2015 Outlook: Rodgers is the best QB in the league at the absolute height of his powers. He's got a big arm, unbelievable accuracy and all the weapons he could ever need. At times, it feels he's simply toying with defenses, and the Packers seem to run into trouble only when they go conservative. Sure, Rodgers has been banged up in back-to-back years, but that's a risk any player carries. He was the NFL's MVP in 2014, and with some of the other elites at the position hitting the twilights of their careers, the distance between Rodgers and everyone else is growing. We never advise taking a QB in the first round, but if you must, it should be Mr. Rodgers.
2015 Outlook: The Colts took the training wheels off Luck in his third NFL season. He jumped from 11th in pass attempts in 2013 to third last year, and his average yards at the catch leapt from 32nd in the league to ninth. That corresponds with what we saw on tape: Luck has blossomed into a maestro in the pocket, an instinctive reader of defenses and a truly powerful thrower. Yes, the final piece of his puzzle will involve making fewer mistakes in key spots. But when that happens, watch out; Super Bowls are in this kid's future. With WR Andre Johnson replacing Reggie Wayne and RB Frank Gore onhand to establish balance, Luck deserves to be a top-two fantasy QB.
2015 Outlook: This could be the year the Seahawks finally unleash Wilson as a thrower. In all three of his seasons, the Hawks have called at least 70 more running plays than passing, and as a result, Wilson has never finished higher than 15th in the league in single-season passing yards. But Seattle traded for Jimmy Graham, giving Wilson the kind of aerial weapon he's never had. Even if his rushing yards decrease from 849 (which led all QBs in 2014), his floor will remain relatively high, and we expect him to exceed his career-best 26 passing TDs. At long last, Wilson clearly belongs among the top fantasy options at QB.
2015 Outlook: We tried to tell you: Drafting any fantasy QB (even Peyton!) in the first round is a mistake because you're chasing the prior year's stats -- and historic seasons rarely repeat. In 2014, Manning subtracted 750 yards and 16 TDs from his incredible 2013 campaign. On average, he was the No. 4 overall fantasy pick, but he finished as merely the No. 4 QB. Now he's 39, he has a new coach, and go-to targets Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are gone. No doubt, Manning's drop-off after Week 14 was the result of an injured quad. Still, while we trust his reads and instincts as much as any signal-caller's, last year served as a good reminder: Don't reach for Manning -- or any other QB.
2015 Outlook: Times have changed in New Orleans. Jimmy Graham is gone, and Brees' receiving corps consists of a declining Marques Colston and a bunch of unproven young guys. Meanwhile, RBs Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller are present -- and expensive. Brees tied for his fifth pass-yardage title in 2014, but it might have been his last. We expect the Saints to balance out an offense that threw 63 percent of the time last year, fifth most in the NFL. High volume has covered up the fact that Brees' play has dipped below elite levels; his 6.95 yards per dropback in 2014 was his lowest mark since 2010. If the volume slides, Brees might look like a decidedly mortal fantasy QB.
2015 Outlook: Big Ben has gone back-to-back years without missing a contest. (He'd previously played the full 16 only one time.) Is this luck, or has Roethlisberger changed his game? Certainly, after three seasons with Todd Haley, he's internalized his offensive cordinator's quicker-hitting offense, and the Steelers have drafted well on the O-line. As a result, he's coming off his best fantasy finish since 2007 (No. 5 QB). But Roethlisberger still occasionally holds the ball too long, which is exactly what caused him to get knocked out of the Steelers' playoff game against the Ravens last season. While he's a fantasy starter, we remain concerned that his playing style will cause him to miss time.
2015 Outlook: For all the love he gets in fantasy circles, Ryan has never ranked higher than the No. 7 QB in a season. It's true that new OC Kyle Shanahan believes in a downfield passing game, and that could boost Ryan's stats. But Ryan has problems when good defenses bring pressure: In each of the past four seasons, his Total QBR has decreased when opponents blitz, in large part because his offensive line has been shaky, an issue that went mostly unaddressed in this spring's draft. Talent, volume and throwing to Julio Jones make Ryan a definite fantasy starter. We just can't quite get behind him as a breakout candidate for 2015.
