2014 Outlook: The reigning fantasy points champion lost Eric Decker, arguably the Broncos' most productive wideout, to free agency. But don't shed a tear for Manning, who still has two dominant receivers in Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, as well as superb dink-and-dunk receivers in free-agent acquisition Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker (once he returns from his four-game suspension). Don't expect him to repeat last year's record-breaking season, especially since he is 38 and has four matchups against the tough NFC West. But even if Manning takes a step back, he has a very good shot at defending his fantasy points title.
2014 Outlook: Let's face it, fantasy football is a "What have you done for me lately?" business, so Rodgers' 162 fantasy points in 2013 may cause some owners to devalue him. Don't be one of those owners. Rodgers pairs elite accuracy with superb rushing skill (18 ground scores since 2008, most among QBs not named Cam Newton) and an unparalleled ability to create plays on the move. In fact, even in his injury-plagued 2013 season, Rodgers scored 18 fantasy points per game, fourth among all QBs. Second-year stud RB Eddie Lacy is sometimes mentioned as a negative for Rodgers' fantasy value, but his emergence should make it impossible for defenses to solely concentrate on stopping Rodgers, whose upside could be even higher in 2014.
2014 Outlook: Were it not for Peyton Manning's season for the ages, Brees would have garnered a ton of fantasy football MVP votes last year. He hit the 5,000-yard benchmark, threw 39-plus touchdown passes for the third consecutive season and had as many games with 30-plus fantasy points as Manning (five). Brees also has a highly favorable schedule -- only five games against teams that finished in the upper third of the league in fantasy QB points allowed. You can't go wrong with him.
2014 Outlook: New head coach Jim Caldwell's offense probably won't be as pass-heavy as the record-breaking scheme Stafford played in under Jim Schwartz. After all, Stafford has chucked more passes in the past three years -- 2,024 -- than any QB in NFL history has over a three-year span. But he could see his fantasy value increase via a trade of quantity for quality. Calvin Johnson should bounce back from an un-Megatron-ish season of "only" 1,492 yards and 12 TDs. And the Lions added Golden Tate, whose 31 yards per vertical reception ranked second among WRs with 10-plus vertical targets. That should turn a so-so part of Stafford's passing game (10.1 vertical ypa, ranked 26th) into a strength and make him a worthy choice as your starting QB.
2014 Outlook: Looking for return on investment? Luck could be your guy. He placed fourth in quarterback fantasy points last season (279) despite losing WR Reggie Wayne for nine games. The free agent addition of Hakeem Nicks, the emergence of T.Y. Hilton, the development of promising second-year receiver Da'Rick Rogers and the 1-2 tight end punch of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener reflect the Colts' commitment to surrounding Luck with targets. Combine those receivers with a highly favorable schedule -- three games against teams that finished in the bottom five in fantasy ppg allowed -- and that should help Luck once again contend for a top-five QB finish.
2014 Outlook: A fractured rib could affect Newton's productivity, but despite taking his share of hits in his first three seasons, Cam has yet to miss a game. Newton has posted upper-tier numbers with less-than-stellar personnel around him, and he'll be asked to do it again this year. The Panthers added rookie Kelvin Benjamin through the draft but lost their top four WRs to free agency and saw longtime left tackle Jordan Gross hang up his cleats. While that could make passing numbers harder to come by, Newton led the league in fantasy QB points on rushing plays last season (88) despite ankle-injury woes. Offseason surgery should lead to a fully healthy set of wheels, and that could move Newton into triple-digit territory for fantasy rushing points, which is an achievement worthy of a Superman pose -- or three.
2014 Outlook: From a fantasy perspective, RG3 actually had his share of highlights last season. He had six games of 19 or more points, after eight 19-point games during his breakout rookie season. Still, some of the underlying indicators last year weren't great. He was the NFL's 31st-ranked QB on passes thrown 10 yards downfield, registering only 9.7 yards per vertical pass attempt. It helps that he'll be throwing to DeSean Jackson, who had more vertical yards (905) than Redskins receivers Pierre Garcon and Aldrick Robinson combined (813). Look for Griffin's on-field numbers to catch up with his fantasy numbers, but he's not in the elite tier at this point.
2014 Outlook: Last season Foles was almost assuredly on your league's waiver wire. Then, after Michael Vick pulled a hammy on Oct. 6, Foles stepped in and led the NFL in fantasy points from Weeks 9 to 17. That's right, his 24.6 ppg were more than those of Peyton Manning (23.9) and Jamaal Charles (22.4). Give credit to coach Chip Kelly, whose extraordinarily creative playcalling took hold down the stretch as the Eagles went 7'1. Expect Foles' success to continue in 2014, even with DeSean Jackson now in Washington, a loss that should be offset by the return of Jeremy Maclin. Foles might not score 24 fantasy ppg again, but he'll be a solid starter.
2014 Outlook: Kaepernick was fourth among quarterbacks with 524 rushing yards, backing up his reputation as a terrific ground gainer. The surprise, though, was some of his passing metrics. Kaepernick is among the few quarterbacks who produce big on downfield passes (38 fantasy points on stretch vertical throws, ranked ninth) while still expertly protecting the ball (1.6 percent bad-decision rate). Were it not for a slow start -- he scored single-digit points in three of his first five games -- Kaepernick would have been a top-five QB last year. He certainly has that potential this year.
2014 Outlook: What you're about to read might sound ominous for a fantasy quarterback, but keep reading. Over the past two seasons, no team has run more often (1,045 rushes) or thrown less often (825 passes) than the Seahawks. Amazingly, that trend hasn't stopped Wilson from placing 10th in fantasy QB points during that time (515). The takeaway for fantasy owners? His first two NFL seasons represent Wilson's fantasy-points floor. If Seattle gets its wish and establishes more rush-pass balance in its offense (maybe via 100-plus targets for Percy Harvin), Wilson will have the biggest upside of any top-10 quarterback.
2014 Outlook: Just about everything that could go wrong for Ryan did go wrong last year. He lost a top receiver, Julio Jones, for much of the season and dealt with massive offensive line issues (44 sacks, tied for worst in the NFC). Yet Ryan still ranked seventh with 12.3 vertical yards per attempt and 14th in overall fantasy points among QBs thanks to 151 total points on short passes. His consistency and durability -- only two games missed in six NFL seasons -- make him a fringe QB1 and a great QB2.
2014 Outlook: No Rob Gronkowski? A group of receivers that featured three rookies in the mix? OK, maybe Brady's terrible start last season wasn't all that surprising. He racked up only 11.5 points per game in the first eight weeks (ranked 34th among QBs). That ice melted quickly once Gronk returned from his multiple injuries and Brady and his young wideouts got on the same page, which led to a scoring turnaround in Weeks 9-17 (18.6 fantasy points per game, ranked fourth). But even with his hot play down the stretch, you shouldn't consider Brady a QB1 in standard leagues as long as Gronk's status remains uncertain.
2014 Outlook: There is a certain amount of dread from fantasy owners about Romo, and it's unclear why. He was ninth in fantasy QB points per game (16.8) and less than a point per game from ranking fifth. He's very durable (having missed only four games in his career outside of 2010), has a great WR1 (Dez Bryant) and an up-and-coming WR2 (Terrance Williams), and he won't cost a lot on draft day. For the past three years, Romo has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback, and he could do it again. There are more dreadful options in the later rounds.
2014 Outlook: Mike McCoy's short-passing offense didn't hold back Rivers on downfield throws, as his 120 fantasy points on vertical passes ranked third in the league. This helped Rivers reach at least 18 total fantasy points (a good gauge for whether a guy is top five) eight times last season. He's flaky for sure, finishing 21st in fantasy points in 2012 and sixth last year. But his numbers in year one with McCoy were a staggering improvement. And with second-year WR Keenan Allen emerging as a go-to receiver, you could do worse than Rivers as your starter in deep leagues.
2014 Outlook: Marc Trestman is a miracle worker. Cutler had never posted a bad-decision rate (BDR) of less than 3 percent in his NFL career, and Trestman helped him lower that rate to 1.3 percent in 2013. Yet even with Trestman, fewer interceptions and an elite 1-2 WR combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler ranked only 20th with 14.6 fantasy points per game. The key reason: He ranked 16th in vertical attempts per game with 10.6. Until this offense increases its downfield attack percentage, Cutler will remain a QB2. Even Trestman can't change that.