1. QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
In his last 45 games, including the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 114 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and 12738 yards. Over 16 games, that’s 41 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 4529 yards. He’s also rushed for 1395 yards and 18 touchdowns in 5 years. There’s some concern with his offensive line, but he was sacked 51 times last season and still produced. He’s the #1 fantasy quarterback.
Projection: 4500 passing yards 40 passing touchdowns 9 interceptions 250 rushing yards 3 rushing touchdowns (365 pts standard, 445 pts 6 pt td leagues)
2. QB Cam Newton (Carolina)
Newton was noticeably better in the 2nd half of last season, with 1964 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, all while rushing for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns. Heading into his 3rd season in the league, it’s very possible he’s turned a corner permanently. There’s immense upside here.
Projection: 4000 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 750 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns (359 pts standard, 409 pts 6 pt td leagues)
3. QB Drew Brees (New Orleans)
There was concern about how Brees would do without Sean Payton last season, but he did fine, completing 63.0% of his passes for an average of 7.7 YPA, 43 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions, while leading the NFL’s #3 ranked scoring offense. He’s now thrown for 5000 yards in 3 of the last 5 seasons, including the past 2, the first quarterback in NFL history to do so. Since 2008, he’s completed 2114 of 3134 (67.5%) for 24730 yards (7.9 YPA), 190 touchdowns, 83 interceptions.
Projection: 5000 passing yards 39 touchdowns 16 interceptions 50 rushing yards 0 rushing touchdowns (329 pts standard, 407 pts 6 pt td leagues)
4. QB Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco)
In 10 starts last year, including playoffs, Kaepernick threw for 2406 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 502 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. Over 16 games, that’s 3850 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 803 rushing yards, and 8 touchdowns. Michael Crabtree is out, but Vernon Davis, who did nothing for him until late in the playoff run last year, should be able to make up for his absence along with veteran Anquan Boldin, 2nd year receiver AJ Jenkins and a pair of rookies Quinton Patton and Vance McDonald. I’m not going to quite project those stats for him because he won’t catch anyone by surprise this year, but he’s still a projected top-5 fantasy quarterback.
Projection: 3600 passing yards 22 touchdowns 9 interceptions 700 rushing yards 7 touchdowns (326 pts standard, 370 pts 6 pt TD leagues)
5. QB Tom Brady (New England)
The Patriots may pass fewer times and Brady may average fewer yards per attempt this season, as he ages and with his receiving corps on the decline, but he’ll make the best out of what he has and he remains a top level fantasy quarterback. He’s scored an average of 39 times in the last 3 seasons, while throwing an interception on just 1.4% of his throws.
Projection: 4400 passing yards 35 touchdowns 12 interceptions 70 rushing yards 2 rushing touchdowns (311 pts standard, 381 pts 6 pt td leagues)
6. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle)
In the 2nd half of last season, Wilson completed 123 of 183 passes for 1652 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, rushing for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns on 58 attempts. That’s 3304 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, with 722 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns on 116 attempts over a 16 game season. He won’t match those numbers, because that would be absurd, a 120.3 QB rating with plus rushing ability, but he should surpass his rookie numbers and be a solid QB1.
Projection: 3300 passing yards 27 touchdowns 8 interceptions 550 rushing yards 6 touchdowns (315 pts standard, 369 pts 6 pt td leagues)
7. QB Matt Stafford (Detroit)
One of the weird statistical things about the Lions in 2012 was that Matt Stafford set an NFL record with 727 passing attempts, but managed just 20 touchdowns. Well, somehow a running game that ran just 391 times on the season managed to steal 17 touchdowns away from Stafford, while backup Shaun Hill stole another 2 on 13 attempts. The Lions should remain very pass heavy this year so Stafford should throw a higher percentage of the team’s touchdowns.
There should also be more touchdowns to go around on an offense that figures to turn the ball over fewer times. He probably won’t throw the ball 727 times again, for the same reason why the Lions probably won’t run 72.5 plays per game again, but he could throw 30-35 touchdowns, average around the 6.9 yards per attempt he’s averaged for his career on about 650-660 throws, and keep his interception rate right around the 2.3%-2.4% it’s been at in both of his full seasons as a starter, which puts him around 16 interceptions.
Projection: 4550 passing yards 33 passing touchdowns 16 interceptions 100 rushing yards 1 rushing touchdown (298 pts standard, 364 pts 6 pt td leagues)
8. QB Peyton Manning (Denver)
It’s possible that the addition of Welker can lead to be even further improved Manning, but I don’t find it that likely that Manning will surpass the arguably 2nd best season of his career (at least in terms of QB rating) in what is his age 37 season. It’s more likely that regression to the mean and normal diminishing physical skills for a 37-year-old who has recently had a serious injury lead to an inferior 2013 as compared to 2012 for Manning. Sure, Manning’s mean is still one of the best in the game, but I don’t buy that he’ll be improved over last season just because of Wes Welker’s presence on the slot. Don’t buy too high, especially in a deep year for quarterbacks.
