By Ryan Mayer
The advent of NFL training camps is almost upon us as rookies begin to report at the end of this week. With the return of football comes the return of our favorite form of legal sports betting, fantasy football. As you scour the internet for the latest news and rankings getting ready for your league’s draft, we’ll be providing you lists of the top fantasy prospects by position for this season. We’ll begin with the most important position on the field and likely on your team: quarterback. (Note: All fantasy stats are based on CBSSports.com scoring/rankings from last season)
1) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton had a ridiculous season last year in the Panthers run to the Super Bowl. He threw for 3,387 yards and 35 touchdowns with just 10 picks while also adding 636 yards and 10 touchdowns with only 5 fumbles in the running game. He totaled 458 fantasy points for the year which works out to 28.6 fantasy points per game. Add to that the fact that he gets his number one receiver back in Kelvin Benjamin to combine with emerging second year receiver Devin Funchess and always reliable tight end Greg Olsen and those passing numbers should be similar this season.
2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers had a “down” year last season throwing for just 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and 8 picks for a grand total of 362 fantasy points (22.6 average). However, he was missing number one wideout Jordy Nelson and the team never really found a good way of replacing him. With Nelson back, Randall Cobb shifts back to his slot-running back-number 2 receiver role and Davante Adams becomes the third option. Add to that the team bringing in tight end Jared Cook, who adds another weapon to the arsenal along with tight end Richard Rodgers. Expect more of a typical Rodgers 4,000+ yard season with 30-35 TD’s this year.
3) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees continues to be a fantasy football star even when his team is decidedly below average. He threw for a league high 4,872 yards with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year and was 6th among QB’s in fantasy points at 367 (22.9 average). He gets a new toy in the receiving game with Coby Fleener at the tight end spot. Fleener was under utilized in Indy and Brees/coach Sean Payton’s offense always seems to make stars of the tight end. For reference, Ben Watson had 74 receptions for 800+ yards and 6 TD’s last season. Staple Marques Colston is gone, but there’s a bevy of new rookies to attempt to pick up the slack.
4) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
The horrific performance in the playoff game against Carolina notwithstanding, Palmer flourished in Arians’ offense last season throwing for 4,671 yards and tying for second in passing touchdowns with 35 and just 11 interceptions during the regular season, which was good for an average of 23.6 fantasy points per game (378 total). The receiving corps is still stacked with weapons. The offensive line meanwhile gets an upgrade in solid veteran Evan Mathis who joins the guard group. Keeping Palmer clean and upright is a big priority and the Cardinals should once again have an explosive offense because of that.
5) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck was hurt for the large majority of the season last year, being done for the year after 7 games despite being injured much earlier in the season. The big question here is whether the team can or will protect him better than they did last season. The offensive line was bad last season but, they attempted to address it through the draft with center Ryan Kelly and tackles Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark. The team is still stacked with weapons, T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, and tight end Dwayne Allen give Luck plenty to work with as he looks to ascend back to the top tier of QB’s in the league.
6) Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady gets dinged here because he will miss the first four games of the season following the end of the nation’s longest nightmare, otherwise known as DeflateGate. However, there’s no reason to expect that once he returns to the field he won’t continue to churn out the same nearly 260 yards per game passing and 2 touchdowns per game averages that he’s put up in his career. His 414 total fantasy points (25.8 average) last season was 2nd in the league. Adding Martellus Bennett gives the Pats a true two tight end offense for the first time since before Aaron Hernandez was put in jail. Brady’s in line for a solid fantasy season and you can probably get him later than normal due to him missing the first four games.
7) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger missed time with injuries last season yet still almost threw for 4,000 yards. Martavis Bryant is suspended for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and new addition LaDarius Green there are still plenty of options. Additionally, the team has players to step in and fill Bryant’s shoes in third year player Sammie Coates, fifth year receiver Markus Wheaton and a couple of new rookies who could make impacts. Big Ben was productive despite missing four games to injury last year. He’ll be productive when fully healthy this season.
8) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson had a breakout season passing wise last year putting up 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. Adding 553 yards on the ground with a touchdown there certainly helps his fantasy value making him the 3rd highest earner among QB’s in fantasy points at 403 (25.2 average). The Seahawks attempted to improve his offensive line after years of neglect this offseason by adding free agent tackle J’Marcus Webb and drafting guard/tackle Germain Ifedi, guard Rees Odhiambo and center Joey Hunt. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are back and the team will hope to get a full season of Jimmy Graham.
9) Eli Manning, New York Giants
Manning generally gets brushed aside when we talk about top fantasy QB’s. The assumption is that he throws too many interceptions for the rest of his production to be worth it. Thing is, in the past two years with Ben McAdoo as the offensive coordinator, he’s thrown just 14 interceptions in each season while throwing 30 (2014) and 35 (2015) touchdowns. He’s also hit more than 4,400 yards the past two years. They’ll hope to finally get Victor Cruz back healthy and added a potential explosive weapon in the slot in rookie Sterling Shepard. The line is a question mark, but the quick passing attack McAdoo prefers should get the ball out of Manning’s hands quick enough to allow him to succeed once again.
10) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles may surprise some people. Yes, he needs to cut down on the interceptions. But, he threw for 4,400+ yards and 35 touchdowns in his sophomore season and with that kind of growth it seems he’s trending upwards. His 386 total fantasy points (24.1 average) was 4th in the league. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are back and the team is hopeful they’ll get a healthy season from tight end Julius Thomas. With plenty of options and a stable coaching staff (offensive coordinator and QB coach stayed the same) Bortles growth should continue, leading to him being a top fantasy QB.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.