Fantasy football preseason preview: Quarterbacks

Fantasy football preseason preview: Quarterbacks

Positional Analysis

Fantasy football preseason preview: Quarterbacks

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Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Other Positions: Running Backs | Receivers

Quarterbacks fell significantly in 2017 when they produced a seven-year low in passing yardage and touchdowns. That was all erased when many offenses came roaring back in 2018 with one of the best seasons for both yardage and touchdowns. As if that wasn’t enough, they turned in all new highs in all the rushing categories as well with several rookies spiking the stats with their runs.

The most interesting change was that additional rushing. 2017 was a surprisingly unproductive season but 2018 said everything was going to be fine with your fantasy starter.

Position Totals by Year

Year Passes Comps Pass Yards YPC Pass TD Int Runs Rush Yards Rush TD
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
2016 18,259 11,509 130,585 11.4 779 414 1,630 6,003 65
2017 17,450 10,838 122,336 11.3 738 423 1,649 7,122 66
2018 17,626 11,434 129,644 11.3 834 418 1,872 8,092 71

The 2017 marks were concerning for the passing game in general and quarterbacks in specific.  A renewed focus on getting the ball snapped faster and having more plays seems to have paid off with a solid 2018 for yardage and a record-high 834 passing touchdowns. That ran alongside the rushing totals that saw quarterbacks combine for over 8,000 rushing yards and over 70 rushing touchdowns for the first time.

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With the college ranks contributing more quarterbacks with rushing skills, it is natural that teams take advantage. The NFL is still a passing league but some quarterbacks are also offering fantasy points via rushing that makes otherwise low-scoring quarterbacks into viable weekly options.

Top Ten Quarterback Totals

Year Passes Comps Pass Yards Pass TD Runs Rush Yards Rush TD FF Pts
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 3,870
2016 5,610 3,678 43,480 305 430 1,886 22 3,715
2017 5,302 3,367 39,829 281 564 2,701 20 3,507
2018 5,687 3,837 44,776 338 497 2,092 22 3,391

The reversal of lower scoring quarterbacks was led by Patrick Mahomes in his first year as a starter.  Throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns made a sizable contribution but the elite was more than just him.  Ben Roethlisberger also threw for 5,129 yards and eight different quarterbacks would toss at least 30 touchdowns. Only three managed that mark and none with more than 34 in 2017.

And that was all with lower than usual stats from Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Tom Brady. The good news is that it was hard to get your quarterback wrong in 2018 because there were nearly no clunkers from those drafted as fantasy starters.

Arizona Cardinals

2018 Leader: Josh Rosen Pass 2,278 Yards 11 TDs, Rush 138 Yards 0 TDs
That was an expensive first-round pick in 2018. Rosen started 13 games for the Cardinals during the one-year fiasco under HC Steve Wilks that wasn’t even his fault. No matter – new HC Kliff Kingsbury will call the plays on what should be a wide open offense manned by first overall pick Kyler Murray. About that running quarterback trend – it’s about to get even bigger. Murray was a one-year starter for the Sooners and turned 140 carries unto 1,001 yards for a hefty 7.2-yard average along with 12 rushing touchdowns. He also threw for 4,361 yards and 42 scores.
The Cardinals are installing a new offense and are trying to upgrade one of the worst offensive lines from last year. There’s plenty of reasons for optimism about the future but 2019 should be more up and down as all the pieces get on the same page and work together. On paper, if you can rely on a one-year starter in college, Murray brings the rushing ability of Lamar Jackson with the passing skills of Baker Mayfield. It is a chance the Cardinals did not hesitate in taking.
They also added Andy Isabella (2.30) and Hakeem Butler (4.01) to complement Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. But this is clearly a rebuilding year.

Atlanta Falcons

2018 Leader: Matt Ryan Pass 4,924 Yards 35 TDs, Rush 125 Yards 3 TDs

Matt Ryan bounced back from his down 2017 season and turned in a career year. The Falcons are moving into a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter (ex-Buccaneer head coach) but all the other parts of the passing game are there from last year. That tempers 2019’s outlook slightly but returning all the notable players from last year – and getting a healthy Devonta Freeman back – should help maintain a similar success.

