2016 Outlook: Newton took his game to a new level in 2015. He finished as fantasy's top scorer, tossing a career-high 35 TD passes and running for 10 scores. He has always picked up points on the ground, ranking among the top three QBs in carries, rushing yards and rushing TDs in each of his five seasons. But last year he added big chunks of yardage through the air: Newton's 10.5-yard average depth of throw--how far down the field the target is--trailed only Carson Palmer's for the league lead. Newton's accuracy remains an issue: He was off target on 21.2 percent of his throws, one of the league's worst marks, and completed just 59.8 percent of his attempts (league average: 63 percent). Still, he posted seven top-three fantasy weeks, and with Kelvin Benjamin back, Newton is primed for another elite campaign.
2016 Outlook: Rodgers took a surprising step backward last season. His 31-8 TD-INT ratio, while still excellent, was his worst mark in a full season since 2010. Known for his stunning accuracy, Rodgers completed 60.7 percent of his passes, his lowest rate since becoming a full-time starter in 2008, and was off target on a career-worst 20.5 percent of his throws. He averaged 6.7 yards per attempt and 11.0 yards per completion, which were--you guessed it--the lowest of his career. Despite those issues and the Packers' overall offensive struggles, Rodgers ranked seventh among QBs in fantasy points and posted a top-10 finish in half his starts (tied for sixth best). Of course, Rodgers had to operate without WR Jordy Nelson, who missed the season with a torn ACL. With Nelson back in the fold, Rodgers is a great bet to bounce back at age 32.
2016 Outlook: The 2015 season was an odd experience for both Wilson and the Seattle offense. Through Week 10, Wilson had 10 TDs and seven interceptions and ranked just 17th among QBs in fantasy points. His best weekly finish was ninth. But over his final seven games, Wilson rang up 25 total TDs, threw one interception and trailed only Cam Newton in fantasy points. His worst weekly finish was seventh. Wilson's accuracy couldn't have been more impressive; he missed his intended target only 12.6 percent of the time, which was the league's best mark. He also adds value on the ground, ranking among the top three QBs in rushing yards in each of his four seasons. After ranking third in fantasy points among QBs two years in a row, Wilson is as safe as it gets.
2016 Outlook: Last season was a lost campaign for Luck. Injuries limited him to just seven games, and even when he played he struggled. Luck threw for 15 TDs and 12 interceptions while completing just 55.3 percent of his passes--last among qualifying players. Luck was off target on 22.5 percent of his throws; only rookie Jameis Winston was worse among players who attempted at least 250 passes. On the plus side, Luck managed three top-10 fantasy weeks in his final four games, momentum that he should carry into this season now that he's back to full health. The 26-year-old remains one of the league's top young talents and operates in a pass-heavy offense. In other words, he's a great bet to rebound in a major way and projects as a solid QB1 with a high ceiling.
2016 Outlook: Brees proved that reports of his impending demise were grossly exaggerated. After a slow start last season, the veteran quarterback went on to lead the NFL with 4,870 passing yards while tossing 32 TDs. Brees is still as efficient as they come: His 68.3 percent completion rate ranked second behind only that of Kirk Cousins. That wasn't simply the result of dinking and dunking, as Brees ranked sixth in yards per attempt (7.8). Brees has now finished among the top eight QBs in fantasy points 10 years in a row, though his ceiling wasn't quite as high last year, when he posted a top-10 week in only 40 percent of his starts (tied for 16th among QBs). His supporting cast should be better with TE Coby Fleener and second-round rookie WR Michael thomas, so Brees should produce another QB1 season.
2016 Outlook: The obvious issue with Roethlisberger is durability. He has played in all 16 games just three times in 12 seasons and missed four games last year. But when he was active in 2015, he was a fantasy stud. He topped NFL QBs by posting a top-10 week in two-thirds of his outings. Although he did throw too many interceptions (16), Big Ben completed 68 percent of his passes to rank fourth in the NFL and was third in ypa (8.4). That was a significant step up from 2014, when a full season under center and two monster performances obscured the fact that he posted just five top-10 weeks. The loss of WR Martavis Bryant will hurt, but with Antonio Brown, Ladarius Green and a healthy Le'Veon Bell around, Roethlisberger has enough weapons to deliver high-end QB1 production.
2016 Outlook: Palmer experienced his best fantasy finish (fifth) since 2006, making him one of last season's top comeback stories. Leaning heavily on Arizona's talented wide receiver unit, Palmer posted a league-high 10.9-yard average depth of target. Not surprisingly, Palmer also topped all QBs with 8.7 yards per attempt and 13.7 yards per completion. Palmer does enter 2016 with a pair of concerns, though. First, his ceiling isn't as high as that of other top QBs: He managed a top-10 fantasy week in only 44 percent of his appearances, tied for 10th at the position. Second, Palmer is now 36, which makes him a candidate for statistical regression. Even with a small drop-off, Palmer should maintain his QB1 status.
