Quarterbacks remain one of the top scorers for any fantasy team and yet they come off a bad year where only three of the top ten from 2017 repeated. Worse yet, Aaron Rodgers was injured and Drew Brees plummetted from the ranks of the elite to being merely “good”. Oh, and that calculated risk grabbing Andrew Luck was everything but lucky.
Position Totals by Year
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||YPC||Pass TD||Int||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The statistics from all quarterbacks showed a decline back to the levels of pre-2012 before the passing numbers all rose significantly. The rushing stats for quarterbacks remained very healthy but it is starting to look like there was a bubble from 2013 to 2016 when the passing offenses were outpacing the defenses.
There were fewer passing touchdowns in 2017 than in the previous seven years. The overall trend is downward but most leagues are not starting 32 quarterbacks so more telling is what those top quarterbacks are doing.
Top Ten Quarterback Totals
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||Pass TD||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD||FF Pts|
And it too was less. There were fewer passes thrown by the top quarterbacks than in the last decade though that reflects the increase in rushing yards by those top fantasy players. Interesting too is that rushing production favors the younger quarterbacks. Is it possible that all the rushing by college quarterbacks is finally starting to take over the NFL or have defenses figured out passing schemes again and provoke more rushing?
Erase the blackboard this year. The Cardinals are all new with OC Mike McCoy importing his old Denver offense and the passing personnel changes significantly. Carson Palmer is gone and with that, a new era begins. Sam Bradford is the likely Week 1 starter but the Cardinals used their 1.10 pick to tab rookie Josh Rosen who will be the eventual starter. Given Bradford’s injury history, it could happen any week.
There is an opportunity here for a sleeper to emerge if only because it is all so new and unknown. But installing a new offense with a fragile or inexperienced quarterback is never smooth and worse yet the receivers have changed. Larry Fitzgerald clings on to an amazing 15th NFL season and at 35 is far older than any other starting wideout. The wideout crew lost both John Brown and Jaron Brown. They added a promising rookie in Christian Kirk but otherwise only have J.J. Nelson. A worse schedule only makes it all even harder to rely on for a fantasy team.
This is the second season for OC Steve Sarkisian and losing Kyle Shanahan proved costly last year with the statistics falling for Matt Ryan – in particular, dropping from a career-high 38 touchdowns to only 20. But Ryan enters the second season of the new offense with all the same receivers plus the rookie Calvin Ridley as a likely No. 3 wideout who eventually should replace Mohamed Sanu as the No. 2. It is a solid trio of wideouts with Julio Jones there and 2018 should be at least an incremental uptick for Ryan.
The Ravens were one of the least productive passing offenses in 2017 and Joe Flacco dropped from 4,317 passing yards in 2016 to only 3,141 yards. But the reality was that 2016 was a record year for Flacco and his drop wasn’t as dramatic compared to all his other seasons when he usually ended around 3,600 yards. And he’s never been much for touchdowns anyway.
The same offense scheme returns and has new players. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace were swapped out for Michael Crabtree and John Brown. That may be a wash, it may be a slight downgrade.
Where the interest here lies is with the addition of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson who is a polar opposite from the lead foot Flacco. And Flacco is not pleased with this obvious replacement. There’s no reason to expect Flacco to improve much and he’s never been a fantasy-relevant quarterback. The optimism all lies with Jackson who is equally as talented as a runner. When he starts – and he will be the starter at some point – is when the fantasy fortunes of the Ravens start to get interesting.
This has been a mess for many years. Not the least of reasons is that there is a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll. And it is the fifth straight year that there has been a new offensive coordinator. Tyrod Taylor was the starting quarterback for the last three years but he’s left for Cleveland. The Bills brought in A.J. McCarron and drafted Josh Allen.
The only question is when Allen is ready to become the starter. The receiving stats last year were anemic and even bringing in Kelvin Benjamin and drafting Zay Jones did nothing to help. Both players are likely to improve and potentially a lot with the change in quarterbacks. But there’s just risk and a lack of clarity as to the starter and his production.