Baltimore Ravens

2018 Leader: Joe Flacco Pass 2,465 Yards 12 TDs, Rush 45 Yards 0 TDs

The Ravens had one of the worst passing offenses for the last several years and that didn’t really change much switching from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson in Week 11.  As a fantasy option, Jackson offers potential thanks to his rushing skills that saw him with seven games of 50 rushing yards or more along with five scores via the run. He also only topped 200 passing yards just once in his eight starts.

Jackson hasn’t given much optimism that he’s going to turn into an elite passer (ever), but the Ravens allowed Joe Flacco to leave for Denver and with that ensure that Jackson is the clear starter with no worries about being pulled for yet another game with minimal passing success.

They drafted Marquise Brown as the first wideout taken this year but the lower passing stats aren’t likely to see much increase and only Willie Snead and Chris Moore add to the starting wideouts.

Buffalo Bills

2018 Leader: Josh Allen Pass 2,074 Yards 10 TDs, Rush 631 Yards 8 TDs

After five straight seasons of changing the offensive coordinator, the Bills return OC Brian Daboll for an unusual consistency. Josh Allen was the first round selection last year that sent Tyrod Taylor packing.

Allen would start painfully slow and then injure an elbow that forced him out from Weeks 7 through 11.  Once he returned, he gave promise to this year with 200+ pass yards in each of his final five games and seven touchdowns over that span. He would also rush for over 95 yards in four of his last six games and score eight times as a rusher on the season.

There’s still plenty to learn and Allen is still a work in progress. But he’s interesting as a fantasy backup with the improved way he ended 2018. He’s yet another of the young rushing quarterbacks and showed some genuine gains as a passer to end his rookie campaign. Zay Jones and Robert Foster showed new life late when Allen got in synch. Adding Cole Beasley for the slot and John Brown to also mix in should pay dividends.

Carolina Panthers

2018 Leader: Cam Newton Pass 3,395 Yards 24 TDs, Rush 488 Yards 4 TDs

Cam Newton comes off a standard season with slightly lower rushing totals than usual. Now 30 years old, he still ran over 100 times but his four rushing scores are the lowest of his career and the Panthers finally allowed a running back to do the goal line work instead of Newton.

The Panthers enter the second season with OC Norv Turner and that continuity should help Newton maintain his 2018 level of production. Devin Funchess is gone and only Chris Hogan was added.  Newton also saw a significant decrease in passing stats later in the season while he nursed a shoulder injury that persisted from November. He underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and is still in the process of rehabbing. He’s expected to be ready for the kickoff of the season.

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Chicago Bears

2018 Leader: Mitchell Trubisky Pass 3,223 Yards 24 TDs, Rush 421 Yards 3 TDs

After a horrible 2017 rookie season (not unlike Josh Rosen last year), Trubisky stepped up to a better form and helped the Bears turn around their franchise for the first season with HC Matt Nagy and OC Mark Helfrich.  Trubisky would end up with five 300-yard games and throw for multiple touchdowns in half of his starts (including the six-score effort in Week 4 against the Buccaneers).

All the receivers return – Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton. The second year of Nagy’s offense is more promising now that they have experience in the scheme and all four of the main receivers were in their first season in Chicago in 2018. The Bears also added the rookie running back David Montgomery to replace Jordan Howard. That should benefit Trublisky with a primary back that offers equally valuable receiving skills.

Cincinnati Bengals

2018 Leader: Andy Dalton Pass 2,566 Yards 21TDs, Rush 99 Yards 0 TDs

The only thing new is the entire offensive scheme since the Bengals finally parted ways with Marvin Lewis and brought in new HC Zac Taylor who had been the QB Coach for the Rams. OC Brian Callahan comes over from the Raiders to help direct the offense as well.

