With the NFL season fast approaching, fans are getting ready to root for their favorite teams and enjoy the wonderful thing that is football Sunday during the fall. There is also another thing that gets football fans worked into a frenzy as the season grows closer, and that thing is fantasy football.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience someone has in playing fantasy football, the excitement level that comes with this amazing game is something that is unmatched by any other fantasy sport out there.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to help get you ready for your fantasy football drafts by ranking the top players at each position and giving some hints as to which players may be sleepers or busts in the upcoming season.
To get things started let’s take a look at the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks for 2014.
1- Peyton Manning
Like a fine wine, Manning has gotten better with age. While it’s highly unlikely that he matches his 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns from a season ago, odds are that the Broncos offense is just as dynamic in the upcoming season and will see Manning put up numbers worthy of being the first QB off the board. Demaryius Thomas is one of the NFL’s elite receivers and has the compliment of Wes Welker in the slot, who can still put up strong numbers and get open on third down. 2013 breakout tight end Julius Thomas has big-play ability as well. Denver lost Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno to free agency but they brought in Emmanuel Sanders from Pittsburgh and drafted WR Cody Latimer from Indiana in the second round.
2- Aaron Rodgers
Over the past few years Rodgers has proven to be one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in recent memory. He threw 84 touchdowns between 2011 and 2012 and was on track for another year with similar numbers had he not suffered a broken collarbone in Week 9 of last season. Rodgers is possibly the best downfield passer in the league, averaging 280 yards passing and 8.4 yards per attempt over the past five years while throwing 173 touchdowns during that span (2.4 per game). His starting receiver combination of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb is scary good as well.
3- Drew Brees
Brees has been fortunate enough to be a part of one of the most consistent offenses in the NFL over the past several years. The Saints have averaged 312 passing yards per game and 39 passing touchdowns on 68-percent completions over the past five years. Brees has also cracked the 5,000 yard plateau in each of the past three seasons. The loss of Darren Sproles’ ability to catch passes out of the backfield will sting but New Orleans did add a major weapon by drafting Brandin Cooks in the first round of the draft. Cooks will team up with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston to give Brees plenty of options when looking down the field.
4- Matthew Stafford
It seems like every season there are new obstacles throwing themselves in front of Stafford and the Lions offense but year in and year out the 26-year-old finds a way to put up impressive fantasy numbers. Despite a rough finish to his 2013 season in which he threw just two touchdowns over his last four games, Stafford still finished the year with 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns. Things are looking up for Detroit’s offense in 2014 though. They added WR Golden Tate to start alongside Calvin Johnson and then drafted Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick. The Lions also feature a pair of pass-catching running backs in Joique Bell and Reggie Bush so the potential for Stafford to have a big season is certainly there.
5- Andrew Luck
Last season Luck almost single-handedly took the Colts into the second round of the playoffs after losing his top receiver for the year when Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 and having virtually no running game for the majority of the season. T.Y. Hilton had to carry the weight by himself as the only viable target that Luck had to throw to. Even with all the problems that popped up during the season, Luck still managed to increase his completion percentage from 54.1 to 60.2 while throwing half as many interceptions as he did during his rookie campaign. Another thing to keep in mind is his ability to make things happen with his legs, rushing for 632 yards and nine touchdowns during his short NFL career. In 2014 the Colts will have Wayne and Hilton back along with free-agent pickup Hakeem Nicks at receiver, as well as solid tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
6- Nick Foles
The level of efficiency that was put on display from the Philadelphia Eagles offense last season was beautiful to watch (unless you’re a Giants, Cowboys or Redskins fan). When the Eagles brought in offensive guru Chip Kelly to be their new head coach nobody could’ve anticipated the level of production that he achieved in his first year with the team, and he has Foles to thank for that. The sophomore quarterback put up downright unbelievable numbers in 2013, throwing for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions while averaging 14.2 yards per completion, the second-highest total by any quarterback in the last ten years. He also led the league in yards per attempt (9.1) and touchdown percentage (8.5). The loss of DeSean Jackson won’t seem to hurt as much due to the Eagles getting Jeremy Maclin back from his ACL injury and drafting Jordan Matthews in the second round.
7- Tom Brady
If 2013 taught us anything, it’s not to underestimate an aging quarterback. I’m not saying that Brady will have a Manning-like season but the lifetime Patriot can still sling the ball with the best of them. A multitude of mishaps caused New England’s offense to sputter at times but that can hardly be blamed on Brady. Rob Gronkowski missed half the season, as did Shane Vereen, and free-agent pickup Danny Amendola didn’t live up to expectations. The Pats are hoping to have Gronkowski ready to go for their Week 1 game in Miami while Vereen is healthy and has proven to be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Julian Edelman got a new contract after catching 105 passes last season and second-year wideout Aaron Dobson is looking to find more consistency after struggling as a rookie.
8- Robert Griffin III
The main question that surrounds RG3 is his durability. He’s torn the ACL in his right knee twice, once in college at Baylor and once at the end of the 2012 season. Now Griffin is finally healthy and poised to pick up where he left off at the end of his rookie season. The Redskins have done a good job surrounding Griffin with receiving weapons and assuming he stays healthy, 2014 could be a big year for RG3. New additions DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts join Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss and up-and-coming tight end Jordan Reed to create one of the best receiving corps in football. Running back Roy Helu showed some skill as a pass-catcher out of the backfield as well.
9- Cam Newton
When you have as much natural ability as Cam Newton, things can get pretty frustrating when the results aren’t always there. Nobody will ever question his rushing skills but the lack of production throwing the ball has been an issue. Now the Panthers are hoping that their new receiving group of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin are as good or better than last season’s trio of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. Benjamin has a huge upside after being one of college football’s best red-zone threats in 2013.
10- Matt Ryan
Yes, the Falcons 2013 season was a complete disaster from start to finish, but Ryan still put up 4,515 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. He did that despite Julio Jones missing 11 games and Roddy While playing hurt all year. Now both are completely healthy and have set the bar extremely high for themselves as the Falcons are looking to regain their status as a Super Bowl contender. The loss of Tony Gonzalez stings but as long as Ryan can cut back on the interceptions a smidge, his elite receivers should be able to carry the load and provide solid numbers throughout the season.
11- Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick had a rough season in 2013 but was very limited by the lack of weapons around him. When San Francisco got Michael Crabtree back for the final five games of the season, Kaepernick’s production level got much better. The 49ers also added Stevie Johnson to join Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, and don’t forget about tight end Vernon Davis.
12- Tony Romo
The biggest issue with Romo is health. He’s had two back surgeries in the last year but if health isn’t an issue in 2014 then Romo should be a solid pickup. He’s got one of the league’s elite young receivers in Dez Bryant and the always reliable Jason Witten as his tight end. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Dallas added Scott Linehan as their passing game coordinator and he’ll be calling the offensive plays for the Cowboys this season.
13- Jay Cutler
Consistency has always been an issue for Cutler during his career but he has a high ceiling in 2014. The Bears have one of the best offensive minds in football in head coach Marc Trestman and possibly the best pair of receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Cutler hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2009 so durability is something to keep in mind.
14- Philip Rivers
Rivers had a resurgence in 2013 in new head coach Mike McCoy’s offensive system. The quick-paced offense served Rivers much better then what former coach Norv Turner had him running and the results were evident from early on. Keenan Allen emerged as a top receiver last season and big things are expected from tight end Ladarius Green. Danny Woodhead is still there to provide a pass-catching threat out of the backfield (he caught 67 passes in 2013) and don’t sleep on Antonio Gates, either.
15- Russell Wilson
Wilson doesn’t put up the biggest numbers due to the Seahawks being the league’s most run-heavy offense but that doesn’t mean he isn’t productive. Wilson likes to run the ball and when called upon, can sling the ball just fine. A healthy Percy Harvin will more than make up for the loss of Golden Tate, and a stable of Jermaine Kearse, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin provide Wilson with plenty of targets to throw to. One thing to keep in mind though is that Seattle has attempted and completed the fewest passes in the league over the last two years.
16- Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben is similar to Tony Romo in that he could be poised for a big year if durability wasn’t an issue. While he’s only played a full 16-game season twice during his 10-year career, one of those seasons was in 2013. Roethlisberger has always been good for a lot of passing yards, he has three 4,000 seasons in the last five years, his touchdown totals are generally lacking though he did throw the second highest touchdown total of his career (28) last season. He lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery to free agency but the Steelers signed Lance Moore and still have a top-tier receiver in Antonio Brown and a reliable tight end in Heath Miller. Pittsburgh is also hoping that 2013 third round pick Markus Wheaton steps up to the plate.
17- Andy Dalton
Here’s an interesting stat: Andy Dalton is one of only three quarterbacks to throw 60-plus touchdowns over the last two years. The other two…Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. The Bengals lost pass-happy offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to Washington and replaced him with more run-oriented Hue Jackson. Much of Dalton’s success in 2013 was due to the Bengals offense being so good at finishing drives with touchdowns (47) instead of field goal attempts (22). Interceptions were also an issue as Dalton threw 20 last year and has seen his interception percentage rise in each of his three seasons.
18- Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill had a solid statistical season in 2013 despite the Dolphins offense giving up a franchise record 58 sacks. He passed for more yards and touchdowns than either of the two quarterbacks taken before him in the 2012 draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Miami has a revamped offensive line that is expected to be much improved from a season ago after signing free-agent Brandon Albert and drafting Ja’Wuan James in the first round. The Dolphins also hired new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback coach in 2013, and early indications are that Miami’s offense could be one of the more exciting ones in the league. Tannehill has a deep receiving unit with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to go along with second round pick Jarvis Landry and breakout tight end Charles Clay. The Dolphins also signed Knowshon Moreno who caught 60 passes out of the Broncos’ backfield a season ago.
19- Carson Palmer
The Arizona Cardinals are a team on the rise and Palmer has a lot to do with that. He’s thrown for over 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the last two years. His top two receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, make up one of the better duos in the league but don’t expect a ton of help from the Cardinals’ tight ends as head coach Bruce Arians has said, “tight ends for me block first, catch second.” Andre Ellington will be a nice pass-catching running back for Palmer, but don’t expect the quarterback to provide any points as a runner. He ran for a career-low three yards last season and has rushed for a total of 109 yards over the past four years.
20- Alex Smith
It wasn’t until Smith teamed up with Andy Reid, widely known as one of the better quarterback coaches in the NFL, that he finally became a relevant fantasy QB. He is very good at taking care of the ball which is evident by his better than 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Including the playoffs, Smith threw 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions over his final eight games last season. Dwayne Bowe will be his main downfield threat but Jamaal Charles is a major part of the passing game. Charles caught 66 passes in 2013.