2014 Outlook: Todd Haley's offense has a reputation for being too dinky and dunky, yet Big Ben was 10th last season in vertical pass attempts (183) and tied for ninth in QB fantasy points on vertical passes (93). Roethlisberger started off slowly (12.5 fantasy ppg in Weeks 1-4, ranked 26th) but bounced back with 16.5 ppg in Weeks 5-17 as the Steelers began to establish a run game with rookie Le'Veon Bell. Roethlisberger hasn't been a top-10 fantasy QB since 2009, but he has scored between 13.7 and 16.8 fantasy ppg in each of the past four seasons. You can't go wrong with him as your backup.
2014 Outlook: The debacle that was the Bengals' wild-card playoff loss cast a lot of doubt on Dalton's future and may put a damper on his perceived fantasy value. A quick refresher: The Bengals lost 27-10 despite outgaining San Diego 439-318 in total yardage, largely because of Dalton's three-turnover meltdown in the second half. That negative impression cannot be ignored, but think about this: Dalton ranked fifth in QB fantasy points (277), fourth in fantasy points on vertical passes (115) and third in stretch vertical fantasy points (65). Make a deal with yourself to accept his occasional bad days and there shouldn't be any regret in drafting him as a QB2.
2014 Outlook: The number 27 still stings Manning owners, but how many of those interceptions were Eli's fault? By the BDR metric, only three -- yes, three -- were actually due to a bad Manning decision. The rest were largely attributed to receiver mistakes, bad luck or tipped passes. Manning does throw a ton of vertical passes (197, tied for fourth), and he still has a highly talented group of pass catchers to work with in new O-coordinator Ben McAdoo's West Coast scheme. If the Giants' offensive line holds up and Manning's interception luck improves, Eli could once again be a viable high-end QB2.
2014 Outlook: Say this about drafting Carson Palmer: Sundays at least will be interesting. As would be expected for a Bruce Arians QB, Palmer led the league in vertical attempts (213). The problem is that his arm is showing signs of age, and the QB had 22 interceptions, tied for second most in the NFL. Despite all the picks, Palmer's 2.1 percent BDR is quite good for somebody who throws so many deep balls. Palmer ranked 18th and 17th among QBs the past two seasons. Pencil him in for 210 to 230 fantasy points again in 2014.
2014 Outlook: McCown looked nothing like a backup last season in Chicago. In fact, he bested Jay Cutler in vertical yards per attempt (12.0 versus 11.8), completion percentage (66.5, 63.1) and winning percentage (.600, .455). He also had the league's second-highest Total QBR on vertical throws (99.0). So it makes sense that first-year coach Lovie Smith named McCown his starter shortly after the 35-year-old was signed this winter. And with the 6-foot-5 WR tandem of Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, McCown could very well replicate those numbers this season. But for now, concern over his 2013 season being a fluke keeps him from being ranked higher.
2014 Outlook: Flacco is the empty-calories version of a vertical passer. His 11.9 vertical attempts per game ranked ninth in the league, but Flacco was last (39th) among qualifying quarterbacks in vertical ypa (8.7) and 30th in vertical-pass fantasy points per game (3.9). The addition of Steve Smith won't help -- the former Panther ranked 37th in vertical receiving yards (424). Quantity without quality equals a weak fantasy backup QB. In other words, leave Flacco on the waiver wire. You're better off rolling the dice with someone who has more upside.
2014 Outlook: Combining Tannehill's powerful arm with a speedster the caliber of Mike Wallace should have led to big vertical numbers. Didn't happen. Tannehill tallied a meager 9.3 vertical yards per pass attempt, 35th in the NFL. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who assisted Chip Kelly in developing Nick Foles last year with the Eagles, should help improve the downfield numbers. Even with that possibility, it's hard to trust Tannehill as anything more than a low-end QB2.
2014 Outlook: Smith proved that a QB with questionable arm strength in a vertically challenged offense can rack up quality fantasy point totals. Smith ranked 44th in vertical pass attempts per game (7.9) and yet ranked 15th in QB fantasy points. Credit his success on short passes (139 points, ranked 10th) and an uptick in his rushing (42 fantasy points on the ground). He also had an incredibly low BDR at 0.9 percent, thus insulating his fantasy owners from costly interceptions. But until further notice, you should consider Smith nothing more than a bye-week fill-in; his risk-averse nature stifles his fantasy upside.
