2015 Quarterback Rankings – Pre-Draft
Mike Clay delivers rankings, tiers and analysis on his pre-draft Top 50 fantasy quarterbacks for 2015.
2015 Quarterback Rankings – Pre-Draft
The bulk of the 2015 free agency period is in the rear view mirror, which means it’s a great time to take a thorough look at what our draft board will look like in August. The NFL draft will, of course, make an impact on our rankings, but those of you in keeper and dynasty leagues can use these rankings to make some savvy offseason maneuvers. As for everyone else, it’s never too early to start preparations for your 2015 draft.
Note that these rankings reflect leagues that award one point per 25 pass yards, four points for a passing touchdown and negative-one points for an interception.
1. Andrew Luck – IND
2. Aaron Rodgers – GB
After two seasons of on-the-job training, Luck exploded into fantasy stardom in 2014. He put up a career-high 4,762 passing yards and, with 40 passing scores, he nearly doubled the 23 he had in both 2012 and 2013. Luck finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in 75 percent of his starts, which was matched by only Rodgers. The Colts operate an extremely pass-heavy offense, calling pass at a rate nine percentage points above expected based on game flow. The Indianapolis offense ranked third in plays and sixth in touchdowns last season. By a nose, Luck is your top bet at quarterback in 2015.
Arguably the best player in the NFL, Rodgers has a 183:52 TD:INT ratio on throws to wide receivers since 2007. That’s easily best in the league (only Tom Brady is close). After missing seven games in 2013, Rodgers rebounded in a big way in 2014. He threw 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions, while adding a pair of scores on the ground. Rodgers finished just four points behind 2014’s top fantasy quarterback (Luck) despite attempting nearly 100 fewer passes. Armed with Jordy Nelson and a re-signed Randall Cobb, Rodgers is primed for another massive fantasy performance.
Luck gets the volume, but Rodgers is more efficient. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with either of last season’s top two fantasy quarterbacks. Of course, you’ll need to invest a second or third round pick in order to land their services in 2015. With so much talent on the board at other positions, you’re better off waiting at the position.
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3. Drew Brees – NO
4. Russell Wilson – SEA
5. Tom Brady – NE
6. Peyton Manning – DEN
Our next group of quarterbacks figures to come off the board in the fourth through sixth rounds. There’s no good reason to reach here, but if one of the four is still available in the sixth or seventh round, it’s not a bad time to pounce.
Brees finished 2014 as fantasy’s No. 5 quarterback, which is strong, but not relative to where he had been the previous three seasons (second, first, second). Although he’s still throwing the ball extremely well, Brees has seen his yardage and touchdown totals dip each of the past two years. Brees is now 36, which means he still figures to have a few years of strong play left in the tank, but it does appear he won’t be throwing it as much going forward. The Saints invested in Mark Ingram and center Max Unger and traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. Brees remains a decent QB1 option, but his upside took a hit this offseason.
Like fellow third-year quarterback Luck, Wilson took a big step forward last season. The 26 year old put up a career-high 3,475 passing yards and only two passers scored more fantasy points. Of course, unlike Luck, Wilson relied heavily on his legs. He threw only 20 touchdowns, which was actually well below his total of 26 in both 2012 and 2013. He made up for it with 854 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. Although Wilson will continue to run, it’s risky to rely on such massive output. Even with Jimmy Graham in town, Wilson is still leading a run-heavy offense and is best-viewed as a mid-pack QB1.
Following a bit of a slow start, Brady bounced back to finished eighth among quarterbacks in fantasy points last season. He threw 33 touchdowns and was intercepted on nine occasions. Of course, the production was quite inconsistent. He managed seven three-plus pass touchdown games, but they came in Weeks 6, 7, 8, 9 and during New England’s three playoff games. Closing in on 38, age is becoming a concern here, but Brady was strong enough down the stretch that he’s a strong bet for a top-six finish at the position.