All the receivers return in the passing game and the Bengals spent their second-round pick on TE Drew Sample since Tyler Eifert is incapable of staying healthy. Dalton has never been more than an average passer and he enters his ninth season. Dalton could see better stats if A.J. Green can also stay healthy. This year he remains a fantasy backup you hope to never use like most every year.

Cleveland Browns

2018 Leader: Baker Mayfield Pass 3,725 Yards 27 TDs, Rush 131 Yards 0 TDs

There is more optimism surrounding the Browns and Baker Mayfield than perhaps any other team. Mayfield took over in Week 3 and reeled off  13 straight games with at least one touchdown. He passed for more than 280 yards in six games and totaled at least two scores in nine. And that was with a broken down, predictable offense with lesser players.

Mayfield has some consistency with Freddie Kitchens moving up to head coach with much the same offense that ended the 2018 season. He not only has a second season with Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and David Njoku, but the Browns added Odell Beckham for elite firepower. A second season for Nick Chubb is combined with Kareem Hunt who joins the team after sitting out eight weeks.

Baker did not play like a rookie last year or even like a Brown as we once knew them. And he is only getting started. He appears poised to spend many years as one of the top quarterbacks in the league and has the firepower to make some noise.

Dallas Cowboys

2018 Leader: Dak Prescott Pass 3,885 Yards 22 TDs, Rush 305 Yards 6 TDs

Prescott was one of the rare quarterbacks that took every snap for his team last season. He’s proven to be a great fourth-round find though he still hasn’t taken that final step into the top ten for his position. That could change with a full season of Amari Cooper, and the return of Jason Witten could end up with a few more stick-moving catches on third down.

The Cowboys lost Cole Beasley but the second season for Michael Gallup holds promise, particularly now that Cooper draws the most attention. And they added Randall Cobb. The Cowboys will still be a rushing team with Ezekiel Elliott as the central focus but 2019 offers up much more optimism and yet risk with a changing the offensive coordinators from veteran Scott Linehan to completely unknown ex-quarterback Kellen Moore who has one season as the quarterback coach to make up his entire resume.

The Cowboys are optimistic that the offense will have all new life under Moore and that can help Prescott take the next step right when his rookie contract is almost over. He’s a reasonable backup with at least more potential upside.

Denver Broncos

2018 Leader: Case Keenum Pass 3,890 Yards 18 TDs, Rush 93 Yards 2 TDs

Apparently switching from one of the best quarterbacks to ever throw a pass (Peyton Manning) to a string of middling talent didn’t have positive results. Who knew? And yet the Broncos answer to their quarterbacking woes was to acquire Joe Flacco as the poster boy for “average on a good day.”

This will likely be a mess because they also drafted Drew Lock with their second-round pick and he’s a Lock to become the starter eventually if only because he is not Joe Flacco. The Broncos added tight end Noah Fant with their first-round pick but an aging Emmanuel Sanders and the youngster Courtland Sutton struggled last year under similar challenges. A new offense under OC Rich Scangarello throws more risk into relying on either quarterback.

Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles last year and is hoped to be ready by training camp.  This is a year to hold off on the Denver quarterback(s).

Detroit Lions

2018 Leader: Matthew Stafford Pass 3,777 Yards 21 TDs, Rush 71 Yards 0 TDs

New HC Matt Patricia didn’t help the Lions offense much in his first season and allowing Eric Ebron and Golden Tate to leave had an obvious impact. OC Jim Bob Cooter is gone and Patricia tabbed OC Darrell Bevell from the Seahawks to take over. Matt Stafford won’t ever offer rushing production like Russell Wilson did for him but the Lions added wideouts Danny Amendola and Jermaine Kearse and drafted tight end T.J.Hockenson which upgrades the holes from 2018.

Stafford had offered around top-ten production as a fantasy passer in past years but fell to his worst showing per game since he was a rookie in 2009. He could improve from his No. 27 ranking from 2018 but there’s still a lack of talent and a new offense to learn to make him unworthy as more than a fantasy backup.

