Today I'll be looking at quarterbacks and the strength of their schedule for the 2016 season. This can be done in a myriad of ways, but for fantasy purposes, I try to base the strength of their schedules on statistics I find helpful in fantasy.
My method is to rank each defense in different categories and then average those rankings into a single number. So for quarterbacks, I base the opposing defenses on completion percentage, passing yards, passing yards per attempt, touchdown passes, interceptions, fantasy points, etc. I then average those based on rankings and come up with the numbers you'll see below. The higher the number, the worse defenses performed against quarterbacks, at least in allowing them to score fantasy points.
My usual caveat for looking at the strength of schedule before the season still holds; it is perilous. Personnel moves in the offseason, both in coaches and players, will change what a defense is capable of in 2016. But, teams can only make so many moves, and an extremely poor defense will have trouble becoming a good defense overnight. That leaves us to gain some insight when looking at extremes, especially for the weakest defenses.
For the most part, I believe a great quarterback can beat a great defense enough to get by those games in good fantasy shape, but mediocre-to-good quarterbacks can take great matchups and put up great numbers. So these numbers don't usually keep me away from the top quarterbacks, but they will help me lean toward later-round quarterbacks who have easy schedules.
Below, here you can see the chart for all 32 teams, but before we get there I'm going to highlight some individual quarterbacks.
This season, the NFC East gets to play, as usual, the NFC East, as well as the AFC North. Last season, the Cowboys were the best pass defense in the NFC East, so they don't have to worry about themselves, and then the next best according to my rankings was Washington at 20th, then the AFC North had three of its four teams at 23rd or worse against opposing quarterbacks. The best pass defenses Romo will face this season will be Green Bay, Cincinnati and Minnesota, and will miss Denver, Carolina, Arizona, Kansas City, Seattle and the New York Jets; my top six quarterback defenses from last season. He will also play the Eagles, who should have an improved defense this season, in Week 17, which will cut half their matchups out of the fantasy football season. And for good measure, he faces the Giants, Buccaneers and Lions in Weeks 14 through 16, or what we like to call the fantasy playoffs.
Right now, Romo is going off as the 17th quarterback in MFL10s, which is right where I like to draft quarterbacks. Add in a nice schedule and some recenct bias for his twice-in-one-season collarbone break and I think you'll get some value out of him.
Like Romo, Manning gets to face the NFC East and AFC North, but unfortunately, he doesn't get to face the Giants. His schedule isn't as easy as the Cowboys, but it's close, and with Ben McAdoo at the helm, we aren't going to see any let-up of the pass-first-and-often approach. With Odell Beckham Jr. and one of the top volume passing attacks in the league, I don't see how Eli fails as a fantasy quarterback this season compared to his average draft position, which has him as the 14th quarterback off the board this year.
There are plenty of questions surrounding Stafford's fantasy possibilities without Calvin Johnson around, but Stafford's schedule and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter give me some hope. The NFC North this season get to play the AFC South, which has the Colts, Jaguars and Titans, three perennially bad defenses; the NFC East, which we've already seen in the Tony Romo blurb; and the Lion will avoid the Packers' pass defense due to their Week 17 matchup.
Last season, Stafford was able to parlay a good schedule and the promotion of Jim Bob into a fairly nice run of fantasy games. The pass attempts should be there still, and I really like the addition of Marvin Jones. I'm not going to spit on your shoes and tell you I'm the lost fountain of Ponce de Leon, but as the 19th quarterback off the board, playing in a dome, playing more efficient under Cooter's offense and a decent schedule, all make me lean toward giving Stafford a shot as my QB2.
Taylor was one of the best quarterbacks in the league in fantasy points per play last season, and as long as the Bills have learned their lesson and target Sammy Watkins early and often, I don't see how Taylor's not a good fantasy quarterback once again. His schedule isn't the easiest in the league, but it is 12th out of 32 by my stats, and he gets one of the best stretches of playoff games in the league, starting in Week 12 when he faces the Jaguars, then Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Miami to finish out the fantasy playoffs in Week 16. Four of those five games are at home, which is good and bad, with home-field advantage, but also possible inclement weather. Why the NFL would want the Bills to play four of their last six games in what could be a snowpocalypse, but those are the breaks. And thankfully Taylor's running ability helps boost up his stats, which comes in handy when inclement weather rears its ugly head.
I wasn't planning on singling out any quarterbacks for strict avoidance, but Ryan has a tough row to hoe this season. On the surface, I expected a bit of a turnaround to his averages after a down 2015, but he gets a murderer's row of defenses this season, and it feels relentless as they get stacked up with two extremely hard stretches of games. The first comes early, with Carolina at home in Week 4 and then to Denver for Week 5 and again on the road against Seattle for Week 6. You really couldn't ask for a harder three-game stretch. Then the next gauntlet comes in Week 12 where the Falcons face Arizona at home, Kansas City at home, L.A. on the road, San Francisco at home and then Carolina on the road. The home games help a little here, and the 49ers aren't tough anymore, but the matchups on the whole are about as bad as it gets. And then, to top it all off, Atlanta gets to play the Saints in Week 17 when your fantasy playoffs are over. Playing the Saints is the whole reason to pick a NFC South quarterback!