Depending on how you construct your fantasy football team, the quarterback can either make or break championship hopes. Grabbing a top-tier signal caller in your draft can reap huge benefits throughout the season.
Here are our top five fantasy quarterbacks heading into 2014. Each of them have the track record of high production along with the weapons around them to continue doing more of the same this season.
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matty Ice suffered through his first losing season in the NFL since going pro in 2008. The Falcons were fresh off a 13-3 record and a postseason appearance in 2012, but stumbled to a 4-12 record last year.
Ryan still had a solid season, eclipsing 4,000 yards for the third straight season (4,515), while throwing 20-plus touchdowns for the fifth consecutive time (26). His 67.4 completion percentage was the second-highest it’s been in his career, but the Falcons suffered from being a one-dimensional offense. They depended on Ryan and the passing game, which took a big hit by losing Julio Jones to injury. Roddy White also dealt with lingering injuries, sapping his production.
Steven Jackson didn’t have a good first year in Atlanta and the offensive line struggled. The addition of Devonta Freeman will hopefully make them more of a running threat, helping Ryan make plays with his arm. Jones and White are both healthy, which bodes well for the QB’s fantasy value entering his age-29 season.
4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford has the pleasure of throwing to Calvin Johnson, the top wide receiver in the NFL. He already has five seasons as a starter under his belt before turning 26, and hasn’t missed a game since 2010. His 4,650 passing yards and 29 touchdowns were both third among QBs last season, but the 19 picks he threw were the highest since his rookie season in 2009.
To improve the offense around Megatron, Detroit has brought in Golden Tate to line up on the other side, as well as drafting Eric Ebron to give them fantastic depth and pass-catching ability from the tight end position. Reggie Bush is still in the backfield with big-play ability on the ground and through the air.
Stafford could just be scratching the surface of his potential. He already has a 5,000-yard and 40-touchdown season on his resume. If he can minimize his mistakes, this Detroit offense should be a powerful one.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
There’s not much more that can be said about Manning’s historic 2013 season. He led the league in just about every category, compiling 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns — both single-season records. He’ll be 38 this year and shouldn’t be expected to continue the torrid pace he set, but should still be one of the top-producing fantasy QBs.
Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker are no longer with the team, but Manning still has one of the best receivers (Demaryius Thomas) and tight ends (Julius Thomas) at his disposal, as well as pass-catching machine, Wes Welker. Montee Ball will also try to break out after a solid showing in limited action last season.
To put it plainly, the Broncos’ offense will be really good, again. Manning’s age and health come into question, but he’s repeatedly shown he can handle himself just fine.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees has been a machine during his tenure in New Orleans. He’s thrown for 5,000 yards four times in his career, including his last three in a row. He’s also thrown at least 33 touchdowns each season for five consecutive years. The signal caller has been the biggest reason why the Saints have consistently had one of the best offenses in the league.
Marques Colston isn’t in the prime of his career anymore, but is still a big target for Brees to throw at. Kenny Stills lines up on the opposite side and offers big-play potential after averaging 20 yards per catch in 2013. Pierre Thomas caught 77 passes out of the backfield and Mark Ingram has breakout potential following a 4.9 yards per carry mark on 78 attempts.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Injury held Rodgers to nine games played in 2013, the first time he’s missed more than one game in a season since becoming Green Bay’s starting QB in 2008. Outside of last season, it’s almost automatic to see him accrue over 4,000 passing yards and 28-plus touchdowns. Eddie Lacy’s breakout campaign was a pleasant surprise, bolstering their running game.
Jermichael Finley is gone from the tight end position, and Rodgers will be leaning on Andrew Quarless in his absence. Randall Cobb missed most of 2013, but he’s healthy and ready to line up opposite of Jordy Nelson, giving one of the game’s best quarterbacks two top-10 receivers to throw at.
If Rodgers can stay healthy — and his track record says he will — he has the most offensive weapons around him to have a huge fantasy year. From 2008-12, he finished either first or second in QB production every year. I would anticipate more of the same.
Stay tuned, as we’ll get more detailed with our own big board of fantasy QBs closer to the season.