A call to arms: Preseason fantasy football quarterback rankings for 2016

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers pumps his fist as he walks off the field in the closing minutes of the Packers’ 35-18 wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins on Jan. 10, 2016, in Landover, Md.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers pumps his fist as he walks off the field in the closing minutes of the Packers’ 35-18 wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins on Jan. 10, 2016, in Landover, Md. Associated Press file

Here’s a look at the top quarterbacks based on rankings provided by CBS Sports, Yahoo, USA Today and ESPN.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers

The quarterback conversation must begin with Mr. Rodgers, the créme de la créme of the position for most of the last decade. The two-time NFL MVP has averaged nearly 3,600 yards passing and 29 touchdowns over the past three seasons, and that’s been with favorite targets Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb missing extended periods due to injuries. If all three can stay healthy, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Rodgers could flirt with the 45 TDs and 4,600 yards he threw for during his MVP 2011 campaign. A solid third-round pick, Rodgers could go as early as the second round in some leagues. Rodgers is ranked No. 1 by CBS Sports and USA Today.

2. Cam Newton, Panthers

One could easily make the argument that Newton is the rightful king of the QB mountain because of his ability to run over and around defenders when things break down in the passing game. Newton was the league’s MVP in 2015 after passing for 35 touchdowns and 3,837 yards while rushing for 636 yards and 10 TDs. Newton, like Rodgers, should be off the board by the third round and possibly as early as the second, especially if Rodgers goes earlier than expected. He is ranked No. 1 by both ESPN and Yahoo.

3. Andrew Luck, Colts

Injuries limited Luck’s lost 2015 season to a mere seven games, during which he did precious little to justify owner’s faith in him based on a monster 2014 in which he passed for 4,761 yards and 40 TDs. But don’t make the mistake of sleeping on Luck on draft day because he’s 4,000 yards and 30-plus TDs waiting to happen. Luck figures to go in the fourth or fifth rounds of most drafts. He comes in at No. 3 in both the CBS Sports and USA Today rankings.

4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks

After three good seasons to begin his NFL career, Wilson elevated his game to great in 2015, passing for career highs in yards (4,024) and TDs (34) while rushing for 553 yards and a TD. Wilson is the second-ranked QB on USA Today’s list and is rated as the No. 3 QB by ESPN and Yahoo. Look for Wilson’s name to be called somewhere in Round 4.

5. Drew Brees, Saints

The cast around him might have changed in recent seasons but Brees’ ability to chuck the ball down the field and put up PlayStation numbers hasn’t. The 37-year-old has averaged nearly 5,000 yards and 35 TDs over the past three seasons, and there’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue. Brees, who could go as early as Round 4 and as late as Round 6, is the No. 4-ranked QB by CBS Sports and No. 5 on ESPN’s list.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Big Ben took a big beating in 2015 but still managed to throw for nearly 4,000 yards and 21 TDs in 12 games. Roethlisberger has averaged nearly 4,400 yards and 27 TDs the past three seasons – numbers he could surpass if All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown remains at his disposal for 16 games. Roethlisberger, a likely fifth- or sixth-round draft option, is rated as the No. 4 QB by USA Today and ranks fifth on Yahoo’s list.

7. Derek Carr, Raiders

Carr officially arrived during his sophomore NFL season in 2015, passing for 3,600 yards and 26 TDs for an Oakland team on the rise. With weapons galore around him, the former Fresno State standout could jump into the 4,000/40-TD club if things break his and the Raiders’ way. A solid mid-round option, Carr will go after all the big names but is capable of matching their production. USA Today ranks him as the sixth best QB.

8. Tom Brady, Patriots

Sure, he’s gonna miss four games because of his Deflategate suspension ... but he’s still gonna have 12 games to inflate your weekly numbers. The four-time Super Bowl champion will be 39 this season, but he’s shown no sign of slowing down while averaging 4,440 yards and 31 TDs over the past three seasons. Brady could go as early as the fifth round and as late as the eighth. Brady comes in at No. 7 on CBS Sports’ preseason QB rankings.

9. Eli Manning, Giants

He’ll always have his detractors, but Manning also has Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz and Larry Donnell ... and you get the picture. Manning has thrown for an average of 4,220 yards and 28 TDs over the past three seasons, and it’s not wrong to believe he could actually up the ante in 2016 with all of his favorite targets back in the fold. An unglamorous but safe middle-round pick, Manning is ranked No. 8 among QBs by USA Today.

10. Carson Palmer, Cardinals

Palmer is coming off the best of his 14 NFL seasons in 2015, which saw him pass for career highs in yards (4,671) and TDs (35). As the point man for a dynamic and diverse Cardinals offense that includes wideouts Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd as well as an emerging star in running back David Johnson, Palmer is set up to succeed like few others at his position. He figures to be a middle-round pick, but could be a late-round steal. Palmer comes in at No. 7 in both the ESPN and Yahoo QB rankings.

11. Blake Bortles, Jaguars

Raise your hand if you saw Bortles passing for 4,400 yards and 35 TDs before the 2015 season kicked off. You can put your hands down now, liars. Bortles was great for a Jacksonville team that wasn’t. Can he do it again? With a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns as his partners in aerial crime, the chances are very good. Yahoo ranks Bortles, who could be another late-round steal, eighth among QBs.

12. Tony Romo, Cowboys

Are you feeling lucky? Romo broke his collarbone twice and was limited to just four games in a forgettable 2015 season for both him and the Cowboys. But he was fantasy gold in 2014 when he threw for 3,705 passing yards and 34 touchdowns – numbers he could easily duplicate and possibly surpass with a clean bill of health. Romo is ranked as the No. 10 QB by Yahoo.

Best of the rest

Philip Rivers, Chargers; Andy Dalton, Bengals; Kirk Cousins, Redskins; Matt Ryan, Falcons; Matthew Stafford, Lions; Jameis Winston, Buccaneers; Marcus Mariota, Titans; Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins; Jay Cutler, Bears; Tyrod Taylor, Bills; Joe Flacco, Ravens; Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings

Compiled by Stu Rosenberg