The fantasy football season officially starts tonight! All the preparation and ranking debates are pushed aside, and the focus turns towards constructing the best Week One lineup. There are always tough decisions, especially in the opening week of the season. After examining running backs, we turn our attention to the most important position on your fantasy roster: quarterback. Here are the top fifteen fantasy football quarterback plays for Week One.
Top 15 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week One
- Joe Flacco (Baltimore): No team attempted more passes than the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has implemented his own offense, and Flacco should benefit greatly. Buffalo ranked middle of the league (15th) in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks. Flacco will see high volume in this game. He isn’t a top twelve play, but Flacco should provide solid fantasy numbers in week one.
- Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo): Fresh off a new contract extension, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor opens the season against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens. Taylor was seventh in fantasy points per game (19.7), and first in quarterback rushing yards per game (40.4). He faces a Ravens team that gave up an average of 103.8 yards per game last season. His main weapon, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, is “all systems go” for week one. Taylor won’t have a huge game on Sunday, but his athleticism should provide guarantee a decent week one fantasy line.
- Philip Rivers (San Diego): Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt returns to San Diego, and that should mean big things for Rivers. In 2013, with Whisenhunt, Rivers reached a career high in completion percentage (69.5 percent), and a superb 32 touchdowns to 11 interceptions ratio. Rivers finished second in 2015 with 4,793 yards, and a league high 662 pass attempts. However, playing in Kansas City is always difficult. In his last four trips to Arrowhead Stadium, Rivers is averaging 288.7 passing yards, 1.25 touchdowns, and one interception per game. This translates to a modest 18.7 fantasy points per game. The Chiefs will be without star linebacker Justin Houston, which helps Rivers’ fantasy projections. Not a top twelve quarterback for week one, but Whisenhunt’s return should raise the floor in a tough intra-divisional road game.
- Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay): Winston faces a Dan Quinn passing defense that allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2015. The Buccaneers have a ton of weapons including wide receivers Mike Evans and a healthy Vincent Jackson. Charles Sims is a huge target out of the backfield as well. Winston will need to improve on his league worst completion percentage (58.3 percent). Winston is downgraded on the road, but is still close to a QB1 play for week one.
- Kirk Cousins (Washington): The NFL’s leader in completion percentage (69.5 percent) opens the season on Monday Night Football at home against Pittsburgh. Cousins finished fifth in passer rating (101.6), sixth in Total QBR (70.1), and third in rushing touchdowns (5). He faces a Steelers pass defense that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game (271.9). With a full healthy group of weapons, led by star tight end Jordan Reed, Cousins is a safe top twelve quarterback play for week one.
- Matt Ryan (Atlanta): The Falcons at home with the top fantasy running back (Devonta Freeman) and number two wide receiver (Julio Jones) makes Ryan a strong week one play. Tampa Bay allowed the 11th most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year. Entering the second year with Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Ryan should approach career high numbers across the board. Ryan was second among all quarterbacks in air yards (2,665) and deep ball completion percentage (43.6 percent). At home, he will take shots down the field, which will produce a top ten fantasy quarterback performance.
- Carson Palmer (Arizona): The fantasy world is anxious to see how Palmer follows up a career best season as he approaches the age of 37. Palmer ranked first in yards per attempt (8.7), air yards per attempt (5.4), and total QBR (82.1). Bruce Arians offense is explosive, averaging 31.6 points per home game (excluding week 17). Patriots coach Bill Belichick will certainly be a formidable opponent, and wide receiver John Brown’s health is still uncertain. But fantasy owners should feel comfortable with Palmer as a top ten week one fantasy play in the Bird’s Nest.
- Matthew Stafford (Detroit): Most people fail to realize Stafford finished as the ninth overall fantasy quarterback (23.7 ppg) last season. Over the last three games, Stafford ranked as the fifth overall fantasy quarterback with 25.6 fantasy points per game. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has installed a no-huddle offense, which should put Stafford’s talents to their best use. The Colts ranked 24th against the pass last season, and this game promises to be a shootout. On volume alone, Stafford will be a top ten quarterback for week one.
- Blake Bortles (Jacksonville): The surprise top five finisher in fantasy points per game (21.1) opens the season at home vs. Green Bay. Bortles has even more offensive weapons this season, with Chris Ivory joining T.J. Yeldon for an explosive backfield. He has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Allen Robinson, and gets a healthy Julius Thomas to start the season at tight end. Many predict a Bortles regression, but multiple weapons will support a top stat line for week one.
- Derek Carr (Oakland): No team gave up more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2015 than New Orleans Saints (28.5 ppg). The Raiders come to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Carr enters his third year with a plethora of offensive weapons. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, running back Latavius Murray, and tight end Clive Walford are all great targets for Carr. Add an explosive rookie running back DeAndre Washington, and Carr should finish as a top five week one quarterback.
- Eli Manning (New York): It is always good to have an old fashioned rivalry in week one. The Giants travel to Dallas for an intradivisional NFC East matchup. There is good reason to be bullish on Manning this season,and he specifically plays well against the Cowboys. In the last three road games in Dallas, Manning is averaging 296 yards, 2.33 touchdowns, and 25.4 fantasy points. Sprinkle in a healthy Victor Cruz back in the lineup, and the stars will align for a big fantasy game for Manning in Big D.
- Drew Brees (New Orleans): Death, taxes, and Drew Brees at home as a top fantasy quarterback play. Over the past five seasons, Brees has averaged 331 passing yards and three touchdowns at home. This means on average, he puts up 31.1 fantasy points per game when he plays in New Orleans. That is just insane consistency. He opens against a Raiders defense that ranked 20th in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (21.9). No reason to overthink it, Brees is a guaranteed top five fantasy play for week one.
- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay): The Packers travel to Jacksonville in week one to face a defense that ranked 29th against the pass last season (268.2 passing yards allowed per game). Wide receiver Jordy Nelson returns, which is good news for the entire offense. Nelson’s presence over the past two seasons has meant an average per game increase of 44 passing yards and four more fantasy points. Rodgers guides a balanced offensive attack, and is a safe top five quarterback play for week one.
- Andrew Luck (Indianapolis): Fantasy analysts conveniently forget about how good Andrew Luck was before getting injured. Going into the 2015 season, Luck was regarded as an absolute first round fantasy selection. While drafting a quarterback early is always frowned upon, his 40+ touchdown upside was too enticing. He enters this season completely healthy, and the Colts have moved to three wide receiver sets. Detroit ranked 15th against the pass in 2015, but will struggle to keep up with Luck in Lucas Oil Stadium. A very safe top five play.
- Russell Wilson (Seattle): Wilson finished last season in strong fashion. From week 11 on, he averaged a superb 27.8 fantasy points per game. During that seven game stretch, Wilson scored 25 total touchdowns and just one interception. His opponent is a Miami team that ranked just 21st against the pass (250 yards per game) in 2015. Reports have running backs Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls splitting time in the backfield for week one. As we’ve discussed all offseason, the running back uncertainty makes Wilson more likely to have a career passing season. That will start in right away, at home, against Miami. Wilson is our top quarterback play for week one.