters his third season as head coach while OC John Morton takes over from Chan Gailey. This is not only a rebuilding year, but it looks like an ugly one.
There are three quarterbacks all vying for the starting spot. Josh McCown is the heavy favorite despite being 38-years-old and spending his 16th season with his eighth NFL team. McCown’s best year only produced 2206 passing yards and he’s never started more than 11 games in a year, so yeah – maybe not the future of the franchise.
But 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg never played as a rookie and is not spawning any confidence in him. Bryce Petty is in the running only in the sense that the Jets will eventually have to turn to him just like last year. This offense is far more risk than reward in fantasy terms.
Derek Carr started as a rookie and more than delivered on his second-round draft selection in 2014. He’s been rising on fantasy boards for the last two years and is challenging the top ten in this year’s fantasy drafts. Carr topped 4,000+ yards each year and around 30 touchdowns.
Jared Cook was added as a receiving tight end upgrade but no other receivers are new. This will be the third season for Bill Musgrave’s offense so continuity should be a strength. Michael Crabtree was solid in both seasons with the Raiders and Amari Cooper seems ready to take the next step after two straight 1,000 yard seasons. Cooper flashed brilliant play but has faded later in the season. Consistency will be his key.
New running back Marshawn Lynch should have minimal effect on what Carr does. Playing in the AFC West does no favors for Carr.
Carson Wentz started all 16 games as a rookie and ended with a respectable 3,782 yards and 16 touchdowns. It was the first year for HC Doug Pederson and OC Frank Reich and they still threw 608 passes even with Chip Kelly gone. Wentz was barely average in passing yardage and scores but as a rookie in a new offense, the results were encouraging for 2017.
The Eagles added Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery as veteran retreads with potential. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz return as the best receivers of last year. A tougher schedule looms but the second season for Wentz will see him improve. Upgraded receivers and understanding the offense better will lead to better stats and Wentz broke 300 passing yards in four games already.
Ben Roethlisberger considered retiring this year but the 35-year-old will enter his 15th NFL season. Just as notable is that while he remains productive, he’s missed six games over the last two years due to injury. He’s a lock for 4,000+ yards and 25+ touchdowns in a 16-game year with upside for more.
This is a mature offense and OC Todd Haley enters his sixth season with the Steelers. A lack of viable receivers was the main reason for the dip in yardage last year but Martavis Bryant is back (at least for now). The Steelers also added JuJu Smith-Schuster with their second-round pick with the hopes that he can develop into a slot receiver. Roethlisberger almost never runs the ball which impacts his fantasy value but he’s been rock solid as a good fantasy option. The pieces are in place for a better 2017.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers struggled for the last few years to find any productive rhythm in the passing game. New head coach Kyle Shanahan will call the plays which makes it four straight seasons of a new scheme to learn. The 49ers have swept away Colin Kaepernick, Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton. They were replaced by Brian Hoyer, Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon – not exactly a major upgrade.
The new direction of the offense almost has to be a positive. Brian Hoyer is the starter thanks to experience in Shanahan’s offense from when both were in Cleveland in 2014. But Hoyer is on his sixth NFL team after only eight seasons and is nothing more than a placeholder who can help install the new offense.
Matt Barkley and the rookie C.J. Beathard fill out the depth chart but Hoyer should remain starter all year. This is a rebuilding year and while it will pay off in the future, Hoyer carries low expectations for 2017.
OC Darrell Bevell enters his seventh season so this is a very mature offense that returns all relevant players from 2016. Russell Wilson is healthy after struggling with a sprained MCL and a high ankle sprain last year though he was able to play in all 16 games. His rushing stats were the lowest of his career though he passed for 4,219 yards. Wilson only threw for 21 scores though and just one as a rusher.
Eddie Lacy joins the backfield but the receivers are all the same. Wilson threw for 34 scores in 2015 and was good for 500+ rushing yards in previous seasons. He’s certain to improve from 2016 and with good health should end up much more like 2015 when he was a weekly fantasy starter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had a new coaching staff last year but Jameis Winston continued to improve with 4,090 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Winston’s draft stock is higher for 2017 with another step up expected.
The Buccaneers added DeSean Jackson for a deep threat and drafted Chris Godwin in the third round. They also added the top tight end in the draft when they spent their 1.19 pick on O.J. Howard who carries expectations even for his rookie season. Howard shoulder turn into both a valuable blocker and an outlet for Winston.
Winston is only 23 and already has two seasons with more than 4,000 yards. The only question for 2017 is if he has another incremental increase or if he takes a big step forward into being an elite fantasy quarterback.
The Titans ranked fourth in the league for 2016 with 406 running back carries but only thirtieth with 306 completions. That was during OC Terry Robiskie’s first season. It was also DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry’s first years there as well. That focus limits what Marcus Mariota is able to do. Mariota was able to throw for 26 scores last year but just 3,426 yards.
Kendall Wright left but the Titans added Corey Davis with their 1.05 pick in the hopes of getting a franchise receiver to grow along with Mariota. It’s been three years since there was a 1,000 yard receiver in Tennessee. Mariota has relied on tight end Delanie Walker partially from a lack of other options. Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe continue to play a role but the biggest hope for improved passing lies with uber-talented Davis.
The plan to include Derrick Henry more could also result in fewer passes. The talent level is increasing but the primary focus remains rushing the football.
Kirk Cousins passed for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns last year in what became Sean McVay’s final season as the offensive coordinator. Cousins received the franchise tag to prevent him from leaving. There is chance that no deal is made and Cousins has a “prove it” year that he can cash in on.
What works against him is losing both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. But Terrelle Pryor joins the team and the hope is that former first-round pick Josh Doctson can also contribute after a lost rookie season with a foot injury. Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed return to offer consistency from last year. The Skins get a tougher schedule for 2017 and it will take some time to get the receivers to all mesh.
Cousins will be challenged to repeat 2016 with the loss of his wideouts and offensive coordinator but he has everything to gain with a good season.