2016 Stat Predictions for All 32 Starting Quarterbacks in the NFL
The most important player on an NFL team is undoubtedly the quarterback. Although the quarterback isn’t solely responsible for wins and losses, a great playmaker at the position helps mask other issues on the roster. Many of the top quarterbacks subsequently separate themselves via statistics.
Raw numbers require more context for full judgement, but they play a big role in swinging popular opinion on the quality of individual performance.
Under the assumption that every projected starter will play a full 16-game schedule (with the exception of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was suspended four games), we have predicted the statistics for all 32 starting quarterbacks. Some players will see more efficient seasons than 2015, while others will decline. It’s just the nature of the NFL.
Let’s take a look at how each quarterback could fare in 2016. We’ve predicted the major statistics, such as completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. There’s also justification for the predictions.
Note: Some slides have text repeated from 2015's edition of this article.
Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer
Passing Projection: 63 CMP%, 4,150 YDS, 30 TD, 14 INT
The Arizona Cardinals had an incredible run in 2015, proving to have one of the deepest rosters and best coaching staffs in the NFL. Quarterback Carson Palmer bounced back from a torn ACL without any issue to have a fantastic campaign until a finger injury slowed him in the playoffs. There’s no reason to think he’ll take a dramatic step back from 2015 barring more injuries.
Arizona brings back quality receiving depth for Palmer to maximize in this vertical attack. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and company are as dangerous as any group in the NFL. Add in second-year star running back David Johnson and it's easy to envision high-level production again.
How the offensive line gels with three potential new starters will be crucial. New right guard Evan Mathis, tackle D.J. Humphries and center Evan Boehm have the potential to make this offensive line one of the best in the league. How quickly Humphries and Boehm acclimate to their roles will be huge for this offense.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
Passing Projection: 65 CMP%, 4,100 YDS, 20 TD, 17 INT
Last year was supposed to be when Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan broke out as a more dynamic individual player, but he struggled to find consistency instead. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan became a lightning rod for fans to blame, but Shanahan made Ryan’s job much easier with a simpler scheme and quality run game. Ryan just is what he is at 30 years old.
That’s not to say Ryan is bad. He’s among the NFL’s group of average quarterbacks who need a lot of help to succeed. He functions well in a controlled environment, but his margin for error shrunk in 2015 as his accuracy working downfield dipped and his arm strength took a noticeable nosedive even on shorter routes.
Ryan will continue to regress if the last two seasons were an indication of future performance. The Falcons added two nice complementary pieces in receiver Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper. Expect the Falcons to rely heavily on their run game to relieve pressure on Ryan.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Passing Projection: 65 CMP%, 4,000 YDS, 25 TD, 15 INT
In an effort to help quarterback Joe Flacco bounce back from a mediocre season in 2015, the Baltimore Ravens invested as much as they could into the receiving corps and offensive line. This is a deeper offense than it has been in years. Flacco must respond well for this team to get back into the playoffs.
Flacco’s been a good quarterback to this point in his career. His Super Bowl run in 2013 was historic and cannot be taken away. On the other hand, it was by far the best stretch of football he’s ever had, and it’s not really close.
If Flacco is fully recovered from his torn ACL, he should be as efficient as ever with this supporting cast. The Ravens recently rewarded him with a three-year extension worth $66.4 million, so there’s not much pressure on him to perform. He’ll very likely be with the franchise for the rest of his career.
Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 3,250 YDS, 22 TD, 11 INT
After breaking out as a legitimate starting quarterback in 2015, the pressure is on Buffalo Bills signal-caller Tyrod Taylor to prove he can continue improving. The Bills dug deep into other options this offseason and decided to draft Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He could be a long-term option, but Taylor is easily the best signal-caller on the roster right now.
Taylor and his bevy of offensive weapons complement each other well. A terrific deep-ball passer, Taylor showed instant chemistry with star receiver Sammy Watkins and tight end Charles Clay. So long as offensive coordinator Greg Roman continues to dial up punishing run plays to open play-action possibilities, Taylor and company should have a solid season.