After throwing 55 touchdowns and racking up 5,477 passing yards in a historic 2013 season, Manning predictably regressed to 39 scores and 4,733 yards in 2014. He scored just over 100 fewer fantasy points, but still finished as a top-five quarterback. Now 39 years old and operating in Gary Kubiak’s conservative, run-first offense, Manning’s upside isn’t what it was during the past few seasons. Of course, we’re not doubting Manning still has a strong season in the tank. With Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and an emerging Cody Latimer at his disposal, he’s a safe QB1 option.
7. Tony Romo – DAL
8. Cam Newton – CAR
9. Ben Roethlisberger – PIT
10. Matt Ryan – ATL
11. Ryan Tannehill – MIA
12. Philip Rivers – SD
Our next batch of passers rounds out your QB1 options in 10-and 12-team leagues. Romo, Newton, Roethlisberger and Ryan figure to cost a sixth or seventh round pick, while Tannehill and Rivers make for better values a round or three later.
Despite a dramatic philosophy overhaul that saw Dallas move to an extremely run-heavy offensive attack, Romo put together one of his strongest seasons. He missed one game, but still managed to toss 34 touchdowns, which fell just short of his career high of 36 back in 2007. The Cowboys’ off-the-charts efficiency figures to regress a bit in 2015, but they will surely pass the ball a bit more often with DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia. With 33-year-old Jason Witten past his prime, Romo doesn’t have a ton of help past Dez Bryant. A top-five fantasy quarterback once in his career, Romo is best-viewed as a mid-to-back-end QB1.
After finishing as a top-four fantasy quarterback each of his first three NFL seasons, Newton took a step back in 2014. He missed a pair of games and scored a career-low 23 offensive touchdowns. Newton’s efficiency also took a hit and he ended up 16th at the position in fantasy points. Having progressively scored fewer rushing touchdowns each year of his career and a below average passer, Newton’s fantasy ceiling is as low as ever. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen give him a pair of strong targets, but the team will continue to rely heavily on its Jonathan Stewart-led running game.
Roethlisberger matched a career high with 32 passing touchdowns and posted a career-best 4,954 yards last season, which allowed him a fifth-place finish in fantasy points at the position. Although he was terrific throughout the year, it’s worth noting that 12 of the scores came in two games and Pittsburgh went on a fluky seven-game stretch in which they scored 21 times through the air and zero on the ground. Of course, the Steelers offense has scored a hefty 77 percent of its touchdowns through the air over the last three seasons. With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell at his disposal, Big Ben is a mid-pack QB1 option.
Ryan has finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback four of the past five seasons, but a change in offensive philosophy figures to put a dent in his upside. Consider that the Falcons called pass 67 percent of the time over the past three seasons. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sits at 57 percent during that span. Of course, Shanahan figures to help the offense’s efficiency, especially considering he hadn’t had a quarterback as good as Ryan in quite some time. Ryan is a quality talent and will have Julio Jones and Roddy White at his disposal, but the dip in throws will limit him to borderline QB1 production.
Converted from wide receiver to quarterback late in his college career at Texas A&M, Tannehill was considered a raw prospect. Thrown right into the fire as a rookie, Tannehill has progressively improved each of his three seasons. Right on schedule, he hit career highs in passing touchdowns (27) and yardage (4,059) in 2014. Fantasy’s No. 24 scoring quarterback in 2012, Tannehill jumped to 16th in 2013 and ninth in 2014. Mike Wallace and Charles Clay are gone, but the offense may actually be better with Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron in the mix, and with Jarvis Landry in Year 2. Tannehill is a safe play, but doesn’t have elite upside.
Fantasy’s No. 12 scoring quarterback last season, Rivers eclipsed 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air for the fourth time in his career. Turnovers were a bit of an issue, as he threw 18 interceptions – his second-highest mark since he entered the league in 2004. Rivers offers almost no additional value with his legs, but remains one of the better passers in the game. With Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and now Stevie Johnson in the mix, Rivers won’t be short targets in 2015. The gunslinger remains a back-end QB1 option and is a strong target for those utilizing a committee at the position.
13. Colin Kaepernick – SF
14. Teddy Bridgewater – MIN
15. Matthew Stafford – DET
16. Jay Cutler – CHI
17. Eli Manning – NYG
18. Sam Bradford – PHI
Our next tier includes quarterbacks with QB1 upside. Most of these passers will be available in the second half of your draft and make for ideal components of a quarterback by committee approach.
Following a season in which he scored only 20 touchdowns in 16 games, many labeled Kaepernick a fantasy disappointment. A closer look, however, shows that, from a fantasy standpoint, he actually wasn’t too far behind Russell Wilson. The two had very similar passing production, but Kaepernick ran for just over 200 fewer yards and scored five fewer rushing touchdowns. With Torrey Smith now in the mix and unafraid to chuck it deep, Kaepernick is a strong bet to take a step forward in 2015. Add in his rushing production and you have an undervalued borderline QB1 option.
Bridgewater was the third quarterback drafted last May, but he was easily 2014’s most-impressive rookie passer. The former Louisville standout completed 64.4 percent of his throws, which was 12th-best in the league and higher than the likes of Brady, Luck and Wilson. Bridgewater’s 7.9 average depth of throw was a bit below league average, but he was one of the best in the entire league on both moderate and deep throws. Bridgewater was 18th in fantasy points among passers during the weeks he played. Bridgewater is a prime 2015 breakout candidate.
Having made the playoffs, the Lions had a relatively strong 2014 season. It was no thanks to their struggling offense. Detroit averaged 2.1 offensive touchdowns per game despite a favorable schedule and playing conditions. Stafford saw his passing yardage dip by 400 and his touchdowns by seven from 2013. Year 2 in Joe Lombardi’s system figures to be better, but with Calvin Johnson closing in on 30, Stafford will need to make better use of secondary targets like Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Still a high volume thrower playing in a dome, Stafford remains a borderline QB1 option.
Over the past eight seasons, Cutler has a 39:28 TD:INT mark and a 7.8 YPA when targeting Brandon Marshall. That’s compared to 15:7 and 8.8 marks when targeting Alshon Jeffery. Marshall, of course, is gone, but Jeffrey now becomes Cutler’s primary target. Coming off a rough season and entering a new offensive system, there are definitely concerns here. Add in the fact that Cutler has missed at least one game in five consecutive seasons and he’s much less of an attractive QB1 option.
Following a dreadful 2013 season in which he tossed 18 touchdowns and was intercepted 27 times, a switch in offense of systems and the emergence of Odell Beckham allowed Manning to rebound in a big way in 2014. Manning certainly has QB1 upside, especially if Victor Cruz gets back to full health, but the Giants will continue to run a balanced offense and Manning offers close to nothing with his legs. As has been the case for much of his career, Manning is best-viewed as a quality QB2 option.
After missing all but seven games over the past two seasons due to a pair of torn ACL’s, Bradford heads to Philadelphia where he takes over as the conductor of Chip Kelly’s symphony. To this point, Bradford’s career has underwhelmed, but he had shown signs of improvement prior to the injuries. After posting a 24:21 TD:INT mark during his first two seasons, Bradford sported a 35:17 mark from 2012-13. Despite shaky play from the likes of Nick Foles, Michael Vick and Mark Sanchez, the Eagles offense has produced in the yardage and touchdown departments each of Kelly’s first two seasons. Bradford is far from a sure bet, but his ceiling is sky-high in this offense. He’s well worth a late-round flier.
19. Robert Griffin III – WAS
20. Joe Flacco – BLT
21. Carson Palmer – ARZ
Our next tier is a small one, but this trio of passers has a bit more upside than those in Tier 6, but aren’t quite as intriguing as those we’ve already discussed. Griffin, Flacco and Palmer will be worthwhile starters only when the matchup is ideal.
Griffin is coming off what seemed like a bad season, but he was actually one of the league’s most-efficient passers when actually on the field. Griffin completed 74 percent of his passes, which trailed only Drew Brees for best in the league. Of course, Griffin wasn’t nearly the fantasy producer he was when he scored 27 times back in 2012. Although he figures to be on a short leash Jay Gruden in charge, Griffin is only 25 and has the upside you want in your backup fantasy quarterback.