Green Bay Packers

2018 Leader: Aaron Rodgers Pass 4,442 Yards 25 TDs, Rush 269 Yards 2 TDs

Aaron Rodgers is 36 years old and enters his 16th NFL season. He bounced back from injury in 2017 that limited him to only seven games but still ended with just 25 passing scores as a career low in a 16-game season. Jimmy Graham did little as the Packers new tight end in 2018 and the wideouts ended up to be nothing more than Davante Adams and gaggle of four others that never stood out.

But the Packers did nothing to add talent other than to add tight end Jace Sternberger as a third-round project. And Randall Cobb left for Dallas. The team still looks like little more than pitch-and-catch between Rodgers and Adams.

HC Mike McCarthy ended his thirteen-year reign in Green Bay and HC Matt LaFleur takes over after last being the Titans offensive coordinator.  OC Nathaniel Hackett assumes the same role he had with the Jaguars. But Rodgers will have a lot of say in what happens and there is at least some optimism that featuring a new scheme can only help.  Rodgers has always been one that made stars from average players.

Houston Texans

2018 Leader: Deshaun Watson Pass 4,165 Yards 26 TDs, Rush 551 Yards 5 TDs

A full season as the starter helped Deshaun Watson to deliver on the promise from his rookie year that was shortened with a torn ACL. He enters his third season with a new offensive coordinator – Tim Kelly who was promoted up from being the tight ends coach. There’s not a lot of changes expected since HC Bill O’Brien calls the plays anyway.

There are nearly no changes in personnel from 2018. They tried Demaryius Thomas but then let him go. What’s more important for Watson is having his receivers stay healthy. DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the best wideout in the NFL but the rest have trouble staying on the field. Will Fuller and Keke Coutee flashed with great performances last year but neither would play more than seven games.

Even after tearing his ACL last season, Watson still returned to rush for 551 yards and five touchdowns. He remains at least a good, consistent fantasy scorer with huge upside if his receivers can stay healthy.

Indianapolis Colts

2018 Leader: Andrew Luck Pass 4,593 Yards 39 TDs, Rush 148 Yards 0 TDs

So maybe Andrew Luck isn’t dead quite yet.

Not only are there no more concerns about his shoulder, But Luck also comes off one of his best seasons and enters the second year of the Frank Reich offense. And he does so with an offense upgraded with Devin Funchess and 2.27 pick Paris Campbell who turned in a 4.31 40-time at the combine. Eric Ebron was a great addition. There was a risk in drafting Luck last year and he fell in drafts accordingly. He was also one of the few that richly rewarded those risk-tolerant fantasy owners. There is no risk here for 2019.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2018 Leader: Blake Bortles Pass 2,718 Yards 13 TDs, Rush 365 Yards 1 TDs

The Blake Bortles era ends and not too soon for fantasy owners.

This will be a year of opportunity for the Jaguars and carry an equal amount of risk. Nick Foles comes in on a four-year, $88 million deal despite never starting for a full season in any of his seven years in the NFL. This is his fourth NFL team. He delivered well in the  2017 Super Bowl but he’s never been a starter all year. He’s never thrown for more than 2,891 yards in a season.

The receivers added Chris Conley so that they have five different marginally talented players in Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, DJ Chark and now Conley. None have distinguished themselves as a clearly more talented option. Foles is safely the starter for the next several years, but so far nothing says that this offense can produce a quarterback worthy of a fantasy start.

Kansas City Chiefs

2018 Leader: Patrick Mahomes Pass 5,097 Yards 50 TDs, Rush 272 Yards 2 TDs

That kinda went well. Kinda really well.

Patrick Mahomes is inarguably the greatest quarterback talent to ever turn in his first season as a starter. The No. 1 fantasy quarterback actually went undrafted in smaller leagues and was taken as a backup in almost all others. Even losing Kareem Hunt from the offense didn’t slow him down. Entering into 2018, only five other quarterbacks had ever thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season. Mahomes did it in his first. Only two other quarterbacks had ever thrown for 50 touchdowns in a season. Mahomes did it in his first.

