<
>

Mike Clay's quarterback dynasty rankings

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have bright futures, but which one is the better investment in dynasty leagues? Getty Images

The 2016 free-agency period and NFL draft are in the books, which means we have a pretty good idea what each team's roster will look like this season. We're still a couple of months away from a majority of fantasy drafts, but the season never ends in dynasty leagues, and it's never too early to start thinking about your keeper picks.

To answer your keeper/dynasty league questions, below are my 2016 rankings at quarterback. And please be sure to check my overall top-200 dynasty rankings, as well as my dynasty rankings for 2016 rookies.

More dynasty ranks by position: RB | WR | TE

Ages shown are as of Sept. 8, 2016 (years-months).

Tier 1

1. Cam Newton (CAR), Age: 27-3

2. Russell Wilson (SEA), Age: 27-9

3. Andrew Luck (IND), Age: 26-11

4. Aaron Rodgers (GB), Age: 32-9

The best of the best. If you have one of these players on your dynasty team, you have an advantage against the field for several reasons. First of all, you have a high-end player, and secondly, you have less of a need to use valuable bench spots on depth at the position.

Newton is the reigning top-scoring fantasy quarterback and scored a ridiculous 45 touchdowns last season. He's in his prime at 27 years old, but it's fair to expect some dip in his rushing production as he creeps closer to 30. Wilson joined Newton and Tyrod Taylor as the only quarterbacks to eclipse 100 carries last season. Wilson is also 27, and although Seattle operates a run-first offense, he makes up for it with elite efficiency.

Luck missed nine games due to injury and didn't play very well when active last season. Still, he's 26 years old and tossed 40 touchdowns in 2014. The Colts are one of the pass-heaviest teams in the league, which helps the former first overall pick hang in the top tier. Rodgers barely made the Tier 1 cut after setting career lows in most efficiency categories last season. Of course, a bad year from Rodgers (31:8 TD:INT ratio) is a great year for most. He turns 33 this year but certainly has a few seasons of top-end play left in the tank.

Tier 2

5. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Age: 34-6

6. Drew Brees (NO), Age: 37-7

7. Tom Brady (NE), Age: 39-1

The old-elite tier. If you own one of the names in this trio, you're set in the short term, but you need to start thinking about the future.

Roethlisberger is the youngest in this group by several years, but he has appeared in all 16 of Pittsburgh's games just three times in his 12 seasons. Brees proved his critics wrong with another tremendous season in 2015, but he missed a game due to injury and is closing in on age 38. Brady is the oldest in this tier and is expected to sit out Weeks 1-4 due to his suspension. Although he may have only a year or two left (Peyton Manning dropped off considerably and retired after his age-39 season), Brady is an elite fantasy quarterback when he's on the field.

Tier 3

8. Marcus Mariota (TEN), Age: 22-10

9. Jameis Winston (TB), Age: 22-8

10. Matthew Stafford (DET), Age: 28-7

11. Tyrod Taylor (BUF), Age: 27-1

12. Derek Carr (OAK), Age: 25-5

13. Blake Bortles (JAC), Age: 24-8

14. Teddy Bridgewater (MIN), Age: 23-10

15. Jared Goff (LA), Age: 21-10

Whether you own one of our "declining" Tier 2 quarterbacks or you're in the midst of a rebuild, this third tier is a good place to look for a passer you can build your team around.

Mariota and Winston, the top two players selected in the 2015 draft, showed flashes as rookies. Mariota was the more fantasy-relevant of the two, but he missed four games due to injury. Winston, who's reportedly in much better shape as he enters his second season, is a candidate for a major leap forward.

Stafford lost Calvin Johnson during the offseason, but the quarterback is 28 years old, works in a pass-heavy offense and is fresh off a red-hot finish to the 2015 season. After spending four years backing up Joe Flacco, Taylor exploded into fantasy relevance last season. He missed a pair of games due to injury but scored 24 touchdowns and trailed only Newton in rushing yardage at the position. Taylor is only 27 and is a candidate for a leap forward in these rankings -- if he can put together a second quality campaign.

Carr, Bortles and Bridgewater -- the heart of the 2014 quarterback class -- have had their share of NFL success, but not all of it has converted to fantasy relevance. Bridgewater could be the best talent of the trio, but he has had his hands tied by Minnesota's super-conservative offense. Although he's a good dynasty hold, I couldn't justify putting him ahead of Bortles, who finished 2015 as fantasy's No. 4 quarterback, and Carr (14th). Bortles was essentially the opposite of Bridgewater last season. His efficiency was poor, but he worked in an offense that relied heavily on the pass. It's fair to expect regression in 2016. Carr exploded out of the gate last season but took a step backward down the stretch. He is a year and a half older than Bridgewater, but Carr is positioned for a lot of short-term success since the Raiders, as a whole, are poised for a breakout 2016 campaign.

Goff, the top overall pick in April's draft, has a horrid supporting cast in Los Angeles (Todd Gurley aside), but I think he has a lot of upside as a passer, and he's nearly two years younger than Carson Wentz, who we'll get to later. Goff won't help you in the short term, but he's an excellent hold.

