In 2013, it wasn’t hard finding production at the quarterback position with the Broncos Peyton Manning leading the way. Manning set league records for passing yards and touchdowns while scoring the most fantasy points by a quarterback in the modern era, averaging 31.0 FPts/G.
Drew Brees of the Saints was the only other quarterback to top 5,000 passing yards. He threw for 39 touchdowns and averaged 27.3 FPts/G.
While there was plenty of production at the quarterback position, fantasy owners didn’t need to overpay for it given the plethora of options at the position. In fact, if you didn’t land Manning or Brees, you would have been best served by waiting to grab a quarterback in the later rounds.
That is because the next 14 quarterbacks averaged between 20.5 and 23.6 FPts/G. And several of the players in that group were either drafted as backups (Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger) or not drafted at all (Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith) in several leagues.
That will be an important consideration in building your 2014 fantasy squad. Let’s get on with my initial QB Rankings for next season.
1. Peyton Manning, Broncos – After setting records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns and putting together arguably the best regular season of any quarterback ever, Manning returns to a Broncos squad in 2014 that returns all of its key contributors in the passing game with only running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Eric Decker question marks to return. With three big targets in Demaryius Thomas, Decker and Julius Thomas to go along with the best slot receiver of all-time in Wes Welker, Manning’s embarrassment of riches are, well, an embarrassment.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers – While Rodgers is likely the league’s top quarterback, he is no longer the top rated fantasy quarterback. It’s all about the weaponry and Green Bay’s group of receivers no longer stacks up to that of several other teams, which also has resulted in the Packers running the ball more. Rodgers missed Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley (who may retire) this year and James Jones might very well be the next Packer receiver out the door in 2014.
3. Drew Brees, Saints – Another quarterback who remains productive despite the talent erosion surrounding him is the Saints Drew Brees. Granted, it helps when you have the most dynamic receiving tight end and running back in the league in Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. However, Marques Colston is clearly entering the final stages of his career as is Lance Moore and only Kenny Stills looks to have the potential to replace them. Reinforcements are coming and that usually results in a decline in production (see Tom Brady circa 2013).
4. Matt Ryan, Falcons – While the numbers don’t support that Ryan had the finest season of his six-year career, he may just have given his circumstances. Julio Jones and Roddy White, who might have garnered the title as the league’s most dangerous pair of wide receivers on any team in the preseason, combined to miss 14 games with White severely hobbled and not able to top 50 receiving yard in his first eight games. Throw in a key injury to running back Steven Jackson and it is clear Ryan was playing with less than a full deck in 2013. Despite that, he amassed over 4,500 passing yards and 26 touchdowns.
5. Cam Newton, Panthers – Newton become a more proficient passing in 2013, setting career highs in completion percentage (61.7%) and touchdown passes (24). However, both his passing and rushing yardage declined and he scored just six touchdowns after finding the end zone 22 times during his first two years in the league. The truth is that Newton became a better quarterback in 2013 and that hurt his stock as a fantasy quarterback. Given the decline of Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell’s inability to emerge as a go-to threat, Newton carries some risk next season.
6. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – With Michael Crabtree in the lineup, Kaepernick averaged 21.8 FPts/G. Without him, he averaged, 19.2. And considering Crabtree wasn’t at 100% when he returned in Week 13, that difference could have been much larger if the sample size were greater. You have to figure the 49ers will find a way to re-sign Anquan Boldin and with Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, that would give Kaepernick the weapons he lacked in 2013.
7. Andy Dalton, Bengals – Laugh all you want but Dalton has a cast of weapons that several other quarterbacks could only dream of. The Bengals run four-deep at wide receiver, have a pair of solid pass catching tight ends and one of the league’s most explosive young running backs in Giovani Bernard to pair with dependable veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis, not to mention a solid offensive line. That was enough to propel Dalton to the third place ranking amongst fantasy quarterbacks in just his third year in the league.
8. Nick Foles, Eagles – Foles averaged a whopping 26.1 FPts/G in the ten games he played meaningful snaps. Only Manning and Brees averaged more. While Foles may partially be a product of his environment, the Eagles boast the league’s top rated rushing attack, a solid offensive line and plenty of receiving options at wide receiver and tight end. With Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper likely to return, Foles figures to be a top 10 quarterback in 2014.
9. Matthew Stafford, Lions – After averaging 26.5 FPts/G over his first 12 games, the wheels came off for Stafford, the Lions and his fantasy owners at precisely the wrong time. Over the final four games of the season, Stafford threw for just 822 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging a woeful 12.5 FPts/G. He remains a work in progress and his lack of consistency drops him down the fantasy rankings at quarterback.
10. Tony Romo, Cowboys – If there’s one thing consistent about Romo, it is his consistency. Let’s run down his FPt averages since the 2007 season: 23.7, 21.6, 21.5, 21.3, 21.5, 23.0, 21.3. So if you’re looking for between 21 and 23 FPts/G, Romo’s your man. And there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a consistent performer who generally comes as a bargain to be your fantasy quarterback. While Romo is now 33, he hasn’t shown any decline.
11. Tom Brady, Patriots – With an array of rookies, journeymen and free agents added to the Patriots group of receivers as well as key injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, Brady struggled for much of 2013. However, he was solid when his weapons were healthy and decent enough in several games when they weren’t. While Brady is no longer the quarterback he was in his prime, he is still a solid fantasy option and expecting a bump in his production in 2014 isn’t far fetched given he should be more familiar with his group of receivers and they will have gained a year of experience in the Patriots offense. The outlook of Gronkowski clouds Brady’s value, which may make him a bargain on draft day.
12. Philip Rivers, Chargers – With the emergence of rookie Kennan Allen, the rejuvenation of tight end Antonio Gates and the addition of running back Danny Woodhead, Rivers had a renaissance season in 2013 at 32 years of age. He threw for the third most yards of his career with 4,478 and the second most touchdowns with 32, on his way to being the sixth highest ranked fantasy quarterback. Expect more of the same in 2014.
13. Andrew Luck, Colts – Luck is another example of quarterback improving on the field but seeing a decline in his fantasy production. The Colts were clearly more of a running team in 2013 with Luck seeing his passing yardage decline from 4,374 yards to 3,830. Not helping matters was the loss of Reggie Wayne, who figures to return next season at 35 years of age.