Patrick Daugherty

Bullish or Bearish?

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Best Case/Worst Case 2017: QBs

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I’m dusting off an old thought exercise for the mid-summer doldrums. We spend a lot of time projecting players’ most likely outcomes. Considerably less energy is devoted to forecasting the extreme ends of the spectrum. What will happen if everything goes right? If it all goes wrong? This is not a mathematical endeavor, but a reasoned attempt at guessing players’ poles. Body of work, age, injury history and supporting cast are all taken into account. Although health is considered, it is also assumed that the true “worst-case scenario” for any NFL player is “ruptured Achilles’ as he falls from cart following torn ACL.”   

Note: Rankings are based on Evan Silva’s “July Top 150.” For complete rankings and projections, be sure to order the Rotoworld Draft Guide.

1. Aaron Rodgers

Best Case: Coming off a season where the Packers passed 63.6 percent of the time, Rodgers is the beneficiary of more offensive imbalance as he flirts with his first 5,000-yard campaign. He wins his third MVP award.

Worst Case: Rodgers’ annual soft-tissue injury finally costs him games, while the inconsistency that plagued him in 2015 and early-2016 suddenly makes him look his age (34 in December).   

2. Tom Brady

Best Case: Lord Brady continues to scorch the earth, flattening the villages of the AFC East as he posts the second 40-touchdown effort of his career.

Worst Case: 40-year-old Brady starts having 38-year-old Peyton Manning moments, taking hits that make his weekly “questionable” tags genuine instead of ceremonial. Age reminds of its 1.000 winning percentage.

3. Drew Brees

Best Case: Brees’ sixth 5,000-yard season features 40 touchdowns, his most since 2012. The Saints get over .500 for the first time since 2013.  

Worst Case: 38-year-old Brees misses more than one game with injury for the first time ever. Numbers mirroring his 2010 (7.02 YPA, 33:22 TD:INT) raise the inevitable age concerns.

4. Russell Wilson

Best Case: Wilson erases memories of his injury-marred 2016 with a career performance, not only returning to form, but winning his first MVP award.

Worst Case: 2016 was the new normal. The scrambling Wilson keeps paying the price for all the hits he absorbs behind the Seahawks’ awful offensive line. He settles in as a boom/bust QB1 in fantasy.  

5. Andrew Luck

Best Case: Building on his 2016 return to form, Luck finally delivers on his MVP promise, leading the AFC in both passing yards and touchdowns. Twitter debates are settled once and for all.

Worst Case: Luck’s shoulder heals slower than expected, costing him games in September. Once he returns, Luck doesn’t crater, but he doesn’t take the next step, either. More than ever, Luck performs as a glorified Matthew Stafford.  

6. Marcus Mariota

Best Case: Taking advantage of all his new weapons, Mariota totals 40 touchdowns and surpasses 500 yards on the ground. He’s an Oregon blur on the Cumberland River.

Worst Case: Mariota is sidelined with injury for the third time in as many NFL seasons. Frustratingly, he remains a 1.5-threat, opting against true dual status. His progress remains incremental instead of exponential.

7. Cam Newton

Best Case: Newton is reined in as a runner, but splits the difference between his awe-inspiring 2015 and insipid 2016. Playing more within himself as he approaches 30, Newton doesn’t challenge for the MVP, but keeps the Panthers in the thick of the Super Bowl race.  

Worst Case: With his generational raw athleticism on the decline, Newton’s season resembles 2016 more closely than anyone had in mind. Even people who try to avoid trafficking in #taeks begin to secretly wonder — how much longer for Cam in Carolina?  

8. Matt Ryan

Best Case: There’s no matching 2016, but Ryan keeps his disappointing 2015 far in the rear-view. His 4,700 yards come with 34 touchdowns, and another division title for the Kyle Shanahan-less Falcons.