After struggling to the tune of 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 2013, Flacco rebounded in a big way in 2014 thanks, in part, to Baltimore’s hiring of Gary Kubiak. Flacco threw 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions en route to finishing 13th among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Of course, Flacco was a bit inconsistent. He finished as a top 12 fantasy quarterback only 31 percent of the time, which was lowest among the top 17 quarterbacks. With Kubiak now in Denver and Torrey Smith in San Francisco, Flacco’s fantasy upside takes a hit. He’s a mid-pack QB2 option.
Following a 2013 campaign in which he played every offensive snap and finished as fantasy’s No. 17 scoring quarterback, Palmer appeared primed for a step forward in his second season with Arizona. Instead, injuries limited him to six games. The good news is that Palmer was good in those six games, registering 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Now 35 and offering nothing with his legs, Palmer’s upside is limited, but with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and Andre Ellington at his disposal, he makes for a competent QB2 option.
22. Blake Bortles – JAX
23. Derek Carr – OAK
24. Nick Foles – SL
25. Alex Smith – KC
26. Andy Dalton – CIN
These quarterbacks are locked in as Week 1 starters, but offer little in the way of fantasy value.
Considered a raw prospect when selected in the first round of the 2014 draft, it was expected that Bortles would redshirt most, if not all, of his rookie season. Instead Chad Henne was given a quick hook and Bortles nearly eclipsed 500 pass attempts. Working in one of the league’s worst offenses, Bortles predictably struggled. He threw 11 touchdowns and was intercepted 17 times. Bortles ability remains a bit of an unknown, but he is only 23 years old and, with Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Julius Thomas and likely Justin Blackmon at his disposal, he certainly has some strong tools to work with. Also adding value with his legs, Bortles has flier appeal in deeper leagues.
Thrown to the wolves as a rookie, Carr could’ve been a lot worse considering the lack of talent around him and the team’s tough schedule. He tossed 21 touchdowns and was intercepted only 12 times, but averaged a miserable 6.0 yards per aimed throw. Carr finished as fantasy’s No. 20 quarterback, but that’s not saying much when you consider that Oakland was forced to call pass a league-high 67 percent of the time. He won’t be short second half attempts again this season, but new head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave have a long history of operating run-heavy schemes. The jury remains out on Carr, but he has a long way to go and is unlikely to be fantasy relevant in 2015.
Entering 2014, no one realistically expected Foles to pick up where he left off the prior season, but most didn’t expect such a gigantic dip. After throwing 27 touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 9.9 yards per aimed throw in 2013, Foles posted a 13:10 TD:INT mark and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. He appeared in only eight games due to injury and was eventually shipped to the Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford. Foles has shown flashes of brilliance, but did it in Chip Kelly’s highly-efficient offense. Now under center in St. Louis’ run-heavy scheme, Foles is much less appealing. He’s a backend QB2 option.
Smith has a reputation as a conservative thrower, but he took it to new levels in 2014. Smith’s 6.0 average depth of target with the lowest we’ve charted for a quarterback since debuting the stat in 2007. His 6.9 mark in 2013 was also lowest in the league and his 7.7 mark in 2012 was higher than only Christian Ponder. Still, Smith managed to average 7.8 yards per aimed throw, which is slightly above league average. Smith’s ability to avoid turnovers and create fantasy points with his legs keeps him on the fantasy radar, but his ceiling is extremely low. Even with Travis Kelce, Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin at his disposal, Smith is a borderline QB2 option.
When the Bengals hired Hue Jackson as offense coordinator last off-season, it was no secret that Cincinnati would rely more on its running game. The philosophy change was deadly for Dalton’s fantasy value. After throwing 33 touchdowns and nearly eclipsing 4,300 passing yards in 2013, Dalton threw 19 touchdowns and put up 3,398 passing yards. He fell from fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points to 18th. Dalton managed only two top 10 fantasy finishes at the position. Turnover prone and without much volume, Dalton is an extremely underwhelming fantasy option. He’s not worth a pick in 12 team leagues.
