Top 8 Bounce Back Quarterbacks for 2014
Some players will blame it on an injury, some on bad luck, but us team owners really know what happened. They just plain out sucked in 2013. In front of you is a quick list of 8 Quarterbacks we believe have great opportunities to bounce back to their productive ways in 2014.
2014 Bounce Back Busts – Quarterbacks
1. Matt Ryan (9) Atlanta Falcons : Last season was a nightmare for Matt Ryan as he played the majority of it without top receiver Julio Jones, without veteran wideout Roddy White at full health and without a decent offensive line. That’s all changed: Jones and White are healthy and the O-line has been a focus for the Falcons all offs-eason long. Gone from the offense is Tony Gonzalez, who joined our team here at CBS Sports. What’s expected is for the Falcons to remain just as pass-oriented as they’ve been over the past two years when Ryan has had over 600 attempts. If you’re looking for numbers close to his banner 2012 year, they’re attainable but questions about how the Falcons move on from Gonzalez and his annual contributions persist. Still, Ryan is expected to remain as a solid Top 10 Fantasy passer you’ll likely be able to land at a phenomenal value between Rounds 5 and 6.
2. Matthew Stafford (9) Detroit Lions : While Matthew Stafford finished as a Top 12 quarterback each of the last two seasons, it’s really been three seasons since he met expectations Fantasy owners had for him. He’s been fine, but he could have (should have?) been much better. Last year his completion percentage hit its worst level since his rookie season, his passing yardage hit a three-year low and while he posted 31 total touchdowns he also had 23 turnovers. Stafford still managed to finish with the third-highest amount of 20-plus-point Fantasy outings with 10, though they all came before he swooned in Week 14. High expectations remain for Stafford after the Lions upgraded their receiving corps with Golden Tate signing and Eric Ebron coming aboard as a rookie. The Lions also rebooted their offense with ex-Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi calling plays. New head coach Jim Caldwell is optimistic that he’ll help turn Stafford around, but he also is interested in making the run game more effective. We might see Stafford throw just over 600 passes, which means he’ll need to complete more of them and be just as aggressive going downfield as before. Given Tate and Ebron joining Calvin Johnson as the top receiving options in Motown along with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell pitching in, we think Stafford can be strong again. We’re drafting him as a Top 4 Fantasy quarterback worth a pick in Round 4 or so, a bargain compared to the Top 3 passers.
3. Tom Brady (10) New England Patriots : The big question being asked heading into 2014 is, is Tom Brady still a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback? That’s what owners want to know coming into this season. He finished No. 13 in Fantasy points last year in a standard league, but prior to that he was a Top 3 Fantasy quarterback for three years in a row. But things have changed for Brady. Wes Welker moved onto the Broncos, Aaron Hernandez is locked up, and Rob Gronkowski is having trouble staying on the field and is coming off a torn ACL. Julian Edelman stayed as a free agent and will likely be Brady’s top target again in 2014, and the Patriots should get better production from Danny Amendola and a healthy Shane Vereen, along with the addition of Brandon LaFell. Young receivers in Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins should all continue to improve. But the Patriots were at their best toward the end of last season when they became a dominant running team. Brady only had 6 games with 20 or more standard Fantasy points, and he finished with 15 points or less in 8 games. Still, once you get past the elite quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, it’s hard to argue Brady can’t continue to be in that next tier. We would still draft Brady as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and the best part about him this season is you can draft him in Round 4 or later. We hope a healthy Gronkowski will help Brady return to dominance this year.
4. Colin Kaepernick (8) San Francisco 49ers : Kaepernick is poised for a breakout season this year, and we like him as a potential Top 5 Fantasy quarterback. He finally has all of his receivers healthy. His first season as a full-time starter had mixed results in 2013, as expected. He started the season without Michael Crabtree (Achilles), and he struggled with just 5 games with at least 19 standard Fantasy points during the 12 games Crabtree was out. He then closed the season, including the playoffs, with 7 of 8 games with 19-plus standard Fantasy points when Crabtree was active. Also, when Kaepernick is aggressive running the ball, his Fantasy production is clearly higher. He had at least 7 standard Fantasy points on the ground in 4 of his final 5 games, and if that happens consistently this year his value will be incredible. With Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Quinton Patton, along with the addition of Steve Johnson from Buffalo and rookie Bruce Ellington, Kaepernick has plenty of weapons, including his legs. He should be drafted as early as Round 4 as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues.
