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Early 2016 Quarterback Rankings

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck's injury-riddled season will drive his price down making him a relative bargain in 2016.

We know the NFL has been trending toward the pass the last few years and a quick look at recent run/pass ratios confirms the thinking. 7-7-8-12 – that’s the number of teams that sport at least a 60-40 pass/run ratio the last four years. As you can see, the number of teams chucking the ball more often than not took a significant leap in 2015. The result? A deep quarterback position that should give you all the confidence in the world to “wait until late” to draft a quarterback in 2016.

These rankings will change as we push forward through free agency and the NFL Draft, but these are currently my top 12 quarterbacks for 2016:

1. Cam Newton Newton is coming off his best fantasy season since his rookie year (2011) and appears to be hitting his stride as a quarterback. His 35 passing touchdowns in 2015 were a career high and he didn’t have the services of his best receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. Newton’s involvement in the rushing game, especially at the goaline, makes him an easy choice as a top five fantasy QB in 2016 and puts him in the conversation for the first quarterback off the board.

2. Andrew Luck A lacerated kidney and rib injuries limited Luck to seven games in 2015 but the team hasn’t changed its offensive philosophy. The pass-first gameplan and suitable outside receiving threats makes Luck a solid QB1. However, his subpar season, offensive line concerns, and how he “burned” many fantasy owners may land Luck in 6-8 range in most 2016 quarterback rankings. I still like Luck’s youth, rushing ability and given he hadn’t missed a game in three-straight seasons; I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on his injury-riddled 2015 campaign.

3. Aaron Rodgers You know you’re a good fantasy quarterback when 3800 yards, 31 TDs and 8 INTs is a “down” season. Rodgers finished 12th among fantasy quarterbacks in 2015 but continues to sport one of the best TD-INT ratios (170-33 over the last five years) and will get his best deep threat, Jordy Nelson, back in 2016. The Packers offense seemed unsure of itself at times and lacked a running game but Rodgers rushing ability, relative health and consistency makes him a good bet to bounce back into the high-end QB1 class this upcoming season.

4. Drew Brees Brees has hovered around the 4900-yard passing mark and 32 TDs the last two seasons making him a consistent QB1. Speaking of consistency, Brees has finished in the top six among fantasy QBs (standard scoring) every year since 2006! The loss of Jimmy Graham didn’t slow the Brees machine down and losing the aging Marcus Colston won’t either. He may be the safest, low-risk QB1 in fantasy football.

5. Russell Wilson Wilson could’ve been considered a bust halfway through the season, then Week 10 came along and he and Doug Baldwin caught fire, making Wilson the most valuable fantasy quarterback down the stretch not named Cam Newton. His 34 passing touchdowns will be difficult to duplicate but with Marshawn Lynch literally hanging up his cleats, this will be Wilson’s offense in 2016.

6. Tom Brady Brady has started every game since 2009 and just finished off his fifth-straight 4,000-yard passing season. He’s 5th in QB consistency the last two seasons despite dealing with a mediocre and often injured wide receiver group. It does help to have the most dominant tight end the game has seen in many years and any kind of upgrade on the outside would only increase Brady’s sky-high fantasy value.

7. Ben Roethlisberger The biggest concern with Big Ben is injury. He missed four games in 2015 and the guy has taken such a beating the last couple years you have to give serious consideration to his injury risk when compiling your rankings. Big Ben was due for a regression coming off his best season as a pro in 2014 and while the regression occurred, it was only because of the games missed. The Steelers QB likely would’ve matched his 4952-32 line, (averaging 23.6 fantasy points) had he played the entire season. He’s more volatile than Drew Brees or Tom Brady but has a weekly ceiling of six touchdowns that both daily and season-long players love.

8. Blake Bortles I rode Bortles to a championship in two leagues last season so it’s difficult not to rank him higher. With stability, above-average talent at the receiver position and a play-making redzone target at tight end, Bortles will likely be in the 5-8 range once ADP rankings get cranking this summer. However, he needs to curtail his mistakes (35 INTS the last two seasons) and an upgrade in competition this season (AFC West vs. NFC South) means no games against the soft defenses of the Bucs, Falcons and Saints.

9. Eli Manning Does Eli getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from fantasy players? He finished 8th and 7th among fantasy quarterbacks the last two seasons, but my general sense is he won’t get the respect he deserves and will likely be spotted in the 12-15 range in ADP rankings this summer. Why? Is he too inconsistent? Perhaps. But, he’s got one of the best young receivers in the NFL and quarterbacks an offense that lacks the talent and desire in the running game. Unless the Giants make an emphasis shift of offense, Eli will be a nice mid-to-late round target for fantasy owners.

10. Carson Palmer A perfect fit for Bruce Arian’s downfield approach, Palmer stayed healthy and finished as a top five fantasy quarterback in 2015. While he has legitimate playmakers at receiver, Palmer’s age (36) and injury concern, a potential workhorse running back, and what appears to be a tougher schedule slips him into low-end QB1 status for me in 2016.

11. Derek Carr Carr made significant strides in his second season, tossing 32 scores while keeping his INT total (13) to an acceptable level. While de didn’t post the stats of fellow second-year QB Blake Bortles, he has similar upside given the above-average talent at wideout and the willingness to pull the trigger on difficult throws. The Raiders inconsistency on offense and defense are the major factors keeping Carr outside of the fantasy top ten.

12. Philip Rivers Nobody had more passing attempts in 2015 than Rivers. The lack of running game and poor defense allowed Rivers start the season fast but his teams’ inconsistency and poor defense eventually led to a downfall in the quarterbacks’ production that landed him in the low-end QB1 tier by season’s end. Antonio Gates is another year older, the offensive line needs rebuilding and the receivers need to stay healthy. If those question marks can be overcome, Rivers could find his way near the top of this list by the end of 2016.

Just Missing the Cut: Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Marcus Mariota