“Off the Matt” 2016 Quarterback Rankings: QB1 Tiers
The following list of quarterbacks represents names that I would feel comfortable with being my Week 1 starter. Rather than worrying about the difference between a player being ranked #7 or #10, I will break them out into tiers. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of these names finished in the top 10. Even so, I am a bit leery about the first tier. If I ended up with one of them, I would make sure to grab Flacco, Tannehill, Dalton, or Cousins as an insurance policy.
The Have a Beer (or something stronger) Nearby Tier
At the end of the season the numbers are going to be there for this group. However, there are going to be plenty of rocky times when you will need some medication to get through the rough moments. As mentioned above, if I land one of these guys I am going to grab a solid back up just in case.
Tony Romo – Cowboys
If the Cowboys were smart they would go back to what made them successful in 2014.
After suffering multiple collarbone injuries in 2015, the last thing Romo needs to be doing is dropping back 40+ times each game. I understand the importance that volume often plays in a quarterback’s success, but Romo has already proved that despite playing in a heavy run attack he was still able to produce strong fantasy numbers. He finished as the 7th rated quarterback in 2014 despite the Cowboys throwing the second fewest amount of passes in the league. With spending the 4th overall selection on Ezekiel Elliott it would make sense that they are going back to the 2014 game plan. Romo should benefit.
Jameis Winston – Buccaneers
Jameis joined Andrew Luck and Cam Newton as the only rookie quarterbacks to eclipse 4000 passing yards in their rookie season. Coming out of college there was no questioning Winston’s arm talent, but rather his decision making both on and off the field.
In the broad scope he threw 15 interceptions, which only four quarterbacks threw more, but when we break it down the 15 is a reasonable number when we consider:
- He threw the ball 535 times as a rookie. He averaged one interception per every 36 pass attempts. When we compare him to the other two rookie quarterbacks who threw for 4000+ yards (Luck, Newton) his interception/pass attempt ratio was better than both.
- Of the 15 interceptions he threw, seven of them came in the first four games. That means over the last 12 games he only threw eight interceptions. It also means that he is a quick learner and wasn’t making the same poor decisions that plagued him in the first quarter of the season.
With a year of experience under his belt (which is a a few notches looser with him dropping 20 pounds in the offseason) I expect Winston to continue to develop and have a realistic shot at 4500/30. The six rushing touchdowns would seem like a tall order to repeat, but there is no denying that he is a gamer and has a nose for the goal line.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills
Speaking of quarterbacks who can do some damage with their legs, Tyrod Taylor was second among quarterbacks in points scored via rushing stats despite missing two games. As dangerous as he is with his legs, his best asset might be the ability to throw the deep ball.
Passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air:
15/35/674 (43%) – – 6 touchdowns/1 interception
Last year, he finished as the 16th rated fantasy quarterback. With a full season he could make a push at the top 10.
Matt Ryan – Falcons
Say what you want about Matt Ryan, but there is something positive that needs to be said for a guy that has five consecutive seasons in which he has played every game and has surpassed 4500 passing yards in each season. 2015 wasn’t pretty with the 16 interceptions and eight fumbles, but I expect a bounce back season in 2016.
Let’s examine Ryan’s touchdown pass history going back to 2010.
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Yea, so what I watch a lot of Sesame Street.
Anyways, at only 31 years old there is no reason to think that Ryan can’t bounce back. I am going to side with history here and expect him to get back up around 27-30 touchdown passes to go along with his usual 4500+ pass yards.
Matt Stafford – Lions
The obvious concern for anyone targeting Stafford is how the departure of Calvin Johnson will effect his productivity. While Johnson is gone, there is a man returning who will have a huge impact on Stafford’s performance. That man is none other than the legendary Jim Bob Cooter.
Last season, when JBC took over the play calling duties in Week 10 Stafford saw his numbers skyrocket.
First eight games (Lombardi): 13 touchdowns / 11 interceptions
Last eight games (JBC): 19 touchdowns / 2 interceptions
Stafford had multiple touchdown passes in seven of his final eight games. In the lone game that he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he pitched in a rushing touchdown to keep his owners smiling. Much of the success came from the short, quick passing game that emphasized getting the ball out of Stafford’s hands quickly. With a full offseason to work with, it will be interesting to see what Cooter has cooked up for 2016.
The Huuuuuuge Upside Tier
Derek Carr – Raiders
There is a lot to like about Derek Carr going into his third season. He saw his completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns increase from year one to year two. If he can improve on the 3987/32 that he posted last year we will have a top 10 quarterback on our hands. Carr coming off the board as the 13th quarterback at pick number 114 is a steal when you factor in his upside of 4500/35.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars
If we are talking about guys that made a jump from year one to year two then look no further than Blake Bortles. The phrase “made a jump” doesn’t do Bortles justice for what he accomplished in 2015. He went from having one 300 yard passing game and two games with multiple touchdown passes in his 14 games as a rookie, to exploding for 4428/35 and finishing as the 4th rated fantasy quarterback.
The absence of a track-record adds some risk to this pick, but with the offensive weapons surrounding him, it is hard to envision a major regression. One area where Bortles could use some improvement is the turnover department. He has thrown 35 interceptions in 30 career games, including a league leading 18 last season. For those of you that play in leagues that have big deductions for turnovers, this is something to keep in mind.
Andrew Luck – Colts
Andrew Luck is one of the hardest players to rank this season. I look at that magical 40 touchdown season of 2014 and want to slide him up a tier or two. On the other hand, I look at the dismal production in 2015 and I am comfortable putting him in this tier.
Before his season ending injury, he played in seven games. He threw for multiple touchdowns in six of the those seven games (really good), and threw multiple interceptions in five of the seven (really bad). I think the stat that sums up the forgettable 2015 season for Andrew Luck is that he had as many three touchdown games as he did three interceptions games (2).
Despite not playing his best football, if his numbers were extrapolated out over 16 games he would have ended up with 4300/34, which is pretty strong for a down year. While we are extrapolating things, it is only fair to take a look at his interceptions, which would have worked out to 27. Ouch. All of the sudden Bortles’s 18 doesn’t seem so bad.
Luck has a ton of upside (2014) and people are aware of that based on his ADP sitting at 43. He could have a monster season, but if I have two players in the same tier and one is going 43 and the other is going 114 I know which direction I am going.
The Pencil it in Tier
This is the tier I will likely make a move on. They are consistent producers with a reasonable draft day price tag.
Philip Rivers – Chargers
Rivers is a machine. He has played in 16 games for 10 consecutive seasons. In the post L.T. years (2010) he has averaged 4416 passing yards and 29 touchdowns per season. 2015 saw Rivers set career highs in attempts, completions, and yards with 4792. That number is even more impressive when you consider that he only had half of a season from his number one receiver Keenan Allen.
There are tons of stats and facts sprinkled throughout this article. Some will go in one ear and out the other, but one that should stick in your brain is that Rivers has now finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback in seven of the past eight seasons. Each year he is criminally underrated, and each year he produces QB1 numbers.
Carson Palmer – Cardinals
It can be said that Palmer was the most consistent fantasy quarterback in the league last year. He scored 15.5+ fantasy points in 14 of his 16 games, which was the most among all quarterbacks (Newton and Brady had 13). Playing with arguably the best trio of receivers in the league as well as a dynamic pass catching back in David Johnson leads me to believe Carson could be in for another big season in 2016.
One thing that is keeping Palmer from the top tier is his relatively low ceiling on a week to week basis. According to PFF, over Palmer’s last 63 regular season games he has reached 26 fantasy points only TWICE. To help put that number in perspective, this past season saw Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles all post three such games. Palmer’s floor is stronger than those previous names, hence the tier he has fallen into.
The history says he is unlikely to post the monster individual weeks. With that said, if he can repeat his 292 yards passing per game with two touchdown passes, I don’t think his owners will have much to complain about.
Eli Manning – Giants
Manning has really settled in the past two years under offensive coordinator and now head coach Ben McAdoo’s system. While the system has something to do with it, I think a guy by the name of Odell Beckham Jr. has also had a hand (literally a hand at times) in helping develop the consistency that Manning has shown in each of the past two season.
Volume is on Manning’s side. He has set career highs in pass attempts in each of the past two season. With virtually no run game to speak of, combined with a healthy Victor Cruz and hyped rookie Sterling Shepard I could see a new career high in attempts in 2016. With the weapons that Manning has in his arsenal, 600+ attempts should deliver another top 10 season of fantasy production.
Tom Brady – Patriots
I have heard some different opinions on where Brady should go in drafts this year. I have heard some people say they are avoiding him all together. I hope the fellas in my league take that stance because I will happily grab him up at his current ADP of 75.
I get that he is missing four games, but it’s not like you will have to take a zero at your QB slot for those first four weeks. As long as you can land a quarterback that can get you replacement level production you will survive those first four weeks. Then when Brady returns in Week 5 and goes into full FU mode on opposing defenses you will reap the benefits.
Just take a quick second to ponder how defenses are going to match up with Gronk and Bennett in the red zone? Brady led the league last year in red zone touchdown passes. Despite missing four games, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he made a run at it again this year having those monsters at his disposal.
Brady probably won’t finish as a top 10 quarterback because he is going to miss 25% of the season, but I would feel comfortable betting the proverbial farm that based on a point per game basis he will be in the top 10 from Week 5 on.
Drew Brees – Saints
The big question coming into 2015 was how Brees would adapt to working with a new cast of offensive weapons. Between Graham, Stills, Thomas, and Cadet he had to replace 231 receptions.
428/627 (68%) 4870/32/11
In 15 games.
I think he did okay.
I was going to write up that his age could be a concern, and that he started to show some flaws in his deep throws. Forget all that though. He has 10 consecutive seasons finishing as a top 6 fantasy quarterback. As long as that streak is intact I can’t bet against him.
The Top-Shelf Tier
This tier represents the best of the best at the quarterback position. Much like top-shelf liquor they will be out of my price range.
Russell Wilson – Seahawks
Wilson finished as the 3rd rated fantasy quarterback last year. He surpassed his previous career high in touchdown passes by eight, and his previous season best yardage total by 549. Even if he has a slight regression in those areas, I expect him to make up the difference with his feet. He has averaged just under four rushing touchdowns per season in his first three seasons, but only had one in 2015. If he has a season in which he puts together both the passing and rushing touchdowns he could contend for the top quarterback spot.
Wilson started the season off slow in 2015 having only one week of scoring 20+ fantasy points (ESPN scoring) in his first eight games. He had a red-hot stretch from Week 11 to Week 15 in which he posted fantasy point totals of 25/34/33/31/25. In that five game heater he threw 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
HE THREW 19 TOUCHDOWNS AND ZERO INTERCEPTIONS OVER A FIVE GAME STRETCH.
It was worth saying twice.
Aaron Rodgers – Packers
As “bad” as 2015 was for Rodgers he still finished as the 7th rated fantasy quarterback. The return of Jordy Nelson will cure the ills that the Packers offense experienced in 2015. What impresses me most about Rodgers is how smart he is with the football. In his last three full seasons he hasn’t had a season in which he has thrown more than eight interceptions.
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers
Last year, Big Ben only played in 12 games. In those 12 games he averaged a robust 328 yards passing per game.
Time to get my extrapolator back out.
If he kept that pace for 16 games, he would have ended up with 5248 passing yards. In other words, the third most passing yards in a single season in NFL history. Not bad.
Even with Bryant missing the full season, and Bell missing four games, I believe this will be the most potent offense in the league. Keep an eye out for Sammie Coates who will be Martavis Bryant 2.0 this season. Also, the addition of Ladarius Green will give them a down the field tight end threat. The best weapon of all is Antonio Brown. If and it is always a big IF with Ben, but if Ben can stay up for all 16 games I believe we will see some receiving records go down. After all, in the last 16 games in which Roethlisberger has played at least 70% of the snaps, Brown has recorded 152/2039. Time to string it together for 16 consecutive games.
Cam Newton – Panthers
First and foremost let’s give Cam credit for what he accomplished in 2015. It was a dominant season finishing the year as the top scoring fantasy quarterback. It wasn’t a close race either. He was a full 38 points better than #2 on the list.
Newton is going to continue to be an elite quarterback option as long as he continues to pile up the rushing numbers. Let’s use his 2015 numbers as an example. He ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns.
(Standard Scoring: 1 point for every 10 rushing yards / 6 points for a rushing touchdowns)
636 rushing yards = 63.6 points
10 rushing touchdowns = 60 points
Total points from rushing statistics: 123.6
So what does a quarterback who gets next to nothing in ground stats (Rivers, Eli, Palmer, Brees) have to do to make up the difference?
(Standard Scoring: 1 point for every 25 passing yards / 4 points for a passing touchdown)
1600 passing yards = 64 points
15 passing touchdowns = 60 points
Total points from passing statistics: 124
If Cam can sustain that rushing production, all he has to do is throw for roughly 3000 yards and 20 touchdown passes. This would equate to a 4600/35 type season from a quarterback that doesn’t run.
The bottom line on Newton is that even if his passing numbers regress, and with the return of Kelvin Benjamin there is no guarantee that is going to happen. Assuming there is a regression though, as long as he is racking up points on the ground, he is almost a lock to finish in the top 5. With as deep as the quarterback position is fantasy owners will have to make the tough decision if his early second round ADP is worth it.
Okay, maybe it is worth it.