Cam Newton enters his eighth NFL season and after five years with offensive coordinator Mike Shula, Norv Turner shows up to install his new offense. That’s the first change for Newton to contend with since his second season in the league. It should result in more vertical throws and a departure from the shorter passing style of previous OC Mike Shula. While Turner historically loved a strong rushing game, there’s no concern that Newton’s fantasy value will take a hit or that he will run any less.
Losing Kelvin Benjamin during the 2017 season signaled a change away from downfield passing last year but it was Shula’s final year. Devin Funchess became the No. 1 wideout and Greg Olsen returns from the foot injury that knocked him out for almost the entire 2017 season. Torrey Smith and the rookie D. J. Moore were added to the wide receivers which can only help. Newton remains a safe pick with his rushing totals maintaining solid weekly numbers. The new offense will take a bit of time to take hold but Newton’s fantasy value doesn’t take any downgrade.
Mitchell Trubisky is a popular sleeper this summer and for a good reason. First – he can hardly do any worse than 2017. But he was not only a rookie, he had to learn the NFL game without the benefit of talented receivers. Alshon Jeffery was gone, Cameron Meredith tore his ACL and Kevin White was still just Kevin White. Tight end Zach Miller suffered a horrific injury to his knee in Week 8. It was a very bad year all around.
But Trubisky starts the year with a far better cast. Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel were acquired and Anthony Miller was drafted in the second round. Trey Burton brings his shiny Super Bowl ring over and becomes the starting tight end. There is a new offense being installed which should be a West Coast-style scheme and the schedule is outstanding. It will be a better year for the sophomore Trubiksy but could take time to come together learning a new offense with new receivers.
No changes here. OC Bill Lazor enters his second season and Andy Dalton comes off the lowest yardage of his career (when playing 16 games). He rolled up 25 touchdowns but he rarely runs much. The same receivers return but Tyler Eifert only played two games in 2017 and the rookie John Ross had extensive injuries in his first year and failed to catch either of his two passes. A healthy Eifert and Ross can only help but there is almost no change in personnel here that mattered.
The never-ending change in offensive schemes continues this year with Todd Haley coming over from the Steelers to install his offense. But there are plenty of reasons to expect an improvement in the Browns. Granted, the consensus is that no matter what, it will all fall apart and the reality is that after going 1-31 over the last two years, it would be hard not to look vastly improved.
The Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor from the Bills and he is the starter. At least until Baker Mayfield shows a glimmer of hope and he becomes the starter. Taylor’s fantasy value has always been from his rushing yards and scores and his passing has never been even average. Mayfield brings in major potential – even more than all the other quarterbacks that have spent time in the Brown’s offense the past few years.
The set of receivers are stellar on paper. Josh Gordon’s return has been very encouraging. Jarvis Landry comes over after leading the NFL in receptions last year. Corey Coleman still could end up worthy of the first-round pick. David Njoku enters his second season. Add in improved rushing with both Carlos Hyde and the rookie Nick Chubb and this should be a vastly improved offense. Mayfield becomes an interesting late-draft addition with all those weapons.
Dak Prescott was a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys as a rookie in 2016 but he fell back last year in all passing categories. Though he started well enough with 15 touchdowns over the initial six games, his production waned and then fell apart once Ezekiel Elliott was out of the lineup. The concern for 2017 is that even with Elliott, the Cowboys are in store for a very down year on offense.
The Cowboys cut Dez Bryant and lost Jason Witten. It’s bad enough that only scrubs were left behind but then the team opted to do little about it in the draft. They waited until the third round to select Michael Gallup. They added Jaguars cast-off Allen Hurns and bought Tavon Austin from the Rams in a deal transacted from a trunk in the back parking lot of a Home Depot. Terrance Williams projects as a starter, somehow, and Cole Beasley suddenly looks as good as it gets. It all signals a down year for Prescott.
Surprisingly, the Broncos did nothing in the draft to address their woes at quarterback but they did bring in Case Keenum and contend they have not given up on Paxton Lynch (Part II). Bill Musgrave’s offense was installed last year and provided almost exactly the same below average numbers as 2016.
