Fantasy Football Rankings 2013: Projections for Top Quarterbacks 25 and Under
There are a ton of NFL quarterbacks aged 25 and under ahead of the 2013 season that could put up massive numbers, but it's worth distinguishing which ones will be the very best fantasy options.
Whether it's the offensive system they're operating within, their style of play or supporting cast, these rankings aren't necessarily a reflection of how good or bad each signal-caller is. This is simply done for the purposes of beating one's opponent in fantasy football.
So let's take a look at the top six quarterbacks under 25 and throw out some early projections for their numbers this year.
6. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
I like Griffin's upside as much as anyone's on this list, given his world-class speed, phenomenal arm talent and off-the-charts intangibles as a leader.
The primary reason he's listed here is due to the injury concerns. Coming off of a torn LCL and ACL is no small deal, though RGIII does seem upbeat about it himself. He tweeted recently that he's been cleared to practice:
Doctors cleared me to practice. Coach is going to ease me in. Thank you for your support & See you in Richmond— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) July 22, 2013
However, it remains to be seen what the play-calling will be like in light of how Griffin put his body in harm's way multiple times as a rookie in 2012.
That's not to say the Redskins won't eventually adjust and figure out how to utilize Griffin's truly unique set of skills, but if he's forced to sit in the pocket much more in Year 2, his passing numbers may dip.
A lot of what made Griffin successful was the threat of his running ability, not to mention the phenomenal maiden pro campaign by his running back, Alfred Morris. Griffin should still have a solid year, but Morris may be worked more, and his passing efficiency may suffer as he continues to learn to read NFL defenses.
Projections: 3,600 yards passing, 21 TDs, 12 INTs; 550 yards rushing, 2 TDs
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The downfield attack that Bruce Arians dialed up last season should be deviated from significantly under Luck's old Stanford offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton.
There was nothing lucky about Luck's first season with the Colts. He did everything he could to live up to his billing as the No. 1 overall pick, leading the team to an 11-5 record, only to be knocked out of the playoffs on the road to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Upgrades along the offensive line, a solid No. 1 back in Ahmad Bradshaw and a vertical threat in Darrius Heyward-Bey are part of the job GM Ryan Grigson did to build a better foundation around the new face of the Indianapolis franchise.
More short and intermediate throws will cause Luck's completion percentage to go up, and the running game should improve from its ranking of 22nd last year, too.
It might seem odd to rank Luck at No. 5 considering he broke the rookie record for passing yards. However, Hamilton will look to pound the rock and allow Luck to operate frequently off of play-action.
It's still a bit of a dubious and inexperienced set of skill players surrounding Luck with the obvious exception of Reggie Wayne. The passing yardage should be similar, though the production will be achieved in a more efficient manner with regard to yards per attempt.
Projections: 4,000 yards passing, 24 TDs, 10 INTs; 300 yards rushing; 3 TDs
4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
The offense called by Darrell Bevell is heavily reliant on the running game. While this will create more zone-read option plays for Wilson, it will also result in him not throwing as much as some of his counterparts.
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Wilson, though, does have a better understanding of scanning the field from the pocket. Plus, he will wait until the very last moment when a play is broken down to take off and run—unless the lane is completely wide open.
Not much is evident to indicate that Wilson is heading for a sophomore slump, given his polish as a passer and the addition of dynamic receiver Percy Harvin in the offseason.
A stable of backs led by Marshawn Lynch and supplemented by Robert Turbin and Christine Michael will leave plenty of fresh runners for Bevell to continue his run-first mentality.
Having said that, the offense should open up even more for Wilson to cut loose, which will boost his passing numbers from 2012.
Projections: 4,100 yards passing, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 350 rushing yards, 4 TDs
3. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
The notion that defenses will eventually catch up with what Kaepernick and the Niners were doing in 2012 seems a bit far-fetched. The 25-year-old is simply too dynamic of an athlete and explosive both throwing and running to be dismissed as a flash in the pan.
Kaepernick unfortunately won't have No. 1 target Michael Crabtree for at least a good chunk of the season while he recovers from an Achilles injury. Having said that, the acquisition of Anquan Boldin should be enough to keep Kaepernick's numbers strong.
With a strong defense and great running game, San Francisco should continue primarily pounding the rock with Frank Gore, but Kaepernick will get his fair share of carries, too.
As incredible as Kaepernick is in the open field, he has shown an ability to stand in the pocket and throw with eye-popping accuracy no matter where he's fitting it.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows what he has in Kaepernick, and that's what gave him the confidence to switch from Alex Smith in the middle of last season. It should lead to the playbook opening up more for Kaepernick to accentuate his strengths and lead the 49ers back to the playoffs for the third straight year.
Projections: 4,200 yards passing, 32 TDs, 8 INTs; 550 yards rushing, 4 TDs
2. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
This feels like the year that Newton will fully live up to the hype. The Panthers made some improvements on the defensive side in the draft, which should take pressure off the offense to put up a plethora of points every week just to compete.
Newton should be worked more as a runner than his peers at the quarterback position, having run for over 700 yards in each of his first two pro seasons.
Brandon LaFell is continuing to develop into a solid No. 2 receiver opposite Steve Smith, and the addition of Domenik Hixon could be huge if he can stay healthy.
The former top overall pick is just scratching the surface of his potential; he's been plagued at times by lapses in decision-making and ill-advised throws trying to make too much happen.
However, it seemed Newton turned a corner at the end of 2012 when he led the Panthers on a four-game winning streak and to victories in five of the last six contests.
It's time for Newton to prove he can do it when the playoffs are still within reach.
Projections: 4,400 yards passing, 33 TDs, 10 INTs; 700 yards rushing, 8 TDs
1. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Oh, and Calvin "Megatron" Johnson is also on the outside. All indications are that Ryan Broyles is on track to return for Week 1, as he doesn't expect to go on the PUP list to begin training camp despite tearing his ACL, and Nate Burleson played very well last year before a broken leg cut his season short.
Stafford has all the weapons he needs at his disposal. Even the faintest hint of a running game—which he hasn't had the luxury of in the past—and marginal play from the defense should allow Stafford to return to form more reminiscent of his breakout 2011.
Although he had an ugly 20-to-17 TD-to-INT ratio last season, Stafford still nearly threw for 5,000 yards for the second straight time and should continue to fire passes at record rates.
That aforementioned 2011 season saw Stafford throw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Now that he's locked in with a contract extension and what should be an improved team, there's little reason to believe he couldn't improve slightly on those numbers.
Projections: 5,100 yards passing, 43 TDs, 15 INTs; 100 yards rushing, 2 TDs
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