When Peyton Manning made the move after 13 years in Indianapolis to leave for the Denver Broncos in the 2012 offseason, he changed the trajectory of the entire league. Demaryius Thomas turned into an elite wide receiver both in fantasy and real life while Andrew Luck became the golden child that would be looked at as the future for the Colts in the wake of the former five-time MVP’s departure.
While the 2018 offseason doesn’t have a player close to Manning’s caliber on the move, the decision for Drew Brees to resign and Kirk Cousins to move teams, as well as others, will prove to be drastic in the landscape of the league this season.
How will the quarterbacks that were on the free agent market this offseason fare this year in fantasy?
Although Drew Brees was a free agent, there was little to no doubt that he would resign with Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. The pairing of Payton and Brees is among some of the top quarterback/head coach duos in NFL history.
After finishing 11-5 and reaching the NFC divisional round before their season ended with the Minneapolis Miracle, the Saints will look to get back to the playoffs for back-to-back years for the first time since they did it three years in a row from 2009-2011.
One of the most prolific and accurate passers in NFL history, Brees has been as consistent as any player in the league since 2004. From the 2004 season to 2017, Brees has been a top-11 fantasy quarterback in every year.
During that time he has averaged 299 points per season (310 with Payton) and passed the 300-point mark eight times, including a career-high 396 in 2011.
Along the offense, Brees has one of the most talented young supporting casts in the league. A pair of pro bowlers last season in the backfield, 2017 offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram make up the deadliest running back corps in the NFL (3,094 total yards and 25 touchdowns) and third-year wideout Michael Thomas might be one of the least talked about elite receivers in the game (104 catches, 1245 yards, and 5 TDs in 2017).
Despite getting towards end of his career, the 39-year-old hasn’t shown signs of slowing down and, with his supremely talented supporting cast, only getting better as they mature to go along with a Hall of Fame-caliber offensive mind in Sean Payton.
I don’t see this being the season that Brees starts to show signs of falling off a cliff. The biggest problem will be that the Saints play the second hardest schedule based on opponents’ combined 2017 record, but despite that, I still see Brees as a low-end to mid QB1 range.
If I were to tell you heading into the 2017 season that Case Keenum would lead the Minnesota Vikings to an 11-3 record as a starter without Dalvin Cook in the backfield and they would reach the NFC Championship game, you’d call me crazy.
Obviously, that’s exactly what happened, turning Keenum into one of the most surprising stories of the year after he seemed almost unfit to be in the league after his previous stint with Jeff Fisher and the Los Angeles Rams.
Now, after signing a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos, Keenum is looking to prove he’s more than a one year wonder that can carry a team as opposed to being a placeholder like many speculated with him in Minnesota. Before finishing as the No. 14 QB and averaging 16 points per game (ppg) last season, Keenum never finished higher than the No. 30 QB with an average ppg high of 13.
I’m not as much of a believer in Case Keenum as many, due to his incredible supporting system on the field as well as on the sidelines, but I also think we saw the worst from him when he was with the Rams.
With talented wide receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas as well as an elite defense to keep them in games, I’d consider him a solid QB2.
With the change from the Minnesota Vikings to the Arizona Cardinals, journeyman Sam Bradford will be on his fourth team in five seasons. Much like his time in Minnesota though, he could be in for a short stint under center.
Bradford hasn’t played a full season since 2012 and I’m not going to bank on that changing this season when drafting a quarterback in fantasy that hasn’t proven to put up top 15 weeks on a consistent basis.
Like I said in the post-draft fantasy stock report for quarterbacks, rookie quarterback Josh Rosen poses a serious threat out of the gate to challenge Bradford for starting duties and if early reports are any indication, it might be sooner rather than later that we see the tenth overall pick under center. Given his extensive injury history and the presence of Rosen, Bradford should be looked at a short-term QB2 placeholder.
A three-time National Championship winning quarterback at the University of Alabama, A.J. McCarron hasn’t had the start to an NFL career that he expected. He has backed up Andy Dalton for four years after being selected in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014.
Now that he’s finally out from Dalton’s shadow, McCarron is in place to begin his first season as a starting quarterback in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
Although the Bills drafted Josh Allen seventh overall in the 2018 draft, McCarron should be looked at as the starter for the time being. I don’t see Allen being ready to play in the NFL yet because he wasn’t able to complete passes on a consistent basis in college when he was up against non-Power 5 defenses (averaged a completion percentage of 59.6 in college).
McCarron, on the other hand, has proven in the games he’s played for the Bengals that he’s capable of being a solid starting quarterback in the present.
If he wins out the starting job, McCarron shouldn’t be looked at to put up better numbers than Tyrod Taylor did in the same position. McCarron will have a running back in LeSean McCoy who’s just turned 30 and has already logged a lot of touches in his career as well as key offensive line changes with big-name departures (Richie Incognito and Eric Wood).
On the outside, McCarron’s sole proven option, Kelvin Benjamin should be looked at often as a go-to answer when the pressure starts to come in hot.
The big money signing of the group this offseason, Kirk Cousins will be under center for the Minnesota Vikings. After spending six seasons with the Washington Redskins, Cousins will be suiting up for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
In his three years as the starting signal caller, Cousins averaged 293 fantasy points per season (18.3 ppg) with final position rankings of No. 8, No. 5, and No. 7 in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Making the move to the Minnesota Vikings, Cousins is easily in the best situation of his career. He will have the best running back, Dalvin Cook, that he has had in his career to take the load off him as a runner and an option as a check down in the passing game.
The Vikings are coming off a 13-3 season that ended with an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. With an upgrade at quarterback, they’re primed to put up a similar performance this year and are tabbed as one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl in 2019.
Although Cousins has a more talented supporting cast, I see him putting up similar or lower numbers this fantasy season. With a better defense on the other side of the ball and a promising young running back there’s a good chance they’re ahead in most of their games, which will lead to a more run-heavy approach.
I’d consider Cousins to be a low-end QB1 this upcoming season.