Fantasy Primers

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs (Wednesday)
  • Wide Receivers (Thursday)
  • Tight Ends (Friday)
  • Defenses (Saturday)


Championship-caliber quarterbacks are an incredibly scarce commodity in the NFL, with some teams searching for years to find an answer at the position.

Fortunately, that’s not an issue for fantasy owners, who are given a plethora of high-end starting options to choose from each year. Even those who wait until the late rounds can easily employ a quarterback-by-committee or weekly-streamer approach.

Situations and supporting casts do change, however, and getting adjusted to the new landscape goes a long way toward helping you decide the right time to secure your fantasy QB1.

It’s important to remember that these primers are not intended to be tiers for drafting. You can view our complete quarterback rankings here.

Leader of the Pack

Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Rodgers has finished first or second among fantasy passers in six of the last eight seasons, and has shown no sign of slowing down. He hit the 40-touchdown mark for the second time in 2016, while outscoring the next closest fantasy quarterback by more than 30 points. He’s the only quarterback worth considering in the first four rounds.

Better with age

Tom Brady, Patriots – The Super Bowl LI MVP was an unstoppable force last season, despite appearing in just 12 regular season games due to his Deflategate suspension. Had he played in all 16 contests, Brady was on pace for his second straight campaign with at least 4,700 yards and 36 touchdowns. At what point do we begin to discuss whether the 39-year-old Brady is immortal?

Drew Brees, Saints – While his weapons have continued to change, Brees remains one of fantasy’s most consistent quarterbacks. Even with Brandin Cooks having been traded to the Patriots, there’s no reason to think the 38-year-old won’t flirt with 5,000 yards and 35 touchdowns and be one of the biggest weekly fantasy difference-makers at the position.

Philip Rivers, Chargers – Despite several injuries on the Chargers offense, Rivers threw for multiple scores in 12 games last season, including in each of the final nine outings. Now he gets his top target Keenan Allen back and adds first-rounder Mike Williams to an already solid receiving corps. It’s possible fantasy owners are sleeping on the 35-year-old bolo tie aficionado.

Returning from injury

Cam Newton, Panthers – Newton had surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in March, but appears to be on track to return early in training camp. The 2015 MVP is a prime candidate for a bounce-back season after a disappointing campaign which saw his touchdown total drop from 45 to 24.

Andrew Luck, Colts – Luck also underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder and shares a similar recovery timeline to Newton. The team doesn’t plan on rushing him back, which could lead to him sitting out part of training camp. The expectation remains that he’ll be healthy for Week 1, but fantasy owners might be able to get him at a discount if he’s sidelined for any amount of time in August.

Derek Carr, Raiders – The broken leg that kept Carr out of the playoffs is a thing of the past, as he was a full go in OTAs. He can now resume his status as one of the best young fantasy quarterbacks in the game.

Marcus Mariota, Titans – By all accounts, Mariota is ahead of schedule as he recovers from a fractured fibula and ankle late in the season. It was good to see him on the field taking part in OTAs, even as a limited participant. His availability for the preseason remains a question mark, but we should see him ready for action in Week 1.

Bound to break out

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers – Winston’s topped 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, but this year he’ll have a full complement of weapons to go with his No. 1 target Mike Evans. Veteran DeSean Jackson and rookie O.J. Howard will help Winston take a big step toward becoming one of the NFL’s best.

Tough act to follow

Matt Ryan, Falcons – As we mentioned above with Newton, following up an MVP season can be difficult, especially when you’re suffering from the hangover of a brutal loss in the Super Bowl. Ryan will also be without his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to coach the 49ers.

Dak Prescott, Cowboys – Few rookies enter the league with the kind of poise and maturity Prescott displayed last season. Prescott finished with the sixth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2016, but the challenge only gets tougher in Year 2 with the Cowboys’ offensive line undergoing some changes and opposing coaches having a full offseason to scheme against him.

Surprisingly undervalued

Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Wilson’s numbers dipped in 2016 primarily due to injuries, which he played through, and a subpar yearlong performance from his offensive line. However, it’s important to remember that Wilson is one year removed from back-to-back seasons as a top-three fantasy quarterback.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills – Sometimes things in life don’t make sense, like Taylor having an early ADP of QB16, despite ending last season with the eighth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks while playing 15 games. It’s time to accept the TyGod as a fantasy starter.

Carson Wentz, Eagles – The arrival of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and (to a lesser extent) LeGarrette Blount makes Wentz an intriguing player this season. With Wentz’s arsenal in place, a breakout season is possible.

Playing it safe

Matthew Stafford, Lions – Stafford feels like a bit of a forgotten man in fantasy. Even without Calvin Johnson, the Lions’ franchise quarterback posted his fourth top-10 fantasy finish in the last five years.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins – The Redskins’ skill positions underwent a major transition in the offseason, with Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson stepping into starting roles alongside Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed. There’s more than enough talent in Washington for Cousins to deliver another quality fantasy campaign.

Trust issues

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – With Martavis Bryant expected to return to the starting lineup, Roethlisberger has a chance for a huge season. The problem lies with his health, as he constantly misses time due to injuries. If he was seriously considering retirement this offseason, maybe his body is more broken down than we realize.

Andy Dalton, Bengals – Dalton has alternated between good and bad seasons the last four years. If you’re following that trend, then he might be worth drafting in 2017, assuming he can overcome the downgrades to his offensive line.

Eli Manning, Giants – Manning showed serious signs of decline last season. The Giants are hoping Brandon Marshall will help right the ship, but what if Marshall is also close to his NFL expiration date?

Carson Palmer, Cardinals – Age is also the main opponent for the 37-year-old Palmer, who struggled early last year before settling in down the stretch. Bruce Arians loves throwing the ball, meaning Palmer will go down swinging, for better or worse.

Prepare to be disappointed

Blake Bortles, Jaguars – With an improving defense and a shift to a run-first approach, the Jaguars won’t be looking to Bortles for his patented garbage-time production. There’s also no guarantee that Bortles holds on to the starting job as the season goes on.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – If DeVante Parker steps up as many have predicted, the Dolphins will boast one of the league’s most impressive receiving corps. Unfortunately, Tannehill’s limitations mixed with Adam Gase’s decision to lean on the running game, will prevent him from being fantasy relevant.

Joe Flacco, Ravens – With just one 25-touchdown season on his resume in the last six years, it’s wise to avoid Flacco unless you’re desperate for a streamer.

Alex Smith, Chiefs – The Chiefs let everyone know how they feel about Smith when they selected rookie Patrick Mahomes in April. No one wants to start Smith on their fantasy team, not even Andy Reid.

Sneaky starters

Sam Bradford, Vikings – Bradford played much better later in the season when the Vikings tweaked the offense to mesh with his skill set. With a solid core around him, he could be a high-end QB2 in fantasy.

Brian Hoyer, 49ers – Kyle Shanahan can manufacture offense anywhere he goes. Hoyer should rack up plenty of volume as the 49ers trail early and often.

Head of the Class

Deshaun Watson, Texans – Watson still has to win the job, but if he does, the talent is in place for him to have a Prescott-esque rookie season.

Long shots

Jared Goff, Rams – After an embarrassing first season, Goff will get a second chance under a new offensive-minded coach and behind a slightly upgraded offensive line.

Cody Kessler, Browns – With all the hype around rookie DeShone Kizer, Kessler may actually emerge as a serviceable real-life starter in Cleveland.

Mike Glennon, Bears – Glennon’s receivers are unproven and the Bears already drafted his replacement. There’s nothing to get excited about here.

Fantasy Primers

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs (Wednesday)
  • Wide Receivers (Thursday)
  • Tight Ends (Friday)
  • Defenses (Saturday)

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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