But the addition of Keenum means the Trevor Siemian era is over. For two years, Siemian has held the spot warm for Paxton Lynch. But there’s been no sign that Lynch is ready yet. He’s proving a long-term project that may finally burn up all his potential this year. Keenum may only be a middle-of-the-road talent but he’s a major upgrade to the team that has been quarterback-deficient since Peyton Manning left.
Keenum still has Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos also drafted Courtland Sutton and Jake Butt should start to make some noise now that he took a year off to heal his torn ACL. Keenum may not be top ten, but he should manage at least average stats in this offense.
The third season with OC Jim Bob Cooter should be similar to the first two. Matthew Stafford enters his tenth season and he’s producing a top-ten level of production. His lack of rushing holds him back but he’s been consistently good and topped 4,000 passing yards for his last seven seasons.
The receivers remain the same other than Eric Ebron leaving. There’s no clear-cut replacement though ex-Seahawk Luke Wilson will be in the mix. Both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones topped 1,000 yards last year and Kenny Golladay shows promise as the No. 3 receiver. Stafford is a safe pick for good production without ever reaching the level of a fantasy difference maker.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers probed mortal last year and also proved that the Packers aren’t nearly as good without him. He’s still the popular pick as first quarterback drafted. There’s a new offensive coordinator but it’s only Joe Philbin coming back for his second gig in Green Bay (2007-2011). He was there for Rodgers first year as a starter. When he left four years later, Rodgers was coming off a 48-touchdown season.
Jordy Nelson is missing but the rest of the offense is back. Rodgers is a slam dunk for a good year so long as he remains healthy and he welcomes Jimmy Graham as the best tight end he’s ever worked with. No concerns here.
What a year. Deshaun Watson wasn’t a surprise, he was a revelation. He had already thrown 19 touchdowns over his first seven games – a pace for 43 scores. He tore his ACL in Week 8 and landed on injured reserve. The offense suffered from his absence.
The plus is that Watson tore an ACL in college and was no worse for wear after it healed. And the offense is being catered even more to his strengths and abilities now that he’s shown what a dynamic player he is. The rest of the offense is the same as 2017 with no losses or additions of skill players. By all reports, his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and he is expected to be good to go for the season.
Lottery ticket time. Last year, that scratcher was a waste since Andrew Luck never played. He has not thrown a pass since the end of the 2016 season – working on two years. The word is that he will be ready for the start of the season not unlike all that optimism last year. His shoulder remains in rehabilitation. Luck has been a Top-5 quarterback when healthy but there’s plenty of reasons to be cautious. Certainly most important is that he hasn’t thrown and won’t immediately be back to form.
When he does play – assuming that he does – he’ll be with all new coaches and offense to learn. T.Y. Hilton is the lone holdover from 2016 with Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers now “best of the rest”. His tight ends are gone but Eric Ebron will fill in as the starter in what should be a TE-heavy scheme by HC Frank Reich. Luck was great up until 2016. But this is a different Luck in a different offense with different players.
And that’s assuming he plays anywhere near his old form.
Blake Bortles is perhaps the least appreciated quarterback in the NFL. No one considers him as elite but in performance scoring, he’s ranked No. 3, No.8 and No.13 over the last three years. And last year he was without Allen Robinson by Week 2. He would connect with nine different wide receivers as the rushing offense found new life with Leonard Fournette.
The Jaguars parted ways with Robinson and Allen Hurns while adding Donte Moncrief and the rookie DJ Chark. And both Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook turned in promising seasons. There may be no obvious No. 1 wideout here but there are five different wide receivers with potential. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was added at tight end. The Jaguars have a very favorable schedule as well.
Bortles is going as a backup in all fantasy drafts but he’s never been worse than No. 13 since 2014.
Kansas City Chiefs
OC Brad Childress is gone and Eric Bienemy takes his place but this remains the Andy Reid offense. The monumental change is with Alex Smith leaving after five seasons and second-year player Patrick Mahomes brings his cannon arm to the offense. The Chiefs have been below average in passing stats for many years until 2018. Alex Smith was the “game manager” and even failed to throw a touchdown to any wide receiver for the entirety of 2014. Mahomes brings in optimism that the long ball will become a big part of the scheme.
Albert Wilson left but was replaced by Sammy Watkins – an upgrade that could prove significant with more downfield passes. While it is easy to overstate the potential of the first year as a starter, Mahomes could surprise. The addition of Kareem Hunt invigorated the rushing offense last year and that, in turn, helps the passing effort. He seasoned for a year on the bench and brings plenty of potential to what should be an even better version of the offense.
Los Angeles Chargers
No changes here other than Antonio Gates being gone, maybe, and Hunter Henry tearing his ACL and missing the year. Philip Rivers comes off his 15th season and at 4,515 yards and 28 touchdowns, it was one of his best. The offense remains the same from 2017 with OC Ken Whisenhunt entering his third year with the Bolts.
The hole left with tight ends likely will not be filled in terms of the fantasy impact this year. But Keenan Allen finally had a healthy year and turned in 102 receptions. Mike Williams was lost for his rookie season when he herniated a disc in his back but is expected to contribute. Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams both pitched in and will again be a factor.
This is the same team as 2017 other than the loss of the tight ends that could translate into more running back passes. But Rivers remains a safe fantasy play.
Los Angeles Rams
It did not take long for HC Sean McVay’s impact to be felt and no one enjoyed a non-Jeff Fisher season more than Jared Goff. He passed for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. As a rookie under Fisher’s regime, he struggled in the few games that he was allowed to start. He has no role as a rusher which depresses his fantasy value but over half o his games featured multiple touchdown passes.
Sammy Watkins and Tavon Austin left but Brandin Cooks came over from the Pats (and Saints) and is on a three-year streak of 1,000-yard games. Cooper Kupp enjoyed a great rookie year while Robert Woods became a factor in the second half of 2017. Goff already had one good season and now enters 2018 with a more veteran crew including the upgrade of Cooks.
The Dolphins threw plenty of passes last year but not that many were caught. Losing Ryan Tannehill before the season started meant dredging up Jay Cutler who was able to produce average results. That’s not bad considering it was early August when the Fins discovered Tannehill was gone. He returns healthy for his seventh NFL season but has a new offensive coordinator in Dowell Loggains. This is still Adam Gase’s team and offense.
Tannehill lost Jarvis Landry while only adding Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. That’s a net loss and their schedule is worse than 2017. Frank Gore was added for what has to be his final season but he can help pass block if nothing else. Tannehill has to shake off the rust with a slightly less talented set of receivers and a worse schedule.
The Vikings lost Sam Bradford after only one week in 2017 but Case Keenum stepped in with solid results. Despite leading the team deeply into the playoffs, he was replaced with Kirk Cousins. That’s an upgrade. The ex-Redskin is on a three-year streak of 4,000-yard and 25-touchdown seasons. Adding to the newness is bringing in ex-Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo to run the offense since Pat Shurmur moved on to lead the Giants.
Cousins produced well in Washington despite not having an elite receiver. He gains an experienced set with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph. Dalvin Cook is healthy again and ready to get his NFL career back on track. This is actually a more talented set of players than Cousins had as a Redskin, but he will be more limited here because the Vikings defense prevents almost all shootouts. Cousins had to throw as a Redskin but the need isn’t nearly as big as a Viking.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady is 41 years old. And yet he comes off a season with 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns. At some point, he will suffer a downturn or serious injury but he’s about to be the most productive quarterback after the age of 40 in the history of the NFL.
The offense has yet again changed personnel with Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, and Dion Lewis gone. And new to the team are Jordan Mathews and the rookie Sony Michel. This is the seventh straight season with OC Josh McDaniels who spurned the Colts to return to the exact same gig with the Patriots. Players may change but Brady and the system never does.