Projection: 4500 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 20 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (292 pts standard, 362 pts 6 pt td leagues)
9. QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis)
Andrew Luck is an overrated quarterback in real life, but he was great in fantasy football last season and he should be better in both reality and fantasy next season. Pep Hamilton is coming over from Stanford to reunite with Luck as his offensive coordinator and will be installing an offense that fits his skill set better. He’ll also be better protected and another year more experienced. The Colts should still throw about 600 times, even with the team using more two-tight end sets, because both of their tight ends are comfortable pass catching, and Luck should be more efficient on those 600 throws. He also adds added value on the ground
Projection: 4350 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 270 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns (291 pts standard, 343 pts 6 pt td leagues)
10. QB Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
Dirk Koetter’s arrival in Atlanta led to Matt Ryan attempting a career high 615 passes last season, which led to a career high in completions (422), yards (4719), and touchdowns (32). He was also the most efficient he’s ever been on a per play basis, ranking 5th in the NFL with a 99.4 QB rating, a career high. Also a career high was his 68.6% completion percentage and his 7.7 yards per attempt were the 2nd highest of his career. While he did throw 14 interceptions, his interception rate of 2.3% was actually right in line with his career average. He could see inferior production this season as a result of a tougher schedule, though not a lot inferior.
Projection: 4500 passing yards 30 touchdowns 15 interceptions 100 rushing yards 1 touchdown (286 pts standard, 346 pts 6 pt td leagues)
11. QB Tony Romo (Dallas)
In his career, Romo has completed 64.7% of his passes for an average of 7.9 YPA and 177 touchdowns to 91 interceptions, good for a career QB rating of 95.6, 5th highest all-time behind Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. The 19 interceptions he threw last season, which led the league, tied a career high and was the same amount he threw in his last two full seasons combined. The Cowboys might not throw 658 times in 2012, which was 3rd most in the NFL and 90 more attempts than any Cowboy team in the Tony Romo era. However, this is more and more becoming a passing league and while they’d probably prefer not to have to pass that many times in 2013, they’ll still be a pass heavy team that should throw the ball at least 600 times.
Projection: 4450 passing yards for 29 touchdowns 15 interceptions 50 rushing yards 1 touchdown (275 pts standard, 333 pts 6 pt td leagues)
12. QB Robert Griffin (Washington)
Griffin is expected to be ready for week 1 of this season, but he has a history of knee problems so it’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay healthy for all 16 games and at what percent of his peak ability he’ll be able to play. They’re already talking about limiting his carries, which is such a big part of his game. He also shouldn’t be expected to maintain the 1.3% interception rate he had last season, even if he is healthy.
Projection: 3150 passing yards 19 passing touchdowns 9 interceptions 550 rushing yards 5 rushing touchdowns (269 pts standard, 307 pts 6 pt td leagues)
13. QB Eli Manning (NY Giants)
Eli threw for 4933 yards in 2011, but other than that has never gone over 4021. He proved that 2011 was a fluke by throwing for just 3948 yards in 2012. It’s not that he’s a bad quarterback, but the Giants prefer a balanced attack. I do expect him to go over those 4021 yards this season because he’s got a loaded receiving corps with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers, and Reuben Randle.
Projection: 4200 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (263 pts standard, 323 pts 6 pt td leagues)
14. QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)
Roethlisberger was on pace for 4406 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just 8 interceptions at the halfway point last season, before getting hurt and missing 3 ½ games. He wasn’t the same once he returned either. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger has played in all 16 games just once in his career. He should be improved over last year’s 3265 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, but he won’t reach those extrapolated numbers.
Projection: 3750 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 100 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (260 pts standard, 316 pts 6 pt TD leagues)
15. QB Joe Flacco (Baltimore)
7/28/13: Anquan Boldin was Joe Flacco’s leading receiver last year and Dennis Pitta was the guy who was supposed to step up as the top complement to 3rd year deep threat Torrey Smith. Now Pitta is out for the season with Boldin gone and it’s just Torrey Smith and a bunch of question marks in the receiving corps. Flacco will make do because that’s what good quarterbacks do. He might not have a secondary go to receiver, but he’ll throw the ball around and I do believe that a full season of Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Jim Caldwell at offensive coordinator will help him and that he should be able to maintain some of his post-season gains. But I’m obviously knocking down a bit with Pitta done for the year.
Throughout his 5 year career, he’s been a very inconsistent week to week quarterback, but an incredibly consistent year to year quarterback, proving himself to be a slightly above average quarterback and nothing more. His completion percentages have always fallen between 57.6% and 63.1%. His YPAs have always fallen between 6.7 and 7.4. His touchdowns have always fallen between 20 and 25 (with the exception of his rookie year) and his interceptions have always fallen between 10 and 12. Of course, that all changed in the post-season and while I don’t expect him to keep that up, I do expect him to have his career best regular season this year.
Projection: 3900 passing yards 26 touchdowns 11 interceptions 70 rushing yards 2 touchdowns (257 pts standard, 309 pts 6 pt TD leagues)