The same team returns from 2018 other than the questions surrounding Tyreek Hill. Nothing so far says that Mahomes cannot just shift gears and succeed anyway. The Chiefs added Mecole Hardman (2.24) to offer speed on the outside like Hill has provided.

Los Angeles Chargers

2018 Leader: Philip Rivers Pass 4,308 Yards 32 TDs, Rush 7 Yards 0 TDs

Philip Rivers has long been a top-ten fantasy starter and yet never once a top-five.  The Chargers lost  Hunter Henry in May last year with a torn ACL but he’s slated to return. This is the same offense from 2018 but Tyrell Williams left with no replacement other than Travis Benjamin moving up the depth chart and Mike Williams getting another chance to gain yardage after scoring ten times last year. Williams only caught 43 passes for 664 yards.

Keenan Allen ended with more than twice the number of catches than any other Chargers receiver. Rivers is already 38 years old, so his best days are likely behind him. But he’s a lock to offer at least fantasy backup level of production and could once again get back inside the top ten. Rivers is in the final year of his contract and could be playing his final year for the Chargers.

Los Angeles Rams

2018 Leader: Jared Goff Pass 4,688 Yards 32 TDs, Rush 108 Yards 2 TDs

The Rams started 2018 red hot and Goff passed for over 300 yards seven times over his first ten games. But then only once more. The Rams reached the Super Bowl but Goff went cold down the stretch, throwing for no more than one touchdown in seven of his final eight games. The decline of Todd Gurley later in the season did not spark higher production in the passing game. If anything, it seemed to shortcut it. The loss of Cooper Kupp also cut deeply into the passing stats.

There are still questions about Gurley and that will impact Goff. But the Rams added Darrell Henderson in the draft to help out the backfield. And Cooper Kupp is expected back. Brandin Cooks enters his second season with the Rams and Robert Woods had a breakout in 2018 with 1,219 yards on 86 catches.

All the weaponry is here to succeed but Goff needs to return to form after a very disappointing end to last year. The Rams take a different look without an effective Gurley but Kupp already proved how critical of a role that he plays.

Miami Dolphins

2018 Leader: Ryan Tannehill Pass 1,979 Yards 17 TDs, Rush 145 Yards 0 TDs

The Dolphins are all new and all improved. And with all the same receivers that flopped last year.

Ryan Tannehill is gone. Ryan Fitzpatrick turns 37 years old and lands on his eighth NFL team. He’s the same guy that always seemed like a great backup but then never quite good enough as a starter. The Dolphins also acquired Josh Rosen from the Cardinals for the future – if not Week 1 as well.

The Fins went with HC Brian Flores and OC Chad O’Shea runs the offense after spending the last ten years coaching up the Patriots wide receivers. That means all new quarterbacks learning all new schemes. And relying on Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Devante Parker to move the ball despite their inability to do so in 2018 when Danny Amendola was the top receiver with 575 yards on 59 catches. Oh yes, and Amendola is gone.

It is a rebuilding year but without any certain receiving stars. Rosen has marginally better talent than he had in Arizona, but once again, he is starting all over.

Minnesota Vikings

2018 Leader: Kirk Cousins Pass 4,298 Yards 30 TDs, Rush 123 Yards 1 TDs

Kirk Cousin’s first year with the Vikings resulted in a career-high 30 touchdowns and he ended just south of a career fantasy year. He produced two 1,000 yard receivers with Stefon Diggs (102-1,021-9) and Adam Thielen (113-1,373-9).  That duo accounted for over half of all receptions and receiving yardage for the team. Cousin’s used just those two wideouts for any meaningful success and the pair was nearly unstoppable in most games, especially early in the season.

The Vikings are relying on a new offensive coordinator in Kevin Stefanski but he was just promoted up from being the quarterback coach. That won’t hamper Cousin’s stats and may help him produce more.

The only notable changes for personnel was drafting tight end Irv Smith (2.18) but he’ll need at least the one standard year of seasoning.  Cousins is another quarterback that doesn’t ever reach the top five of fantasy starters but is usually good for around top ten numbers. Nothing this year should change that.