Worst Case: Ryan doesn’t sink to 2015’s 21-touchdown, 21-turnover lows, but also fails to resemble the big-play machine he was in 2016. By October, his MVP campaign already has the looks of an absurd outlier.  

9. Dak Prescott

Best Case: It wasn’t just the supporting cast. Observers begin to ask who’s carrying who as Dak competes for MVP honors. He maintains his ridiculous rookie efficiency while goosing his counting stats.

Worst Case: Tony Romo retired for this? Reality bites the Cowboys’ entire offense, but no one harder than Prescott. He’s a poor man’s Alex Smith instead of Russell Wilson 2.0.

10. Kirk Cousins

Best Case: With OC Sean McVay gone, Cousins’ yardage total decreases, but his touchdown percentage spikes as the Redskins employ a more balanced attack. He finishes as a top-10 fantasy quarterback for the third straight year.

Worst Case: With McVay, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon all gone, Cousins has his worst season as a starter, posting a sub-7.00 YPA as he fails to reach 25 touchdowns. His contract situation becomes more complicated than ever.

11. Jameis Winston

Best Case: Winston’s 2016 second half — increased poise, fewer mistakes — carries over in the form of a 32-touchdown season even as the Bucs strive to maintain balance on offense. Critics fade as Winston becomes the clear 10-12 year answer in Tampa.

Worst Case: The wheels don’t fall off but they spin as Winston more or less duplicates his first two seasons. He settles in as a poor man’s Matthew Stafford on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

12. Derek Carr

Best Case: Carr’s logical progression continues. 64.0 completion percentage, 7.50 YPA, 35 touchdowns. The Raiders pick up where they left off in 2016.

Worst Case: Carr, who out-performed his rate stats in 2015-16, has a 2013-15 Matt Ryan-type down year. Raiders fans no longer begin Twitter arguments by taking for granted that Carr is/will become a Tier 1 franchise quarterback.

13. Ben Roethlisberger

Best Case: Appearing in all 16 games for the first time since 2014, Roethlisberger has a career year with Le'Veon Bell staying on the field and Martavis Bryant staying off the suspended list.  

Worst Case: Roethlisberger misses time with injury for the third straight season, is held below 4,000 yards for the third straight season and flirts with retirement for the second straight season. This time, fans and media take it more seriously because of what they saw on the field during Roethlisberger’s age-35 campaign.  

14. Philip Rivers

Best Case: Reinvigorated by new coach Anthony Lynn and on-the-rise talent on both sides of the ball, Rivers posts his typical stats, but they’re no longer empty calories. He also avoids the second half fade he’s experienced each of the past three years.

Worst Case: Looking older than ever, Rivers is for the first time ever one of the endless Bolts to miss time with injury. Falling behind in Los Angeles, the Chargers begin their search for Rivers’ replacement in earnest.  

15. Andy Dalton

Best Case: Ever the incrementalist, Dalton takes another step forward with John Ross and Joe Mixon added to his stable of weapons. The top-10 fantasy finish is his first since 2013.

Worst Case: A standard Dalton season, though more in the 2013-14 range than 2015-16. Dalton’s ceiling appears harder than ever.

16. Tyrod Taylor

Best Case: Taylor’s touchdown rate spikes, leading to the first 30-score campaign of his three-year starting career. He’s more consistent under new coach Sean McDermott, making his blow-up weeks more predictable.

Worst Case: Although he’s making $14.5 million, Taylor is on thin ice from Week 1 forward. McDermott searches for reasons to bench Taylor instead of keeping him in the lineup. He’s too bottled up to produce spiked weeks in fantasy.  

17. Matthew Stafford

Best Case: Variance decides this will be a higher-touchdown year for Stafford, getting him above 30 passing scores for just the second time since 2011. He’s a high-ceiling streamer when the spot is right.   

Worst Case: The Lions’ offense goes full shell, holding Stafford below 590 passing attempts for the first time in his career (in a healthy season). He falls on the wrong side of the 25 passing touchdowns he’s averaged since 2012.  

18. Carson Palmer

Best Case: Palmer resembles the quarterback he was in the second half of 2016, making up for his reduced big-play ability with increased volume. He’s a safe, predictable streamer who wins plenty of weeks for matchup-minded fantasy footballers.

Worst Case: No longer able to outrun his Delhomme destiny, 37-year-old Palmer starts fewer than half the Cardinals’ games as the bottom falls out. It’s a matter of when, not if, he announces 2017 will be his final season.  

19. Eli Manning

Best Case: With Brandon Marshall providing a badly needed threat opposite Odell Beckham in the red zone, Manning has another Lazarus-like resurrection at age 36. He’s still not someone you want to rely on every week in fantasy, but offers week-winning upside in all but the most daunting of matchups.

Worst Case: Outside of Beckham’s wizardry after the catch, Manning’s play-making ability officially evaporates. The Giants wish they had tried harder to find Manning’s successor, and refuse to guarantee his starting job for 2018.  

20. Carson Wentz

Best Case: Playing with a much-improved supporting cast, Wentz quickly irons out most of his rookie kinks. He can’t match Blake Bortles’ sophomore touchdown total (35), but provides far more efficiency. Eagles fans settle in for annual contention in the NFC East.

Worst Case: Words like “hitch” are no longer used to described Wentz’s mechanical flaws as they begin to appear fundamental instead of mendable. Bortles becomes the comp as the Eagles wonder how to get the farm back they mortgaged in 2016.

21. Ryan Tannehill

Best Case: Tannehill’s rate stats continue to improve as he posts just the second 25-touchdown campaign of his career. He’s a low-risk, low-upside streamer for owners who don’t want to rock the boat.

Worst Case: It looks like Joe Philbin has returned as Tannehill regresses on the modest progress he made in 2016. He misses games for the second straight year, though this time it has nothing to do with injury — he’s benched for Matt Moore.

22. Blake Bortles

Best Case: Hidden by the running game and improved coaching, Bortles gets his touchdown total back above 25 even as his attempts are dialed back below 550. Bortles’ motion remains the same — shot putting a ham — but Doug Marrone’s scheme helps hide it.

Worst Case: There’s no hiding from Bortles’ disastrous windup, ruining the Jags’ best-laid plans and earning Bortles a benching. At age 25, he ponders pulling a Tebow and heading to minor-league baseball.

23. Joe Flacco

Best Case: Flacco surpasses 4,000 yards for the second straight season, only this time he’s good. His YPA is > 7.00 for just the second time in five years, while Jeremy Maclin helps him match his career-high touchdown total of 27.

Worst Case: Lacking weapons, Flacco doesn’t regain the step he lost post-ACL surgery. Backed up by Ryan Mallett, he shows Mallett how it’s done as a rich man’s Ryan Mallett.  

24. Sam Bradford

Best Case: Bradford actually builds on his 2016 career year, maintaining his hyper efficiency while sprinkling in more big plays. For the first time in eight years as an NFLer, his quarterback rating exceeds 100.0.

Worst Case: Bradford’s immediate regression coincides with Teddy Bridgewater’s surprisingly quick recovery from his knee implosion. Bradford finishes somewhere between his 2013 (seven) and 2014 (zero) start total.

25. Alex Smith

Best Case: Thanks to Patrick Mahomes’ practice struggles, Smith manages to make all 16 starts. Along the way, he throws for more than 20 touchdowns for the first time since 2013. Chiefs fans only chant Mahomes’ name every third game.

Worst Case: With an electrifying Mahomes lighting up Chiefs camp, Smith gets the bad news following the third preseason game: He’s been benched. Smith experiments with hat angles on the sideline before settling on “straight with subtle bend” in Week 4.

Don't forget, for the latest on everything NFL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, or follow @Rotoworld_FB or @RotoPat on Twitter.


Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

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