Last week, Tim Stafford posted a great article on the necessity of having a stud quarterback to win your dynasty league. His research showed what many of us already figured, but had likely never done the math on – it’s something that greatly increases your odds of winning. In fact, he found that just four quarterbacks accounted for 40% of the playoff teams he surveyed. So, having one of the four best quarterbacks gives you nearly a 40% chance of making the playoffs and winning the trophy, according to his survey.
With all that data in tow, my mind began spinning. It’s pretty difficult to project who the top four quarterbacks will be, but it’s relatively easy to put them in some tiers. With that in mind, I present to you “twenty for four” – the twenty players I believe have at least a puncher’s chance of landing in the top four next year.
The Five Most Likely
Drew Brees, NO
Why he could do it: Because it’s all he does. Brees has been a model of consistency in his years with the Saints and will get his Head Coach back – something that can do nothing but help him.
What could stop him: At some point, age is going to catch up with him. He’s also going to need some younger receivers to step up next season. The interceptions are still a bit of a problem, but there are really few other options who are this safe.
Aaron Rodgers, GB
Why he could do it: Over the past two years, Rodgers has thrown for 8,938 yards, 84 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. When you consider last season was considered an “off year” by some, the numbers just get ridiculous.
What could stop him: The Packers need to improve their offensive line in short order as Rodgers has been getting hit way too often. The young receivers will also need to evolve as Green Bay will likely be without Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings next year.
Tom Brady, NE
Why he could do it: Much like Brees, it’s just what he does. There are few short-term options better than Brady and it doesn’t seem to matter who the offensive players are on the field – he just gets it done. It’s been five years since his 50 touchdown campaign, but it’s pretty safe to pencil him in for 4,500 yards and a touchdown total in the high 30′s.
What could stop him: The Patriots running game is starting to evolve and could take away a few of his opportunities. The loss of Wes Welker would also be a blow. Thing is, it’s simply going to take an incredible season from someone below him to knock him out of the top four.
Cam Newton, CAR
Why he could do it: Newton started slow last season, but guess who was the #1 fantasy quarterback from weeks nine through sixteen in many leagues last year? Yep, none other than Newton himself. His unique athletic ability gives him scoring chances in the air and on the ground. If he can maintain momentum, he could actually finish at the top of the list, not just in the top four.
What could stop him: The Panthers have been interviewing a ton of very uninspiring Offensive Coordinator candidates of late and seem to want to move to more of a power running scheme to take advantage of the 78 running backs they have. In addition, Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and the Panthers still may not have a viable WR2.
Peyton Manning, DEN
Why he could do it: There are few quarterbacks who could endure what he did, then come back and be dominant on the field again. With a young receiving corps returning and another off-season for the group to gel, the Denver offense looks to be even better next season, as long as they can keep Ryan Clady under contract.
What could stop him: Injuries are always going to be a concern with Peyton, but the bigger obstacle is likely the more athletic quarterbacks who can pile up rushing scores. While few can match Peyton touchdown-for-touchdown through the air, Manning only has 17 rushing touchdowns in his fourteen professional seasons. To put that into perspective, Cam Newton has 22 in his first two years alone.
The Most Likely Party Crashers
Matt Ryan, ATL
Why he could do it: It seems Ryan is always on the cusp of greatness and he had a very solid year in 2012. If Julio Jones continues to develop and Roddy White can keep Father Time from sapping his ability, Ryan has a chance to explode each and every Sunday.
What could stop him: The loss of Tony Gonzalez would be significant as he’s been a safety valve for a long time. Ryan is also subsceptible to the major clunker each season. If you want to get into the top four in scoring, those just can’t happen as often as they do with him.
Robert Griffin III, WAS
Why he could do it: Griffin was actually the #1 quarterback in most fantasy leagues for a large chunk of the season. His athleticism is unparalleled and his ability to throw a deep pass on a rope or tuck the ball and rush for 80 yards to the house is unmatched in the league. With another year of development, the sky’s the limit.
What could stop him: His health. Sure, you could point to the running game and say the Redskins won’t run him as much on first and second down in the future, but Griffin is who he is. If he can recover from his second ACL reconstruction, he’s a force the likes we may have never seen before.
Russell Wilson, SEA
Why he could do it: If you look at the quarterback scoring from weeks twelve through sixteen last season, Wilson was the #3 quarterback in all of fantasy. Tack on the incredible performances he had in his two playoff games and it’s not hard to tell that Wilson simply “has it.”
What could stop him: For all his talent, the Seahawks are still a run first football team, led by Marshawn Lynch. With a defense as good as Seattle has, it’s also unlikely Wilson has too many games he’ll have to conjure up a massive comeback like we saw last Sunday. Seattle simply doesn’t play from behind very often and rarely puts him into a position where he has to throw a ton.
Colin Kaepernick, SF
Why he could do it: He’s a total freak athlete with a hose for an arm and legs that can help him run a 4.4 forty. Need anything else?
What could stop him: Much like Wilson above, teams are going to have an entire off-season to study up on tendencies and find a way to stop him. While that could be effective, there’s certainly no doubt Kaepernick is here to stay.
Matt Stafford, DET
Why he could do it: We’ve seen monster seasons from him before and even though his touchdowns were nearly cut in half last year, he still threw for nearly 5,000 yards. Oh, and he has this Megatron fella, too.
What could stop him: Stafford has a tendency to force throws and had only three more touchdowns than picks last season. He’s also had a history of injuries that have to concern his owners.
It wouldn’t be a TOTAL shock
Tony Romo, DAL
Why he could do it: With an emerging Dez Bryant and Jason Witten back for another season, Romo has his two favorite weapons back. He also finished as the #2 quarterback over the past five weeks of the season last year. An improved running game next season could help keep defenses honest as well.
What could stop him: How many times do we say “an improved running game” with the Cowboys just to see it fall apart due to injuries or poor performance? And speaking of players who tend to put up a clunker every now and then. Ugh.
Andrew Luck, IND
Why he could do it: Another year for Luck to grow with his offense will be extremely valuable. To throw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns as a rookie is just insane. With the expected improvements to the skill position players this off-season, the future only gets brighter.
What could stop him: The Colts still need to address their offensive line woes and get Luck those better weapons. It’s a five year project and we’re probably a little premature in expecting this much, this soon.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
Why he could do it: He missed three games last season and still threw for 3,265 yards and 23 scores. With the running game woes of the Steelers, the arm of Roethlisberger is going to be relied on next season.
What could stop him: The loss of Mike Wallace would be huge and the Steelers have gone a little conservative on offense under Todd Haley.
It would take a Major Renassaince
Eli Manning, NYG
Why he could do it: He should have a healthy set of pass catching running backs, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks back next season. That in itself is enough to get a lot done.
What could stop him: Manning has shown over the years that he’s a much better quarterback in reality than he is in fantasy. While he’s good enough to win fantasy games most weeks, it would take a huge leap for him to reach the elite class.
Philip Rivers, SD
Why he could do it: A new offense under Mike McCoy could rejuvenate his career.
What could stop him: His career needs a total rejuvenation.
If a Certain Place Froze over and Pigs Flew Overhead
Andy Dalton, CIN
Why he could do it: AJ Green
What could stop him: His lack of athleticism and limitations were exposed late in the year and especially in the playoffs.
Josh Freeman, TB
Why he could do it: He has a solid WR1 in Vincent Jackson and a surprisingly effective Mike Williams to go with a dominant runner in Doug Martin, who can really catch the ball.
What could stop him: He’s simply one of the most inconsistent players in the game. He could finish in the top ten in scoring next year or be replaced midway through the season – neither of those would surprise many.
Joe Flacco, BAL
Why he could do it: He’s made the “MVP of the Week” list on DLF’s Weekly Aftermath as much as any other player.
What could stop him: He’s also made the “LVP of the Week” list on DLF’s Weekly Aftermath as much as any other player, too.
Michael Vick, FA
Why he could do it: We’ve seen him do it before.
What could stop him: Take your pick of about 1,000 things, but he’s going to be on a pretty bad team next year and the chances of him making it through 16 games are pretty much the same as you winning the Powerball.
Sam Bradford, STL
Why he could do it: He’s made some steady progress with very little to work with. The Rams are loaded with draft picks and should be a player in free agency as well. If he had some legitimate play makers, he should be much better.
What could stop him: He just hasn’t made that extra step and really seems like he’s settled in as being a good, but not great player in both reality and fantasy.
So, there are “twenty for four.” Who do you think will be the top four quarterbacks next year? Who do you think has best chance to crash the party?
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK