Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is the consensus top fantasy quarterback this upcoming season
It doesn’t matter if it’s NFL or college fantasy football; quarterback is arguably the most important position when it comes to drafting a team that can compete for a championship. In college, it also should come as no surprise that the No. 1 fantasy option is Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who finished third in last season's Heisman Trophy voting and nearly led his team to a national title.
While the days of daily college fantasy football appear to be over (sadly), the season-long game remains alive and well as we head into the 2016 season. To help get you ready, here are Athlon Sports' quarterback rankings. Below is the scoring system used to compile this list.
Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point
Passing TD = 4 points
Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point
Rushing TDs = 6 points
Receptions = 0.5 points per reception
Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point
Receiving TDs = 6 points
2016 College Fantasy Football QB Rankings
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Not just the No. 1 quarterback, Watson is the consensus top overall player in all of college fantasy football in 2016. Last season, Watson led the Tigers to an average of 514 yards and nearly 40 points per game. And guess what? Most of that group returns intact for another go at a national title with Watson leading the way. The junior has his full arsenal of receivers returning, including senior Mike Williams, who missed most of last year with a neck injury. If you are lucky enough to snag the No. 1 pick in your fantasy draft this season, Watson is the sure-fire selection.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Mahomes is solidly in the No. 2 spot despite losing his top receiver from last season in Jakeem Grant. As a sophomore, Mahomes displayed surprising mobility, rushing for 456 yards and 10 touchdowns in addition to the typical gaudy passing numbers we all expect from a Texas Tech quarterback. The surrounding cast is not as experienced as last season, but the offensive system in place should allow for Mahomes to come close to matching his totals from a year ago.
3. Greg Ward Jr., Houston
How will Ward perform without his go-to receiver is the big question in 2016 as Demarcus Ayers departed early for the NFL Draft after accumulating 98 receptions and more than 1,200 yards last season. Not to mention, Houston loses its top three running backs from a year ago, as well as three starters along the offensive line. That said, Ward should top 1,000 yards rushing once again as he is the perfect fit in Tom Herman’s up-tempo offense, and there is enough talent leftover at wide receiver to avoid a significant drop-off.
4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
No, this is not a typo. And no this is not just based upon Jackson’s Music City Bowl performance against Texas A&M in which he piled up 453 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. While it did take the combined effort of three quarterbacks in each season, Bobby Petrino’s offense has produced 3,000 passing yards since he returned to Louisvile in 2014. Jackson should be under center the entire way in 2016, leading to a projection of 3,000-plus yards passing and more than 1,000 yards rushing.
5. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk was sensational in his first year as the full-time starter, throwing for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns, finishing among the top five in the nation in both categories. And he did this despite missing the season finale against Washington, in addition to leaving multiple contests early due to injury. So just think what kind of stats he can pile up if he holds up all season? Falk does lose his top red-zone threat in Dom Williams, but the Cougars return six receivers that caught 15 passes or more last season, including star wideout Gabe Marks (104-1,192-15 in 2015).
6. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
With Cardale Jones now out of the picture, this is once again Barrett’s team and Ohio State will be better off for it. In 2014, Barrett was exceptional with 34 passing touchdowns to go along with nearly 1,000 yards and 11 scores on the ground, but he was unable to duplicate those numbers as a sophomore due to the presence of Jones. The projection on Barrett is tempered a bit due to the numerous departures to the NFL on offense, but Urban Meyer teams Co. typically find a way to make it work. Barrett will have a bounce-back year.
7. Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Get used to hearing Flowers’ name if you follow college fantasy football because he is one of the top rising stars in the sport. In his first season as the full-time starter, Flowers impressed many by throwing for 2,290 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding another 991 yards and 12 scores on the ground. More importantly, he avoided mistakes, throwing just eight interceptions. With a talented supporting cast around him, including All-AAC running back Marlon Mack, look for Flowers to take another step in his development in 2016.
8. Chad Kelly, Mississippi
Kelly was everything Ole Miss could have hoped for last season, throwing for 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns, while adding another 500 yards and 10 scores on the ground. This season, the Rebels return just four other starters on offense and will be without the services of No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who left early for the NFL. A slight drop-off is expected, but there are enough pieces remaining on offense for Kelly to remain in the vicinity of last year’s totals.
9. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma’s wide receiving corps limits Mayfield’s ranking for now, as he loses his top playmaker from last season in Sterling Shepard. Adding to that, the expectation is for Mayfield to run less as well with no proven backup behind him. Expect Mayfield to put up big numbers, but topping last season (3,700 yards passing/43 TDs) would be a stretch.
10. Seth Russell, Baylor
Earlier this offseason, Russell was in line to be the No. 1 quarterback taken in upcoming college fantasy drafts. But that was prior to the dismissal of head coach Art Briles, the architect of one of the most potent offenses in all of college football. Interim head coach Jim Grobe has utilized option-based offenses at his previous stops, which lends to the thought we could see the Bears incorporate the running game more this year, resulting in a slight drop in Russell’s stock. That and I don’t suspect Russell will be scrambling as much following last year’s neck injury.
11. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
Which Howard will we get in 2016? The one that threw for more than yards and five touchdowns in the Cactus Bowl win over Arizona State or the Howard that threw for at least one interception in nine consecutive games? This ranking is betting on the former as I think Howard will be at his best during his senior season on an offense that returns four out of its top five receivers and eight starters overall. Howard should come close to 4,000 total yards this season.
12. Matt Davis, SMU
Davis had an up and down first season with the Mustangs, but much of that was due in part to youth as SMU started four freshmen on offense last year. With nine starters returning, and another year in Chad Morris’ system, a big leap in production is expected from Davis. He should outdo last year’s passing totals (2,263-16-7) and possibly top 1,000 yards rushing as well.
13. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Rudolph did not have the breakout season many projected in 2015, but much of that was due to sharing time with backup J.W. Walsh. With Walsh now out of the picture, Rudolph should finally be allowed to thrive in this pass-happy offense. Having the Big 12’s top receiver in James Washington doesn’t hurt either. Expect Rudolph to top 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.
14. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Trubisky was impressive in his brief appearances last season, completing 85 percent of his passes and throwing for six touchdowns with zero interceptions. While not the runner that previous starter Marquise Williams was, Trubisky is thought of as a better passer and still has enough mobility to run if needed. He will surpass 3,000 passing yards with ease in 2016.
15. Dane Evans, Tulsa
We knew that Evans would improve his yardage and touchdown totals under the tutelage of new head coach Philip Montgomery (Art Briles disciple), but the now senior quarterback made tremendous strides in limiting turnovers, cutting his interceptions down from 17 to just eight last season. Evans will top 4,000 yards passing with ease in 2016 as he gets back his top receiver in Keevan Lucas, who missed most of last year due to injury.
16. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
At this point in time, Kizer looks to be the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job for the Irish, though Malik Zaire will challenge him right up until Week 1. Brian Kelly has been known to rotate quarterbacks in the past, but I expect Kizer will receive the majority of the snaps in 2016, as he is the superior passer between the two. If that occurs, Kizer should top 4,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns.
17. Kenny Hill, TCU
Which Hill are we going to get in 2016 – the one that lit up South Carolina in the 2014 season opener for 511 passing yards and three touchdowns or the one that eventually lost his starting job mid-way through the season and wound up transferring? I am leaning towards the former as Hill has a similar skill set to former Horned Frogs starter Trevone Boykin, who threw for nearly 7,500 yards the past two years. Hill is a major wild card, but presents tremendous upside if he succeeds in TCU’s offense.
18. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs had his best season as a junior, upping his passing touchdowns to 15, rushing for 671 yards and 11 touchdowns, all the while cutting back on his interceptions (five). He will never throw for prolific passing numbers, especially with the two-headed monster behind him in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, but if Dobbs can take another step throwing the football while also maintaining his numbers on the ground, it will be another good year statistically.
19. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Armstrong struggled at times in his first year learning Mike Reilly’s offense, throwing 16 interceptions, but made that issue a focal point during the offseason. Despite attempting more than 400 passes, Armstrong was still able to display his dual-threat ability, rushing for a career-high 400 yards and seven touchdowns. His senior season should be his best.
20. Mike White, Western Kentucky
White was in the midst of a four-way quarterback competition this past spring, but that number was trimmed when leading contender Nelson Fishback suffered a torn pectoral muscle that will keep him out 4-6 months. White, a former South Florida transfer who sat out last season, is the likely starter with Fishback on the shelf, and has the daunting task of replacing Brandon Doughty, the school’s all-time passing leader. White will likely not match Doughty’s 5,000 passing yards, but eclipsing 4,000 is an attainable goal in the Western Kentucky offense.
21. Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
Mullens had a breakout season last year with 4,476 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. However, the senior quarterback heads into this season without his top two receivers (Mike Thomas, Casey Martin), as well as his head coach, as Todd Monken left to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator. It’s hard to imagine Mullens will replicate last year’s successes with so much uncertainty surrounding the offense.
22. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
It’s been a while since we have had a Syracuse player that was worthy of such fantasy relevance, but with new head coach Dino Babers now in charge, the Orange will be a hotbed for potential offensive stars. Dungey is first in line this year after combining for 16 total touchdowns and more than1,600 yards in just eight games last year. If Dungey can avoid injury (something he struggled with last season), he should top 3,000 total yards with ease in 2016.
23. Kenny Potter, San Jose State
After playing sparingly through the first five weeks of last season, Potter took over the starting job in Week 6 and finished the year with 1,984 passing yards and 22 total touchdowns. The former JUCO transfer had a span of three straight weeks of three touchdown passes, and had at least one rushing touchdown in six out of the last eight games. With running back Tyler Ervin now in the NFL, this is Potter’s offense.
24. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Knight looks to become the latest graduate transfer quarterback to have success at a different school. The former Oklahoma signal-caller has already been announced as the starter by head coach Kevin Sumlin following spring practices, and will have plenty of toys to work with as the Aggies return their top four receivers. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is known for a more balanced version of the spread offense, but did produce a 3,000-yard passer in each of his four seasons with UCLA. That should continue this year.
25. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Terrell enters his senior season without his trusted slot receiver in Daniel Braverman, who departed early for the NFL, but still is accompanied by possibly the top wideout in the country in Corey Davis (1,436 yards in 2015). If another receiver develops opposite Davis, Terrell should be able to match his 3,500 passing yards from a season ago.
26. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Health will be critical here as Solomon missed multiple games last season due to concussion issues. If kept upright, Solomon should be able to match his freshman year stats of 3,500-plus passing yards and another 200-plus on the ground. Finding someone to replace star receiver Cayleb Jones will help.
27. James Knapke, Bowling Green
Knapke received extensive playing time two years ago when former quarterback Matt Johnson suffered a hip injury in the 2014 season opener. Knapke started the remainder of the year and played well at times, throwing for 3,173 yards and 15 touchdowns. Former head coach Dino Babers left for greener pastures, but Mike Jinks is expected to retain the high-tempo offense that should suit Knapke well.
28. Tommy Woodson, Akron
Woodson took over the starting job in Week 3 of last season for an ineffective Kyle Pohl and never looked back, as he combined for 19 total touchdowns and threw for more than 2,200 yards the rest of the way. The junior should have a better assortment of weapons in 2016 with leading receiver Jerome Lane back, as well as Utah State transfer JoJo Natson.
29. Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
This time last year we didn’t even know who would be starting at quarterback for Middle Tennessee. Fast-forward 365 days and the Blue Raiders have Stockstill, the head coach’s son and a sophomore who already holds the school’s single-season records for touchdown passes, passing yards and 300-yard games. Losing 1,000-yard wideout Ed’Marques Batties hurts, but Stockstill should have more than enough help from fellow sophomore Richie James to duplicate last year’s totals.
30. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Fitzgerald does not have the starting job locked down yet, as senior Damian Williams provided stiff competition in the spring, but is the likely favorite to take over for Dak Prescott in 2016. As the primary backup to Prescott last year, Fitzgerald was impressive in his limited appearances, completing 78 percent of his passes and accumulating six total touchdowns. Fitzgerald won’t come close to matching Prescott’s numbers, but his dual-threat abilities and Mississippi State’s quarterback-friendly offense push him higher up the list.
31. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
32. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
33. Dakota Prukop, Oregon
34. Johnny Stanton, UNLV
35. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
36. Chase Litton, Marshall
37. Brett Rypien, Boise State
38. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
39. Davis Webb, California
40. Deondre Francois, Florida State
41. John Franklin III, Auburn
42. Tyler Jones, Texas State
43. Kent Myers, Utah State
44. P.J. Walker, Temple
45. Garrett Smith, ULM
46. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
47. Matt Linehan, Idaho
48. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
49. Phillip Nelson, East Carolina
50. Josh Rosen, UCLA
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.