2014 Outlook: Let's go Johnny Arithmetic on Johnny Football. Manziel averaged 83 rushing yards per game in college. If he can post half that total in the pros, it would equal roughly 664 yards. Add in, say, four carries to the end zone and he's sitting at around 90 fantasy points. If he puts up 10 more points per game through the air, his season total will reach 250. That's fringe QB1 material. But realize this: That's also the best-case scenario, and rookie seasons hardly ever follow such a serendipitous script. At 5-foot-11 and 207 pounds, Manziel rivals Russell Wilson (5-11, 206) as the smallest QB in the NFL, and we'd be surprised if he made it through his rookie season unscathed. For now, he's a lottery ticket in redraft leagues.
2014 Outlook: Smith's rookie season was dizzying for Jets fans and fantasy owners. Going back to his college days at West Virginia, Smith has always had consistency issues, and his rocky 2013 season is why the Jets might consider Michael Vick -- an inconsistent player in his own right -- a more reliable starter. Overall, Smith ranked as the 20th-best fantasy QB in 2013, but he was impossible to trust on a weekly basis. Here were his point totals from the first 10 games of the season: 14, 3, 24, 7, 21, 4, 20, 2, 11, minus-4. Even if Smith beats out Vick for the starting job, his volatility should scare you away.
2014 Outlook: Locker racked up more fantasy points per game last season (13.14) than Carson Palmer (13.06), Joe Flacco (12.1) or Eli Manning (10.1). That may seem like a backhanded compliment, but remember: He battled knee, hip and foot injuries, the latter of which required offseason surgery. Locker's brittle nature -- he's played in only 18 games the past two seasons -- is one of many question marks, but his ability to perform decently under less-than-stellar circumstances gives him solid QB3 value. The Titans again chose to beef up their offensive line through the draft, and the acquisitions of RB/WR Dexter McCluster (via KC) and RB Bishop Sankey (in the second round) give Locker a couple of more toys to play with. It's a make-or-break year for the fourth-year starter.
2014 Outlook: The thought of owning a Vikings QB understandably makes owners cringe, but that might change this season as fantasy whisperer Norv Turner takes over the offense. With Adrian Peterson's rushing, Kyle Rudolph's savvy and Cordarrelle Patterson's speed, Cassel has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. The question is whether he can take advantage of them. Vertical passing has never been a Cassel specialty; heck, he fell short of posting a double-digit vertical ypa when throwing to Randy Moss in his prime. But his 10.6 vertical ypa last year was a career high, and Turner specializes in that part of the playbook. If Cassel wins the starting role over first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, he can progress to fringe QB2 status.
2014 Outlook: As a rookie last season, Manuel took his lumps, missing six games due to injury and finishing four games with single-digit fantasy point totals. And while his recurring injuries are a concern, you shouldn't underestimate his upside. He had five starts with 16 or more points, and his 1.5 percent BDR shows he's smart with the ball. Plus, Manuel's ability to scramble -- 186 rushing yards in 2013, 13th among QBs -- gives his value a boost. Add in the explosive skill set of rookie WR Sammy Watkins, who averaged 36.1 stretch vertical ypa against BCS teams last season, and it's clear why Manuel is one of the ultimate boom-or-bust QBs this year.
2014 Outlook: Houston had plenty of chances to take a QB high in the draft but passed after signing Fitzpatrick to a two-year, $7 million deal in the offseason. The Texans did eventually nab a signal-caller in the fourth round (Tom Savage, Pitt), but Houston's front office still has remnants of a win-now mindset, and Fitzpatrick is a more polished product than both Savage and second-year QB Case Keenum. To be sure, Fitzpatrick is far from a Pro Bowler -- or a reliable fantasy starter, throwing an interception on 3.4 percent of passes since 2008, tied for second worst among qualifying QBs. He should be drafted only in deep two-QB leagues -- and even then, he's a last resort.
2014 Outlook: Carr was named the team's starter on Labor Day, which makes him an intriguing backup in 2-QBs leagues right away with the upside to be a starter. He'll have his peaks and valleys, like any rookie, so he's not a target in standard redraft formats.