Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Sports Network's 2014 NFL Fantasy Player Rankings by Position have just been released and over the next few days we will talk about some of the interesting results that came out of our intricate formulas.
Today we will begin with the quarterback position.
No surprises at the top with Denver's Peyton Manning, New Orleans' Drew Brees and Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers sitting atop the mountain.
But behind the "Big Three" there are a number of surprises. Let's look at just five of them.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia - Foles was incredible last season when brought on to replace Michael Vick. His 27-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio was impossible to predict. And it will also be impossible to match. Still, Foles comes in at No. 4 on the list because of the great expectations for the Eagles offense. Chip Kelly's arrival in Philadelphia turned a run-of-the-mill offense (280 points in 2012) into a powerhouse that manufactured 6,676 yards (No. 2 to Denver) and scored 27.6 ppg - fourth-best in the NFL.
Analysis: The loss of wide receiver DeSean Jackson is offset by the addition of Darren Sproles, the return of Jeremy Maclin and the addition of rookie wideout Jordan Matthews. The fact that Foles does not have a long history of production at this level makes him a bit of a gamble, but we believe he and the Eagles offense are for real and will produce big numbers in its second season.
Cam Newton, Carolina - All the news has been pessimistic regarding Newton and the Panthers offense. Newton needed ankle surgery in March. The team's best receiver, Steve Smith, took his pass-catching skills to Baltimore leaving a gigantic question mark concerning Carolina's wide receivers. The group is "headed" by rookie Kelvin Benjamin and includes journeymen Jerricho Cotchery Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood.
Analysis: Thank goodness for a top-quality tight end in Greg Olsen. And Newton's ankle is expected to be 100 percent by training camp. Smith's skills were diminishing anyway and Newton has already proven to be a top-five fantasy quarterback without a great receiving corp so 2014 will be no different. It's his legs that make him special and we still believe in them.
Tom Brady, New England - Brady has always been near the top of every quarterback ranking list, but never No. 1, because his statistics are a notch below the "Big Three." While the trio all average more than 30 touchdown passes a season for their career, Brady's number is 29.9 even with a monster 50-touchdown season in 2007. And though he'll pick up the odd rushing touchdown here and there, his legs don't add much to his fantasy value. While Brady's receiving corp is much more talented than Newton's we have obvious questions regarding the health of two key assets - tight end Rob Gronkowski and wideout Danny Amendola.
Analysis: If you could promise us that both Gronkowski and Amendola would play all 16 games we'd place Brady much higher on the list. Meanwhile, Brady has thrown 600-plus passes in each of the past three seasons after doing it just once in his first 10 years and we're sure it didn't get past the very smart Bill Belichick that in the "Tom Brady era" his teams won three Super Bowls with a more balanced offense.
Philip Rivers, San Diego - Rivers was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners last season after a couple of mediocre seasons in 2011 and 2012. Despite losing two top receivers early on (Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd), the Chargers quarterback adjusted. Rivers utilized newly-acquired Danny Woodhead (76 receptions) and turned rookie Keenan Allen into a fantasy stud to produce 4,478 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes.
Analysis: Rivers' league-leading 69.5 percent completion rate was well above his career numbers and will likely return to its former level. Defenses were surprised by the "new" offense last season, but will adjust. The Chargers also play a tougher schedule replacing games against the weak NFC East defenses with the much tougher NFC West. A significant drop in statistics must be expected.
Jay Cutler, Chicago - One would think that with one of the top wide receiver tandems in the league, in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler would earn a much higher spot in our ranking. And we do like Cutler when he's on the field and healthy, it just doesn't happen often enough. Cutler has missed 25 percent of his starts over the past three seasons.
Analysis: We think the addition of talented Ka'Deem Carey to the backfield with Matt Forte will allow Chicago to run the ball more, particularly in poor weather conditions. Meanwhile in five seasons with the Bears, Cutler has never thrown more than 555 passes in a season. That's 10 percent below what many of the top quarterbacks are doing and makes it tough for him to break through to a top tier.