Andrew Luck began paying dividends right away for the Colts, though his Fantasy totals weren’t quite as impressive. Luck finished as a Top-12 Fantasy quarterback, but had just six games with 20-plus Fantasy points (standard-scoring leagues). That's half as many as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Luck's year really wasn't all that great. He threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns, running for another five touchdowns and 255 yards. That seems fine for a typical rookie but not for someone who had as much clout as Luck. Now consider that he completed just 54.1 percent of his passes and turned the ball over 23 times (18 interceptions, five fumbles) and it’s clear he wasn't the perfect quarterback you might have thought. But that was then and this is now – the Colts have beefed up their offensive line and expect Luck to have more time to throw. His coaches expect the game to slow down for him in his second season, plus a change in coordinators brings the scheme he used in college into the pros. Finally, he's got a heck of an arm. Luck still strikes us as a Top-12 quarterback and one that brings some decent value with a sixth-round pick.
Josh Freeman finished six points shy of being among the Top 12 Fantasy quarterbacks last season. Depending which part of his year you remember seeing, this will either surprise you or disgust you. His first four games were weak before coming out of the bye with reckless abandon, stringing together six straight games with at least two touchdowns and at least 20 Fantasy points. Then he hit a wall in Week 12 and had a couple of decent games mixed in with some stinkers (who could forget his back-to-back four interception games in Weeks 15 and 16?). We do know the Bucs will stick with Freeman heading into 2012 and we know he'll play behind an offensive line that was decimated by injuries by the end of the year along with a very good receiving corps that helped him put up career-highs in yardage (4,065) and touchdowns (27). No one should reach for Freeman in drafts but targeting him late in drafts as a No. 2 quarterback could pay off dividends as he enters a contract year and is basically in the exact same situation Joe Flacco was in last season. Maybe it works out for Freeman, too.
Joe Flacco certainly isn't boring anymore. On his way to winning a Super Bowl, Flacco posted two or more touchdowns and posting 20-plus Fantasy points in seven of his last eight games, including the postseason. The only non two-TD game came in a meaningless Week 17 matchup. These games were coordinated by Jim Caldwell, who replaced Cam Cameron and gave Flacco more freedom to run a hurry-up offense and attack downfield. The results were amazing, and some believe it's just the beginning of Flacco turning over a new leaf. He certainly found some green, becoming the NFL's highest-paid player this offseason, but he also lost reliable hands man Anquan Boldin, a key player in the Ravens' Super Bowl march. Despite all this, there's still a stigma that Flacco doesn't have enough weapons around him to keep this up and be a reliable Fantasy passer. Playing at a position ripe with reliable, explosive talent also hurts his cause. Flacco is best viewed as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with potential to play like a No. 1 option. You should be able to find him in Round 9 or later as a great option to pair with one of the young hot-shot quarterbacks that broke out last year.
Jake Locker's career hasn't gotten off to a great start, which is why Fantasy owners should be nervous to draft him even though he's the Titans starter. Last year Locker had all of one game with 20-plus Fantasy points (Peyton Manning and Tom Brady each had 12) and suffered shoulder injuries that raised a red flag for his future. The Titans did a lot this offseason to improve their offensive line and run game, telling signs that Locker won't throw a ton (he had four games with 35-plus pass attempts last year anyway). He does have a receiving corps that looks good on paper and has the legs to move around and out of the pocket, but a lack of consistency as a passer and as a stat producer limit him to late-round material on Draft Day.
Carson Palmer went from the starting quarterback for the Raiders the past two seasons to the starter for the Cardinals this year. It’s a nice upgrade for the 33-year-old passer, who is entering the twilight of his career. Palmer actually was a quality Fantasy quarterback in 2012. In 14 full games he had at least 18 Fantasy points 10 times. His biggest issue was turnovers since he had at least one interception in 11 games, including nine games in a row. But his final stats were respectable at 4,018 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and 18 carries for 36 yards and one touchdown. The reason the move to the Cardinals is an upgrade is Palmer now gets to throw to Larry Fitzgerald, who is the best receiver he’s ever had. He also gets a coach in Bruce Arians who likes a downfield attack, and Palmer has other quality weapons in Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Rob Housler. The Cardinals need to upgrade their offensive line to keep Palmer off his back – they allowed the most sacks in the NFL last year at 58 – but Palmer enters the season as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. He’s worth a late-round pick in deeper leagues.
Alex Smith was traded to the Chiefs this offseason, and he will be the starting quarterback in Kansas City. You know Smith's story by now. He was the starter for the 49ers for the majority of the past eight seasons, including last year when he was leading San Francisco toward a Super Bowl berth before suffering a concussion in Week 10. He was replaced by Colin Kaepernick in that game, and Smith was relegated to a backup role, which is why he became expendable this offseason. Smith has never been a standout Fantasy quarterback, and his value doesn't change much with the Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid should be able to maximize Smith's talent, but he has just one main weapon in Dwayne Bowe and little else. Consider Smith a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback at best, and he's not worth drafting in the majority of leagues. He would only be worth using as a bye-week replacement unless he starts out the season playing at a high level, which would then make him worth adding off the waiver wire.
Ryan Fitzpatrick went from a starter with the Bills to a backup in Tennessee behind Jake Locker after he was released this offseason. He will have to wait his turn for a starting job depending on if Locker gets hurt or falters. Fitzpatrick had a productive year in 2012. He completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,400 yards with 24 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, and he also added a rushing touchdown on 48 carries for 197 yards with six fumbles. The problem is in today's NFL those numbers are pedestrian at best, and the turnovers are problematic (this is two years in a row with at least 20). We hope he can turn his career around and get a starting shot again down the road, but his Fantasy value is minimal. He should not be drafted in the majority of leagues.
For a guy who's led his team to two consecutive playoff appearances and has one of the best receivers in football to throw to, Andy Dalton doesn't get much love from Fantasy owners. That's not to say he never gave a reason to be loved: He had 25-plus points in four of his first six games in 2012 and then went on a similar streak over three games from Week 10 to Week 12. Aside from those flashes, Dalton's numbers were pretty gross as he had seven games with at least two passing touchdowns but finished with four passing touchdowns in six games. Turnovers were also an issue as he had just five games without an interception over 17 matchups. The key for him last season was finding a reliable second receiver to go to opposite A.J. Green -- when he had one, particularly in Mohamed Sanu, his numbers were Brees-esque. Without one, well, he was more like himself. The Bengals will get Sanu back after he suffered a foot injury and also added rookie tight end Tyler Eifert, so those additions could help Dalton become a more consistent producer. There's serious potential for Dalton but he's not going to get picked any higher than as a reserve with a late-round choice in standard drafts.
As a rookie, Russell Wilson was one of the best surprises in 2012 because he went from a guy who maybe had a chance to be the starter for the Seahawks to the No. 9 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. He also helped the Seahawks to the Divisional round of the playoffs, and he was great for Fantasy owners down the stretch. Wilson closed the season with at least 19 Fantasy points in nine of his final 11 games, including at least 27 points in his final three outings. Overall, he finished the season completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and 94 carries for 489 yards and four touchdowns with three fumbles. He enters this season as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, especially with the addition of Percy Harvin, and he's worth a mid-round pick. You'll want to pair Wilson with a quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterback (think anyone from Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger to Joe Flacco), but until he proves you wrong he should be considered a starter from Week 1.
Matt Cassel was once considered the franchise quarterback for the Chiefs. Now, he's the backup to Christian Ponder in Minnesota. The new regime in Kansas City under coach Andy Reid brought in Alex Smith to be the starter for the Chiefs, and Cassel was let go. Cassel was never a great Fantasy option, but he had his moments as a quality reserve. But unless he lands a starting job with the Vikings over Ponder then his value will be minimal. He should not be drafted in the majority of leagues.
For the first time in his career, Sam Bradford will finally have some semblance of continuity. That's because he'll have the same offensive coordinator and same offensive scheme for the first time under Brian Schottenheimer. Bradford went from Pat Shurmur and a West Coast scheme in 2010, to Josh McDaniels and more of a deep-passing approach in 2011, to Schottenheimer and something in-between in 2012. The good news is Bradford is coming off a career year last season with 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and 37 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. The bad news is that despite those stats he was still just the No. 18 Fantasy quarterback in a standard league, and he managed just five games with at least 18 Fantasy points. This offseason, the Rams revamped their offense. Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson are gone as free agents, and the Rams replaced them with free agent tight end Jared Cook and rookies Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Zac Stacy. We'll find out if it was an upgrade or not, but Bradford is now the focal point on offense. He should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. He's not worth drafting in most leagues, but Bradford could emerge as a bye-week replacement if things go his way.
Christian Ponder is an unlikely breakout candidate after the Vikings traded star receiver Percy Harvin in mid-March. His 2012 statistics were fair-to-middling until Harvin got hurt, and then his stats sunk until he came up big for the Vikings in a three-touchdown performance in Week 17. Effectively playing with Harvin for the first eight games of the year, Ponder totaled 1,743 yards on 171 of 262 passing (65.2 percent) for 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Without Harvin, Ponder had 1,192 yards on 129 of 221 passing (58.3 percent) with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. It's clear Ponder needs help around him in order to be a terrific Fantasy quarterback and right now he just doesn't have enough. That could change, but at this point Fantasy owners know Ponder for being weak-armed and second fiddle to Adrian Peterson. While true, he still should have plenty of opportunities to put up some numbers this season -- just not to the point where you'll feel comfortable starting him. At best, Ponder is a late-round pick and at worst he's someone you ignore on Draft Day and pick up as a replacement off waivers during the season.
Brandon Weeden is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job in training camp this summer. He'll learn a new offense, one that calls for a lot of downfield passing. To be effective, Weeden will need a lot of work. He completed just 57.4 percent of his passes last season, including 47 percent that went more than 10 yards. Part of that has to do with an inexperienced receiving corps, but truthfully Weeden wasn't very effective. The only Fantasy owners willing to draft Weeden will be Oklahoma State fans and owners in leagues that start multiple quarterbacks. In most standard leagues Weeden will be an afterthought on Draft Day and a one-week replacement option off waivers during the year.
Blaine Gabbert looks like he's got the early lead in the Jaguars' quarterback battle, but it's early. A year ago, he appeared to have moved past a terrible rookie year, connecting for three scores and completing 61 percent of his preseason passes without an interception. Then the regular season started and Gabbert struggled over nine games, completing 58.3 percent of his passes for an average of 5.98 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. His season ended with forearm and shoulder injuries and now a new coaching staff will decide if he or Chad Henne will pilot the offense. However, there's no Fantasy appeal for either Jacksonville quarterback outside of leagues that start multiple signal-callers.
Ryan Tannehill was part of the successful rookie quarterback class of 2012, but he was at the back of the room, well behind Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson when it came to performance. Tannehill had his moments, with four games with at least 20 Fantasy points, but he had six games with eight points or less. He finished his rookie year with 3,294 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and 48 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns with eight fumbles. We expect Tannehill to improve in 2013, especially since the Dolphins brought in Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller and kept Brian Hartline. The Dolphins also want to use Tannehill in the read option more, which should showcase his running ability. Tannehill should be considered a low-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback to open the season, but he's someone to keep your eye on. He might not get drafted in the majority of leagues, but he could turn into a quality playmaker as the season progresses.