This is a preseason look at the potential output of the NFL’s top-class QBs this season. Listed below, I have last years stats, potential progression or regression, and where I think they’ll end up by the end of the season.
Note: I do not have these players statted out in the event of injury. I’ll note if there is believed to be an injury risk with any specific player. We’re talking upside here! If you disagree with any of these players, or think I got it wrong, sound off in the comment section.
**Each quarterback’s 2015 statistics will be presented prior to each entry for the purposes of comparison**
15. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Passing Yards: 4,042
Famous Jameis Winston had an up and down rookie campaign last season. Winston ended last season with a 22/15 TD-INT ratio, which for a rookie is a bit above average. Winston also ended up with a completion of 58.3% which is a number I can easily see improved as long as the injuries don’t mount up against the Bucs once again. One thing about Winston that I find makes him a captivating player is that he is a pocket passer with escapability (a coin termed by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson). Which means that he remains a pass-first QB, but has the ability to run when the time calls for it. Jameis also looks to have lost a little weight, which will increase his ability to move, as well as his ability to stay on the field and run a two minute drill. In my mind, Winston has the upside to end up as a top-10 QB this season.
14. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
Passing Yards: 4,262
One may call me crazy here, but I can see a nice progression in Matthew Stafford’s numbers this season sans Calvin Johnson. Calvin may be one of the best WRs to ever strap on a pair of cleats, but that doesn’t mean he made this offense flow. On the contrary, I can see a more balanced Lions attack on the horizon. Stafford can benefit greatly from the addition of Marvin Jones Jr., as well as the emergence of Theo Riddick last season. Marvin Jones is a nice redzone target, akin to Calvin Johnson. I would also expect Golden Tate to command more short pass targets, which bodes greatly with Stafford’s proneness to making mistakes. Keep the passes short and frequent, and Stafford could definitely see an uptick in his TD totals. 2015 was inarguably his best year as a pro, and I could still see Stafford’s play continue to improve from there.
13. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
Passing Yards: 3,987
Derek Carr has a top-five, two-pronged receiver attack coming into this season. Amari Cooper is a young stud who will look to improve on an outstanding rookie year in the NFL. Michael Crabtree is a (cough, mediocre) solid veteran receiver who finds a way to create space for himself in the redzone. Derek Carr had a nice 32 TD season last year, and that’s not even the best this kid has to offer. I can see a slight regression in touchdowns, but I definitely see Carr taking a big step towards making the Raiders contenders for the first time since 2003. I can see Oakland relying on a pass-heavy attack due to their lack of presence in the backfield. If Derek Carr had 600 pass attempts this year, it certainly wouldn’t shock me in the least.
12. Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)
Passing Yards: 3,035
Rushing Yards: 568
T-Mobile! They may not be a great service provider, but Tyrod Taylor certainly provides two great services: running and deep passing. This means he is probably one of the top genuine dual-threat QBs in the game today. Last year the Bills “vaunted” defense let them down in a huge way, and it was the powers of Tyrod, Sammy Watkins, and the RB tandem of LeSeanMcCoy/Karlos Williams (cut) that put the Bills near .500. This year, I expect Sammy Watkins to end up as a top flight WR and Taylor will be the reason he’s there. The one number that shocked me when looking up these stats was the low INT total, as well as the low INT% which came in at 1.6 for Taylor. I know Tyrod does not play with reckless abandon, but I expect team’s to know how to counter his legs much better this year than last. Which brings me to my next point: this man can run. He ran for over 500 yards last year, and that number will only soar higher. A backup for his entire career until last season, Taylor made the most of his opportunities. Buffalo may stink this year, but that does not mean Tyrod will.
11. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Passing Yards: 4,432
Two-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP. It still confounds me that Eli Manning played his butt off and was able to make that happen earlier in his career. The Giants are in the doldrums of football as of late. Not good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to net a top-five draft pick. However, rookie Sterling Shepard gives Giant fans a lot to smile about. Just another tool for Eli’s arsenal. Combine that with, in my mind, the second best WR in football, Odell Beckham, Jr., and you have a very formidable WR tandem. There’s also that guy Victor Cruz, remember him? He was a stud in the making before a bad injury got the best of him in 2014. If he can come back and be at least a shadow of his former self, the Giants three-WR set is going to be deadly. Last year, Eli finished with the best TD total of his 12 year career, and he looks to continue sustaining success in the passing game. More notably, Manning finished with only 14 interceptions, which leaves him at a 3.5/1.4 rate (TD/INT). Not bad for a guy who’s known for being prone to turnovers.
10. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Passing Yards: 4,428
Everyone seems to be Jaggin’ off nowadays. Last year, Blake Bortles put up the best statistical year by a Jaguars QB ever. With 35 TDs and 4,428 passing yards, he showed that he can sling the rock with the best of them. Allen Robinson is going to end up being a top-five WR in the league this season, and his partner Allen Hurns is no slouch. Notice a trend here? Good WRs make a good QB even better. Blake Bortles is no exception, and I expect the pass-happy Jags to continue this trend. Chris Ivory is a nice addition, but I still see the Jaguars falling behind often in games, which will lead the game script to dictate Bortles throwing the ball. This brings me to a point though, I do feel like Bortles will regress. However, even with a regression in TD/INT ratio, I can see Blake Bortles being a top-10 QB in this league.
9. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Passing Yards: 3,938
Le’Veon Bell, arguably the best dual-threat RB currently in the NFL, is suspended for three games to start the year. Big Ben Roethlisberger was the leader of what was supposed to be the most prolific passing attack in the NFL last year. If he didn’t end up missing games due to injury, he could very well have been the league’s top QB last season. However, this year I would expect a bit of a step backwards. My logic behind this is as follows:
Martavis Bryant, a dynamic deep threat who opens the field for Antonio Brown, is suspended for the entire season on a drug-related issue.
Even with a stud receiver like Antonio Brown, I could see Roethlisberger putting up a performance that merely replicates his numbers from last year (note: he only played 12 games last season).
8. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Passing Yards: 4,770
Mr. DeflateGate himself, Tom Brady has proven time and time again that age is not catching up to him. Unfortunately, that also means he has dominated this great game for the last 15 years with no signs of slowing down. Brady would sit strong in my top-five this seasons, if not for one little thing. Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. This stymies his yearly totals in a big way, but I still see him as an unquestioned top-10 QB this season. Expect a regression in TDs and yards due to the lack of playing time, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if Brady comes out guns blazing while maintaining his football intelligence. Brady has never been a big time turnover guy, and I would expect more of the same this season.
7. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
Passing Yards: 4,671
Carson Palmer is starting to remind me of another QB who had a late-career renaissance in Arizona. That man’s name is Kurt Warner, and he came a bad pick-six away from winning a second Super Bowl. Carson Palmer had arguably the best year of his career last season, and I see no major reason for a setback. He has a volatile three-WR set in young Michael Floyd and John Brown, as well as a very reliable slot receiver in Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is the type of dynamic receiver who can catch an under route and run it up the field 75 yards (reference Packers vs. Cardinals 2015 Divisional Round). They also have an explosive runner in David Johnson who will see more work in the receiving game this year. There is no reason to expect Palmer to lose any steam, and with an excellent coach in Bruce Arians, I can see the Cardinals being a top-three passing attack once again this season.
6. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
Passing Yards: 4,792
Upset alert! I’m sure most people wouldn’t have Philip Rivers this high on their list, but I’m not most people. I think the Chargers rise and fall with Rivers, and I honestly think he is one of the best QBs in the NFL. He is a guy who was able to change his game entirely from a deep-shot artist to a West Coast, short route type of QB. The Chargers had awful injury luck last season, and that is not a statistic that we can count on being repeated this year. Keenan Allen is a short route stud, and I love the addition of Travis Benjamin. While he does not bring the same height that Malcom Floyd’s departure leaves, he is a huge deep threat and can maybe bring back that element of Phil’s game. Antonio Gates is also an amazing target to have in your arsenal, even with his advanced age. I expect to see River’s numbers to go up across the board, and I think Danny Woodhead will be another big reason for that. Dynamic offense, bad defense. It’s a perfect recipe for a QB’s statistical success.
5. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
Passing Yards: 1,881
We have reached the top-five! Our next entry is a guy who definitely had a rough season last year as he was hampered by an injury. However, this is the same guy who threw 40 TDs the year before. While I don’t see another 40 TD season, I can definitely see Andrew Luck using his brains and his legs to churn out a top-five OB year. Luck was the first overall draft pick in 2012, and he certainly has not disappointed. The heir apparent to Peyton Manning is working to carve out his own legacy, and he will continue to do so with a strong 2016 campaign. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton were both poised to break out last season before Luck went down. Both are young and very talented. The other advantage Luck may have is that the Colt’s defense stinks. They’re going to continue to play below average this season, causing the Colts to play from behind early and often. This will put the pressure on Luck’s arm, which is a task he is most certainly up for.
4. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Passing Yards: 4,870
What more can I say about Drew Brees? Read his numbers above. This dude has been one of, if not the, most consistent QB over the past decade. The Saints are always going to be a pass-first offense, and I wouldn’t expect that to change at all this year in what could be Brees’ final season. With the additions of Coby Fleener and rookie wideout Michael Thomas, this just enhances Brees’ knack for spreading the ball around. The major point to make here, as also listed above with the Colts, is that the the Saints have become a bottom-five defense in virtually every tangible metric last season (ex: passing YPGA, total YPGA). This leads to the Saints giving up a load of points and putting Brees in a position he is familiar with: passing, passing, passing.
3. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Passing Yards: 3,837
Rushing Yards: 636
Last years MVP broke out with the best campaign of his career thus far. Cam Newton was playing at an efficiency level that, in my opinion, is not repeatable. However, I do think his rushing stats are very repeatable. Cam ended last year with 636 yard and 10 TDs on the ground. This to go alongside his 35 passing TDs. This year, a slight step-back in passing is likely for Newton. This of course does not mean he is not valuable. Cam Newton was the best QB in football last season. Placing him third on this list is not a slight to him, but a compliment to the two QBs ahead of him. Regardless, Cm will play a high-level this season and there is no reason to believe that his play will diminish.
2. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Passing Yards: 4,024
Rushing Yards: 553
The craziest thing about Russell Wilson so far is the fact that he is so young, already has a Super Bowl ring, and we have yet to see his best play come out on the field. Statistically, Wilson has improved every season in passing and rushing numbers. He is another very efficient QB who is able to keep turnovers down while moving his offense down the field with his mind, his arms, and his legs. Once Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham went down last year, the team was able to function much more efficiently under Wilson. This opened up the passing game, as well as opened up running lanes for this quick QB. He is another QB I would refer to as a pocket-passer with escapability. He is going to improve even more so this season, while relying on Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockette for help along the way.
1. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Passing Yards: 3,821
Last season, Aaron Rodgers had his worst statistical season as a starting QB. However, Aaron Rodgers still put up 31 TDs compared to 8 INTs with 3,821 passing yards. Aaron Rodgers, without his best WR, put up a 60.7 completion percentage while a litany of injuries and drops rendered his receiving core obsolete. He was 11th in TDs last season, and 17th in yards. This was all in his down season, without a good receiving crop and while dealing with stagnant coaching. This year, he will reinvigorate this offense with his main weapon Jordy Nelson back on the field. He will also have Eddie Lacy back at a reasonable playing weight. This Packers team is too good to have another regressive year. Even in a bad season, Aaron Rodgers brought this team to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Packers are a legitimate Super Bowl threat, and that is all due to their star QB who undoubtedly carries this Packers team.
Projected Stats: 5,000 yards, 40 TD/13 INT
Postscript: I work as a data analyst professionally, so you could say that working with large sets of numbers is right up my alley. I also have a passion for football and fantasy sports unrivalled by many, and I love to put it into writing. Being a data analyst, I generated my own projections and statistics in Excel. These projections were used in this article and will definitely fuel my style of writing. I look forward to interacting with all of you, as well as continuing to write about any and all sports.
Follow me on Twitter @michaelthemurr
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