Updated list: August 23
Before I rank my top five fantasy quarterbacks heading into the 2016 NFL season, I want to make one thing clear: It’s unlikely any of these players are on any of my fantasy rosters. It’s not because I don’t think the quarterback position in fantasy is important, but it’s because I’d rather use high draft picks on wide receivers, running backs or even elite tight ends. I’d much rather take my chances with a guy like Eli Manning or Philip Rivers in the later rounds, as opposed to skipping a top receiver/running back to land Aaron Rodgers in the second round.
With that said, here’s my top five guys going into next season.
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
The reigning MVP led all quarterbacks with 391 fantasy points (standard scoring) in 2015, and he did so without a true no. 1 receiver. Newton threw for 3,837 yards and added another 636 on the ground. He scored 45 total touchdowns (35 throwing, 10 rushing) and only threw 10 interceptions. With Kelvin Benjamin coming back, Newton will have more opportunity to see those numbers grow. Devin Funchess has made great strides in training camp, and the Panthers will have a true receiving corps heading into the season. It’s tough to choose a QB ahead of Superman.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers, too, put up efficient numbers without his no. 1 receiver last season, but not enough fantasy points to land him in the top five fantasy quarterbacks in 2015. The former MVP threw for 31 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions, but the Packers clearly missed Jordy Nelson on offense. He’ll be back, and Rodgers will be Rodgers. Randall Cobb will benefit from Nelson’s return, and Davante Adams may surprise people now that he has another year under his belt. I expect a big year from him and the Packers’ offense.
3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck let a ton of people down last season, and not just Colts fans. He missed most of the year with an injury, but he was bad even when he played. The Colts’ front office has taken a lot of slack for not protecting their franchise QB, but they finally did so in this year’s draft. It was only two years ago Luck threw for 40 touchdowns (and ran for three), almost throwing for 5,000 yards. I won’t promise that, but I expect Luck to have a huge bounce back year and earn back the respect he was given in his first few years in the league. The Colts’ receiving corps should be one of the better groups in the league, and Luck is going to have a big year.
4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
You can easily make the argument to draft Wilson higher. His numbers have progressed each year in the league, and he threw for career-high numbers last season. He had 34 passing touchdowns and only 8 interceptions, and he threw for over 4,000 yards. Oh, and he rushed for another 553 yards, which was actually an underachievement according to his rushing standards. But that’s telling of a different story: Wilson is adapting more and more as a passing quarterback, and only using his legs to rush when he feels necessary. Either way, Wilson manages to get better by the season, and he’s in for another big year with Marshawn Lynch gone.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees has put up ridiculous numbers in New Orleans. He’s thrown the football well over 600 times in each of the past six seasons, and eight times in the last nine seasons. In those nine seasons, Brees has thrown for over 4,400 passing yards each year but one (4,388 in 2009, the one season he didn’t throw over 600 passes). Going into 2016, Brees will have Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks, and rookie Michael Thomas as his favorite targets. That’s a solid group presuming Thomas lives up to the hype (I bet he will), and Brees should have another huge passing year.