2016 Outlook: Despite dealing with an underwhelming and injury-plagued supporting cast, Brady produced yet another strong fantasy season. He put up a top-10 score at his position in 10 weeks, which was tied for most among QBs, although eight of those performances came during his first nine outings. Despite playing in an offense that emphasizes short, conservative passes, he still threw for 36 TDs. As usual, Brady was unmatched in terms of ball security, tossing only seven interceptions in 624 attempts. With the addition of TE Martellus Bennett and improved depth at wide receiver, it's possible Brady's efficiency will be even better in 2016. The four-game suspension stings, but Brady will be so good upon his return that he is well worth stashing on your bench.
2016 Outlook: Viewed one way, Manning is a testament to steadiness: He hasn't missed a game since his rookie year. Viewed another way, Manning is maddeningly inconsistent: He posted seven top-10 fantasy weeks last season but finished worse than 22nd among QBs five times. That makes it tough to rely on him as a clear QB1, especially considering he has put up only four top-10 fantasy seasons during his 12-year career. But two of those finishes came after Ben McAdoo took over the offense two years ago. Now McAdoo is the head coach, and he and Manning have a clear rhythm: Manning has ranked among the top seven QBs in attempts, completions and yards during McAdoo's time with the Giants, and only Tom Brady eclipsed Manning's 35 TD passes last season. Taking everything into account, Manning is a borderline QB1.
2016 Outlook: Believe it or not, Bortles had the fourth-most QB fantasy points last season. But before you slot him in as an automatic QB1 for 2016, consider some key factors. Bortles was tied for second in the NFL with 35 TDs, but he also led the league with 18 interceptions. Jacksonville called pass plays 68 percent of the time (second in the NFL) and scored 88 percent of its offensive TDs through the air, so it's likely his TD passes will regress. His completion percentage declined ever so slightly from his rookie year, but that probably was just the result of throwing deep more often. Still, Bortles has a strong cadre of receiving options and also picks up points with his legs. Even if he remains inefficient in some areas, Bortles should flirt with QB1 numbers in his third season.
2016 Outlook: Rivers is coming off his seventh top-12 fantasy season in the past eight years, a feat that's all the more impressive when you consider how injuries decimated the Chargers on both sides of the ball. In fact, during the season's first nine weeks, Rivers posted five top-seven fantasy performances, and only Tom Brady had more points among QBs. Eventually, injuries to the likes of Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon and Ladarius Green took too much of a toll, but Rivers still led the NFL in attempts and completions and trailed only Drew Brees in passing yards (4,792). Rivers' accuracy remains as sharp as ever, and it shouldn't take much luck for his supporting cast to be healthier in 2016. Combined, those factors make him a terrific--and underrated--target in the later rounds.
2016 Outlook: If you're looking for an underrated option to produce QB1 numbers, Taylor might be your guy. Because he missed a pair of games last season, his overall numbers don't appear impressive at first glance, but he ranked ninth among QBs in fantasy points per game (18.4) and posted a top-10 week in half his starts (tied for sixth at his position). Taylor thrives with the deep ball--he averaged 8.0 ypa (fifth among QBs) and produced the league's third-highest average depth of throw (10.5 yards). But Taylor really separates himself on the ground; he trailed only Cam Newton in rushing yards among QBs. After spending four years as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, the 27-year-old is locked in as Buffalo's starter. Considering the Bills tied for eighth in offensive TDs last season, that's a good place to be.
2016 Outlook: Jay Gruden's decision to roll with Cousins as his starter didn't exactly scream 'brilliant' early last season. Through six weeks, Cousins tossed six TDs and eight interceptions. But starting with a three-TD, 317-yard performance against the Bucs in Week 7, Cousins became a different player. He threw 23 TDs and just three picks over his final 10 games, and only three QBs scored more fantasy points during that span. Cousins plays a conservative, efficient style: Only 15.7 percent of his throws were off target, and he led the league with a 69.8 percent completion rate. Despite his strong finish, Cousins is still somewhat unproven--last year was the only season in which he appeared in more than six games. Still, with a healthy Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson, he shouldn't have trouble providing solid QB2 numbers.
2016 Outlook: Halfway through last season, Carr seemed to be enjoying a second-year breakout, posting six top-10 fantasy weeks in his first nine games. But he did not sustain that success and faded badly. Over the final seven weeks, he averaged an 18th-place weekly positional ranking and cracked the top 10 just once. His rate stats weren't much better than those in his rookie season--his average depth of throw remained at 7.9 yards, and he posted a higher interception percentage and missed his target more often. But he threw 11 more TDs than in 2014, due largely to an improved supporting cast. Carr's receivers generated 5.3 yards after the catch in 2015 after managing only 4.3 the year before. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford are all back with an added year of experience, so Carr should have enough weapons to sustain QB2 production.
2016 Outlook: The second overall pick in last year's draft, Mariota showed flashes as a rookie but had his first year derailed by a handful of injuries that cost him nearly five full games. When he played, though, Mariota performed well. He finished as a top-10 fantasy QB in 45 percent of the games in which he played at least half the snaps, good for 10th at the position. He showed that he wasn't afraid to challenge defenses down the field, posting a 9.2-yard average depth of target. That approach helped him tie for ninth in the NFL with 7.6 ypa. With an improved supporting cast that includes DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Delanie Walker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews, Mariota is a solid candidate for a second-year leap--provided he can stay healthy.