He should see some minor improvements across the board and some regression in terms of turnovers. Taylor struggles throwing over the middle and showed poor situational awareness on third downs in 2015, which was his tendency at Virginia Tech as well. Even producing the above statistics should suffice for Buffalo as it makes another playoff push.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
Passing Projection: 62 CMP%, 4,100 YDS, 32 TD, 12 INT
The 2015 season featured one of the more spectacular individual performances we’ve seen in recent history, as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton elevated his play into elite territory. The dual threat is a rare specimen who led Carolina to an incredible 17-2 run when most pundits doubted this team. Now Newton has more weapons and another chance to show he’s among the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
This projection features a career high in completion percentage and yards while still keeping his touchdown-to-interception ratio high. The Panthers will see an instant boost at receiver with Kelvin Benjamin returning from his torn ACL, and another season of experience for Corey Brown and Devin Funchess should help their performance. It’s not a great cast overall, but Newton has proved to be productive with it.
The wild card that could lead to an increased completion percentage is a lower number of targets to receiver Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn is explosive but was credited with 10 drops, according to SportingCharts.com, finishing second in the NFL, despite only 96 targets. Drops are a part of the game, but Newton’s stats took a hit with the abnormally high number this team had last year.
Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler
Passing Projection: 65 CMP%, 3,750 YDS, 23 TD, 14 INT
The enigmatic Jay Cutler had one of his best seasons, if not the most efficient season, of his career under offensive coordinator Adam Gase in 2015. Gase is already gone, thanks to his work with Cutler and this Chicago Bears offense. But Cutler must continue to play well for the franchise to stick with him long term.
Cutler is in line to improve his completion percentage, yards and touchdowns from 2015, as receivers Kevin White and Alshon Jeffrey are healthy entering the season. Having stability along the offensive line should also help after the Bears rotated through starters last year because of injuries. Losing running back Matt Forte will sting since he’s a reliable checkdown option for any quarterback.
Since Cutler is a gunslinger at heart and will have more weapons to entice him to test defenses, he’ll turn the ball over a little more. He reduced his interceptions from 18 to 11 last season, but Gase’s use of screens and running backs helped accomplish that more than Cutler’s play. We’ll see whether Cutler can continue to be a bright spot for this team in 2016.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 3,400 YDS, 27 TD, 10 INT
The Cincinnati Bengals stuck with quarterback Andy Dalton despite little growth in his first four seasons with the team. That decision paid off in 2015, as Dalton was spectacular working with his young group of talented playmakers. The fifth-year quarterback was on pace for the second-most yards but most touchdowns and fewest interceptions of his career.
Everything clicked for Dalton, and he showed signs of top-10 quarterback potential before an unfortunate thumb injury derailed his season. The Bengals couldn’t maintain a competent offense without him. While that’s not a good thing for the team, it helped show Dalton’s value.
2016 may not pick up where Dalton left off after offensive coordinator Hue Jackson departed for a head coaching job, and receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones signed elsewhere. He’ll have to carry a bigger burden than ever before. This will lead to very similar numbers from 2015 but less efficiency per game.
Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III
Passing Projection: 63 CMP%, 2,950 YDS, 18 TD, 9 INT
The Cleveland Browns will begin 2016 with another new face as the opening-day starter for the third straight season. This time, it will be the most talented player since the Browns had Tim Couch, as newly signed Robert Griffin III will end up winning a training camp battle with Josh McCown. He’s simply more explosive and has more upside than McCown could dream of.
New head coach Hue Jackson hand-picked Griffin in free agency and has experience working with a variety of quarterbacks. He’ll maximize Griffin’s unique arm talent and ability to create big plays by utilizing balance in the offense. Committing to the run and using play action will buy time for Griffin to operate and also for the receivers to get open.
The concern with the Browns is their lack of quality receivers at this moment. First-round pick Corey Coleman was a solid addition, but Josh Gordon’s status is still up in the air. If Gordon is back on the field this fall, the three former Baylor Bears could set off fireworks and blow these projected statistics out of the stadium.
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo
Passing Projection: 68 CMP%, 3,550 YDS, 26 TD, 12 INT
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn’t enjoy the 2015 season as he was supposed to thanks to clavicle and collarbone injuries. When he finally did get back on the field, he was rusty and turnover-prone. The Cowboys must hope that’s not a sign of things to come this year.
After Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall, this offense will heavily rely on Elliott and star receiver Dez Bryant to take pressure off Romo. He’ll be efficient, but the downward cycle has already begun. Now it’s a matter of how quickly Romo will regress.
Romo will still have a solid season, even if his numbers dip. As long as he’s healthy, the Cowboys should be in the Super Bowl race come playoff time. He just needs his running game to give him a boost.
Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch
Passing Projection: 61 CMP%, 2,700 YDS, 18 TD, 14 INT
Although the Denver Broncos didn’t plan to start the 2016 season with a rookie under center, here we are. Their best option is first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who saw a big rise to fame between 2015 and the 2016 NFL draft. His competition right now is just veteran Mark Sanchez, whom he should easily beat out for the starting job.
Lynch is a raw passer, as he comes from a simplified vertical passing attack at Memphis, but that doesn’t mean he’s lacking talent. The Broncos can ease him into a situation that won’t ask him to produce more than 24 points per game. If Denver is league-average in offensive scoring, it’ll be successful again in 2016.
There are few, if any, better situations for rookie quarterbacks to walk into than what Denver boasts. He’ll benefit from head coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme that relies on a consistent running game. Not to mention, receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas will quickly earn Lynch’s trust. Expect a bumpy road for Lynch, as all young quarterbacks face an acclimation period early in their careers.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 4,260 YDS, 28 TD, 12 INT
Former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford has been stuck in a precarious situation with the Detroit Lions for much of his career. Until 2015, his only great season was 2011. The rest of his production was mostly solid, but he wasn’t the answer or the problem with the Lions. He was somewhere in between.
That gap in the middle creates uncertainty among fans and usually organizations, as the team still doesn’t really know if Stafford is Super Bowl caliber. He made progress in 2015 to prove he is. Stafford posted a ridiculous 67 completion percentage with 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. There’s reason to be similarly optimistic for this season, as offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is back.
It’s impossible to replace Calvin Johnson, but the duo of Marvin Jones and Golden Tate is very good. Losing Johnson will hurt, and defenses will inevitably adjust to Cooter’s offense. Stafford’s projected numbers reflect a slight regression in completion percentage and touchdowns but still a very efficient campaign.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 4,000 YDS, 35 TD, 7 INT
What we’ve seen Aaron Rodgers do in Green Bay is historic. His production and efficiency are better than those of any quarterback in the history of the league. Already, statistically, he’s one of the top quarterbacks ever.
Rodgers’ pace is unlikely to change anytime soon. Even off a “down” season where he was missing a viable running game and a No. 1 receiver, he completed almost 61 percent of his passes for 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Projecting Rodgers’ numbers is easy because he’s a lock to have over 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions at this point in his career.
How efficient Rodgers will be really depends on the quality of his surrounding cast. As we learned last year, having good receivers actually does matter. Getting Jordy Nelson back from a torn ACL and Eddie Lacy in game shape should help Rodgers return to his absurd standards.
Houston Texans: Brock Osweiler
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 3,200 YDS, 22 TD, 13 INT
Much credit needs to go to Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. The Texans went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons with the likes of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Fitzpatrick taking the majority of snaps in 2015 and 2014, respectively. That’s incredible considering their talent levels and where the NFL is with reliance on the position.
New quarterback Brock Osweiler isn’t guaranteed to be better than either of them, but he is more physically gifted than each. With weapons such as receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller, and running back Lamar Miller, his job should be easy. Get the ball into the hands of playmakers, and let them create.
Efficiency will be the name of Osweiler’s game this year. He doesn’t need to be dynamic. He just needs to control games to allow the defense to rest and be effective while this impressive cast of young game-breakers does the heavy lifting.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
Passing Projection: 61 CMP%, 4,400 YDS, 36 TD, 16 INT
The health of 26-year-old Andrew Luck held him back from fulfilling the massive expectations surrounding him in 2015. It turns out that being hit a lot of times can wear the body down and lead to injury. The Indianapolis Colts invested heavily into the offensive line in the 2016 NFL draft to help alleviate the constant pressure Luck sees in the pocket.
