We're now a couple seasons removed from the Great Rookie Quarterback Influx of 2012, but that doesn't mean the position's productivity has slowed. In fact, it's hard to find a team without a quarterback who puts up what used to be considered good fantasy numbers, to the point that you can wait and wait and wait and still snag a reasonably productive fantasy QB. Here's a breakdown of the position's productivity over the past few years, as well as each team's performance over that span--and what's in store for the upcoming campaign.
Position Totals by Year
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||YPC||Pass TD||Int||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
More, more, more… 2013 quarterbacks were all about the Andrea True Connection (ask your parents) as they established 10-year highs in rushing attempts and yardage as well as passing attempts, completions, yardage and touchdowns. Rushing touchdowns dipped from the two-season peak but still remained well above previous levels, suggesting quarterbacks were being reined in a little—but not so much as to blow previous positional marks in both attempts and yards out of the water. In short, the league is getting exactly what it wants: more offense, beginning at the top with the quarterback position.
Top Ten Quarterback Totals
|Year||Passes||Comps||Pass Yards||Pass TD||Runs||Rush Yards||Rush TD||FF Pts|
Being a top 10 fantasy quarterback in 2013 was all about volume, as no group of top-10 QBs had ever thrown (or completed) as many passes as last season. Rushing productivity was down a bit, supporting the theory espoused above that the more productive teams weren’t turning lose their valuable QBs on the ground. And the fact that the top 10 totals were for the most part on par with previous seasons despite overall high-water marks suggests that more than just the top 10 QBs are putting up helpful fantasy numbers… which is why waiting on a quarterback on fantasy draft day is so en vogue.
(Improving) Carson Palmer actually threw less than his predecessors, but more accurately and efficiently and productively. Bottom line, the Arizona passing game moved from bottom of the barrel to middle of the pack. Another big jump isn’t likely, but with quality targets and another season of Palmer there’s nothing wrong with the status quo here.
Matt Ryan’s productivity remained stable despite Julio Jones’ injury issues. Now Jones returns, though Ryan will have to adjust to not having the security blanket of Tony Gonzalez around. While Ryan remains outside the velvet ropes of the elite quarterbacks, he’s at least on the list to get into the club and mingle with the party people.
The falloff of Baltimore’s ground game forced Joe Flacco to throw more, but the results weren’t necessarily positive; in fact, passing yards and TDs declined while interceptions more than doubled. That’s probably not what the Ravens were looking for when they gave Flacco $120 million last season, and now he’ll be working in a different sort of offense that may not play to Flacco’s big arm. Few if any are buying Flacco as anything more than fantasy filler, and there’s little to suggest that’s the wrong approach.
(Improving) (Camp Watch) First-round pick E.J. Manuel wasn’t the immediate solution, but given all the moving parts—new quarterback, new system, young receivers—and the fact that Buffalo at its core remains a run-first team it’s too early to write him off. The addition of Sammy Watkins and the possible upside Mike Williams brings to the table should help Manual move forward, though again the Bills’ preference for the ground game limits what you should expect for growth potential this season.
Sans the running, Cam Newton is an ordinary quarterback with declining yardage totals each season since his rookie debut. And he’s coming off ankle surgery. It barely matters that his already wafer-thin receiving corps was winnowed even further in the offseason. If the ankle issues concern you, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your fantasy QB because at this juncture that’s all that’s propping Newton’s fantasy value up. Fun fact: after throwing for 374 yards or better in three of his first four NFL games, Newton has just four 300-yard games since—including one in his past 22 outings.
(Improving) As a team the Bears ranked fifth in fantasy QB production last season, though Jay Cutler and Josh McCown split the numbers. Year Two of Marc Trestman’s offense and Cutler no longer has a safety net (unless you consider Jimmy Clausen a legit safety net); what he does have is an improved line returning in front of him and a bevy of weapons returning around him. Plenty of reasons to be giddy about Cutler’s prospects this year.
You may be surprised to learn that Andy Dalton ranked third among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game, behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and ahead of… well, everybody else. That still wasn’t enough to encourage the Bengals to give Dalton a contract extension, so there’s still something to prove. And there’s still A.J. Green, plus Tyler Eifert in his second season. The only detriment may be new OC Hue Jackson, who likes to run more frequently than his predecessor, Jay Gruden, did and last year’s Dalton numbers came in no small part thanks to career marks in attempts and completions. Still, if “something a little less than top three” is where we should expect Dalton’s numbers to fall, that’s a pretty comfortable range.
(Camp Watch) No team threw more last season than the Browns, and they did so with reasonable success despite lacking star power at quarterback or WRs 2 through infinity. You can take all that info and chuck it out the window, because now the Browns have a new coach, a new offense, and a new quarterback known more for his running and off-the-field shenanigans than his passing. What they don’t have is the NFL’s leading receiver, which they did have when putting up those passing game numbers last year. If and when first-round pick Johnny Manziel unseats Brian Hoyer as the Browns’ quarterback, he’ll need to use his feet to pick up fantasy stats. Probably could have just planted red flags all around the “Cleveland Browns” header atop this blurb and saved you some time.
Tony Romo keeps on keepin’ on. Only a back injury kept him from a third straight 4,000-yard season, and he threw 28 or more TDs for the third straight year. On the plus side he has an improving offensive line and his two biggest offensive weapons—Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray—in contract years; on the down side, he’s 34 years old and coming off back surgery. Like the Cowboys themselves Romo has always been a polarizing figure, so if you hate him you have ample reason to stay away; if you’re a fan, it’s not at all difficult to talk yourself into one more season in the fantasy sun for Romo.
As good as Peyton Manning was in Year One after neck surgery, he was even better in Year Two. Replace Eric Decker with Emmanuel Sanders and the supporting cast is essentially the same. In fact, the biggest key might be whether or not Montee Ball holds up in pass protection like Knowshon Moreno did. In Denver, status quo at quarterback is a very good thing indeed.
New coach Jim Caldwell handled Peyton Manning; new OC Joe Lombardi worked with Drew Brees. Good company for Matthew Stafford, who throws the ball around as much as either of those elite QBs. In 2011 and 2012 the result was fantasy gold; last year he may have faded to silver. The Lions not only still have Calvin Johnson, they also added Golden Tate and rookie TE Eric Ebron to open things up for Megatron. So while the coaches may have changed, Detroit’s offensive philosophy—and passing-game fantasy prospects—have not.
Green Bay Packers
With backups pressed into duty, Scott Tolzien posted a 300-yard game and Matt Flynn threw for four TDs. So who needs Aaron Rodgers? Well, the Packers would prefer their starter stay healthy as 300 yards and multiple scores are weekly occurrences for him as opposed to career highlights for Tolzien and Flynn. Rodgers will balance three receivers in contract years against the absence of James Jones and possibly Jermichael Finley; still sounds like a win for Rodgers, the Packers, and fantasy owners.
The numbers don’t look bad for Houston quarterbacks… until you get to the “INT” column, which was a disaster and ultimately cost Matt Schaub his job. New coach, new quarterback for the Texans in 2014, and while Bill O’Brien is a quarterback guy the prospects of Ryan Fitzpatrick helming this team don’t exactly set fantasy pulses on “throb”. Throw an unhappy Andre Johnson on top of the pile and you’re better off waiting for O’Brien to develop Tom Savage somewhere down the road.
To this point Andrew Luck has been limited primarily by his own offensive coordinator, salvaging fantasy value thanks to the seventh-most rushing yards among quarterbacks and the second-most rushing scores. There are whispers that Pep Hamilton will unshackle Luck this season, allowing him to throw more rather than force-feeding a ground game that has yet to develop. Pushing Luck back into the top 10 in passing attempts bodes well for his fantasy prospects, as does the return of Reggie Wayne and the addition of Hakeem Nicks.
With the Jags in perpetual rebuilding mode, the plan is to let Blake Bortles learn by holding a clipboard in 2014. That leaves Chad Henne at the helm, which fantasy-wise is the definition of “meh”. Henne won’t have suspended wideout Justin Blackmon; instead he’ll have Cecil Shorts in a contract year while breaking in a pair of high-round rookies. It’s the familiar cry of “potential” in Jacksonville, but at this point it’s best you let them learn on someone else’s fantasy dime.
Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid sparked the Chiefs to throw, though Alex Smith wasn’t exactly bombing away. Nonetheless, passing numbers were up across the board in KC, moving from abysmal to just below average. Now Smith operates behind a rebuilt offensive line with no additions to a receiving corps that was bottom-of-the-barrel talent-wise last year. There’s something to be said for the volume Reid brings, but it still isn’t enough to move Smith and the Chiefs’ passing game beyond mediocre.
(Improving) (Camp Watch) Miami had 99 problems last season but Ryan Tannehill wasn’t one of them as his numbers perked up across the board. Now he’ll have a rebuilt offensive line (once all the pieces are healthy), but more importantly he’ll have a new offense with, if new OC Bill Lazor has his way, much of the same speed and pizzazz that sparked Nick Foles to fantasy success last season. There are still plenty of moving parts in Miami that have yet to fall fully into place, and it’s a pity the athletic Tannehill isn’t bringing more to the table as a runner, but bottom line is there is plenty of upside to the Dolphins’ passing game.
(Improving) (Camp Watch) The Vikings haven’t finished in the top half of the league in a meaningful positive passing game statistical category since the days of Brett Favre. Tough to expect that to change overnight, especially with Adrian Peterson still the driving force of this offense. However, if the Teddy Bridgewater era dawns in training camp instead of midseason (or 2015), there are more than enough weapons for Norv Turner to add some passing prowess to Minnesota’s traditional heavy dollop of the ground game.
New England Patriots
Injuries, law enforcement and the Patriots’ front office gutted Tom Brady’s receiving corps, but aside from a 33% drop in touchdowns you couldn’t tell from the stats. New England did nothing in the offseason to upgrade Brady’s bunch of pass catchers, aside from hope guys like Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson got healthy. Brady is 36 now, so it’s probable his best football is behind him. At least the decline looks like it will be slow.
New Orleans Saints
Now that Drew Brees’ biggest offseason scare—the Jimmy Graham contract situation—has been addressed, he can settle in for another year of top-five passing game numbers. As an added bonus, the Saints spent a first-round pick on speedy Brandin Cooks to give Brees yet another weapon to taunt opposing defenses with. As bankable as any fantasy commodity, Brees looks to be status quo for 2014—and that’s a very good thing, indeed.
New York Giants
(Camp Watch) In his 10th NFL season, Eli Manning will get a brand new offense courtesy of new OC Ben McAdoo. It’ll be a radical departure from what Eli is used to running, though given the results of the past two seasons that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The key will be how Manning adapts to the short, accurate passes required in McAdoo’s scheme. If he can consistently hit speedsters like Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham, Jr. in stride we’ll see a resurgent Giants’ passing game. If not… well, how long until Ryan Nassib is ready?
New York Jets
(Camp Watch) Butt Fumble is in the past, Geno Smith is (hopefully) the future, and Michael Vick is on the roster just to keep things interesting. The Jets’ passing game has been scraping the bottom of the barrel for the past couple of seasons, and while they upgraded their receiving corps with the free agency addition of Eric Decker they’re still slated to be a run-first team. There’s fantasy intrigue here if Vick wins the job outright in camp and brings some rushing production to the table, but other than that it’s another good year for fantasy owners to avoid the Jets’ passing game
(Camp Watch) Matt Schaub can’t be any worse than what the Raiders trotted out last season en route to bottom-feeder finishes in every passing game category of note. Unfortunately, he isn’t likely to be much better, as the addition of James Jones is offset by a gutted offensive line that will struggle to provide time for Schaub to find anyone down the field. All Schaub has to do is keep the seat warm for second-round pick Derek Carr; Oakland hopes he’s able to do that for a year, one in which fantasy owners can largely stay away from the Raiders’ passing game.
(Improving) The transition from Andy Reid’s volume passing approach to Chip Kelly’s high-octane scheme meant a drop in attempts and completions, yet yardage and touchdowns went up as Nick Foles emerged last season. Year Two means a better comprehension of the offense and no Michael Vick looking over Foles’ shoulder. Add the return of a healthy Jeremy Maclin and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to replace DeSean Jackson and the future is extremely bright for Foles and Philly.
The Steelers changed offensive coordinators and shuffled their receiving corps, and yet the Pittsburgh passing game still finished right around where it usually does—not too high, but certainly not low enough to hurt your fantasy numbers. Ben Roethlisberger will oversee a full season of Le’Veon Bell as well as the addition of LeGarrette Blount, so the gut reaction is to anticipate a little more ground work in Pittsburgh. Still, with Lance Moore and rookie Martavis Bryant replacing the departed Emmanuel Sanders Big Ben has more than enough to work with for yet another good not great season.
San Diego Chargers
After dipping below typical levels in 2012, Philip Rivers and the San Diego passing game bounced back last season to top-six finishes in completions, yardage, and touchdowns. Rookie Keenan Allen had plenty to do with the resurgence, and he and the rest of the Chargers’ receiving corps return intact. Frank Reich steps up to call the plays, and there’s no reason to think he’ll remain on the same page as Rivers. In other words, no change is good news.
San Francisco 49ers
While there’s no question the Niners are a run-first team, with wunderkind Colin Kaepernick taking over at quarterback we were kind of expecting… well, more. Instead, we got much of the same as San Francisco passing game ranked last in attempts and completions, 30th in yards, and 22nd in touchdowns. At least Kaepernick salvaged fantasy value with top-five finishes among QBs in rushing yards and rushing scores, but ultimately he was far more average than dynamic. An improved receiving corps and an aging ground game could push the Niners to throw at least a little more, but don’t hold your breath. For Kaepernick to be anything more than an adequate fantasy quarterback he’ll need to run significantly more, and last year’s numbers suggest Jim Harbaugh is keeping that leash taut.
It’s fortunate for fantasy owners that Russell Wilson is efficient, turning the second-fewest passing attempts into 26 touchdowns last year. Wilson also added the third-most rushing yards for a QB, though with Marshawn Lynch at his disposal Wilson only swiped one rushing score. As such he was an efficient but unspectacular fantasy quarterback. And with Seattle still sporting a formidable defense and solid ground game, there’s little reason to think Wilson will be asked to do more this year.
St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford actually wasn’t half bad in the seven games he played before going down with an injury, with a fantasy points per game mark that pegged him as a fringe fantasy starter. This is a make-or-break year for Bradford, and while the only move St. Louis made to upgrade his receiving corps was the addition of Kenny Britt there’s still plenty of talent at his disposal. We’ve been waiting for it all to come together, and if it does—a healthy Bradford, a productive Tavon Austin, a rejuvenated Britt—there’s fantasy gold here. But it’s not exactly bankable gold; more like bonus gold you shouldn’t count on but is nice to have stashed away just in case.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Improving) (Camp Watch) The Bucs seemed quick to bail on Josh Freeman coming off 4,116 yards and 27 touchdowns, but ultimately they were proven right by Freeman’s freefall through multiple NFL rosters and Mike Glennon’s solid performance. But Tampa Bay didn’t bring in Lovie Smith for the status quo, so they hope the offseason addition of Josh McCown gives them a “Chicago South” look with McCown throwing to a tall trio of targets in Vincent Jackson and rookies Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. New OC Jeff Tedford is a bit of an unknown, at least at the pro level, but all the pieces are here for a dramatic improvement over last season’s bottom-feeding numbers.
(Camp Watch) The Titans have yet to extend Jake Locker’s rookie contract—not that he’s given them much reason to. Zack Mettenberger looms as a potential quarterback of the future, while Charlie Whitehurst is on roster to back up Locker in the short term. That’s not a lot of quarterback to believe in, though in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter the Titans have some intriguing young wide receiver talent—not to mention new coach Ken Whisenhunt, who’s been known to throw the ball around a bit. It’s worth checking in during training camp to see how the pieces—especially Locker and Whisenhunt—are coming together, but keep expectations in check for the time being.
(Improving) (Camp Watch) Even without a single rushing touchdown last year, Robert Griffin III ranked 12th—fantasy starter worthy—in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. Now he’ll add DeSean Jackson, the kind of deep threat he loved to throw to in college, as well as pass-happy coach Jay Gruden. Anything RG3 does on the ground is a bonus, and right now his passing game prospects look pretty good as well.
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