It’s the time of year for mock drafts and projections. Rotoworld has those in spades in our overflowing DRAFT GUIDE. This is not a mock draft or projection hub. It’s a thought exercise, one that isn’t interested in predicting the most likely outcomes. That’s what projections are for. Here we aim to consider what a player’s season might look like if everything breaks right, or if it all goes up in smoke.
Note: 1-32 rankings based on Rotoworld’s quarterback rankings, with slight alterations to take into account recent events, and ensure every team is represented.
1. Peyton Manning
Best Case: Manning can’t match last year’s “Create A Player 99 Overall” numbers, but still eases by 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. He remains league MVP, and without peer at his position.
Worst Case: The glacier starts to melt. Manning goes from looking like he’s 38 in the pocket to producing like he’s 38 in the pocket, losing even more zip on his passes while taking more than 21 sacks for the first time since 2002. Manning doesn’t fall off his career cliff, but can finally see it over the horizon.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Best Case: Rodgers recovers from his injury-ruined 2013 to reclaim his place atop the league’s quarterback mountain. He wins his second MVP award in four seasons as the Packers ramp their offensive machine back up to its 2011 levels.
Worst Case: Now 30, Rodgers loses some of his escapability, taking hits that lead to missed games for the third time in five years. Fantasy owners are saddled with a top-three quarterback who again isn’t on the field enough to produce like one.
3. Drew Brees
Best Case: Brees posts the fifth 5,000-yard season of his career — four more than anyone else in league history — as his 40-plus touchdowns lead him past Manning and Rodgers in the trio’s now annual quarterback game of thrones.
Worst Case: Coach Sean Payton’s talk about installing a more balanced offense wasn’t lip service, as he dials back Brees’ pass attempts to the 550 range. It results in “just” 4,400 yards and 35ish touchdowns. Fantasy owners regret their pick, but only a little bit.
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4. Matthew Stafford
Best Case: Sporting improved fundamentals and a new level of maturity and discipline for a new-and-improved coaching staff, Stafford crashes Manning, Rodgers and Brees’ royal rumble by leading the league in most every meaningful passing category.
Worst Case: Stafford doesn’t bother learning new tricks, instead relying on his usual trick-shot passes. His feet improve enough to get his completion percentage back over 60, but Stafford again has the looks of a gunslinger who doesn’t care much for accuracy or safety. He begins trending from upside project to missed opportunity.
5. Andrew Luck
Best Case: It’s Luck, not Stafford, who hijacks Manning, Rodgers and Brees’ MVP race, joining LeBron James and Sidney Crosby as recent Chosen Ones to lead their teams to the promised land. Luck approaches 5,000 yards while posting a 38:14 TD:INT ratio.
Worst Case: Luck isn’t enough to make up for the Colts’ run game and offensive line deficiencies, while the latter costs him time with injury for the first time in his NFL career. The future remains bright, but Luck gets to take off his shades for a little bit.
6. Cam Newton
Best Case: If 2013 was liftoff, 2014 is overdrive. Newton worries not about his “lack of weapons,” putting the threat in dual-threat. He’s again indestructible despite carrying his team on his back, racking up 3,500 yards passing, 900 yards rushing and 35 total touchdowns. Newton is no longer a hypothesis, but a theory.
Worst Case: Carolina’s talent drain on offense takes its toll on the league’s young Gibraltar. Newton remains a top-10 fantasy quarterback, but his supporting cast makes his output sporadic, and altogether not worth the hassle. Wait till next year.
7. Matt Ryan
Best Case: With Roddy White and Julio Jones healthy, the band is back together and the reunion album goes straight to No. 1, earning an 87 on MetaCritic. Ryan is no longer simply passing for the sake of it. He returns to the top five in touchdowns, not just attempts.
Worst Case: Ryan doesn’t plunge to 2013’s depths, but begins to settle in as a rich man’s Matthew Stafford, racking up numbers that seem rather empty in “real life,” but golden in fantasy. A matchup-based starter you need to pair with someone else.
8. Tony Romo
Best Case: With the Cowboys constantly playing from behind for pass-obsessed OC Scott Linehan, Romo cruises to a new career high in attempts. He turns them into top-three fantasy glory, and the most points of his 10-year career.
Worst Case: Linehan follows through on his pledge to commit to the run, curbing Romo’s week-to-week roto consistency. Romo still has matchup appeal, but isn’t someone you can leave alone at your quarterback position, particularly with his back woes beginning to limit his mobility.
