“Off the Matt” 2015 Quarterback Rankings: The Top 10 (Part 3 of 3)
If you missed quarterbacks 20-11 check it out here.
10. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
HELLO: Tannehill has quietly put together back to back quality seasons, finishing as the 11th rated fantasy quarterback in 2013 and breaking into the top 10 last year. He has also shown consistency in his statistics, as in consistently getting better.
2012: 3,294 / 12
2013: 3,913 / 24
2014: 4,045 / 27
Scoring 30+ fantasy points on the ground in each of his three seasons is also a nice bonus in addition to his stellar passing numbers.
UH-OH: Tannehill takes a ton of hits. In 2013, he was sacked more than any quarterback in the league. He has yet to miss a game in his three year career, but there is always risk when you are being hit that often. Tannehill struggles throwing the deep ball. Last season, he went 3/20 with one touchdown and two interceptions on balls thrown more than 30 yards.
BOTTOM LINE: While Tannehill lost some weapons this offseason, I could make an argument that 2015 will consist of the strongest supporting cast he has had to work with. The departure of Mike Wallace is not really much of a loss. As evidenced by his poor deep ball percentage last season, it is apparent that Tannehill and Wallace were rarely on the same page. Perhaps he and Kenny Stills will have more success connecting on the deep ball. At the tight end position, Charles Clay is being replaced by a faster, bigger target in Jordan Cameron. The addition of Greg Jennings, to go along with second year PPR machine Jarvis Landry, will work the middle of the field and move the chains. The addition that has me most excited is that of first round selection DaVante Parker. If he was wearing a number 18 Bengals jersey, he could pass for A.J. Green. I look for him to make an immediate impact and elevate the Dolphins passing game to the next level. With another year of experience and improved weapons in the passing game, I look for Tannehill to continue the trend of improving his statistics. Tannehill’s current ADP is sitting around the early 9th round, which presents incredible value for a top 10 quarterback.
9. Matt Stafford, Lions
HELLO: After hearing the whispers, which were closer to roars of being injury-prone early in his career (missed 19 games in first two seasons), Stafford has put a halt to those conversations, playing in all 16 games in each of the past four seasons. He has finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback in three of those seasons, including a top 5 finish in his monster 2011 season, which he threw for 5,038 and 41 touchdowns. Over the past four seasons, Stafford has averaged 4,700 yards and 28 touchdowns.
UH-OH: Since the magical season that was 2011, Stafford has seen a drop in yards each season. His touchdown production has also taken a hit. In the last three seasons Stafford has posted touchdown totals of 20, 29, and 22 last season. Under new coordinator Joe Lombardi, Stafford attempted a career low 602 pass attempts.
BOTTOM LINE: I personally am giving Stafford a pass for last season. Quarterbacks sometimes struggle the first year in a new system. Also, his number one target, Calvin Johnson, missed games and played a portion of the season at less than 100%. With the Lions finally having a good defense, the days of 700+ pass attempt seasons are in the past. However, even a career low in pass attempts still had him chucking it 38 times a game. Do not be one of those people on draft day who are scared off by his mediocre 2014 season. Look for Stafford to find his way back into the top 10 where he belongs.
8. Matt Ryan, Falcons
HELLO: Ryan has thrown for 26+ touchdown passes in each of the past five seasons. His 4,694 yards last season was fifth best in the league. Volume is not going to be an issue for Ryan. He has attempted an average of 631 passes over the past three seasons.
UH-OH: While owners had little to complain about when it came to Ryan’s final stat line, he did leave owners high and dry in a quarter of his games, failing to score more than 12 points. Ryan has been sacked 75 times over the past two seasons. His poor offensive line makes it extremely difficult for him to get the ball downfield, as evidenced by him only completing three passes that traveled 30+ yards in the air. With the talent that Julio Jones has, this number should be much higher.
BOTTOM LINE: Consistent (check). Durable (check). These are two qualities that cannot be overlooked when deciding who your signal caller will be on draft day. The Falcons have made some upgrades to their defense, but I still anticipate them playing in shoot-outs more often than not this year. As you can see in the chart below Kyle Shanahan could spell good news for Matt Ryan’s fantasy value.
Shanahan has demonstrated in the past that when working with a quality quarterback/receiver tandem, he can produce top 10 fantasy production from the quarterback position. There are certainly players with more flash than Matt Ryan, but with a floor of 4,400 and 25 touchdowns, he is one of the safer picks at the position.
7. Chip Kelly – – I mean Sam Bradford, Eagles
HELLO: Since Chip has arrived in the city of brotherly love, he has produced fantasy gold at the quarterback position. The 594 fantasy points that his quarterbacks have accumulated over the past two seasons rank only behind Manning, Brees, and Luck. Reports out of Philadelphia are that Bradford looks great and is expected to be ready for the start of camp.
UH-OH: Everyone knows the uh-oh, but I will write about it anyways. Bradford has the injury-prone tag. However, remember Matt Stafford who was unequivocally injury prone after his first two seasons. Yea, well in case you missed it earlier in the article, he has now played four consecutive seasons, and now oddly enough is referred to as durable in fantasy circles. It can change that quick.
BOTTOM LINE: I would say there is a 99% chance that this is the only publication you will read that has Sam Bradford ranked in the top 7. Sure, there is a ton of risk in selecting a quarterback that has not played a meaningful snap since October of 2013. However, when you look at the track record that Chip Kelly has established in regards to quarterback production, I think anyone would agree that this pick is at the least intriguing. In my humble opinion, Sam Bradford is the best “total package” quarterback that he has had the opportunity to work with. I am not buying that there is going to be a quarterback competition between Bradford and Sanchez. With that said, if you draft Bradford, please take Sanchez at the tail end of your draft as an insurance policy. He proved last year, by scoring 20+ fantasy points in half of his starts, that even he can be a quality option in this juggernaut offense. If you want to read more about my man-love for Sam Bradford check here and here.
By the way, if you play in any leagues with me, I am just kidding about Bradford, he is going to tear his knee up again and be worthless. Put him on your DO NOT draft list.
6. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
HELLO: Last season, Wilson offered up a career high in passing yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Add it all up, and it computes to a top 5 fantasy season. The addition of Jimmy Graham finally gives Wilson an elite pass catcher to work with.
UH-OH: Volume is a major issue for Wilson. Last season, the Seahawks threw the ball fewer than any team in the league. With the overall success that they have experienced, I cannot see any major changes to how they operate their run first, run second offense.
BOTTOM LINE: The million dollar question that any fantasy owner
who selects Wilson needs to ask themselves is…
Here is my take.
2012: 73 fantasy points via rushing stats
2013: 60 fantasy points via rushing stats
2014: 121 fantasy points via rushing stats
I fully expect Wilson to regress closer to his first two seasons production rate. Let’s simulate that Wilson recorded rushing stats similar to his first two seasons in 2014. This would drop his total point production by 54 points. Instead of being the third rated quarterback, he would drop all the way to 11th, and would be in the same company as the likes of Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Philip Rivers.
So, if I expect a regression, why do I have him as the 6th rated quarterback?
Having the potential to score 120+ rushing points from the quarterback position demonstrates an incredibly high ceiling. Additionally, the 20 touchdowns that he passed for in 2014 marked a career low. I anticipate the arrival of one of the best red zone targets in the league to bolster Wilson’s touchdown production, which would offset the drop in rushing points. Even with the improved passing stats, I do no want to spend a fourth round draft pick on a quarterback that depends on rushing stats to account for a huge chunk of his overall fantasy production.
5. Peyton Manning, Broncos
HELLO: Decreasing your production from 2013 to 2014 by 750 yards and 16 touchdowns might cost you your job, unless your name is Peyton Manning. Despite the drop in production, he still managed 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. Using ESPN’s scoring system, Manning scored 20+ fantasy points in his first nine games.
UH-OH: It was the tail of two seasons for Manning. Using the same scoring, Manning only scored more than 15 points once over the final 7 games. This included a first round knock-out punch to fantasy owners who started their playoffs in week 14 when he accounted for only two fantasy points. Manning enters his age 39 season with a new coach and new scheme.
BOTTOM LINE: It is simple. Which Manning do you think is showing up in 2015? The emergence of C.J. Anderson showed that they can win games without leaning so heavily on Manning. Although Manning’s fantasy production fell off the table the last seven games, the team thrived going 5-2. The quad injury played a big part in shifting to a more run orientated offense down the stretch. Assuming Manning’s health is fine, he will bounce back. In an attempt to keep Manning healthy for the stretch run, I do not expect to see a 650+ pass attempt season. However, as history has proven Manning can still be elite on fewer opportunities (see: 2012 season)
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
HELLO: Todd Haley finally let Big Ben air it out in 2014, and Ben did not disappoint. Ben set career highs in just about every passing category there is. Last year, Ben put together a historic two week stretch. Against the Colts in Week 8 and the rival Ravens in Week 9, he combined for 862 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. (Insert joke about that being five week’s worth of stats from [fill in your favorite bad quarterback] here). Antonio Brown is proving to be one of the best receivers in the league, giving Ben a consistent target week in, week out.
UH-OH: This is only the second time in his career that Ben has thrown for more than 28 touchdowns. With the lack of a consistent track record, there are some skeptics. Also folks in the anti-Ben camp are sighting the two week stretch mentioned above as a major inflation to his overall season statistics.
