QB Primer '16: Who will challenge Cam Newton for fantasy's passer throne?

Cam Newton's final QB rank matched his jersey number in '15. (Getty)
Cam Newton’s final QB rank matched his jersey number in ’15. (Getty)


• Since 2009 the bust rate among drafted QB1s (Players selected inside position’s top-12 who finished outside the top-15) is 25.0 percent, the lowest, bar none, of the major positions.

• According to average draft position (ADP) values tracked at Player Profiler, Tyrod Taylor is the fastest rising QB in early drafts. His stock has jumped from 141.7 ADP to 136.5 over the past month.

• On the flip side, Marcus Mariota’s perceived worth has fallen off. Since July 15, his ADP has expanded from 142.7 to 145.4.

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• The most important secondary metric for determining fantasy QB success might be yards per attempt. Eight of the top-12 quarterbacks in fantasy points per game last year also ranked top-10 in the category, exhibiting at least a 7.6 YPA.

• Tom Brady’s four-game suspension has driven his ADP to 93.5, the lowest its been in 14 years. His temporary replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile, has been picked in only six percent of Yahoo drafts.

Below are eight pressing questions about QB nearing draft season.

Cam Newton sported a giant “S” on his chest last season, setting the pace at the position with 25.4 fantasy points per game in standard Yahoo leagues. What challenger, presumably with a pocket full of kryptonite, has the best chance to dethrone the Panther: AARON RODGERS, RUSSELL WILSON, ANDREW LUCK or WILDCARD?

Brad – ANDREW LUCK. Reports of Luck’s “uneven” training camp should be ignored. After an injury-marred 2015, the newly rich QB is about to storm back with a vengeance. His surroundings are ideal for an elite campaign — an array of weapons, susceptible D, decent ground attack. It’s no stretch to think he couldn’t duplicate what he did two seasons ago (5,024 combined yards, 43 total TDs). And as lousy as he was when in uniform last year, he still finished with the seventh-best per game average. Shop all day at Discount City (61.8 ADP).

Scott – I’m always up for some RUSSELL WILSON, especially at his affordable draft slot. The Seahawks have a spotty line, which is easier to mask in the passing game. Doug Baldwin surely won’t repeat 2015’s bonanza, but he’s stepped up in class. Tyler Lockett is bursting with fruit flavor. Wilson’s rushing yardage has a very safe floor, and he offers some rushing touchdown upside after last year’s surprising return. As for Aaron Rodgers, I couldn’t go in his direction given the iffy proposition of Jordy Nelson. I’d love to be wrong, but I’m not living through that nightmare again if Nelson can’t get right.

Brandon – ANDREW LUCK. Frankly, I think Luck is far from perfect, and not quite the once-in-a-generation transcendent talent that he was billed to be coming out of Stanford. But there’s no doubt that his game, and the Colts offense, cater to fantasy – he was hard-to-watch bad last season, yet still finished sixth in FAN PPG among those with at least seven starts. And, in a healthier, stars-more-aligned campaign the season prior (’14), he was fantasy’s top QB. So, with talk of ample three-WR sets for a team that has finished top 10 in pass attempts each of the past two seasons (1st in ’14), it’s not hard to imagine Luck returning to the top of the fantasy QB heap in ’16.

BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: Among sophomore passers Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, the Tennessee Titan will yield the most fantasy fruits in Year 2.

Brandon – MAKE BELIEVE. Winston averaged almost 20 more passing yards per game than Mariota last season, and Tennessee is expected to be one of the run-heaviest offenses in ’16. Winston also packed a punch at the goal line, rushing for 6 TDs, second best among QBs behind Cam Newton. Winston’s ability to hammer it home at the goal line goes along way towards negating Mariota’s rushing advantage. This is one of those cases where I would probably take Mariota if I was drafting a real team, but I’m all Winston for fantasy.

Scott – BELIEVE. Mariota and Winston will be linked for most of their careers, and I’ve been in the Team Mariota camp from Day 1. He makes sharper pocket decisions and has a deeper set of receivers to throw to (albeit no one as good as Mike Evans). The Titans should make better use of Mariota’s rushing skills this year. Winston was a stealthy Garbage Time King last season, and even if he gets a better connection with Evans in 2016 (it probably can’t get worse), I expect that to be somewhat offset by those pretty rushing touchdowns disintegrating.

Liz – MAKE BELIEVE. Mariota may have the wheels to rack up rushing stats, but he still needs to throw the ball to be a productive fantasy asset. A decidedly below average receiving corps, a thunderous backfield, and a healthy defense don’t point to a plethora of passing attempts.

Matt Ryan, among others, caused nothing but collywobbles for those who invested in his services last year. Who is your BIGGEST BOUNCE BACK CANDIDATE?

Liz – TONY ROMO. The back stiffness and lack of conditioning aren’t ideal, but with a healthy Dez Bryant on the outside, a dynamic rookie RB in the backfield, and a feeble defense, Romo should put up some numbers. Staying upright will be key, but the Cowboys know that, and will be drumming the importance of pass protection into the skulls of their o-linemen.

