The announcement of two-time Super Bowl champion New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning retiring after 16 seasons got us thinking: Who will be the best veteran fantasy football quarterbacks for the 2020 NFL season?
“Veteran” is a broad term, so we’ve put in the stipulation that the participants must have 10-plus years in the league and be likely starters, which narrowed the list down to seven.
Here are the fantasy rankings, listed in reverse order.
7) Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (Age 38)
Father time slapped Rivers in the mouth this past season. The gunslinger was a fantasy flop and, with a TD-to-INT ratio of 23/20, the best move might be to follow the retirement path of his 2004 draft classmate Eli Manning.
It looks like the Chargers captain will keep playing, but it’s unclear as to whether that is going to be in Los Angeles or elsewhere. Fantasy-wise, Rivers put up fewer than 18 points in 11 games and threw multiple interceptions on six occasions. And that’s with a lot of offensive talent around him.
Rivers’ big arm always gives him a puncher’s chance, but the water is way too murky on what was once a fantasy stud.
6) Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Age 42)
I’m going to knock Brady off as being a fantasy-relevant QB1 for 2020. Maybe in two quarterback leagues or as a bye-week backup, but he threw for his fewest touchdowns since 2008 and only tossed for more than 300 yards once after Oct. 10.
Of course, a large part of any success depends on if Brady returns to the Patriots or ends up elsewhere.
5) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (Age 38)
The multi-million-dollar question around Roethlisberger’s fantasy relevance will be how his soon to be 39-year-old body recovers from elbow surgery on the throwing arm. Big Ben has played through numerous injuries over his career and definitely has the potential to post QB1 numbers.
As of this writing, the Findlay, Ohio native is still rehabbing with no set return date. Track his progress, and if all looks good come fantasy draft time then you could end up with a late-round gem.
4) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Age 36)
Aaron Rodgers’ 2019 campaign can be described as more steady than dominant. His stat line isn’t bad (26 TDs; four INTs; 4,006 passing yards), but certainly missed on his pre-fantasy draft expectations. As the Packers delivered a more balanced run/pass offence, Rodgers wasn’t required to pass as much as in years past.
The key for a No. 12 bounce-back in part depends on Green Bay surrounding him with better receivers. The only consistent target in 2019 was Davante Adams so adding playmakers via free agency and the NFL draft is vital. Incredibly, Rodgers only had four 20-plus fantasy-point outings all season.
He’s still a relevant low-end fantasy QB1, but maybe it’s time we start lowering our expectations.
3) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Age 30)
It seemed like the stars had aligned for Stafford to take the leap and become an upper-tier fantasy quarterback. The 2009 first-overall pick was on pace for 5,000 passing yards, 38 TDs, 10 INTs and an average of 21.45 fantasy points per game before a back injury forced him to the injured reserve.
If the Lions’ leader can come back healthy, he’s got an explosive receiving duo of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, plus sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson waiting. Detroit also boasts a nice stable of running backs that includes dual-threat option Kerryon Johnson.
Stafford’s going to slide under the radar for the passive fantasy football owner, and is high on our list of late-round steals.
2) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (Age 34)
A hot start to the season cooled when Ryan returned from an ankle injury, and he never quite regained his form. Ryan was averaging an elite level of fantasy production per game through six weeks of 24.27 fantasy points and 335.16 passing yards. When he returned to the Atlanta lineup on Nov. 10, the touchdowns, aerial yardage and overall performance dropped so we wonder if he was ever truly back at 100 per cent.
The good news for the Boston College alum is the Falcons offence still has the pieces to be dominant. Calvin Ridley should return at full health, Julio Jones remains dynamic and, with a tweak or two, the rushing attack can get back to being a formidable force. If the club can re-sign breakout star tight end Austin Hooper to a contract extension then Ryan has a clear path to return to being a top-five fantasy league QB.
1) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Age 41)
The magic stops eventually for all the greats, but until we see it we’re not going to write off Brees. Despite missing five-and-a-half games due to a busted thumb, Brees was the No. 1-ranked fantasy quarterback through the final four weeks of the regular season. His numbers during that stretch are sensational: 15 TDs and zero INTs.
Brees still technically needs to re-sign with the Saints, but recent reports make it seem that it’s only a matter of time. There’s no reason to believe that the NFL’s all-time leader in TDs and passing yards is going to slow down with the arsenal of weaponry at his disposal like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.