This second of a four-part series continues the quest for fantasy football glory! Quarterbacks are the next big game we explore hoping to capture one (or a couple) that leads your team to victory. Fantasy football is a fight for survival every season. The 2016 season is no different as it has come to the part of the year where it is time to prepare for the journey ahead. Drafts are quickly approaching and you need to know what kind of animals you are working with to assemble your championship winning team. Let’s Dive In!
Alpha-Male: Cam Newton
Coming off an MVP season, could he actually be in a better situation this year? Let me throw these two tidbits into the mix and I’ll let you decide. First of all, Kelvin Benjamin is coming into this season healthy and able to play, remember he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Second, Jonathan Stewart has just added another year onto this legs, has a history of injuries, and the rest of the depth chart at running back has a lot of unproven talent. What do these two pieces of information mean for Cam Newton? He gets his best receiver back for this season and may have to carry the load more in the rushing attack in the red zone. Can you see why he is walking into 2016 as the Alpha-Male?
Beast: Aaron Rodgers
There are two quarterbacks that could challenge Cam Newton for the right to be called the Alpha-Male this season, one of them is Aaron Rodgers. So many things went wrong for Rodgers and the Packers last season, but they were still able to be a pretty productive offense. Everyone is coming into training camp healthy (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb), better conditioned (looking at you Eddie Lacy), and the right coaches calling plays (thank you Mike McCarthy). Aaron Rodgers wants to prove himself once again as the elite quarterback in the league with his rifle arm and impressive mobility. Last year he barely finished in the top-10 of fantasy quarterbacks, he will enter beast mode once again in 2016 and easily finish in the top 4.
Savage: Andrew Luck
The other quarterback that could climb back into the discussion as the possible Alpha-Male is a healthy Andrew Luck. A lot of fantasy football analysts (including myself) thought Andrew Luck would put up astronomical numbers last season. He suffered plenty of injuries behind a horrendous offensive line and the play-calling of Pep Hamilton was terrible. The Colts enter 2016 with a fresh new offensive line, a healthy crop of young athletic receivers, and a new offensive coordinator in Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski’s offense will feature a better run game and quicker passing patterns to develop deep play-action opportunities. Luck will have a much better year with a better offensive line and game planning. He knows he needs to prove himself once again after an injury-plagued season. Luck will be out for blood this season against any defense he faces and will be a top-4 fantasy QB.
Wild Stallion: Russell Wilson
The Russell Wilson era has truly begun in Seattle. What does this mean? The entire offense will now rest on his shoulders without question and with no room for excuses. Marshawn Lynch has been the catalyst for this offense over the past couple years and really drove this team to the top. They were known for having a great defense and pounding running game that were tough to beat in the playoffs when it counted. Russell Wilson would make plays here and there and be a leader on this football team, but the offense ran through the solid ground game of Lynch. We got a glimpse of it last year when Lynch’s theatrics and injury issues allowed us to see what an offense truly lead by Russell Wilson looks like; it was magical. Wilson showed that when he fully has the reins, he can be an extremely dependable and productive fantasy option at QB. He’ll finally get set free and allowed to run wild in this offense and will deliver with a top-6 fantasy QB performance.
Workhorse: Philip Rivers
No matter the situation, Philip Rivers always seems to get the job done as a dependable fantasy quarterback. He had one of the worst situations in his career and still put up above average numbers. It makes you wonder what he can be capable of this year with things looking up on the roster and the depth chart. He didn’t have Keenan Allen towards the end of last season and didn’t have a true replacement option for his production. This year, they have Keenan Allen healthy and brought in deep threat Travis Benjamin. They drafted talented Hunter Henry to help ease the workload of Antonio Gates at tight end. The offensive line is healthy and should provide better pass protection and a more credible run game to give Rivers a play-action game. Expect Rivers to have another season where he works his butt off and has a top-8 fantasy quarterback season.
Outsider: Ryan Tannehill (been on the outside, now looking to come in)
Tannehill has been on the outside looking in for awhile now as a QB1, even in a 12-team league. The pieces are all in place for Tannehill to take the next step and become a part of that elite 10-12 quarterbacks that are locks to be a starter for a fantasy team. The Dolphins look to have a nice young group of wide receivers with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills. The running back situation looks a little iffy at best, but adding Arian Foster’s hands out of the backfield can help Tannehill. The most important aspect of this turnaround for Tannehill will be new head coach Adam Gase. Any offensive coordinator that has the opportunity to work with Peyton Manning (and his record breaking year) and can turn around Jay Cutler has to be a pretty good offensive mind. Gase has the talent, scheme, and play calling to take Tannehill to the next tier of quarterbacks. After this season, he will be an outsider no more.
Old Dog: Drew Brees
The saying goes that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” What if you got the old dog some new weapons? You would think losing Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Ben Watson, and Marques Colston would make Drew Brees seem like he is heading for a downswing in production. The last two years we have seen Brees land just under 5,000 yards passing after hitting that mark three years in a row. Can he give us one more run as a 37-year-old quarterback? He does have young weapons that can make plays after the catch in Brandin Cooks (age 22), Willie Snead (age 23), and Coby Fleener (age 27). He also has a second round pick in Michael Thomas who has dependable hands. Can the old dog Drew Brees rally around his young new pups and deliver a decent fantasy season?
Young Buck: Derek Carr
I am intrigued by the “Brett Favre 2.0” comparison people are giving Carr. I will agree that he is quite the gunslinger and has a very impressive arm. If you are walking into your draft wanting to go heavy early on RB/WR/TE and wanting to go with a quarterback by committee approach this season, you need to invest in Carr. He has superstar wide receiver Amari Cooper and a young supporting cast around him. He will have some great games and deliver big points some weeks, and be average other weeks. If you’re looking to play matchups with your QBs, look no further than this young buck.
Tame: Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer put up career numbers last season for the Arizona Cardinals. I just want to advise you to temper those type of expectations for this season. He is basically walking into the exact same situation as last year and should therefore put up those type of numbers again, right? Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, J.J. Nelson, and their tight end committee are all returning and healthy. David Johnson is looking to have a breakout year and the Cardinals have two versatile pass-catching backs of Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson behind him on the depth chart. Why am I concerned? He is 37 years old, history of injury issues, and he finished last season very poorly. I think Bruce Arians will want to protect Palmer more (from himself perhaps) and add more of the run game to the offense. When it came to the playoffs, they barely got past the injury-depleted Packers, and then got smoked by the Carolina Panthers. I don’t think Carson Palmer has a season like he did in 2015 where he finished in the top 5 for fantasy quarterbacks. I am here to advise you to tame your expectations and expect him to be more in the realm of a top-10 fantasy QB.
Do you believe in NFL teams tanking on purpose? If you looked at the 49ers or Browns rosters you might make that assumption.The 49ers and Browns are using their current 2016 starters as scapegoats to go after some of the elite quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Let’s start with the Chip Kelly experiment that has now made its way to San Francisco. There seems to be a quarterback battle going on between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. You might be intrigued due to what Chip Kelly has done with quarterbacks he has had in the past (Nick Foles in Philly for example) or what he could do with an athletic quarterback like Colin Kaepernick. Do not fall into the temptation. That team is set up for failure on offense. A weak offensive line and unimpressive receiving options. Why you ask? They have set up this failure because they need a scapegoat(s) to pursue a top-tier QB in next year’s draft (DeShaun Watson in Chip Kelly’s scheme?). Chip has always had a veteran quarterback leading his team, but has to be thinking about a different avenue after the Sam Bradford disaster in Philly.
Speaking of setting a team up for failure on offense, I refer you now to the Cleveland Browns. They lost their starting center, starting right tackle, and most productive receiver this past offseason. They are going to head into 2016 with a weak offensive line and a bunch of rookie receivers for Robert Griffin III. Josh Gordon may be coming back for Week 5, but can you really rely on him to stay eligible to play for a full year? This is the perfect combination for a quarterback that struggles from the pocket and will have to throw to inexperienced wide receivers (sarcasm). Can you really trust Robert Griffin III to lead this offense productively for a full season with this supporting cast?
Questions? Comments? Follow Dan on Twitter @Shep_Collins for more fantasy football and NFL Draft information and commentary