Fantasy Football: 2014 QB Rankings

By: Brandon Murchison – Fantasy Football Columnist

Times are changing in fantasy football. For the longest time, the only way to win your league came down to how strong you were at the running back position, but as long as your quarterback was at least average, you were in strong contention.

Now with all the rule changes benefiting offensive production in the passing game, quarterbacks are beginning to take the role of the “must have” position. Over the last couple of years, unless you had a top 5-7 QB, you were on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The importance of hitting on the right QB is now make or break for your title hopes. Here are my early top 12 quarterbacks for the 2014 season:

1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos- After a record breaking 2013 season, in which he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs, Peyton will enter the 2014 season as the consensus top QB and in certain leagues could be vying for top overall pick consideration. Manning’s Bronco offense should again be nearly unstoppable this next season, even with the departure of Eric Decker. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders will more than make up for Decker’s absence, so he will again be littered with a plethora options in the passing game. By drafting Manning, you have all but assured yourself a playoff spot this year, barring any catastrophes.

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2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints- Consider this. Brees had an amazing 2013 in his own right, again throwing for over 5,000 yards(5,162) and added in 39 TDs. But if Peyton Manning had taken 2 or 3 weeks off, he would have STILL out-scored Brees on the year! The consistency of Brees is why he has landed at the number 2 spot on my board. He is a top tier, elite QB, who runs a pass happy offense, and although he doesn’t have household names as weapons around him, he still piles up the statistics. With Jimmy Graham coming back on the franchise tag, that all but locks it up for Brees that he will again finish high in the final rankings for 2014.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers- The top QB in most drafts in 2013, Aaron Rodgers more than likely cost fantasy owners their seasons when he went down with injury and missed 7 games during the middle of the year. Even before the injury, Rodgers was a bit off and wasn’t producing the numbers that you would expect from the top quarterback on most draft boards. Coming into 2014, Rodgers will not be the top choice at QB, but should still post great numbers. James Jones left in free agency, but Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb remain, along with some other pieces this offense will again be hitting on all cylinders. Rodgers is an elite QB and drafting him will mean you will be safe at the position.

4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts- The first QB at the top of the next tier is Andrew Luck. Luck built upon his rookie season with another solid campaign in 2013, finishing with 3,822 yards and 23 TDs. Now entering his 3rd season, Luck will be looking to make another step forward in his progression. A very strong and surprisingly agile quarterback, Luck can beat you with his arm and with his legs. The lack of a consistent running game, only helps the fantasy value of Luck, as he’ll mostly have to win with the passing game. With Reggie Wayne coming back, and the signing of a motivated Hakeem Nicks, Luck will have the weapons around him to put up some very nice stats this season. Having Andrew Luck as your starter, so long as you hit on the picks before him, should have you in contention in 2014.

5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers- This is where the drop-off begins with the position. The first dual threat QB on the list, Cam is already off to a bad start on the year as he has undergone offseason ankle surgery. He’ll be ready to go for training camp, but it’s not a good feeling for a fantasy owner to have this in the mind going into drafting season. A running quarterback with ankle issues is not a good thing. On top of that, he has lost long time Panther Steve Smith and other receivers from 2013. They brought in Jericho Cotchery to fill the void, but that’s not setting the woods on fire. With the injury, and the lack of weapons around him, Newton will be a very risky play in 2014.

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6. Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions- Matthew Stafford can be a very frustrating QB to own, as he is prone to having huge games and following them up with duds that can be hard to watch. 2013 saw Stafford almost cross the 5,000 yard barrier again, but the 29 TDs and completion percentage were a little low. Having Megatron to throw to certainly makes life a little easier for the QB, but the acquisition of Golden Tate might finally give the Lions a true threat opposite Calvin Johnson to keep the defenses honest. Being a consistent yardage guy, if Stafford can post a few more TDs, you’re easily looking at a top 5 guy. 2014 should be a year that brings Stafford back into the discussion of league’s top QBs.

7. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles- 2013 was a coming out party for Nick Foles and the Chip Kelly offense. Once Foles was inserted into the lineup, things just started to click for the Eagles. Foles finished just shy of 3,000 yards but put up 27 TDs to only 2 INTs, which was amazing considering he wasn’t the starter for the full season. Amplify those numbers over the course of 16 games, and you’re looking at a top 3 QB. This offense is currently teetering on whether or not playmaker DeSean Jackson will be dealt or not, and if he is dealt then the look of the receivers that Foles will be throwing to will change, and not for the better. Foles is definitely worthy of becoming a fantasy starter in 2014, but be aware that he could come back down to earth a bit after an incredible 2013.

8. Tom Brady, New England Patriots- Tom Brady’s 2013 season was a tale of two halves. The first half of the season, Brady was statistically one of the worst starting QBs in fantasy, and in the second half he caught fire and carried teams into the fantasy playoffs. He will come into 2014 with nearly all the same weapons (or lack thereof) in place, but maybe with a year of seasoning for the new guys (Dobson and Thompkins), we will see this offense get back to 2012 form. In the end, this is Tom Brady we are talking about. He will have his fair share of big games worthy of the caliber of a starting fantasy QB, but the question is, will his receivers step up enough or will Gronkowski stay healthy enough to help you win games? I believe that will be a resounding yes, because Brady is too competitive to be mediocre.

9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys- For all the talk of how horrible Tony Romo is, and that he routinely costs his team games, and that he is the reason that they can’t make the NFL playoffs, Romo is one of the most reliable QBs in fantasy. Consistently providing the numbers needed to win games (posting better than a 2/1, TD/INT ratio the past 2 seasons), there are few better to ride into fantasy playoffs than Tony Romo. Coming into 2014, there are not many changes to the Dallas offense (save for the release of Miles Austin). All the key players will be back, and the major key will be how 2nd year wideout Terrence Williams plays in the starting lineup. We should again see a steady year from Tony Romo, who should be right around the 30 TD mark as he has been the last 2 years.

10. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins– Sophmore slump is the term that comes to mind when describing RG3’s 2nd NFL season. But coming off of a second ACL surgery, and a very tumultuous relationship with head coach Mike Shanahan, RG3 looked tentative at times in 2013. Call it what you will, but his performance last season did not warrant the lofty draft stock that he had coming into drafts a year ago. After being humbled, and the firing of Shanahan(which he may have had a hand in), RG3 comes back down to earth and looks to start over in 2014. The offense will look the same, but the question will be does RG3(who has said he will be playing without the knee brace this year) go back to his playmaking ways with his arm and now healthy legs? Call me a skeptic, but I believe we saw more of the real RG3 last year(bad pocket presence, inability to read defenses), than we saw in his rookie campaign. He will be the ultimate risk/reward QB.

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11. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons– Boy oh boy did Matty Ice slump in 2013! To his credit, he had nothing to work with for a majority of the year, with injuries to both Julio Jones and Roddy White. Ryan looked to press at times last year, knowing the load was all on him to win ball games. 2014 will have everyone back and healthy, which should give a major boost to Ryan’s fantasy stock. On top of that, the Falcons defense should again be porous to say the least, giving plenty of opportunities to the offense to post numbers. I could see Matt Ryan, with all pieces back and in place finishing out 2014 back on the verge of the top 5, which could make him a nice late QB pickup after you’ve set your lineup at other positions.

12. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks- Any number of QBs could land in this spot(Kaepernick, Cutler, Rivers), but I’m giving the nod to the defending Super Bowl champion. Wilson’s sophmore season was again another steady and consistent performance(26 TDs to 9 INTs), which shows to his maturity that 2 years into the NFL, he owns this team. Although the Seahawks throw the ball very little due to the outstanding run game, Wilson tends to make the most of his opportunities. Coming into 2014, I believe we will see some progression with the passing game and as always, you will see some added bonus with the running ability of Wilson. The return of a healthy Percy Harvin should most certainly help, as we should see plenty of screens and quick passes out of the slot that he can take to the house just about everytime. Wilson should be good enough to hold a starting spot on your fantasy team with the upside to finish inside the top 10.