Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency 2016 Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

Even with the team's best receiver sidelined all season with a torn ACL, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had the best season of his young NFL career.

Not only did he score more fantasy points than all other quarterbacks, but Newton won the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award as well.

While he had a strong overall season, Newton was especially dominant down the stretch. Over the final nine games of the NFL season, he finished as the weekly top-scoring fantasy quarterback in five of those nine weeks. With a couple other top-six weekly finishes, Newton scored an average of 27.95 fantasy points per game over that nine-game span.

Newton threw for 3,837 yards and a career-high 35 passing scores while also rushing for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Despite playing quarterback, only two players have more rushing touchdowns than Newton (43) since he entered the league as the top overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft: Marshawn Lynch (51) and Adrian Peterson (45).

No player at the position has a higher weekly ceiling than Newton, but his rushing abilities and opportunities also raise his weekly floor.

Newton has finished as a top-five fantasy quarterback in four of his first five NFL seasons and he should be a lock to do so once again with good health.

Some more notes about quarterbacks:

  • Missing more than half of the season due to a kidney laceration while also battling other injuries, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is reportedly fully recovered. Posting career-worst numbers in many categories — 4.1 interception rate, 6.4 Y/A and 74.9 passer rating — while on the field, Luck is two years removed from throwing for 4,761 yards and a league-best 40 touchdowns. With 1,101 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores in four seasons and talented core of young receivers, Luck should bounce back in 2016 provided he stays healthy and especially if the Colts upgrade their offensive line play in 2016.

  • Before 2015, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers had finished as the QB1 or QB2 in each of the six seasons he had played 15-plus games. Finishing 2015 as fantasy's QB7, however, Rodgers posted either career or multi-year lows in many passing categories — 238.8 passing yards per game (273.8 in 2014), 5.4 TD percentage (7.3 in 2014), 60.7 completion percentage (65.6 in 2014), etc. as Jordy Nelson (ACL) missed all of 2015. With good health for Nelson, Rodgers should once again finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback.

  • New England's Tom Brady finished with more fantasy points than all quarterbacks other than Newton. Injuries to his pass-catchers and interior line struggles led to lesser production down the stretch, but he has shown no signs of slowing down in general terms. One potential concern, however, is the not-so-favorable start to the Deflategate appeal.

  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed multiple games, but he averaged 328.2 passing yards per game (a 16-game pace of 5,251 yards). With the league's most talented trio of weapons, Big Ben could easily finish as a top-five fantasy producer in 2016.

  • Just like everyone had all expected, Jacksonville's Blake Bortles finished with the fourth-most fantasy points in 2016. In his breakout second season, Bortles threw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns. Even though he threw a league-worst 18 interceptions, Bortles was consistent throughout 2015 with 10 top-10 weekly outings.

  • Unless a long-term deal can be reached by July 15th, Washington's Kirk Cousins will play 2016 out on his franchise tag tender. Over the final 10 weeks of the season, Cousins finished as the QB1 in three weeks and as a top-nine fantasy quarterback in all but three weeks. In those 10 games, Cousins accounted for 27 touchdowns — 23 passing and four rushing — with only three interceptions thrown.

Here are my early 2016 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings:

1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
8. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
9. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
11. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
12. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
13. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
14. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
15. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
16. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
17. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
18. * Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
19. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
20. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
21. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
23. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
25. * Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos

* Note: Both Fitzpatrick and Osweiler are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 9th. At this point, the most-likely scenario is that both players re-sign with their existing teams.

More 2016 Fantasy Football Rankings:

Also, check out my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.

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