Fantasy Football Staff Writer Wally Spurlin breaks down his latest quarterbacks rankings heading into the 2015 fantasy football season.
While NFL teams give their players a few weeks off prior to training camp we here at Fantasy Sharks are increasing our coverage of everything fantasy football related.
In this article we will continue to look at the top-ten ranked players at each offensive skill position (sit down kickers) and how they differ from my initial rankings back in March.
After evaluating the running back position in our last piece we move under center to take a look at the quarterbacks and how we see the top ten shaking out.
1) Andrew Luck, INDIANAPOLIS, previous rank-1: Luck sat atop the quarterback rankings back in March and remains at the top. He continues to improve from year to year and enters his fourth season coming off career highs in completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns. The 40 touchdown passes he racked up last season led the league and he added another three rushing scores. The excellent rushing totals that Luck has amassed over his career are a huge boost to his fantasy value moving forward. He has averaged 298 rushing yards and scored 12 regular season touchdowns with his legs.
Already having developed a solid rapport with T.Y. Hilton and his duo of talented tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, Luck saw his riches of weapons increased with the drafting of the speedy Phillip Dorsett out of Miami. The main reason we love the kid out of Stanford heading into 2015 is the free agent moves the Colts have made on offense. The addition of veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson to the stable of speedsters already in place is huge. Everything Indianapolis had hoped Hakeem Nicks would bring to the offense last season will be there this year as Johnson actually has some gas left in the tank.
Couple that signing with the addition of Frank Gore to the backfield and Luck heads into the season with as many offensive weapons as any quarterback in the league. Gore may be closer to the end of his career than the beginning but remains a great goal line option as well as an underappreciated pass catching option for Luck. From 2006-2010 Gore averaged 51 receptions per year and you can bet Luck will utilize him in the passing game plenty.
2) Aaron Rodgers, GREEN BAY, previous rank-2: Rodgers checks in at two but it could easily be considered #1 B. The reigning MVP continues to play at an elite level and will once again challenge for the top quarterback finish for fantasy purposes. Rodgers has thrown at least 38 touchdowns in three of the past four seasons with the exception being 2013 when he played only nine games. With the Packers resigning the speedy Randall Cobb Rodgers continues to boast a top level wide receiving corps. He is one of the best quarterbacks at making things happen when the pocket breaks down and can do damage with his legs if need be as the 269 rushing yards he put up last year attests to that aspect of his game.
Another factor in breaking down Rodgers fantasy potential is the Packers offensive approach from the opponents’ 10-yard line and closer. From that position on the field Rodgers threw the ball 58 times completing 29 passes for 20 touchdowns. He also brings the added threat of running the ball in and has scored 20 regular season rushing touchdowns since taking over as the starting quarterback in 2008.
There are two factors that led me to place Luck slightly ahead of Rodgers as Indianapolis has two productive tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen while Rodgers will make due with the underwhelming Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless. Rodgers has also been prone to hamstring tweaks the last couple of seasons that may lead to less scrambling and rushing totals.
3) Russell Wilson, SEATTLE, previous rank-3: After the elite tier of Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers things get pretty crowded at the quarterback position. Wilson holds fast to the number three ranking he had back in March but falls into a group of quarterbacks that could be interchangeable as far down as number ten. Yes, that is admittedly some serious fence sitting but is still only June and there is so many variables and scenarios yet to play out. What we do know about Wilson’s prospects heading forward is that the addition of Jimmy Graham should help improve his passing numbers immediately. For the first time he will have a true field stretching and mismatch creating weapon that will be a huge (pun intended) red zone threat.
In his first three seasons Wilson has managed to throw for 72 regular season touchdowns against 26 interceptions. That is not too shabby when you consider that he has played in a run first offense whose best receiving option was probably Golden Tate who is now the number two wide out in Detroit.
The addition of Graham as well as the possible emergence of youngster Paul Richardson or Super Bowl hero (until Donald Butler stole his thunder) Chris Matthews should allow the Wilson to see a career high in passes attempts. The return of Marshawn Lynch for another season will also mean that plenty of those attempts could be of the play action variety.
Wilson’s rushing stats last season were a main factor in a top five-fantasy finish as he ended the year with over 845 yards and six touchdowns. Obviously in leagues that only award four points for passing scores Wilson’s rushing scores were even more important in his success. To rely on those numbers being repeated may be too much of a stretch especially with the addition of Graham as a passing target. The threat will remain for him to use his legs and that’s another reason I have him at three as of now.
4) Peyton Manning, DENVER, previous rank-5: I am not going to lie and say this ranking doesn’t make me a little bit nervous considering how badly Manning faded down the stretch last season. Yes, we can chalk it up to injuries and generally taking a beating behind a balky offensive line but it happened nonetheless. That being said Peyton still finished as a top five quarterback despite throwing only five touchdowns in his last five regular season games. As I stated earlier in this piece I feel that quarterbacks three through ten can almost be lobbed into any of the ranking spots. Putting a sure fire first ballot Hall of Fame player among the top five seems like the way to go.
With the emergence of C.J. Anderson as an excellent running back option Manning will likely be asked to throw a bit less than he has in his previous seasons in Denver where he’s averaged 545 attempts per season. That doesn’t necessarily mean a significant dip in fantasy production as Manning still has one of the top wide receiver corps in the NFL. Losing Julius Thomas will be a blow but veteran tight end Owen Daniels knows the Gary Kubiak offense and will find soft spots in the defense to exploit.
The added threat of a solid running game will also open up more play action opportunities for Manning and he will take full advantage. With second year wide receiver Cody Latimer likely to see an uptick in snaps (he played a whopping 37 last year) Manning will have another weapon in three wide receiver sets. Yes, the sun is setting on Manning’s storied career as well as his fantasy dominance but this ranking says I see him putting up one last big season.
5) Drew Brees, NEW ORLEANS, previous rank-6: If you’ve noticed only a slight shifting of the rankings then you win the Kewpie Doll! Yes, it’s the suspension to Tom Brady (which will be appealed June 23rd) that has seen everybody move up a spot in this general area while we will see where I dropped Brady to shortly. Ranking Brees and Manning was a quagmire for me as both saw their production dip in 2014 and are another year older. While it was revealed after the season the Manning played through a badly injured quad late in the season Brees insisted he was not playing hurt despite having to deal with an oblique problem in training camp.
To put it plainly Brees just wasn’t the player we have grown accustomed to seeing last year and neither was the entire Saints offense. Again though as was the case with Manning there was still a top five finish for Drew from a fantasy perspective. So why then do I rank the elder of the two (Manning is 39 to Brees’ 36) higher? Both lost their top tier tight ends from a year ago and both offenses are looking to become more balanced. I like the remaining weapons that Manning has just a little bit better.
The Saints traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills while cutting long time all-purpose running back threat Pierre Thomas. Combined that trio produced 193 receptions for over 2,150 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. That is a huge chunk of the passing game and while I do see a big year from Brandin Cooks in 2015 for the Saints I am not as hopeful regarding Marques Colston and company.
C.J. Spiller was brought on board and has been the talk of OTAs and mini camp but has a lot to prove after struggling with injuries and wildly inconsistent production the past couple of years.
Since 2011 Jimmy Graham has accounted for roughly 28% of Brees’s touchdown passes and there is no replacing that with anyone currently on the Saints roster. The Josh Hill love fest was recently quelled with the news he would likely play in sub packages only. Brees will continue to be a fantasy force but is no longer on the tier as Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck.