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This is part two of my first QB rankings of 2016 where I’ll be covering quarterbacks five through ten. Thanks to everyone who had feedback on my rankings and please keep it coming!
Let’s flash back to August 1, 2015 – beautiful weather, barbecues and conversations about Andrew Luck being a first round draft pick – the good ol’ days. What happened to Luck in 2015 is not easily explained. Did the Colts offensive line suck? Yes. Did the Colts’ strategy of bringing in aging stars of fantasy yesteryear backfire? Yes. Did the Colts’ defense play to a level that would make the New Orleans Saints defense blush? Well no, that’s impossible, but the Colts’ defense was pretty bad.
Luck played only seven games in 2015, and in none of them did he resemble a quarterback that was in the conversation to be the first pick at his position on draft day. But, alas, I tell you to have faith!
The Colts are a team that, since Payton Manning, rely on above average QB play to lift an otherwise abysmal roster to the playoffs by feasting on the wasteland that is the AFC South. Andrew Luck will be the beneficiary of an organization that re-realizes (is that a word?) where it’s bread is buttered. The defense is not going to get considerably better but this obviously isn’t a bad thing as far as Luck’s fantasy value is concerned. The continued emergence of Donte Moncrief will take pressure away from TY Hilton and if the Colts re-sign Dwayne Allen (as they should), these pieces, along with Colby Fleener, give Luck weapons that many NFL quarterbacks would be envious of. If the Colts can find a way to efficiently repair their sieve of an offensive line, Luck will be in line to surpass his 40 touchdown total from 2014.
And now, the best part! Luck burned so many of you last year that he will most likely be available in the latter part of the draft (as was a certain QB from Carolina in 2015).
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I did not expect Carson Palmer to put up numbers close to those that had him in the conversation for NFL MVP throughout most of the season, but I may have been guilty of looking too much at the number on his birth certificate rather than the numbers that he was throwing to. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown may be the most dangerous trio of receivers in the league.
My main concern with Palmer going forward, and why he is not ranked among the elite, has a lot to do with age and the offense he plays in. I know that last year I was too quick to judge Palmer on his age as somebody who was on the downside of his career, but when you look at the older QBs in the league that are successful as fantasy players, it’s an exclusive club. Of the quarterbacks that I have ranked in the top 10, only Brady (38) and Palmer (36) are over 35. Brady plays in an offense that is predicated on quick reads and efficient QB play. Arizona’s offense, called by Bruce Arians, is reliant on vertical passing and quite often leaves the quarterback open to big collisions. It is reasonable to suggest that Arians may alter his offensive approach but he has shown no interest in doing so to this point.
I think Palmer has a great mind for the game and the ability to make any throw, but his increased risk of injury would definitely make me think twice before investing a high round draft pick in him.
The man who was recently named Sports Illustrated’s “Most Surprising Player of 2015” is taking a huge leap up my draft board in 2016. After being a free agent addition during the 2015 off season, Taylor impressed not only Bills’ coaches but many NFL observers throughout the preseason, earning the Bills starting job in 2015.
Looking back on the 2016 season Taylor showed that he can be efficient, finishing as the 7th QB in the NFL by ESPNs QBR grading system (67.8) but also explosive as evidenced by his deep passing statistics. On passes over 30 yards, Taylor was 15/35 for 674 yards (19.25 ypa) with six touchdowns and a QB Rating of 117.58.
Adding to Taylor’s value is his relatively low floor due to his rushing statistics. Taylor ran the ball 104 times in 2015, resulting in 568 and 4 touchdowns. Now this does make him a bigger risk for injury but, for the most part, Taylor has displayed awareness for avoiding the big hit.
When you consider that these statistics were compiled in Taylor’s first season as a starting quarterback, it is definitely fair to assume that with an offseason to dive fully into the playbook and an entire training camp seeing number one reps, Taylor’s numbers will only grow in 2016. I think he is a very intriguing option that will be available deep in most drafts.
The Red Rifle. The Ginger Assassin. The Rouge Renegade (made that up). Whatever your preferred nickname for Dalton, you should be ready to scream it from the rooftops if you can snag him in your draft. Keep in mind, however, that it isn’t necessarily Dalton’s talent that is the reason to look for him in the latter portion of your draft, rather it has a lot to do with the offensive talent that Cincinnati has assembled around him.
With AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard (not to mention the talent the Bengals have at slot receiver), Cincinnati is loaded on offense and Dalton has proven that he is just talented enough to put those weapons to good use. Dalton saw a large spike in his QBR this year (+19.2) and has seen his completion percentage rise every year in the league. Dalton missed three games this year due to injury but if you project his stats to a full 16 games, he would have thrown 31 touchdowns and 4000 yards.
From a fantasy perspective, it is too bad that Cincy’s defense is good (10th by DVOA) because if Dalton was under Brees-like pressure to score on every drive, he could challenge for Fantasy QB #1 status.
Bortles, like Dalton, benefits greatly from an excellent pair of pass catchers. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns became household names in the fantasy world during the 2015 season, if they weren’t before, and they were a huge part of Bortles’ fantasy production this year. Of Bortles’ 35 touchdown passes, 14 went to Robinson, 10 went to Hurns, and their combined 256 catches account for a staggering 72% of Bortles’ completions on the year.
Bortles is a great example of how fantasy football and “real” football diverge. One could take a look at Bortles’ stats, see a 58.6 completion percentage (31st) and his 6.25 Net Yards Gained Per Pass Attempt (21st) and be worried. Then you look at his 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns and as a fantasy owner, you think, sign me up!
In Jacksonville it is unlikely that there will be a drastic leap forward on defense, where they ranked 26th by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, so Bortles will again be under pressure to pass and pass often. As a real-world QB, Bortles still has a lot of question marks, but as a fantasy quarterback that you should be able to take in the latter portion of your draft, Bortles is going to be an excellent option.
In the next edition, I’ll go over quarterbacks 10-15 and some streaming philosophy but until then please let me know what you think of these guys or of my list in general. Hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment below.