Top 10 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks (2016)
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The King doesn’t give up his throne because of one substandard season, especially when he was without his best receiver for the entire year. It was borderline remarkable what Rodgers was able to accomplish last season with the weapons at his disposal. Despite lacking a true deep threat or anyone who could consistently create separation, Rodgers threw for 3,821 yards and 31 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His YPA cratered to 6.68, a direct result of Jordy Nelson’s absence. In 2014, Rodgers put up 10.06 YPA on balls thrown to Nelson, and the duo hooked up for 19 passes of at least 20 yards. Now that Rodgers has his true No. 1 receiver back in the fold, there’s nothing to stop him from getting back to the top of his position this season.
2. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Chances are if you had Newton last year you were, at the very least, one of the best teams in your league, if not its champion. Newton threw and ran his way to a unanimous NFL MVP award, and was likely the fantasy MVP as well, especially when you consider his depressed average draft position. Like the No. 1 choice on this list, Newton did it without his best receiver, as Kelvin Benjamin missed the entire season with a torn ACL. While Newton may still be getting better as a real-life quarterback, is it even possible for him to do so in the fantasy realm? He threw for 35 touchdowns on 495 attempts last year, a 7.1% touchdown rate that was the 18th highest in a single season since 1984. Newton also ran for 10 touchdowns and 636 yards. He’s undeniably great, but don’t expect a repeat of 2015.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is coming off his best season as a pro, in which he set new career highs in yards (4,024), touchdowns (34), YPA (8.33), completion percentage (68.1) and quarterback rating (110.1), all while throwing just eight interceptions. Wilson has never been a running quarterback, but rather a quarterback who runs. He’s determined to keep passing plays alive, getting the majority of his rushing yards on designed runs. He carried the ball 103 times last year for 553 yards, but just one touchdown. Since the merger, there have been 21 quarterback seasons with at least 100 rushing attempts and 500 rushing yards. Those quarterbacks, not including Wilson last year, averaged 6.5 rushing scores per year. If Wilson matches his attempt and yardage output, his touchdowns will come up.
4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck is the forgotten man after various injuries, including a ruptured spleen, limited him to seven games last season (though he’s a newly-paid man as well, as the Colts just handed him a hefty extension). Volume can be a quarterback’s best friend, and that has certainly been the case with Luck during his career. His efficiency has left a bit to be desired, but so long as he can overwhelm that with pass attempts, it won’t much matter in fantasy leagues. Luck has a strong pair of receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief and an offense that is built around his strengths. He may not have the same mandate to run that he has had in the past, which could limit his fantasy ceiling, but that’s one of the few drawbacks you’ll find for him in Indianapolis.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Since 2005, Drew Brees has been a top-three fantasy quarterback six times, and the No. 1 passer in two seasons. Brees is as bankable as they come. He has done it with big names like Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, and he has also done it by piecing together a weapons cache out of spare parts. In Brandin Cooks, he likely has his best receiver since Colston’s best seasons, and he’s got a decent stable of options behind him in Willie Snead, Michael Thomas and Brandon Coleman, as well as a shiny new tight end in the form of Coby Fleener. No one has ever won a fantasy title betting against Brees. This year won’t be any different.
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Everyone wants to knock Roethlisberger for his durability, an understandable impulse when ranking a quarterback who too often gets himself into injury trouble. Is it possible, however, that the concern is overstated? Roethlisberger played 16 games in 2014 and 2013, and 15 in 2011. He has never missed more than four games in a season, and is at the head of what could be the league’s best offense, with arguably the league’s best receiver. Remember, Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell did not play an entire game together all of last season. If Bell and Antonio Brown are as good as the entire fantasy community believes they will be this season, how can Roethlisberger not follow?
7. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Everything came together for the Cardinals last year, with the offense flowing from the brain of Bruce Arians and right arm of Carson Palmer. The 12-year veteran enjoyed the best season of his career, setting new personal standards in yards (4,671), touchdowns (35), YPA (8.7) and quarterback rating (104.6). Given Palmer’s injury history, he has a greater-than-baseline risk for injury. If he does stay healthy, though, last year’s numbers are well within reach. He has an excellent, well-rounded trio of receivers at his disposal in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, while running back David Johnson is ready to handle a workhorse load for the entire season. Arizona features one of the best offensive lines in the league, as well as one of its finest offensive coaches in Arians.
8. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Four quarterbacks have thrown at least 30 touchdowns in both of the last two seasons. They are Rodgers, Brees, Tom Brady and the younger Manning. Not only is Eli now officially the best Manning in the NFL, he’s also one of the most undervalued quarterbacks in all fantasy formats. Manning has the luxury of throwing 160 or so passes to Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best receivers in the league, plus the Giants added rookie Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma in the second round of the 2016 draft. That gives Manning two receivers he can lean on for the first time since the halcyon days of the Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks pairing. The Giants’ run game remains a work in progress, which means it will probably be another 600-pass-attempt season for Manning.
9. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles put together a monster fantasy season in his second year in the league, finishing fourth among quarterbacks in total points and fifth in points per game in standard-scoring formats. He threw 606 passes last year, the sixth most in the NFL. However, the Jaguars added cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack with their first two picks who, along with last year’s first-round selection Dante Fowler, should improve a defense that was ideally terrible for Bortles owners. The team also added Chris Ivory in free agency, pairing him with T.J. Yeldon to beef up the run game. Bortles has an enviable stable of weapons in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas, but he could throw 100 fewer passes this year. He grades as QB1 for now, but it’s no slam dunk.
10. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady is suspended for the first four games of 2016, however, he remains a likely QB1. The important factor to consider is just how easy it is to find a replacement quarterback for four weeks. There are plenty of players who didn’t make this list, like Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, Tony Romo, Marcus Mariota and Philip Rivers, just to name a few. Any of those players, or a combination of streaming options, can start the first month of the season for you before handing off the reins to Brady. The bigger concern with Brady is the health of Julian Edelman (foot) and Dion Lewis (knee). With those two in good shape and Rob Gronkowski at his disposal, plus a new off-season’s worth of perceived outrages to avenge, Brady remains a safe bet.