New Orleans Saints
While Drew Brees lags Tom Brady by two years, his stats took a significant dive in 2017 if only because the rushing effort was so effective with Mark Ingram and Rookie-of-the-Year Alvin Kamara. Brees played all 16 games but dropped to being the No. 11 fantasy quarterback last year. Brees has no role as a rusher and passed for only 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns. Those are his fewest yards since landing in New Orleans in 2006.
The Saints return the same personnel from last year other than adding Cameron Meredith coming off a knee injury and replacing Coby Fleener with aging blocker Benjamin Watson. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer but isn’t likely to see any return to elite production.
New York Giants
Eli Manning is yet another of the old quarterbacks still playing. After 14 years with the G-Men, he comes off one of his worst seasons after witnessing his top three receivers being injured and forcing a rookie tight end into becoming a No. 1 receiver. This will be a season of tremendous change.
Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard return as the starting wideouts, Brandon Marshall was sent packing after an underwhelming effort even before being lost for the season. Evan Engram is already an established weapon. And now Saquon Barkley brings some excitement to the backfield that operates behind an upgraded offensive line. Manning tends to play just outside of a QB1 in fantasy but could end up fewer passes and yet more completions this year.
Pat Shurmur is the head coach now and that means that all vestiges of Tom Coughlin are finally gone. The new offense could take time to install, but Manning has plenty of high-value targets downfield.
New York Jets
The Jets Change offensive coordinators for the third straight year but it’s just promoting up the quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. John Morton was fired in January. And 2018 is shaping up to be a very different season – though not necessarily a good one. The quarterback spot is going to change to give 1.03 pick Sam Darnold the reins at some point. Josh McCown is the holdover from 2017 (his 8th different NFL team) and Teddy Bridgewater is also trying for a comeback from his devastating knee injury. Make no mistake – Darnold is the future.
Until Darnold is named the starter, there’s risk in relying on any other quarterback. And a rookie is sure to take time to learn the ropes. The Jets suffered injuries to their receivers last year and look to get back Quincy Enunwa to add to Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson. ArDarius Stewart was a third-round pick in 2017 that could also step up.
Mostly just risk here until Darnold is the starter. And even then it’s highly unlikely a fantasy starter is born this year.
Derek Carr enters his fifth season and he’s still trying to rekindle the magic of 2015 when he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. Last year, Carr was limited to only 3,496 yards and 22 scores. The big change this season is that Jon Gruden left Monday Night Football and returns to the NFL after a short ten years. Greg Olson is the offensive coordinator but Gruden’s stamp will be all over the scheme. That just makes it the third straight year that Carr has to learn a new offense.
The offense has been revamped with Jordy Nelson replacing Michael Crabtree and Martavis Bryant bringing his sullen ways to town. Doug Martin was added to the backfield that wants to squeeze at least one more year from Marshawn Lynch. Amari Cooper enters his fourth season but was a flop last year and that started midway through 2016.
Carr has upside this year, but there is a new offense being installed and all the upgrades were aging players that their previous teams no longer wanted.
Carson Wentz broke out in 2017 and was heading towards a potential top mark for quarterbacks last year. But he tore his ACL in Week 14 after throwing for 33 touchdowns. Wentz is expected back for the start of the season but the preseason will show how much progress he has made.
There have been minimal changes in personnel with the loss of Torrey Smith compensated by signing Mike Wallace so that is a wash. Wentz has healed by all reports and he has the same receivers. He didn’t run much anyway, so a brace on the knee should be a nonfactor.
Ben Roethlisberger pulled off a coup when the Steelers fired OC Todd Haley after six years and replaced him with ex-quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner. After 14 years, Roethlisberger hardly needs developing and may have the best receiver tandem in the NFL – Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant are gone but the Steelers landed James Washington with their second pick to compete for that No. 3 wideout role. If the rookie matches his success at Oklahoma State, Roethlisberger would have the best trio around. Assuming that Le’Veon Bell signs as expected, Roethlisberger is in line for yet another solid season with upside to reach 30 touchdown passes.