2015 Outlook: After three seasons as a top-five fantasy QB, Newton merely tied for 15th last year. It's easy to blame his pedestrian finish on injuries and the fact that he didn't run early, and that's true: Newton had ankle and rib problems and was limited to 14 rush attempts through Week 5. But the history of most running QBs tells us that injury risk increases with age. Since 2001, only two QBs -- Michael Vick and Kordell Stewart -- have rushed for more than 500 yards after their fourth pro season. We think Newton will probably reach that mark in 2015, but there's risk, and he's not a good enough passer to be a fantasy starter without his legs.
2015 Outlook: In a season during which he tossed 34 TDs and only 9 INTs, it's surprising that Romo finished a measly 11th in QB fantasy points. But that's what happens when your running game is so dominant that you rank only 23rd in pass attempts. The Cowboys have the NFL's best O-line and would love to keep a run/pass mix close to last year's 50/50 split, but DeMarco Murray is gone, and the team will fill his shoes with humdrum veterans like Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams. So will Romo's workload increase? And if it does, will that diminish his newfound efficiency? Either way, we view Romo as a fantasy starter but not a superstar.
2015 Outlook: It was a wild season (and offseason!) for Tom Terrific. In the first four weeks of 2014, he amassed a pedestrian Total QBR of 46.5 (28th overall), and some fantasy owners were cutting him. After four months, though, he was streaking toward another Super Bowl crown. Brady's days as a downfield gunslinger are gone, but his incredible short- and intermediate-passing accuracy makes TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Julian Edelman awesome weapons. As of this writing, Brady was slated to miss four games (pending his appeal) for his role in Deflategate. That obviously dampens his 2015 outlook, but don't take him off your draft board. You'll be able to mix and match QBs for a month, after which Brady will return with a roar.
2015 Outlook: Bill Lazor's first year as Tannehill's offensive cordinator was largely a success, as the young QB set career highs in most categories. But there's work to do. In 2014, Tannehill got the ball out of his hand quickly -- he ranked 27th in average yards at the catch -- but his 60.4 Total QBR on throws of 20 yards or more ranked 31st overall, which is curious considering he has a big arm. With good running chops and a receiving corps of Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron, Tannehill has a chance to duplicate his No. 9 finish in QB fantasy points. But we hope his long-ball accuracy improves.
2015 Outlook: It's tempting to say that Eli's strong 2014 directly resulted from OC Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense. After all, despite a shaky first month, Manning posted a career-best 63.1 percent completion rate and his lowest interception total since 2009. But we all know who the real change agent was: WR Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ's emergence coincided with Eli's level jump, even as Victor Cruz was lost to a knee injury. In 2015, Manning will get a full year of Beckham as an outside threat while adhering to McAdoo's quicker-hitting concepts the rest of the time. That should continue to smooth his rough edges and make him a borderline fantasy starter.
2015 Outlook: Rivers has passed for 4,000-plus yards in six of his past seven seasons and averaged 30 TD throws in that span. So why isn't he more fun to own in fantasy? Because he wears down. In 2014, Rivers was on a roll with 20 TDs and just 5 INTs through eight contests, but then his back started bothering him and he went 11/13 the rest of the way. In fact, in every year of his pro career, Rivers has seen his yardage total decrease down the stretch. There's no denying he has wonderful throwing accuracy and pre-snap instincts. Perhaps that makes him a guy you consider drafting, then trading come November.
2015 Outlook: Stafford's strengths are obvious: rocket arm, good in-pocket mobility and Megatron. But he's the reigning monarch of ill-advised throws, reflected by a league-high eight red zone picks over the past three years. We're always going to think Stafford should produce better numbers than he does. After all, not everyone can throw for 4,200-plus yards without surpassing 22 TDs. It's happened only five times in NFL history, and Stafford has done it twice in the past three seasons. Having a healthy Calvin Johnson for 16 games would help, and Golden Tate is finally filling the No. 2 WR hole in Detroit. But somehow, some way, Stafford will break your heart.
2015 Outlook: Kaepernick busted hard for fantasy owners in 2014. On average, he was the No. 9 QB selected, ahead of Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, because we assumed his running skills would make up for whatever he lacked in receiving weapons. That didn't happen. But things weren't as bad as they seemed. Nobody throws a prettier frozen rope than Kaepernick, and even with Jim Harbaugh limiting the Niners to just 63 option snaps, Kap managed to rush for 639 yards. The new staff might let him run wilder in 2015, and WR Torrey Smith will be a welcome addition to a receiving corps that couldn't separate last year. Kaepernick will be tough to trust, but a bounce-back on the strength of his wheels is possible.