The Fantasy Fox offers his updated fantasy rankings for the season's presumed starting quarterbacks (1-32) ... as traning camps open en masse this week.
Tom Brady (left -- 295.8 yards passing in Rob Gronkowski's last 20 complete game), Peyton Manning (middle -- 55 touchdowns last year) and Joe Flacco (right -- favorable road schedule in December) are all excellent fantasy plays this season -- assuming good value in the draft.
Mark J. Rebilas/Christopher Hanewinckel/Mitch Stringer / USA TODAY Sports
By Jay Clemons
Here are my updated fantasy rankings for the season's presumed starting quarterbacks (1-32) ... as training camps open en masse this week:
1. The odds of Peyton Manning matching or eclipsing last season's record-breaking tallies with passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) are astronomically long, factoring in the Broncos' difficult schedule (four games vs. NFC West, four against AFC East, etc.).
That aside, he's still the clear-cut No. 1 choice, among QBs, heading into the season.
2. For once, Drew Brees did not win the unofficial fantasy title of "Most Games Of 300 Total Yards and/or Three Touchdowns" in 2013.
That honor went to Peyton Manning (13). As a consolation, Brees had to settle for becoming the first QB in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in back-to-back-to-back seasons.
Think about that for a second.
3. I have Aaron Rodgers (2,536, 17 TDs for eight full games last season) penciled in for 4,450 yards passing and 42 touchdowns -- his two-year averages for the 2011 and '12 seasons.
4. Of his first 12 games last year, Lions QB Matthew Stafford (4,650 yards passing, 31 total TDs) racked up 300 total yards and/or three touchdowns nine times. It's an encouraging sign for a guy who's always a candidate for 5,000 yards passing.
Now for the bad news: There is a clear line of fantasy demarcation separating Manning, Brees, Rodgers ... and every other quarterback in this countdown.
5. In standard-scoring leagues last year, Panthers QB Cam Newton (3,964 total yards, 30 TDs) tallied 19 or more fantasy points 10 times -- despite playing with a so-so receiver corps of Steve Smith (64 catches, 745 yards, four TDs), Brandon LaFell (49 catches, 627 yards, five TDs), et al.
So, why should it matter that this year's group of pass-catchers -- excluding ultra-reliable tight end Greg Olsen -- has many questions surrounding it?
1. How vital is Rob Gronkowski to Tom Brady's fantasy success? Of Gronk's last 20 complete games -- including the playoffs, but excluding the Browns tilt from December (left early with season-ending knee injury) -- Brady boasts per-outing averages of 295.8 yards passing.
And during that span, Brady has a scintillating 42/11 TD-INT ratio.
2. Strange but true: Andrew Luck (3,822 yards passing, 27 total TDs) eclipsed the weekly QB-elite threshold of 290 total yards and/or three touchdowns just six times last year. And yet, the Colts still notched 27 or more points eight times.
3. The Ravens might not encounter a single bad-weather game all season. Baltimore's last cold-weather road trip involves Pittsburgh for Week 9.
After that, the Ravens' final three road outings take place in New Orleans (Nov. 24), Miami (Dec. 7) and Houston (Dec. 21). Cha-ching!
On the down side ... aside from his sparkling championship run two seasons ago (January/February 2013), Flacco has never thrown for three TDs in three consecutive outings.
Plus, for the 2013 campaign, Flacco tallied three touchdowns just once (Week 14 vs. Minnesota).
4. For the fantasy owners who end up with bad teams this fall, or at least below-average records, you may regret drafting Flacco, Tony Romo, Newton or Ben Roethlisberger as QB1s.
The rationale? The foursome won't have their bye weeks until Week 11 (Flacco, Romo) or Week 12 (Newton, Roethlisberger) ... meaning you'll likely have to trade the quarterbacks around Week 7 -- or risk the notion of starting Jake Locker, Matt Cassel or whoever gets the call for the Browns on a bye-ravaged, must-win Sunday.
1. Russell Wilson may be sitting on a mountain of gold in the real world of big-boy football, but here's a dose of fantasy reality:
Of his 16 regular-season games last year, the Seahawks QB and Super Bowl champion tallied just zero or one touchdown eight times. Of course, having Percy Harvinfor a full season would certainly boost Wilson's prospects of starting 10 or 12 times on fantasy weekends.
2. Consider Romo's ranking to be a placeholder during the summer months, while he rehabs from back surgery. When fully healthy, Romo has the capacity to be a top-12 fantasy passer.
3. How deep is this year's QB class? In 16-team leagues, in-their-prime assets like Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Alex Smith and, of course, Wilson could be backups for as many as 10 fantasy weekends.
4. Don't fall asleep on Carson Palmer during the preseason. He accounted for 4,274 yards passing (career high) and 24 touchdowns in his first season with head coach/offensive Bruce Arians.
Of equal importance, Palmer averaged 290 yards passing and 1.5 TDs against the dominant NFC West last year (six games).
1. Brian Hoyer's unflattering ranking goes on the assumption of a lengthy Josh Gordon suspension -- covering eight, 12 or even 16 games. It also presumes that first-round pick Johnny Manziel will see the field sooner than later in Year 1.
3. The Jets have done a nice job of upgrading their playmakers -- signing tailback Chris Johnson and receiver Eric Decker as free agents and then snagging wideouts Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders in the draft. (Don't bury Stephen Hill just yet, either.)
Still, Geno Smith must prove his stripes as a viable fantasy quarterback. In his final nine games last season, Smith accounted for only 240 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns twice.
4. Matt Cassel (1,807 yards passing, 11 TDs) could be a nice sleeper pick early in the season, as part of Norv Turner's progressive offense. Just don't expect him to be logging any starts after Minnesota's Week 10 bye (Teddy Bridgewater time).
5. Here's an unusual endorsement of Chad Henne -- at least in 16-team leagues: The Jaguars' first four opponents -- the Eagles, Redskins, Colts and Chargers -- ranked 32nd, 20th, 13th and 29th against the pass last year.
And lest we forget that Kansas City QB Alex Smith passed for 378 yards and four TDs against Indy in the wild-card round last January.
6. I'm not the world's biggest Sam Bradford fan. However, before suffering a knee injury last year, Bradford accounted for 300 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns in four of seven starts.
That's a respectable output, considering most NFL fans can't name four -- or maybe even three -- of the Rams' top-six receivers.
6a. One more note: Of the eight QBs listed in this final quadrant ... Bradford and Manuel are the only locks to start every game, assuming full health.