5. Robert Griffin III (10) Washington Redskins : RGIII is ready for a rebound year, and we expect him to bounce back in a big way. Griffin was miserable in 2013 in his attempt to come back from a tough knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He passed for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 60 percent completions, and he ran 86 times for 489 yards and zero rushing touchdowns before being benched for the final 3 games. Compare that to his rookie year when he had 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on 66 percent completions and 120 carries for 815 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns, and you can see the drop-off. Griffin was hindered last year by a knee brace and limited off-season work, but the brace is gone and Griffin has been working out all off-season. He also got two new weapons in DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, and along with Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, Griffin’s receiving corps could be dominant. We like Griffin as a Top 15 Fantasy quarterback coming into the year. He’s worth drafting with a mid-round pick, and he could provide big rewards, especially if he’s comfortable running again. There’s obvious injury risk with Griffin, but quarterback is deep with plenty of No. 2 quarterbacks to pair him with. He could easily rebound as a Top 10 or even Top 5 Fantasy quarterback this year, and we’re excited for his outlook.
6. Cam Newton (12) Carolina Panthers : An exodus of receivers combined with off-season ankle surgery has put Newton in the ‘potential bust’ category this summer. Newton’s ankle should be OK for the start of training camp but missing the entire offseason program could impact his comfort level with his rebuilt receiving corps. Said group is now highlighted by Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin, an entirely different and underwhelming cast from what he had last year (tight end Greg Olsen is still there). Another problem is that the Panthers offensive line isn’t in great shape. This combination that makes Newton a risk for Fantasy — and that’s saying something because he wasn’t exactly the model of consistency beforehand. After posting up 11 and 9 games with 20-plus points in each of his first two seasons, Newton had 8 games in 2013 — a 50-percent hit-rate for what a good Fantasy game is in standard formats. That’s not bad, but that’s what he had with a better O-line, a better receiving corps and a healthy ankle (what if the Panthers ask him to run less on the surgically repaired ankle?). In the past Newton was a solid pick in the Top 30. Now he might not be touchable in the Top 100. Your best plan is to draft Newton as a great No. 2 Fantasy quarterback around Round 10 after taking someone else in the draft, or to let someone else in your draft overreact to Newton’s name and past performance and take him too soon.
7. Eli Manning (8) New York Giants : We hope that Eli Manning gets a fresh start this season with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, and maybe the change in play-calling will help Manning like it did with Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers in 2013. Manning, who is coming off ankle surgery in April, was a disaster last year. He had 3,818 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions on 58 percent completions, and he had just one game with more than 20 Fantasy points, which was Week 1. Manning loses Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Myers, but he gets a new rookie in first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., along with the hope young receivers like Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan step up and play a bigger role — as well as Victor Cruz having a rebound season. We expect Manning to get better this year – it would be hard to get worse – but he’s just a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback coming into the season. He will only be drafted with a late-round pick if he’s drafted at all, and Manning is better suited as a bye-week or injury replacement. If he starts off the season playing at a high level then add him off waivers, but make sure Manning proves himself first.
8. Alex Smith (6) Kansas City Chiefs : Smith is never going to be mistaken for Peyton Manning, but his first year with coach Andy Reid in Kansas City was productive in 2013. Smith passed for 3,313 yards, 23 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on 61 percent completions, and he added 431 rushing yards and one touchdown. Smith finished as the No. 14 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues, but he showed plenty of promise with 8 games with at least 20 standard Fantasy points, including 3 of his first 4 and 4 of his last 5. You’re not going to draft Smith as your No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, but he is a solid backup option in all leagues. Smith is worth drafting with a late-round pick, and if he starts off playing well like he did last season then consider him a potential starter if your No. 1 option struggles.
Make sure you check out 2014 Bounce Back Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends