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: 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 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: 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: Most owners will shy away from Bradford because of durability issues. And it's true that Bradford has missed 15 games -- or almost 25 percent of his career -- thus far. Yet there are signs pointing toward improvement. Bradford had only 114 fantasy points in 2013, but when he played, he played well. Bradford ranked 12th in fantasy QB points per game (16.3), ahead of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, RG3 and Matt Ryan. The Rams have been stockpiling quality WRs and RBs and are now upgrading their offensive line, so Bradford will have plenty of talent around him. That skill level will eventually hit pay dirt, and that makes Bradford an off-the-charts value as a No. 3 QB.
2014 Outlook: Vick may have ended up on Chip Kelly's bench last season, but it wasn't because he took too many risks. His 1.4 percent BDR was a career low and shows that Vick can protect the ball when he wants to. Now the ultimate question: Did the Jets bring him in to mentor Geno Smith or to beat him out? We won't know until August, but Vick's low BDR and top-tier rushing ability (5.4 fantasy points per game, ranked third) could propel him into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. It's not like Smith -- who threw for less than 200 ypg and had nine more interceptions than touchdowns last season -- is entrenched atop the depth chart.
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: 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: Schaub started off last season with a bang: He threw a pick six in four consecutive games, setting an NFL record. By season's end, he had posted a 3.9 percent INT rate, fourth worst in the league. It was an unexpected turn for the worse; in three of the previous four seasons, Schaub had put up at least 4,000 yards passing, 22 TDs and a 63 percent completion rate. Perhaps a change of address is just what the 11-year vet needs, but he's no lock to win the job over former Fresno State QB Derek Carr, drafted by the Raiders in the second round. Even if Schaub is named the starter, it's hard to count on anything more than QB3 production as he learns a new system and jells with a mediocre WR corps.