By Chet Gresham - @ChetGresham
Here I'll forecast which quarterbacks are likely to be top scorers next season.
Check out the other positions: Running Back
First let's look at the 2015 Top-10 quarterbacks in fantasy points per game:
- Cam Newton
- Tom Brady
- Russell Wilson
- Drew Brees
- Blake Bortles
- Carson Palmer
- Tyrod Taylor
- Andy Dalton
- Aaron Rodgers
- Andrew Luck
Of course, there are slight variations based on league scoring and in-game injuries, but for the most part, that list looks about right compared to what we saw during the season.
Let's take a look at the fantasy points per game leaders from 2014 for comparison:
- Aaron Rodgers
- Andrew Luck
- Russell Wilson
- Peyton Manning
- Drew Brees
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Matt Ryan
- Ryan Tannehill
- Tom Brady
- Eli Manning
We have five quarterbacks here who are also on the 2015 list and a couple others who had good enough 2015 seasons to be worthy of playing on your fake teams. This is the usual turnover from year to year for quarterbacks. Injuries, strength of schedule, total breakdown of an organization, and young QBs pushing down older signal-caller as they move up the ranks are all reasons for turnover. But for the most part, if a good quarterback has the majority of his personnel and is healthy, he will put up good numbers if he has in the past.
- Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Newton has had a bit of a roller-coaster career as far as fantasy is concerned, but 2015 is by far his best season to date and feels like a springboard into the next phase of his career. His accuracy will remain an issue, and if he wasn't a running quarterback, he'd be middle of the road, at best, as a fantasy player, but he is a running quarterback and is built like a tank, so injuries aren't nearly the concern they've been with other running quarterbacks.
The two big questions for Newton next season are, will he be able to come close to his 10 rushing touchdowns again, and will he have healthy and better wide receivers than he had this season? The most probable answers to those are no and yes. Scoring 10 rushing touchdowns for anyone is a tough task. His rookie year, he had an amazing 14! Newton's next three seasons, he finished with eight, six and five, respectively. So, 10 isn't out of the realm of possibility by any means, but I think it's advantageous to not use a breakout year as a baseline.
The good news is Kelvin Benjamin will be back and Devin Funchess, who has come on strong at the end of this season, will have a year in the NFL that he can build on. That and the consistency that rushing yards give Newton's weekly fantasy points, are why I have him as my No. 1 quarterback for 2016.
- Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Luck was not great by anyone's standards before he was spleened, but he still put up decent fantasy numbers while sucking. The Colts are built for him to throw the ball, and he went and threw the ball 42 times per game this year, which ties Drew Brees for the most per game. Of course, the Colts would rather not need to throw it that often, but their defense isn't going to be Seattle-like by next season and they'll have to compensate on offense.
After two years completing over 60 percent of his passes, Luck dropped to a pitiful 55 percent this season, and I don't see how a healthy Luck doesn't get back over 60 percent next season. Add in a T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, and there is no reason Luck doesn't put up big numbers next year.
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Well, this was easily Rodgers' worst season ever. His first year as a starter is close, but not quite as bad as 2015. He had his lowest completion percentage with 60.7 percent, his lowest yards per game with 239, and his lowest yards per attempt with 6.7. But still, Rodgers averaged 18 fantasy points per game. He has looked rattled at times toward the end of this season. A kind of rattled that has effected his play even when he's had time to throw, which hasn't been all that often.
I think we can say that Rodgers is human and without help from his team, he's not going to just continue pumping out great fantasy numbers. But, we also have a rock-solid track record for Rodgers and he'll get Jordy Nelson back, along with what I assume is a strong commitment to shoring up the offensive line.
Rodgers' price in drafts next season just went up a little after he beat Washington in the wild-card game and looked good doing so. If he were to somehow beat Arizona with a good game, that will solidify in people's minds that he's still got it, but maybe there will be enough of a discount to draft him at value, which hasn't happened in a long time.
- Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Brady started this season with a healthy contingent of receivers, running backs and lineman, and of course, attrition sniped many, like every team, but it was severe for the Patriots' offense. Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell stick out to me as major contributors whose loss pushed Brady's numbers down as the season went on. But at peak efficiency, Brady held Cam Newton off for most of the season as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback, averaging a crazy 26 fantasy points through the first seven games and 23 through 14 games before two extremely down games in the final two weeks, while the Patriots played conservatively and tried to keep Brady alive by running more.
Next season, I expect more of the same from Brady. The Patriots most likely won't have a running back they can lean on, but Dion Lewis should be back to help in the receiving game. Brady doesn't seem to be slowing down with age, so there shouldn't be too much holding him back in New England's dynamic, up-tempo offense.
- Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
To start the 2015 season, Wilson was not a good fantasy footballer. His first nine games were why I didn't like him as a Top-5 fantasy quarterback. His rushing yards and touchdowns were fairly haphazard, and he often wasn't called on to put up fantasy numbers on a weekly basis. But then my reasoning flew out the window, as Wilson dominated the final seven games of the season, moving himself up to the No. 3 overall quarterback, exactly where he finished the season before. Did Wilson screw you in the first half of the season? By all means, yes, but then he absolutely won games for you in the second half.
That inconsistency is scary, but it's not Wilson's doing. He has the ability to put big fantasy numbers up each week, but often the game plan was not conducive to him getting the pass attempts and rushing yards we need. Will that change in 2016? I think so. He is a very good quarterback. There's really no denying that now, and Pete Carroll will be much quicker to unleash him on defenses.
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Roethlisberger had an odd season. He was often injured, coming off an injury, getting injured, throwing for huge fantasy points and/or getting intercepted. But when it was all said and done, if Roethlisberger was playing, there was a decent chance he would put up plenty of fantasy points. His duds in the fantasy playoffs, of course, will stick out in plenty of people's minds. The upside however, is great, as he showed, passing for 334 or more yards in eight of his 12 games. His nearly constant injuries are scary, but with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Le'Veon Bell and even an improved Markus Wheaton, this offense will continue to put up numbers.
- Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees was all over the map this season as far as fantasy performance goes, but he came on strong at the end of the season and Sean Payton didn't leave, so I see no reason to drop him that far in the rankings. I could easily see putting him ahead of Roethlisberger since Brees has shown more consistency in his career, but I just like Roethlisberger's receivers better.
It took a while, but Brees was able to get on the same page with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, along with journeyman Ben Watson. I believe next season Cooks and Snead will start off stronger and keep Brees from sinking as far as he did in fantasy this year.
- Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
Palmer was a steady fantasy producer all season, but never had the huge games that the top fantasy producers had. That was mostly due to Bruce Arians wanting a balanced attack and the Cardinals getting big leads and then slowing down the game with the run. For where you drafted Palmer, you are more than ecstatic for the season he had, but you needed a well-balanced team to win with him.
Next season should be set up well, with Michael Floyd coming on as Arizona's No. 1 receiver, the extremely talented pass-catching running back, David Johnson, looking like the starter, John Brown and J.J. Nelson taking the top off the defense, and Larry Fitzgerald moving the chains from the slot. There's no reason to think Palmer can't repeat this year unless you just don't draft football players who have been injured in the past.
- Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
Bortles turned the ball over more than any signal-caller last season, but still managed to finish as Top-5 quarterback this year. This should be a nice season for him to build from, but of course, when you make that many mistakes, you still need to be able to fix them or each game is a little shaky, as witnessed in the final game of 2015, when he imploded.
I think we can write that game off, but Bortles is no lock just because he had a good fantasy season. But, even if he were to regress, he still has Allen Robinson and a nice group of young receivers who should grow with him. Bortles' upside is tremendous, which is why I'll grab him if he falls in fantasy drafts.
- Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Rivers played all season undermanned. His offensive line was in shambles all year, and he lost his best wide receiver in Week 8. For those first eight games, Rivers averaged 20.6 fantasy points. For the final eight games, he averaged just 14. Besides Allen and multiple offensive linemen, the Chargers also missed Stevie Johnson for the last five games of the season. We, of course, can't count on Rivers' team staying healthy, but that's the goal and what we have to base our projections on. I will have a lot of him on my teams next season.
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