9. Nick Foles
Best Case: It wasn’t all a dream. The lead-footed Foles is the quarterback for Chip Kelly’s offense, and Chip Kelly’s offense piles up yards and touchdowns. Although Foles can’t come close to repeating his absurd 27:2 TD:INT ratio, he’s a top-five fantasy quarterback.
Worst Case: Everything is different. Foles’ would-be interceptions are no longer nullified by drops or penalties, while he looks clumsy piloting an offense that’s supposed to boast a running threat at quarterback. Foles isn’t benched for Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley, but his stats and standing suffer in equal measure. Kelly renews his search for a franchise signal caller.
10. Tom Brady
Best Case: With his veteran weapons healthy and his younger weapons a year older, Brady shakes the rust of his inconsistent 2013, again looking infallible atop one of the league’s most dynamic offenses. There isn’t a bigger fantasy bargain at quarterback.
Worst Case: The Pats continue to double down on the run, holding Brady to fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time since 2010, and only the second time in the past 10 seasons. When Brady is called upon to throw, he sails even more passes than he did in 2013. Both sides begin to consider a world without Tom Brady at quarterback.
11. Robert Griffin III
Best Case: There’s drama, but it revolves around which team records Griffin is going to break, not his knee or relationship with the coaching staff. New head man Jay Gruden follows through on his pledge to curtail RGIII’s designed runs, but it hardly matters as he has his quarterback dial up over 500 throws. With five rushing touchdowns sprinkled on top of his 30 passing scores, RGIII is a top-five fantasy quarterback.
Worst Case: The absence of Mike Shanahan doesn’t cure Griffin’s knee or accuracy issues. RGIII remains tentative, both as a passer and a scrambler. He faintly improves on his dismal sophomore campaign, but looks nothing like the lightning bolt he was as a rookie. People begin wondering if he ever will again.
12. Jay Cutler
Best Case: Smokin’ Jay finally stays hot for a full season. Throwing to the two tallest buildings in the world in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler surpasses 4,500 yards for the first time since 2008, and flirts with 40 touchdowns. You can shout it from the mountain: Quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman has unleashed Jay Cutler.
Worst Case: There’s no “new Jay.” It’s the same old Cutler, one who misses six games with various injuries, and commits too many turnovers when he does take the field. The Bears head into the offseason feeling squeamish about the $31.5 million they’ve guaranteed Cutler for 2015-16.
13. Colin Kaepernick
Best Case: Finally going to war with a full complement of pass catchers, Kaepernick becomes 2014’s ultimate post-hype breakout, piling up 4,500 total yards and 35 total touchdowns. Ron Jaworski starts feeling better about his August 2013 proclamation that Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Worst Case: Kaep fails to fully animate for the second-consecutive season, teasing his otherworldly upside while too often getting bogged down in everyday-quarterback problems. He’s good enough to win with, but doesn’t steal games the way his talent suggests he could.
14. Russell Wilson
Best Case: Your mom’s favorite quarterback becomes your fantasy team’s most consistent player. The Seahawks still rank in the bottom five in pass attempts, but open their offense up more than expected, sending Wilson past 3,500 yards passing before he’s rested in Week 17. Wilson doesn’t threaten for top-five status, but irons out his peaks and valleys into a nice straight line.
Worst Case: Wilson remains little more than a cog in the Seahawks’ machine. Not that he’s not an important one, but the step forward doesn’t come. Wilson manages games. That means he sometimes loses them in fantasy.
15. Philip Rivers
Best Case: Rivers can’t match last season’s 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns for a team that goes even more run heavy, but further refines his efficiency, becoming just the eighth quarterback in league history to post a completion percentage above 70. He wins more games in “real life” than fantasy.
Worst Case: The Bolts dial back the pass even more than expected, holding Rivers to fewer than 460 attempts for the first time as a starter. Even with the increased conservatism, Rivers can’t match last year’s turnover rate, tossing 15 picks and losing five fumbles. New Phil becomes one with Old Phil.
16. Ben Roethlisberger
Best Case: Big Ben essentially repeats his 2013, somehow staying healthy while remaining in the top 10 in pass attempts for an offense committed to going fast. Roethlisberger doesn’t wow, but is someone you can stick in your starting lineup on a weekly basis without worrying about it.
Worst Case: It all goes to pot. A 32-year-old Roethlisberger appears in fewer than 13 games for the first time since his suspension-shortened 2010, while his already volatile relationship with OC Todd Haley turns straight up volcanic. In between the chaos, a perennially-battered quarterback shows his age on the playing field. The Steelers go from passively thinking about life without Roethlisberger to actively pursuing it.
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