The top part of the chart represents all 16 games (injuries and meaningless Week 17 games are omitted). The bottom section of the chart represents production with the two highest scoring weeks removed. As you can see, Ben’s point per game average takes quite a hit.
BOTTOM LINE: The identity of the Steelers has officially changed. Ben had a career high in pass attempts and I do not see that number slowing down this year. With having a questionable defense, the pressure will likely fall on Ben to put up points to keep them in games. Ben finished the year scorching hot, throwing for 300+ yards in seven of his final nine games. With Le’Veon Bell scheduled to miss the first three games of the season, I look for the Ben show to start out fast and gain momentum as the season goes.
3. Drew Brees, Saints
HELLO: When discussing the 2014 season of Drew Brees, I have heard many fantasy experts refer to it as a down year. Anytime a “down year” consists of 4,952 yards and 33 touchdowns, please sign me up. Over the last five seasons, Brees has attempted at least 650 passes and thrown for no fewer than 4,600 yards and 33 touchdowns.
UH-OH: How quickly will Brees adapt to working with a new supporting cast? 231 receptions have left the building, by the likes of Graham, Stills, Thomas, and Cadet. Aside from Colston and Cooks, the next highest receiver was Nick Toon, with 17 receptions.
BOTTOM LINE: For the first time in a long time there are actually some question marks surrounding the fantasy value of Drew Brees. How badly will the loss of Jimmy Graham effect his touchdown total? How quickly will he gel with his new weapons? Are the rumors that the Saints are implementing a more balanced attack true? Even with all that swirling around, I am not going to doubt Brees until he fails to post a 4,600+ yard 33 touchdown season. While I am comfortable ranking Brees as the third quarterback, it should be noted that I see a significant drop after the top two. What does this mean? Just because Luck and Rodgers are going in the 15-20 range (depending on scoring system) doesn’t mean you need to rush to take the third quarterback off the board. Do not select Brees or whoever your third rated quarterback is before pick 30.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
HELLO: Where to begin? How about we take a look at his touchdown passes vs. interception numbers over his last three almost full seasons.
2011: 45 touchdowns / 6 interceptions (15 games)
2012: 39 touchdowns / 8 interceptions
2014: 38 touchdowns / 5 interceptions
Those numbers illustrate just how pinpoint accurate Rodgers is. While accuracy is one of his best attributes, he has also demonstrated that he throws one of the best, if not the best…okay he definitely throws the best deep ball in the league.
UH-OH: The only chink I can find in Aaron Rodger’s fantasy armor is that his durability is lacking when compared to some of the other quarterbacks on this list. Over the past five seasons, he has only played in all 16 games twice. The weather never seems to bother Rodgers, but playing late season games on the frozen tundra could present some hurdles for the passing game.
BOTTOM LINE: With his supporting cast staying intact, there is no reason to expect a decline in Rodger’s numbers. Although he will demand an early pick, he is one of the safest players on the board regardless of position.
1. Andrew Luck, Colts
HELLO: What a season Andrew Luck had in 2014. Luck posted 10 games in which he threw for 300+ yards. He was also a touchdown machine. He passed for two or more touchdowns in 13 games, including four games in which the threw for 4+ touchdowns. He posted 25+ fantasy points an astounding six times.
UH-OH: Without much of a run game in 2014, the Colts were a pass first, pass second, and pass third offense. The only thing that prevented them from passing 70+% of the time was running the ball in the 4th quarter with big leads. The addition of Frank Gore could bring a closer balance to the offense, thus negatively effecting Luck’s volume.
BOTTOM LINE: Last year Andrew Luck was able to throw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns with the ghost of Reggie Wayne collecting 116 targets. Wayne was able to produce a line of 64 / 779 / 2 on the those 116 targets. Not to pick on Reggie, but if Johnson gets the same number of targets I would feel comfortable betting the proverbial farm that Johnson is able to do more with those targets. This will make an already deadly passing game even better. Keep in mind that Luck gets to play 25% of his games against the Titans and Jaguars. I guess you could say he did okay against them last year.
vs. Titans: 553 yards / 6 touchdowns / 1 interception
vs. Jaguars: 623 yards / 5 touchdowns / 0 interceptions
Do not sleep on Luck’s rushing stats. In his three year career he has averaged 301 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns per season. It is scary to think that at age 25, Luck’s best seasons are still ahead of him.
The quarterback position runs deep in fantasy this year. Having Luck or Rodgers on your team would be great, but don’t panic if you miss out on them. There are many other quality options out there that might be the better bargain based on what round you can draft them.
(Click the BLUE link to listen)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday July 25th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by The Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week we will discuss some pitchers that may be laying around on the wire in some leagues, or undervalued that could make for a nice addition down the stretch.