San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan started the turnaround in San Francisco last year and there were a lot of passes thrown – out of need. While they ranked top in passes thrown, they only managed 15 touchdown passes. And they proved that C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer were not the answer. And that Jimmy Garoppolo was a very advantageous trade. At least he better be – the 49ers coughed up $137.5 million over the next five years to keep him.
Garoppolo started the final five games with six touchdowns and all but the Jaguars matchup topping 290 passing yards. And that was playing with a sub-standard set of receivers. 2018 pairs Garoppolo up with Pierre Garcon (who was injured in Week 8 last year) and Marquise Goodwin who broke out with 962 yards in his first season with the 49ers. Goodwin also turned in three games with 99+ yards playing with Garoppolo at the end of last year.
Austin Perris was drafted and Jerick McKinnon was signed in part for his role as a receiving back. Garoppolo was very impressive but only played in five games last year.
The Seahawks make a change at offensive coordinator for the first time in seven years with Darrel Bevell gone and Brian Schottenheimer coming over from the Colts where he was the quarterback coach. That alone makes for a less certain season but at least the new offense should be more vertical with deeper passes. The hope is that the Seahawks are also able to rush better with the addition of Rashaad Penny though they did little to improve one of the worst offensive lines.
Notable too is that Jimmy Graham left along with Paul Richardson. The Seahawks added Jaron Brown and Brandon Marshall to compensate. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett remain the starters but the tight end position has taken a hit and won’t be featured as much with Graham gone. The schedule is tougher this season and there are new players and schemes to incorporate. But Wilson remains one of the best rushing quarterbacks and his mobility should play well into letting the wideouts run deeper routes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The expectations were high for Jameis Winston after starting his career with two seasons of 4000 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016. But Winston fell to only 3,504 yards and 19 touchdowns thanks in part to a shoulder injury that forced him to miss four games. As a team, the Bucs still threw for 4,607 yards as second best in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the backup in case he is needed again.
Winston has allure this year since he comes off an injury-shortened year and he was not always healthy when he played. The same offense under Todd Monken returns. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are still the starters with Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin mixing in. O.J. Howards was the top tight end drafted in 2017 and should be due for a second-year breakout after scoring in three of the final five games.
Winston doesn’t really have anything new this year, he just has to remain healthy and improve his use of the weapons in the passing game.
Marcus Mariota has been a “this is his year” kind of guy since he left Oregon in 2015 to play for the Titans. Problem is that it never really was his year. He threw for 26 scores in 2016 but hasn’t topped 3,426 passing yards in any season so far. Mariota also learns his third new offense in the last four years. OC Matt LaFleur comes over from running the Raiders offense (but not calling plays) and was the Falcons quarterback coach for Matt Ryan for two of his best seasons.
There have been no new additions to the receivers and they released Eric Decker. Corey Davis was the first round pick that missed five games because of a hamstring strain and had a slow start in the sluggish offense. But he’s generating optimism for a breakout year in the new offense. Rishard Matthews remains the other starter while 34-year-old Delanie Walker tries to generate one more good year before he ages out of the league.
There is enough firepower here to suggest a turnaround can happen even as a new offense is being installed (again). But even a big improvement won’t necessarily mean that Mariota becomes worthy of a fantasy start.
While the offense remains the same from 2017, this will be a season of much change for the Redskins. After three successful seasons as the starter, Kirk Cousins was allowed to leave for the Vikings. Alex Smith was acquired and the 34-year-old ex-Chief enters his fourteenth NFL season. He comes off a career-best year with highs for yardage (4,042) and touchdowns (26). Now, he is a Redskin.
The schedule is very good and Smith has at least high potential from his receivers. Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and newly acquired Paul Richardson may not resemble Tyreek Hill but the combination should be at least as good as last year. Jordan Reed still offers the specter of an elite tight end even if he has missed more games per season in recent years. Vernon Davis fills in as needed.
Again – Smith has a very advantageous schedule, a scheme that likes to throw downfield and at least adequate receivers. If Derek Guice can reinvigorate the rushing offense, it only helps make the passing game even more productive.