27. Ryan Fitzpatrick – NYJ
28. Zach Mettenberger – TEN
29. Ryan Mallett – HST
30. Matt Cassel – BUF
31. Geno Smith – NYJ
32. Josh McCown – CLV
33. Tyrod Taylor – BUF
34. E.J. Manuel – BUF
35. Johnny Manziel – CLV
36. Brian Hoyer – HST
Our seventh tier of passers includes those competing for starting jobs in offenses that are unlikely to be very good. These passers are only worth a look in deep, two-quarterback formats.
The band is back together. After handling 94 percent of the Bills drop backs during Chan Gailey’s three years as head coach from 2010–12, Fitzpatrick has been reunited with Gailey in New York. Fitzpatrick is not assured the starting gig, but has a leg up on Smith thanks to his experience in Gailey’s offense and after a relatively strong 2014 season in which he posted a 17:8 TD:INT ratio. Smith has thrown 25 touchdowns and 34 interceptions during his first two pro seasons. He’s shown flashes of strong play, but has also been awful at times and was benched for Michael Vick last season. Neither passer has had much receiver help in the past, but will have Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and Jace Amaro at his disposal in New York. Note that Fitzpatrick ranked 17th, 12th and 17th, respectively, among quarterbacks in fantasy points during his three seasons with Gailey.
A sixth-round selection in the 2014 NFL draft, not much was expected from Mettenberger as a rookie. Things changed, however, when Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst went out due to injury and/or ineffectiveness. Mettenberger proved competent enough when called upon that Tennessee will consider him for their Week 1 starting gig. Similar to Joe Flacco, Mettenberger is a big arm and isn’t particularly mobile. He was terrific during the 2014 preseason and is a deep sleeper in 16-team and 2QB leagues.
Mallett wasn’t particularly good in his first season with Houston, but the sample size is small after a torn pectoral ended his season after 75 attempts. He averaging 5.6 yards per aimed throw and registered a 2:2 TD:INT mark. Cleveland did a nice job hiding Hoyer’s weaknesses early last season, but he made a major negative impact down the stretch. Hoyer registered a total of 12 touchdowns in 14 games. Especially in Houston’s run-first offense, neither passer is worth drafting in 12-team leagues.
After throwing 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions during a two-year stint with Minnesota, Cassel was shipped to Buffalo in the off-season. Although he’s the early favorite for the team’s Week 1 starting gig, he will face competition from Manuel and Taylor. A first-round pick in 2013, Manuel couldn’t hold off Kyle Orton last season, tossing five touchdowns and three interceptions in five appearances. Taylor was a sixth-round pick back in 2011, but has held on as Joe Flacco’s backup and Rex Ryan has admitted he once tried to trade for his services. With 35 career attempts, he’s a dark horse candidate. Especially the case with run-oriented Ryan and Greg Roman running the Buffalo offense. The trio is safe to ignore on draft day and only Taylor is worth stashing in very deep dynasty leagues.
McCown is the heavy favorite to replace Hoyer as Cleveland’s Week 1 starter, but it’s not much of an improvement. McCown stole some cash from Tampa Bay after putting up a fluky 13:1 TD:INT mark over eight games in Chicago back in 2013. He predictably struggled to an 11:14 mark last season and was cut during the offseason. Still, he has little competition, with only rehabbing (and not from an injury) Manziel, who was nothing short of awful, second on the depth chart. Expect Cleveland to address this position later this month.
- Mike Glennon – TB
- Mark Sanchez – PHI
- Brock Osweiler – DEN
- Jimmy Garoppolo – NE
- Kirk Cousins – WAS
- Matt Schaub – BLT
- Austin Davis – SL
- Matt Hasselbeck – IND
- Matt Moore – MIA
- Derek Anderson – CAR
- Chase Daniel – KC
- A.J. McCarron – CIN
- Chad Henne – JAX
- Jimmy Clausen – CHI
Note: Updated versions of these player capsules will be available in the 2015 PFF Fantasy Draft Guide, which will be for sale in late May and updated monthly through late August.
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL