2015 Outlook: You know what sounds like a recipe for carnage? Taking Bradford -- an ACL tear waiting to happen under normal circumstances -- and having him run around in Chip Kelly's system. Skills-wise, this marriage makes sense: Bradford is no Olympic sprinter, but he has significantly better mobility than Nick Foles, and misdirection works better when there's a threat the QB will run. For as long as Bradford stays healthy, we think he'll make this Eagles offense look great. Alas, he's missed 31 of a possible 80 NFL games due to injury. The right fantasy strategy with Bradford is to use him for as long as he's upright, but make sure you've got a strong backup.
2015 Outlook: Lost in the dumpster fire that was the Cardinals' backup QB situation late in 2014 was the fact that Palmer played well when healthy. True, he wasn't healthy much. He lost three early-season games to a shoulder problem and tore his left ACL in Week 10. But Bruce Arians' offense ranked in the top 10 in passing yards under Palmer's watch. If there's one criticism, it's Palmer's insistence on being Mr. Fadeaway: He steps and twists backward on some deeper throws, often landing him in trouble. Still, while there will be avoidable mistakes -- and no guarantee he'll play the full 16 at age 35 -- a healthy Palmer will vie for a starting fantasy spot.
2015 Outlook: Of all the 2014 rookie QBs, Bridgewater played best. He does foundational things well: He is an accurate thrower and a good progression reader, is nimble in the pocket and doesn't make killer mistakes. But even staunch Teddy supporters know he should be graded on a curve. The Vikings kept things simple once Bridgewater took over, allowing him to complete short crosses and screens while ranking 24th in attempts of 20 yards or more. Minnesota might keep it conservative on offense again in 2015, which limits Bridgewater's upside. Still, whereas last year's other rookie signal-callers produced cringeworthy tape, Bridgewater's was as clean as a whistle.
2015 Outlook: Cutler's personality is so punkish that he shoulders more blame than he deserves for the Bears' offensive woes. The true problem in Chicago the past two seasons has been the defense. That's not to fully absolve Cutler: His 2014 stat line looks somewhat respectable, but he threw 9 TDs while losing by 14 points or more; nobody else in the NFL had more than 6. Cutler clashed with his coaches and reportedly called whatever he wanted in the huddle, something that won't fly with new coach John Fox. The prime directive for 2015 will be limiting Cutler's turnovers -- he led the NFL with 24 last year. The Bears will craft balanced game plans, removing upside and downside from his bottom line.
2015 Outlook: Flacco is the streakiest player in the NFL. When he's clicking, he's unstoppable; when he's not, his throwing accuracy is terrible. What's crazy is that he regularly toggles back and forth in the span of a single game. Flacco might have the NFL's biggest arm, and his 5 TDs that traveled 30-plus air yards was tied for second most in 2014. But he also has stretches during which he'll throw multiple feet over his man's head on a seven-yard out. Fortunately for Ravens fans, Flacco saves his best streaks for the playoffs. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the regular-season peaks and valleys are brutal and prevent Flacco from joining the elites.
2015 Outlook: Winston deserves to be the top rookie QB off the board in all leagues, but slow your roll. Playing the position in the NFL is hard! Winston knows his read progressions and has terrific weapons (Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, et al.), but when rookie signal-callers have succeeded in recent years, it's mostly been because they were truly exceptional runners. Winston isn't that. He'll make some big plays because he's got great raw talent and because his receivers are explosive. But this offense was a pathetic 29th in team scoring last year. It's hard for us to imagine that the addition of Winston suddenly removes all ills.
2015 Outlook: Smith is the ultimate caretaker, eschewing risk at every turn. That limits his downside for the Chiefs, but it doesn't pay off for your fantasy squad. Running back Jamaal Charles has averaged 1,600-plus scrimmage yards over the past two seasons, meaning defenses focus on him, yet Smith can't make himself take shots down the field. Last year he ranked last out of 33 qualifiers in air yards per pass attempt (5.6). Will replacing Dwayne Bowe with WR Jeremy Maclin suddenly change the constipated Kansas City pass offense? We think not. Yes, Smith is likely to finish among fantasy's top 20 QBs (barely). But we'd rather take a shot on someone with more upside.
2015 Outlook: Mariota comes to the NFL with one pro-ready skill: He's a terrific runner. He has that in common with Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, who all racked up rushing yards and TDs on their way to becoming starting material as rookies. Will Mariota follow in their (quite literal) footsteps? We're skeptical about the Titans' skill players and offensive line, so we're guessing the answer is no. But speed and open-field agility can wreck a defense's best-laid plans, so we'll be attuned to Mariota's ground success early in the year.
2015 Outlook: Dalton finished 2013 a shocking fifth in QB fantasy points. But savvy owners knew it was a mirage -- a point confirmed last year, when he ranked 18th. The Red Rifle is one of the NFL's most "scheme-able" throwers; he thinks his arm is stronger than it is, and he consistently puts passes in traffic. WR A.J. Green makes up for a multitude of his QB's sins, but the interceptions always arrive. (His 66 picks over the past four years is second most in the NFL.) Add a two-headed backfield of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and the Bengals are better off when Dalton isn't throwing a ton. He shouldn't be more than a bye-week fill-in on your team.
2015 Outlook: In 2014, RG3 dislocated his left ankle, came back for three games, got benched for Colt McCoy and then reassumed the starting role only after McCoy got hurt. Griffin's fig leaf -- his otherworldly speed -- has faltered after so many lower-body injuries, and his mechanics are a mess when he needs to make quick decisions from the pocket. Big plays will occasionally be there via WR DeSean Jackson's electric deep routes, but that presupposes Jay Gruden's sticking with RG3 -- which is no sure thing. It's tough to completely discount Griffin for fantasy after having watched him dominate as a rookie. But his recent game tape doesn't augur 2015 glory.
2015 Outlook: The Colts' offense looks like one of the NFL's well-oiled machines. But without Andrew Luck at the controls, it's fair to wonder whether the whole thing would break down. Hasselbeck will be 40 in September and has mentored Luck the past two seasons, yet he hasn't taken a meaningful snap in Indy. If Luck gets injured, we trust that Hasselbeck knows the offense and would keep mental mistakes to a minimum. But we doubt he'd scare defenses with his arm.