Dalton – TONY ROMO. He’s 36 years old, and his collarbone keeps breaking, but assuming surgery finally fixed that problem, I expect a nice rebound in 2016 (a healthy Dez Bryant would go a long way as well). Romo’s career adjusted YPA (7.81) is the fourth best all time, so it’s fine if Dallas doesn’t throw as much as other teams. Before last year’s injury-riddled campaign, he averaged 4,155 yards and 31 TD passes over the previous four seasons (while missing two games). Romo is a bargain at his current ADP (QB12).

Scott – My answer is TONY ROMO too, so we’re all chewing Trident. But it’s boring when we trample the same ground. So I’ll drop MATT RYAN’S name (stop the booing) with one simple concept in mind: his puny touchdown rate from last year is partially bad luck, and is unlikely to repeat. In other words, here comes positive regression.

Due to SD's sketchy D, Rivers is set to rage. (Getty)
Due to SD’s sketchy D, Rivers is set to rage. (Getty)

What overlooked QB is the virtual game’s most undervalued?

Liz – TYROD TAYLOR. Another year in the system, as the established starter, who just signed an extension… the situation is a good one for TyGod. Plus, he’s a dual-threat talent whose best receiver just happens to be Sammy Watkins. Available until the eleventh round, his value is downright criminal.

Dalton – MARCUS MARIOTA. While Tennessee wants to run the ball a ton, even doing so exotically, its defense allowed 26.4 ppg last season (the sixth most in the NFL), so game script might not allow for this plan. Mariota got 7.6 YPA last year, which is highly impressive for a rookie and suggests big things to come. And remember, this is a QB who averaged 745.7 rushing yards and ran for 29 scores over his three years in college, so there’s huge fantasy upside if he decides to run more in 2016. He’s an absolute steal as the QB19 off the board right now.

Andy – PHILIP RIVERS is old and familiar, and thus unexciting to fantasy owners, but he averaged 299.5 yards per game last season while attempting a league-leading 661 pass attempts. Keenan Allen is healthy again and deep-threat Travis Benjamin was added to the mix. Rivers falls outside the top-100 picks in Yahoo drafts, but he has an easy path to a top-10 positional finish.

Conversely, what gunslinger is the most overvalued?

Dalton – DEREK CARR. It’s definitely possible he makes a leap during his third year in the league (an improved and healthy Amari Cooper would help too), but it’s hard not to overstate just how poor Carr’s career YPA (6.2) has been, including when he got just 6.3 over the second half of last season (a time in which he should be showing improvement not taking a step back). The Raiders also have to face the tough secondaries of Denver, Kansas City and Carolina during 31.3% of their schedule this year. Carr is currently being drafted as the QB13, but I’d prefer each of the half dozen going directly after him (Cousins, Dalton, Winston, Stafford, Taylor, Mariota).

Andy – While I fully appreciate the season BLAKE BORTLES just produced for fantasy owners, we shouldn’t pretend that he’s actually an upper-tier passer in real life. Bortles completed less than 60.0 percent of his throws and he tossed 18 picks last season. Jacksonville pretty clearly clearly wants a more balanced attack in 2016. I have no problem with Bortles as a platoon QB in our game, but we’re drafting him in a range that should be reserved for … well, for good players.

Brad – DEREK CARR. The QB is flying off lots and strangely so. Turn the key on the Raider and you’re sure to land a lemon. Though Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are a dynamite duo, Carr’s unsightly secondary profile (e.g. completion percentage, YPA, passer rating) and the Raiders nasty looking defense are indications he’s bound to regress and not advance. Another 32 passing touchdowns is fanciful. Latavius Murray will be a focal point. At his No. 12 position ADP, he’s overpriced.

Scott– They didn’t even ask me, but I slammed through here to ask why you keep drafting Tom Brady. Look how deep the position is. Why play down a man in the critical month of September, when the wire is begging for your attention? You can’t see Philip Rivers being just as good as Brady, all year? That’s the great thing about fantasy quarterbacks in 2016 — no matter what price point you want to jump in, you can snag excellent value (so long as you wait at least five rounds).

Play the Powerball. What late-round lottery ticket (120-plus ADP) could have deep-leaguers rolling in green come year’s end?

Andy – TYROD TAYLOR is currently falling outside the top-120 picks in Yahoo leagues, which makes him an obvious steal. He was terrific as a passer last season (8.0 Y/A, 6 INTs), leading a low-volume attack, and his rushing ability offers a nice fantasy floor. As long as Sammy Watkins can remain healthy (not a given), Taylor will remain an asset in leagues of any size.

Brad – MARCUS MARIOTA. Behrens is spot on with his Tyrod take, but owners shouldn’t pop Ambient on Mariota either. Bulked up and expected to utilize his running gifts more in Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth,” he could develop into one of the virtual game’s most coveted dual threats. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are also an enormous upgrade on the ground which should allow for cleaner pockets and softer coverage. His receivers aren’t world beaters, but are respectable enough. A final output around 3,700 pass yards, 550 rush yards and 25-28 total TDs is fathomable. In other words, he’s a poor man’s Cam.

Brandon – TYROD TAYLOR. Without question. He’s in the very top tier of rushing QBs, mkaybe the odds-on favorite to lead the position in rushing yards, and he proved much better in the passing game than anyone expected last season, when he finished seventh among QBs in fantasy PPG (min. 8 starts). With his wheels and a legit game-breaking go-to WR in Sammy Watkins, it’s hard not tobe attracted to his late-round draft price.

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