New England Patriots

2018 Leader: Tom Brady Pass 4,355 Yards 29 TDs, Rush 35 Yards 2 TDs

No changes here with Tom Brady entering his 20th season and OC Josh McDaniels heading into his eighth year. But Brady also comes off his worst 16-game season in ten years. He still throws single-digit interceptions and nearly reached 30 passing scores. But the loss of Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan will have some impact and the only notable add was 1.32 pick N’Keal Harry who is spawning optimism if only because the Patriots are lacking any established elite receivers.

Julian Edelman should field plenty of targets but beyond him, there are no standout targets for a team that likes to run the ball and that has the depth in the backfield to get the job done via the rush. Brady is 42 years old and relying on him gets riskier every year. For the first time, he’s often drafted as a fantasy backup.

New Orleans Saints

2018 Leader: Drew Brees Pass 3,992 Yards 32 TDs, Rush 22 Yards 4 TDs

Drew Brees is 40 years old now and 2017 looked like the final downturn in production had started. Not so. Brees bounced back in 2018 with almost 4,000 passing yards and 32 passing touchdowns.  He also set a career-best mark with four rushing touchdowns despite averaging just over one yard on his 38 rushes.

Michael Thomas remains the primary target with no other wideouts accounting for more than 28 receptions. Thomas ended with 125. The only change to the receivers is the addition of Jared Cook which should pay dividends. Brees is no longer a fantasy quarterback that merits an early round reach but he still supplies fantasy starting numbers every week.

New York Giants

2018 Leader: Eli Manning Pass 4,299 Yards 21 TDs, Rush 20 Yards 1 TDs

This is a situation to steer clear of for 2019 – even when hunting for a backup quarterback. While the offense under HC Pat Shurmur and OC Mike Shula enters a second year, Odell Beckham is gone and only Golden Tate takes his place.

Worse yet, the Giants spent their 1.06 pick on quarterback Daniel Jones which means the rookie could take over in any week. He should be a lock for 2020 but may well show up at some point this year. His presence makes Eli Manning a very risky play even for a fantasy backup because there is no certainty he’ll be there when and if you need him. There’s no certainty that starting a game means either would end it.

New York Jets

2018 Leader: Sam Darnold Pass 2,865 Yards 17 TDs, Rush 138 Yards 1 TDs

A foot injury limited Sam Darnold to only 13 games last year and he can forget much of what he learned now that the Jets turned to new HC Adam Gase and OC Dowell Loggains. That should result in better future production but this is yet another learning curve that Darnold has to deal with.

Despite pedestrian stats from 2018, Darnold managed to throw a couple of 300-yard games and passed for five touchdowns over his final three games. The Jets are in a rebuild but running back Le’Veon Bell provides an obvious upgrade and offers a reliable set of hands for Darnold. Jamison Crowder was added to play the slot role and the outside receivers of Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson offer familiar targets.

It is still far too early to expect Darnold to turn into a fantasy starter but he made some strides as a rookie. Like 2018, he’s likely to improve as the season progresses but it’s hard to see him offer enough reliability for anything more than a desperation starter.

Oakland Raiders

2018 Leader: Derek Carr Pass 4,049 Yards 19 TDs, Rush 47 Yards 1 TDs

After slogging through a predictably bad rebuilding 2018 where the Raiders jettisoned far more players than they added (notably Amari Cooper), they finally spent big in free agency and the draft. That will directly benefit Derek Carr who still stands safely alone (for this year anyway) as the starting quarterback for HC Jon Gruden. The Raiders did nothing for the position other than to add Mike Glennon as the primary backup.

The Raiders brought in all new weapons for the passing game. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant are huge upgrades over last year’s top wideouts of Seth Roberts, Martavis Bryant, and the aged Jordy Nelson. Bringing in running back Josh Jacobs will provide another target in this new arsenal.