Luck still has a solid crew of receivers to work with, and there will be a need to score points with this defense looking similar to past years. His high-risk, high-reward style of play will lead to a high number of yards, touchdowns and also interceptions. The Colts need Luck to be great to win, so that’s an inherent trade-off with his style.
These projected numbers are similar to what he accomplished in 2014. A slight dip in touchdowns and yards will happen because the Colts must establish the run more. Ranking higher than 22nd, as they did last year, has to be a priority for this offense to keep Luck upright.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles
Passing Projection: 61 CMP%, 4,100 YDS, 30 TD, 14 INT
The Jacksonville Jaguars enjoyed seeing their second-year quarterback, Blake Bortles, take a massive leap in development in 2015. His explosion wasn’t just statistical; he visibly looked more confident in himself, his teammates and Greg Olsen’s offensive scheme. Year two of that marriage should lead to an even more efficient season without the dip in big plays.
Bortles hasn’t eclipsed a completion percentage of 59 yet, but the Jaguars have put him in a situation to be less variant with his play. This defense has massively improved thanks to the draft and free agency. Adding running back Chris Ivory should also take some pressure off Bortles and this unit.
What Bortles excels at is extending plays and giving his receivers the chance to go get the ball. This will always lead to potential turnovers, as these 50-50 balls sometimes go the other way. But Bortles proved in his second season he’s got an eye and the accuracy to make these big plays happen more often than not. He’s on the brink of stardom.
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith
Passing Projection: 65 CMP%, 3,300 YDS, 23 TD, 9 INT
Somewhat lost in the offseason has been what actually happened to the Kansas City Chiefs throughout their 11-game winning streak in 2015. Their run was nothing short of incredible even though the Chiefs couldn’t get past the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. To get that far, quarterback Alex Smith became less risk averse and made tight throws in high-pressure situations.
Smith’s yards per attempt reached his second-highest mark of his career in 2015, which backs what the film showed. He’s being more aggressive and making big plays downfield to his athletic group of receivers. Trusting Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson and Chris Conley will be key in 2016 for this offense to continue evolving.
Considering his total stats haven’t fluctuated much since joining Andy Reid in 2013, Smith’s numbers should be similar once again. A higher number of interceptions could happen, since running back Jamaal Charles will be eased back into his role, and this is still a young group of receivers. Nonetheless, many quarterbacks would be happy to post Smith's projected numbers.
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff
Passing Projection: 63 CMP%, 3,300 YDS, 17 TD, 13 INT
After trading a bevy of draft picks to ensure they would get their choice of quarterback, the Los Angeles Rams decided on Jared Goff. The 21-year-old gunslinger from Cal was the right choice based on his advanced mental aptitude and natural feel for the game. The 6’4”, 217-pound pocket passer will immediately give the Rams offense a talent upgrade from what the franchise has seen in recent years.
Projecting Goff’s numbers, or any rookie’s, is difficult because of the major learning curve involved. The difference in spacing, speed and competition on a weekly basis culminates in a major adjustment. Goff rapidly improved at Cal throughout his three seasons, but his rookie campaign will have ups and downs.
It will help to have star running back Todd Gurley to rely on, as well as a stout defense to keep the scoring to a minimum. Goff and this young receiving corps will need to develop a rapport quickly. These predicted numbers for Goff would be a solid start to a potentially great career.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 4,100 YDS, 30 TD, 12 INT
Ryan Tannehill’s development stagnated a bit in 2015 as the Miami Dolphins crashed and burned despite preseason hype. Head coach Joe Philbin was canned just four weeks into the season, setting the tone for the remaining schedule. Philbin and his conservative staff were replaced by a more aggressive and innovative offensive mind in Adam Gase.
Tannehill will be given full control of this offense for the first time, which bodes well for the fifth-year quarterback. He is highly accurate on short and intermediate throws, and his deep ball has been underrated. Where he must improve the most is his ability to improvise and extend plays.
Gase and this front office have invested in the offense all offseason to help give Tannehill a legitimate receiving core and offensive line. It’s the first time he’s been exposed to quality coaching and a good surrounding cast. Expect him to deliver and reward the franchise with his best overall season yet.
Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater
Passing Projection: 66 CMP%, 3,700 YDS, 21 TD, 11 INT
After being surrounded by Adrian Peterson and numerous receivers who had little business being on an NFL roster in 2015, this is the year when Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater will have the chance to prove himself as a franchise player. That’s because the Vikings finally prioritized building around Bridgewater this offseason. This offensive line and receiving group were massively upgraded in the draft and free agency.
Bridgewater could never get comfortable as a passer in his first two seasons, and his mediocre statistics reflect that. If it wasn’t the offensive line crumbling within seconds, his receivers were blanketed or would drop possible receptions. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman invested in two offensive linemen in free agency and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.
Bridgewater has the intangibles that teams love at the position. He’s calm, accurate and consistent in the pocket. He’ll take a big step statistically this season as he capitalizes on his new playmaker and blocking.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 3,500 YDS, 25 TD, 5 INT
With a potential four-game suspension looming, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s numbers are not projected for a full 16-game schedule. Even if the suspension holds, expect Brady to return to the field with a vengeance. That likely means big numbers again in 2016.
New England continues to evolve with its identity as Brady ages. His efficiency was through the roof despite his being 37 in 2015, posting 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The only way to stop him is to hit him relentlessly like the Denver Broncos did in the 2015 conference championship.
The Patriots can expect more competition from their divisional foes this year. The Dolphins, Bills and Jets all have solid rosters that will challenge New England’s depth. But it’s hard (if not unwise) to bet against Brady and Bill Belichick returning to the playoffs in 2016 behind a stellar performance from the ageless Brady.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Passing Projection: 67 CMP%, 4,650 YDS, 31 TD, 14 INT
Strictly in terms of raw statistics, Drew Brees is still among the cream of the crop in the NFL’s list of passers. He had a monstrous completion percentage of 68 percent, along with 4,870 yards in 2015. He looked even better than he did at the end of 2014, which at times was shaky because of a fatigued arm.
Brees is 37, but it won’t stop him from being among the elite yet again. The New Orleans Saints are trying to rebuild on the fly around him. Upgrading their offensive line and receiving corps will help keep the offense churning, but the pressure is on the defense.
This prediction would lead to another great year from Brees. Very small decreases across the board will continue a trend from the last four years. If the Saints can finally field a decent defense, they could be a playoff team in 2016.
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Passing Projection: 64 CMP%, 4,200 YDS, 30 TD, 15 INT
Sometimes a coaching change can completely shift the direction of certain players' careers. That happened to Eli Manning when Ben McAdoo was named offensive coordinator in 2014, and now McAdoo is his head coach. Manning was wildly inconsistent prior to McAdoo, but he has found a more efficient medium in this offense.
The New York Giants had a terrific 2016 draft haul that should immediately pay dividends. Adding running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Sterling Shepard could lead to two new starters by season’s end. Shepard especially has the opportunity to start across from Odell Beckham.
Manning will have to overcome a mediocre offensive line once again, but he plays well even when pressured. He has been far from the Giants’ problem over the last two years. If the defense can be more consistent, Manning could help lead this franchise to a playoff run again.
New York Jets: Geno Smith
Passing Projection: 60 CMP%, 3,100 YDS, 18 TD, 14 INT
As of this moment, the New York Jets’ best option at quarterback is Geno Smith. That could change if Ryan Fitzpatrick finally re-signs with the team, but it’s arguable that Smith is a better option anyway. This may be the worst quarterback depth chart in the NFL.
Backups Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are far from being ready to contribute at this level. Each needs a massive overhaul of his throwing mechanics for his accuracy to improve. The Jets have continued to pour in Day 2 resources into below-average quarterback prospects and have yet to find gold.
The Jets have a great roster that is ready to win, though. With offensive coordinator Chan Gailey calling the shots, Smith may be able to put together a pedestrian season and still compete for the playoffs. We’ll see if Fitzpatrick and the Jets can strike a deal to keep Smith on the bench.
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr
Passing Projection: 60 CMP%, 3,700 YDS, 32 TD, 11 INT
The Oakland Raiders had to be thoroughly pleased with the progress quarterback Derek Carr made in his second season. Carr instantly connected with receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and company to explode for 3,987 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. He slowed toward the end of the season, but another excellent offseason for the franchise will give this team playoff aspirations for 2016.
Carr is a dynamic downfield passer who has proved evaluators wrong to this point in his career. He’s shown confidence even under pressure, which is rare for a young quarterback. There’s certainly still room to continue improving, but the early returns are promising.
The Raiders shored up the offensive line by signing Kelechi Osemele and adding several defensive studs in free agency. If the defense can keep games within reach, Carr won’t have to bear as much weight on his shoulder as he did last year. This would mean more efficiency and fewer interceptions than 2015.
Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Bradford
Passing Projection: 63 CMP%, 3,500 YDS, 17 TD, 14 INT
2016 may be filled with drama for the Philadelphia Eagles organization. That’s what normally happens when a team trades major assets to move up in the draft for a quarterback when there’s already a veteran in place. Incumbent Sam Bradford may not be able to stave No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz off for long.
Bradford had a solid 2015 season that featured his trademark efficiency and accuracy. But Chip Kelly is now gone, and the organization quickly dumped as many traces to him as possible. New head coach Doug Pederson will bring a West Coast offense that will be yet another new scheme and terminology for Bradford to learn.
Pederson built an efficient passing offense in Kansas City most recently, but Bradford is predicted to drop statistically in 2016. He’ll be looking over his shoulder until Wentz gets the nod, which won’t take long to happen. The Eagles made their statement on who is the future of the team with their trade up.
Without a 2017 first-round pick, the Eagles will want to get Wentz on the field by the end of the season. This is a weak roster overall, and the wins won’t come easy after general manager Howie Roseman stripped it down. The odds are simply stacked against Bradford to perform well.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Passing Projection: 68 CMP%, 4,200 YDS, 26 TD, 15 INT
Even in an injury-riddled season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was an efficient and explosive playmaker. His interceptions rose to a whopping 16 total in just 11 games, but his shoulder injury and playing without running back Le’Veon Bell were major factors there. He won’t have those same obstacles in 2016.
Pittsburgh boasts a deeply talented offense around Roethlisberger, even as wide receiver Martavis Bryant is suspended for the season. The depth at offensive line, running back and receiver makes this one of the best supporting casts across the league. Roethlisberger is the perfect quarterback to maximize it.
The wear and tear on Big Ben will have an effect on his predicted statistics. He’s at his best extending plays and going downfield, but he’ll need to play within the system and execute on timing routes more often to protect his body. Getting 16 games out of Roethlisberger may mean diminished numbers, but the payoff could lead to a playoff run.
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers
Passing Projection: 66 CMP%, 4,400 YDS, 30 TD, 11 INT
The masterful play of Philip Rivers has continued for years despite the rash of issues engulfing the franchise in the same time frame. Whether it be injuries on the field or speculation of relocation, the San Diego Chargers haven’t capitalized on having one of the premier quarterbacks in his prime on their roster. The only thing this team can count on is Rivers’ excellent play.
The Chargers’ biggest hurdle besides health is finding consistency with a young defense. Adding defensive end Joey Bosa in the first round should help, but several others must take a leap in their development as well. If this defense allows almost 25 points per game again like it did in 2015, Rivers will accumulate eye-popping numbers once again.
Free-agent pickup Travis Benjamin and second-round tight end Hunter Henry are highly talented weapons for Rivers to utilize in 2016. They join the productive and underrated duo of Keenan Allen and Steve Johnson as primary receivers. Not to mention, future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates will return for another season as Rivers’ security blanket.
San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick
Passing Projection: 59 CMP%, 3,200 YDS, 17 TD, 13 INT
The San Francisco 49ers seemingly tried as hard as they could to unload quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but they overplayed their leverage and are now stuck with the 28-year-old for 2016. New head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke chose to pass on highly touted quarterbacks in the draft to challenge Kaepernick. The training camp battle between Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert is uninspiring, to say the least.
