Now that the dust has settled from free agency and the 2016 draft, it's time for some good, old-fashioned rankings. Let's start with the quarterbacks, shall we?
1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
One bad year does not make a career.
True, Andrew Luck’s woes weren’t entirely attributable to a horrible offensive line. He took more chances when he was healthy last season, and they wound up burning him more often than not. Still, having no time to throw the ball and getting pummeled every other dropback is no way for a star quarterback to be treated.
Luck was trending toward the top of the fantasy heap before last season, and he could be a “post-hype sleeper” in 2016, relatively speaking. In spite of his struggles and his teammates, Luck was sixth in fantasy points per game (PPG) last season.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Like a pack of walking dead, offensive injuries piled up and dragged Aaron Rodgers under last season. A perennial contender for the fantasy scoring crown at quarterback, Rodgers' production took a Discount Double Check last season--he was 12th in scoring and 17th in per-game scoring. It's funny how a horrendous offensive line and unreliable pass-catches turned the former MVP into Ryan Tannehill.
Hopefully, Green Bay’s medical and training staff don’t suffer a repeat of 2015. If the offense can stay relatively healthy, Rodgers will be back to his old self in no time.
3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton was an example of what can go right when injuries don’t pile up. Not only did Newton make it through the year relatively unscathed, but his offensive line was surprisingly good.
Newton’s threat as a runner will always make him a top-five fantasy option as long as he is healthy. The big quarterback rushed for 10 touchdowns last season, always a threat when the Panthers get to the goal line. He gets Kelvin Benjamin back from injury to boot.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
No Martavis Bryant? No problem.
The Steelers may have hedged their bets at wide receiver by drafting Sammie Coates last year. He might not be the explosive wunderkind Bryant has proven to be, but Coates should mitigate Bryant’s absence. Pittsburgh also signed athletic underachiever Ladarius Green to replace retired Heath Miller, and Le’Veon Bell brings his pass-catching prowess back after a lost season due to injury.
Oh, and that Antonio Brown guy is pretty good, too.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Much in the same way that Cam Newton is a perennial top-five fantasy option, Russell Wilson’s rushing ability puts him over the top of some other intriguing options. Even so, he did much more damage with his arm en route to a fourth-place fantasy finish than he had in previous seasons.
It’s too early to tell whether Marshawn Lynch’s retirement will help or hurt the passing offense. Thomas Rawls did a nice job in relief of Lynch last season, but the Seahawks were clearly not content with the running back situation when they drafted C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins.
They did add Kenny Lawler to a wide receiver corps that exploded in the second half of last season—albeit Doug Baldwin did most of the exploding—and Jimmy Graham should hopefully be back from his season-ending patellar tendon injury.
6. Drew Brees, New Orleans
Fortunately, Brees showed he still had plenty left last season. Upgrading to tight end Coby Fleener and drafting explosive wideout Michael Thomas to replace departed Marques Colston could help Brees get back in the top five in fantasy scoring. He just missed last season after missing one game, and he was third in fantasy PPG.
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
There was a palpable demarcation line in Philip Rivers’ success last season. The first half of the year saw him red hot, buoyed by the return of his favorite target, Antonio Gates. He was second in fantasy scoring through eight weeks. Then injuries started to pile up, most notably a season-ending kidney injury to target vacuum Keenan Allen.
Rivers tumbled all the way to 12th by season’s end.
Allen will be back, and he will have some help in the form of speedster Travis Benjamin. Gates has been long in the tooth for years now, but rookie Hunter Henry might be able to fulfill some of the promise that Ladarius Green left behind when he signed in Pittsburgh.
8. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
This is the year Ryan Tannehill does it. Yep. The offensive line is fixed. Miami has a bunch of young talent at wide receiver. Adam Gase is a quarterback whisperer. This is the song that doesn’t end.
In all seriousness, Gase seems to have a bit of a Midas touch with quarterbacks, and the stars are as aligned as they ever will be in Miami. Perhaps he can do some of the Mr. Miyagi reiki on the offensive line. Despite their best efforts, the Dolphins have gotten their franchise quarterback sacked the most in the league, by far, since he came into the league. Lucking into a guy like Laremy Tunsil should help matters there.
9. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals had the best passing offense west of the Mississippi last season, and that was before pass-catching superstar David Johnson was unleashed out of the backfield. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown make for one of the best wide receiver trios in the entire league, and Palmer is still at the top of his game despite being 36 years old.
10. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Depending on whether Tony Romo’s new cybernetic shoulder can hold up to the hits, he is still quite capable of putting up big numbers. Dez Bryant is still his No. 1 receiver, he has arguably the best offensive line in the league blocking for him, and the running game should facilitate the pass behind star rookie Ezekiel Elliott and free-agent acquisition Alfred Morris.