Carr has never finished in the top half of fantasy quarterbacks during his five seasons and his 19 passing touchdowns last year were a career low. But his 4,409 passing yards were a career high and now he’s got a year of the offense under his belt and an entirely new cast of receivers. His outlook is higher but he still doesn’t quite rate as a fantasy starter yet. He needs an impressive year or he may not make it to 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles

2018 Leader: Carson Wentz Pass 3,074 Yards 21 TDs, Rush 93 Yards 0 TDs

Carson Wentz blew a knee in 2017 and watched his team win the Super Bowl without him. But Nick Foles is gone this year so no more known saviors are on the roster for when Wentz is injured again. That’s been his problem. After the knee in 2017, he opened the season with that still lingering and ended with a back injury.

This is his third year in the same offense and HC Doug Pederson is optimistic that Wentz will return to form. Even when he did play in 2018, he was limited in games after around Week 10 because of his back.

The Eagles added DeSean Jackson and drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2.25) and the dart throws of last year of Golden Tate, Jordan Matthews, and Mike Wallace. The backfield should be better with Jordan Howard and the rookie Miles Sanders (2.21) as well. This shapes up to be a better season for Wentz provided he can do the one thing he’s failed the last two years – remain healthy.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2018 Leader: Ben Roethlisberger Pass 5,129 Yards 34 TDs, Rush 98 Yards 3 TDs

Ben Roethlisberger comes off a career-best season and it helped that he stayed healthy for all 16 games for the first time in five years. Antonio Brown had another monster year and JuJu Smith-Schuster was even better than Brown. The problem now is that outside of those two, no other wideout was better than Ryan Switzer (36-253-1). Vance McDonald managed 50 catches for 610 yards and James Conner tried his best to imitate the missing Le’ Veon Bell.

Now Brown is a Raider and the Steelers only notable move was drafting Diontae Johnson (3.02). James Washington moves up to a starting role despite only catching 16 passes for 217 yards and one score as a rookie. Losing Brown is an obvious and major downgrade. Smith-Schuster gets to find out what life is like when he’s the one drawing all the attention for the first time.

Roethlisberger is 37 years old and should still have another season in him.  This is the second year for OC Randy Fichtner though he was with the team since 2007 in various capacities. What happens when an offense loses perhaps the premier wide receiver in the NFL?

We’re about to find out.

San Francisco 49ers

2018 Leader: Nick Mullens Pass 2,277 Yards 13 TDs, Rush -16 Yards 0 TDs

And onto Year 3 of waiting for HC Kyle Shanahan’s offense to catch fire after great results back in Atlanta. Once again – the failures are mostly about injuries to players. Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3 and was lost for the year. C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens both played far better than expected which is a positive sign for this offense should Garoppolo actually stick around for the entire season.

It is still hard to gauge exactly what Garoppolo will do given his minimal amount of playing history. He was impressive when he started the final five games of 2017 but only looked average for the three weeks last year.

The 49ers vied for Antonio Brown’s services but lost out to Oakland. They still added Jordan Mattews while drafting Deebo Samuels (2.05) and Jalen Hurd (3.03) who may be a receiver, running back or quarterback depending on the play. Tevin Coleman reunites with Shanahan for a logjam in the backfield along with with Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Breida that benefits the 49ers while only confusing fantasy owners.

Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin also remain for a high-potential passing game. There’s a chance that Garoppolo surprises and finally delivers on his pricey contract of 2017. There is also a chance he just gets injured again.

Seattle Seahawks

2018 Leader: Russell Wilson Pass 3,448 Yards 35 TDs, Rush 376 Yards 0 TDs

After scorching the fantasy world in 2017 with the top fantasy points of any quarterback, Russell Wilson ended with his same great passing touchdowns. But the yardage was among the worst of his career and he failed to score as a runner while limited to a career-low 67 rushes.

Doug Baldwin struggled when he was on the field and has since retired. Tyler Lockett had a breakout year with ten touchdowns although with only 965 yards on 57 catches. Losing Jimmy Graham was never remotely compensated for by Nick Vannett (29-269-3). Even more notable, the Seahawks became the only NFL team that rushed more than it passed – and it wasn’t Wilson doing much of the running.