Kelly tends to prefer accuracy and consistency from his quarterbacks despite the narrative that he’d love an athlete at the position. Kaepernick and Gabbert struggle in both areas, but at least Kaepernick has the physical tools and big arm to create big plays on his own. Expect Kelly to rely heavily on the run game and minimize the role of the quarterback.
Kaepernick is a good game manager who can function in a limited capacity, with the occasional high-reward throw. His predicted statistics are more along the line of his career-average numbers. Even Kelly won’t be able to change Kaepernick’s limited impact.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
Passing Projection: 66 CMP%, 4,200 YDS, 30 TD, 10 INT
As well as Russell Wilson has played in his first three seasons, his 2015 campaign hit a new high. He was incredible when the Seattle Seahawks needed him most, posting career highs in completion percentage, yards and touchdowns while still keeping his turnovers low. He became an elite quarterback in the middle of the year.
The Seahawks will again trot out a below-average offensive line in front of Wilson, and that decision could be costly in 2016. Losing Marshawn Lynch to retirement ensures they’ll rely on a bevy of young backs who will need to find their groove quickly. This puts more pressure on Wilson to create big plays.
Wilson is careful with the football whenever possible, but a greater load on his shoulders will reduce efficiency from his 2015 season. Nonetheless, he’d rank as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league if he can achieve these predicted numbers. He certainly has the talent and pedigree to deliver on expectations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston
Passing Projection: 60 CMP%, 4,100 YDS, 24 TD, 15 INT
The debate on who should have gone first overall in the 2015 class will continue throughout the careers of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. So far, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have nothing to second-guess as Winston had a tremendous rookie campaign. So did Mariota, but Winston instantly built chemistry with his teammates in a way that makes each fit their situation perfectly.
The continuity of having Dirk Koetter running the offense will benefit Winston greatly as long as Koetter isn't overwhelmed in his first head coaching job. Koetter has a history of developing young quarterbacks quickly while keeping the pressure as low as possible. The Buccaneers have a trio of playmakers who have already seen what it's like to have a good, young quarterback.
Running back Doug Martin was tremendous for Winston's growth mid-season. His ability to carry a major load in this offense will be key again this season as Winston continues to cut down on turnovers and increase efficiency. With receivers like Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson in the fold, it won't be hard for Winston to be among the best quarterbacks in the league soon.
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota
Passing Projection: 63 CMP%, 3,450 YDS, 24 TD, 13 INT
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, quarterback Marcus Mariota, enjoyed a solid rookie campaign for the Tennessee Titans. He proved to be a quick study as he led a limited supporting cast with good production before missing the final four games of the season with a knee injury. Expectations will continue to rise as the Titans have invested around him this offseason.
Mariota dealt with the 25th-ranked rushing attack and an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the league last season. That simply cannot happen again if this franchise wants to properly develop Mariota. He has the potential to be great but needs some help to get there.
What makes Mariota stand out is his quick decision-making and accuracy on short and intermediate passes. The continuity with new head coach Mike Mularkey should keep his development on track. Growing in this offense with young receivers such as Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright will help this franchise improve quickly.
Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins
Passing Projection: 68 CMP%, 3,800 YDS, 26 TD, 13 INT
Everything fell the right way for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2015. He finally earned the starting job when presented with the opportunity, and he played well in his first full season with the designation. Head coach Jay Gruden put his job and reputation on the line with Cousins, and the tandem showed great chemistry.
Gruden maximizes Cousins’ limited skill set by spreading the field and isolating the Redskins’ playmakers as much as possible. Tight end Jordan Reed stayed healthy and proved to be unguardable, giving Cousins a safety valve who could break a short pass into a big touchdown.
Now operating on a franchise tag, Cousins must prove he can be a franchise quarterback by repeating his performance in 2016. His struggles against winning teams is well-documented; his numbers took a deep dive, and the Redskins subsequently lost all six games against better competition in 2015. He’ll be efficient but more of a system product than a dynamic talent for the Redskins, forcing them to make a difficult decision a year from now.
All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.