Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws the ball against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
As Fantasy Football owners are thinking about their overall draft strategies, everything truly starts and ends at quarterback. Here are the top five to consider for 2016.
In the early days of fantasy football, running back was the key position. It was generally the highest scoring position. However, with the way teams are using their running backs, fantasy football is becoming a quarterback’s game, much like the real game.
In fact, according to ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockroft in his piece “Fantasy Fallout: QBs up, RBs down in 2015,” as a position, quarterbacks set a new fantasy football record scoring 8,300 points all together, which broke the previous record of 7,836.
The NFL is becoming running back by committee. Thus, quarterbacks are becoming an early round priority.
Last season’s top-five quarterbacks were Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer and Blake Bortles. Newton finished with 23.31 points/game. Brady finished with 20.94, Wilson had 20.13, Palmer 18.88 and Bortles had 18.75.
Expect some of those numbers to drop off due to teams falling back and one due to a suspension early on. You should also expect some younger players to step up their games.
Let’s take a look at the top five fantasy football quarterbacks to draft this upcoming season.
Next: 5. Watch out for this Buccaneer
Jan 3, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) passes a ball during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
As a rookie, Winston was 14th in the NFL in fantasy scoring with 16.31 points per game. He also was missing one of his top receiving threats in Vincent Jackson and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a good chunk of the season.
The tight end is a key position for young quarterbacks, because it gives them a security blanket, and Seferian-Jenkins is a reliable target. Despite all of this, Winston finished the season with 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Winston finished last season with 223 incompletions, 25 of which were drops for a team drop percentage of 4.8% (7th highest in the NFL). With a healthy Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson, expect that number to drop.
Seferian-Jenkins also gives a red zone target to Winston, which should help increase his touchdowns and his running ability should help elevate him into the top five.
Next: 4. A young star emerging in Oakland
4. Derek Carr
Last season, Carr was 13th in fantasy scoring. He’s going to move into the top five fantasy quarterbacks.
Carr will be entering his third season, which is typically the breakout season for quarterbacks, and he had amazing improvement from year one to year two. He went from 58.1% completions to 61.1%, 21 touchdowns to 32 touchdowns and from 3,270 yards to 3,987 yards.
There was one major flaw in the Raiders’ offense that can be corrected though which was dropped passes. The Raiders were second in the league with 31 dropped passes and a drop rate of 5.2%.
With him and Amari Cooper, who accounted for ten of the 31 drops, That number will decline and Carr’s number will go up dramatically.
Next: 3. A gunslinger in Jacksonville
Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) prepares to throw the ball in the second quarter against Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Bortles finished 2015 with 18.75 points per game in 2015, and a lot went into that. He had 251 incompletions which led to a slightly lower completion percentage from the 2014 season, and he had 18 interceptions.
With that being said 30 of the 251 incompletions, which was a drop rate of 5%, both of which were third in the NFL. Jacksonville seems to be improving as a team and headed in the right direction.
So, you should expect both of those numbers to improve. Thus, Bortles’ fantasy number will also improve.
The schedule of the Jaguars also has quite a few opponents with defensive backfield questions. Given that, expect big numbers from Bortles.
Next: 2. A championship winning quarterback in Seattle
Jan 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) carries the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Prosise began his college career as a receiver, and his route running is much more polished than most running backs coming right out of college. Vannett can be used in many formations due to his athletic ability, and he has great hands.
Wilson set a career high completion percentage completing 68.1% of his passes in 2015. Expect consistency from Wilson, because the Seahawks don’t drop passes. In 2015, the Seahawks had the second fewest drops and the second lowest drop rate in the NFL.
Next: 1. The king keeps his throne in Carolina
Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1. Cam Newton
Newton was not only the best fantasy quarterback in the league last season, but he has ascended to being the best quarterback, period. That was without his top receiving threat for the entire season.
He set a career high in passing touchdowns, tied a career high in total touchdowns and a career low in interceptions in 2015. Expect the touchdowns to go up with the return of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
The loss in the Super Bowl will motivate Newton to a great season in 2016. The league should be on high alert in 2016.