The Seahawks added D.K. Metcalf (2.32) and Gary Jennings (4.18) in the draft to add to Lockett and Jaron Brown. That should help, if only eventually, but a lack of passing means fewer reasons for Wilson to take off on a run. And Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are expected to be at least as busy as 2018 if not even more. That makes the talented Wilson less likely to improve much this season. He’s as good as any quarterback throwing touchdowns but fewer passes and yards impacts his fantasy value this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 Leader: Jameis Winston Pass 2,992 Yards 19 TDs, Rush 281 Yards 1 TDs

The Buccaneers feasted on an easy schedule in 2018 to produce some of the best overall quarterback stats in the NFL. Problem is, you had to use both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick to get there and know when either was the best play. Winston was hampered with a shoulder injury in 2017 when he was limited to 13 games and Fitzpatrick stepped in to save the day. Winston missed five games last year thanks to a three-game suspension for conduct and two games because he was benched. And Fitzpatrick saved the day (sort of).

Now Fitzpatrick is gone to Miami and Blaine Gabbert joins the team with a history of never saving the day. The Buccaneers also swept house and hired HC Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich. All the right things are being said about how Arians and Leftwich can help Winston with his decision making and throwing mechanics. There are reasons to expect Winston to improve so long as he remains healthy and behaves himself to avoid any other suspensions.

Winston has flirted with being a top ten fantasy quarterback but usually falls just short when he misses games. He passed for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two years when he played all 16 games. He has to contend with DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries being gone but Mike Evans is an annual stud and Chris Godwin showed enough promise to merit starting.  O.J. Howard was enjoying a breakout season in 2018 when he injured his ankle in Week 11 and missed the rest of the year. He’ll be back and early expectations are high for him and Winston in this new offense.

Winston spent much of his career being good, teasing with being great and then disappointing just when you bought into him. But he’s only 25 years old and is in a good spot for at least an incremental improvement if not significant.

Tennessee Titans

2018 Leader: Marcus Mariota Pass 2,528 Yards 11 TDs, Rush 357 Yards 2 TDs

The 1.02 pick from 2015, Marcus Mariota hasn’t fared as well as the 1.01 pick that year (Jameis Winston). He always misses one to four games per year and ends up just below average in fantasy points per game every season.  To his detriment, Mariota has his fourth new offensive coordinator in his five seasons in the NFL. He always produces pedestrian passing stats and his two 300-yard games last year were joined by eight others where he failed to top 200 yards.

The Titans added wideout Corey Davis as a first rounder in 2017 but he’s topped out at just 65-891-4 last year. They spent a second-round pick on wideout A.J. Brown this year. They brought in Adam Humphries to help. But so far, Mariota just hasn’t shown enough to expect more than average stats again this year. And that’s if he can turn in his first 16-game season.

Washington Redskins

2018 Leader: Alex Smith Pass 2,180 Yards 10 TDs, Rush 168 Yards 1 TDs

Maybe the Redskins just aren’t destined to have a top quarterback, at least not for any extended time. They brought in Alex Smith last year after his career-best year in Kansas City and then he imitated Joe Theisman with a gruesome broken leg. Smith’s career may not be over, but he’s certainly not in any plans for 2019.

The Skins restocked the shelves with journeyman Case Keenum and more importantly, drafted Dwayne Haskins (1.15). This will be Haskins team sooner than later but like with Daniel Jones and Drew Lock, when that happens depends on a lot of factors of which reliability is not one of them.  Chances are that Keenum gets the initial start and gives way to Haskins at some point during the year. The Redskins passing game took a significant downturn last year with Kirk Cousins gone.

The receivers lost Jamison Crowder and only added Terry Mclaurin (3.13). Trey Quinn likely replaces Crowder but Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson added little last year and not much is expected for 2019. Jordan Reed almost made the entire year before being injured for the sixth-straight year.

There’s a limited appeal for 2019 for either Keenum or Haskins and until the rookie is installed as the starter, no reason to invest in the Washington passing game.

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