Unfortunately, I will not be able to argue that Peyton Manning should be the first quarterback off the board in 2016. Of course, that’s because of his pending retirement and not the fact that he was one of the worst fantasy QBs in the league in 2015. I will argue for his foe in Super Bowl 50, though neither QB gave any reason to be optimistic from watching that one game.
Peter and I have the same strategy when it comes to drafting quarterbacks: wait, wait, wait, and then wait some more. If you had taken that strategy this season, you could have ended up with Carson Palmer, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins (at least for championship week), or Ryan Fitzpatrick as your fantasy quarterback. All ended in the top 12. Palmer was drafted late in a lot of leagues, but the others went undrafted.
There will be a column as the 2016 season nears about those types of players. This column, however, is about the cream of the crop. Who will be the #1 QB drafted?
Cam Newton (Car).
I love you – Cam Newton had a pretty decent year, in general, and even better in fantasy. Cam ended as the #1 overall fantasy football player. Cam also averaged over three FPPG (fantasy points per game) more than the second fantasy quarterback, Tom Brady. One of Cam’s best attributes is his physicality. He ended with double-digit rushing touchdowns and over 600 yards rushing. That’s in addition to being a top-notch passing QB (over 3800 yards and 35 TDs). Cam did all of this without his best, Kelvin Benjamin, who went out with an ACL injury in the preseason. Cam gets Benjamin back next season, and you have to imagine the Panthers will address the wide receiver position in the offseason. Newton is only 26 years old, and he could continue to get better. Cam will likely be a first round pick, but should he be?
I love you not – No player has ended as the #1 fantasy football QB in two consecutive years since 2003 (Peyton Manning). 10 rushing TDs is a big number for a QB. In fact, it’s so big you have to expect regression. While his physicality is a big bonus, it’s only a matter of time before he takes the wrong hit. For all of us that watched the Super Bowl, we were able to see Cam taken completely out of his element and make a lot of mistakes. There are not a lot of defenses like the Broncos, however teams will try to mimic what Denver did next year. Do health risk and regression make it too risky to draft Cam early?
Tom Brady (NE).
I love you – The easiest explanation for drafting Tom Brady is...he's Tom Brady! #tommy finished second among fantasy quarterbacks in 2015. There are a lot of reasons for that. He has multiple weapons in the passing game, Gronk, Edelman, Lewis, Amendola, and the Patriots are rumored to be after an outside guy to help take the top off of defenses. The offense is catered to Brady. Oh, and if you didn’t know, he is the best sneak QB in the NFL, which usually gives him a few rushing TDs every year (3 in 2015). Unlike a lot of teams, the Patriots throw a lot near the end zone (easy to do when you have Gronk). Tommy ended with 4,770 yards and 36 TDs this season. Brady is going to go very high in drafts next year. Will it be to you?
I love you not – The last 4 weeks of the 2015 season, #tommy was the 3rd worst QB in the league. Guys like Blaine Gabbert and AJ McCarron ended ahead of him in that time span. The last two seasons, Brady was outside of the top five as well. A lot of us fantasy guys don’t remember a time without Brady, that’s because he’s 38. At some point, father time is going to knock on his door. Are ageism and late-season struggles too much of a concern in 2016?
Russell Wilson (Sea).
I love you – Russ ended as the 3rd highest scoring fantasy quarterback, mostly because he ended the season with seven straight games with multiple passing touchdowns. He was awesome from week 11 on. He didn’t finish outside of the top seven QBs in any week from that point on. What’s more impressive is that Wilson only had 1 rushing TD with over 500 rushing yards. You have to expect serious positive regression in rushing TDs next season. However, the best reason to draft Wilson as your first QB, he has the best last name of the group and it’s not close. Wilson is going to be drafted by THAT guy. Are you THAT guy?
I love you not – Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls will be back in 2016. Marshawn Lynch did retire during the SB (nice timing, Beast mode). I could make the argument that Rawls was a better fit for the Seattle offense than Lynch was. That’s relevant because Seattle is a run-first team; they have been since Pete Carroll arrived. With Rawls back, they should continue to be. When Graham was getting acclimated to the offense, Wilson wasn’t nearly the player he was when Graham went down with an injury. He is getting those guys back but will lose Jermaine Kearse. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Kearse did have some big games during the time span that Wilson was white hot. The final point to be made against Wilson: pass attempts. Wilson was 17th in the league in pass attempts. For wide receivers, targets=points, for fantasy basketball, minutes=points, so, rationally, for QBs, pass attempts equal points. Expect regression if those numbers don’t jump up some. Run first team, losing a weapon, and lack of attempts; is it all too much to take Wilson 1?
Aaron Rodgers (GB).
I love you – Rodgers had a very down year for him. However, in that down year, he ended as the 7th best fantasy quarterback. Most QBs would love to be 7th best QB in their best year. Looking a little further back, you’ll see just how out of character this season was. Rodgers was No. 1 in 2014, 2 in 2012, 1 in 2011, 2 in 2010, and 1 in 2009 (he was hurt in 2013). If that isn’t what consistency looks like, I must be blind. Rodgers gets his best receiver back in 2016, Jordy Nelson. Now, Nelson is in his early 30s and coming back from a torn ACL, but just having Jordy back, even if he’s not the Jordy of old, will be exactly what Aaron needs. That offense will be much better next season. They’ll address the offensive line, and we have to assume that Eddie Lacy won’t be overweight. Rodgers might be a value in 2016. Will he be for you?
I love you not – It’s been well documented that Rodgers had a rough 2015. He was under 20 FPPG in 10 games. That’s not good for your first round quarterback. He was also under 10 FPPG in 2 games. You lost those weeks for sure. Rodgers had the worst completion percentage of his career, as well (60%). Rodgers is 32, which isn’t old for a QB, but it could start to affect his mobility. That would be a big deal for Rodgers. Is this season the start of the end for Rodgers?
Getting to research these columns is fun because sometimes, it teaches me facts I thought I knew, but didn’t. QB is a pivotal position in fantasy football. It is also a position that can be heavily affected by which defense they are playing. You are drafting a QB early to try to minimize the defense’s effect. This is how I rank these QBs going into 2016.
- Aaron Rodgers – His track record is too impressive to believe he’ll struggle again.
- Cam Newton – Slight regression isn’t enough to drop him too much.
- Russell Wilson – It’s going to be the Wilson show in Seattle.
- Tom Brady – Father time is undefeated.
A lot can change between now and draft season. We only have eight months before the next NFL regular season game, after all!