Tier 4

16. Andy Dalton (CIN), Age: 28-10

17. Kirk Cousins (WAS), Age: 28-0

18. Carson Palmer (ARI), Age: 36-8

19. Philip Rivers (SD), Age: 34-9

20. Carson Wentz (PHI), Age: 23-8

21. Eli Manning (NYG), Age: 35-8

22. Tony Romo (DAL), Age: 36-4

With one obvious exception, our fourth tier includes seasoned veterans who are on the fringe of QB1 territory in all formats in the short term.

The exception, of course, is the aforementioned Wentz, who was selected second overall in April's draft. Wentz is unlikely to play much as a rookie, so we may not have a great read on him until 2017. And considering he turns 25 that year, he won't be able to supply as many years of service as most young quarterbacks.

Dalton would've been a top-five fantasy quarterback if not for a hand injury that cost him three games last season. Cousins put up a 23:3 TD:INT ratio over his final 10 games last season and now has Josh Doctson in his arsenal. Palmer is the best short-term fantasy quarterback on this list, but he's closing in on age 37 and has missed 17 games due to injury over the past five years.

Rivers, Manning and Romo will each be in the "35 and older" club by the end of 2016. Rivers was second at the position in fantasy points after Week 9 last season, but injuries derailed San Diego's season. Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry will help replace Malcom Floyd and Ladarius Green. Ben McAdoo's promotion to head coach means the Giants' pass-friendly offense isn't going anywhere. Coupled with the return of Victor Cruz and, more importantly, the draft selection of Sterling Shepard, Manning's short-term outlook is bright. Romo hasn't played 16 games since 2012, and his durability is unlikely to improve at age 36. It's hard to expect more than fringe QB1 numbers in Dallas' run-first scheme over the next year or two.

Tier 5

23. Brock Osweiler (HOU), Age: 25-9

24. Matt Ryan (ATL), Age: 31-3

25. Joe Flacco (BAL), Age: 31-7

26. Jay Cutler (CHI), Age: 33-4

27. Ryan Tannehill (MIA), Age: 28-1

28. Paxton Lynch (DEN), Age: 22-6

29. Alex Smith (KC), Age: 32-4

30. Sam Bradford (PHI), Age: 28-10

31. Colin Kaepernick (SF), Age: 28-10

32. Robert Griffin III (CLE), Age: 26-6

33. Ryan Fitzpatrick (FA), Age: 33-9

34. Jimmy Garoppolo (NE), Age: 24-10

This group includes seasoned vets with low fantasy ceilings and a handful of unknowns who have an opportunity to take a step forward in 2016.

Although Osweiler is very much a wild card, the unproven 25-year-old has DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong and Lamar Miller at his disposal. Ryan was actually very efficient last season, but he plays a conservative game and his underwhelming supporting cast didn't get much better during the offseason. Flacco missed the first six games of his career due to injury last season. The additions of Mike Wallace, Kenneth Dixon and Ben Watson, as well as the return of Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, make Flacco an interesting 2016 flier. Cutler gets Kevin White back but loses Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte this season.

Tannehill's 2015 season was a disappointment, but he has plenty of weapons and new coach Adam Gase could revitalize the Miami offense. Lynch was the third quarterback selected in April's draft and may get a chance to play right away, with his only competition for Denver's starting gig being Mark Sanchez, who is currently hurt and not very good anyway. Smith has settled in as a conservative but efficient game manager who adds value with his legs. He's now 32 and has a low fantasy ceiling. Following Philadelphia's selection of Wentz, Bradford will be using 2016 to audition for a long-term deal from a different team next offseason.

Kaepernick and Griffin are not assured of having starting gigs this season, but both are in their prime years and add enough with their legs that they can't be ignored. Once healthy, Kaepernick should be able to beat out Blaine Gabbert in San Francisco, and he'll be looking at a ton of volume in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. A rebound is certainly possible. Griffin will get a second chance this year, and he's only 26, but his supporting cast is young and/or underwhelming. The road to a bounce back will be bumpy.

Fitzpatrick remains without a home, but even when he signs (likely with the Jets), his ranking won't change much, if at all. He's 33 years old and wasn't as efficient as his fantasy production suggested last season. Garoppolo is a name to watch; he steps in as the starter during New England's first four games this season. If he plays well, he'll either be Brady's heir or a highly sought-after player on the 2017 trade market.

Tier 6

35. Cardale Jones (BUF), Age: 23-11

36. AJ McCarron (CIN), Age: 25-11

37. Mike Glennon (TB), Age: 26-8

38. Connor Cook (OAK), Age: 23-7

39. Cody Kessler (CLE), Age: 23-3

40. Dak Prescott (DAL), Age: 23-1

41. Jeff Driskel (SF), Age: 23-4

42. Kevin Hogan (KC), Age: 23-10

43. Christian Hackenberg (NYJ), Age: 21-6

44. Jacoby Brissett (NE), Age: 23-8

45. Garrett Grayson (NO), Age: 25-3

46. Geno Smith (NYJ), Age: 25-10

47. Mark Sanchez (DEN), Age: 29-9

48. Blaine Gabbert (SF), Age: 26-10

49. Nick Foles (LA), Age: 27-7

50. Brandon Allen (JAC), Age: 24-0

The majority of our final tier includes 2016 draft selections. You're only interested in these players if you're in a deep dynasty league -- and if you're in a deep dynasty league, you want high-ceiling players on your bench.

Jones is already 23 years old, but he's huge, athletic and has a great arm. McCarron produced well in place of Dalton last year and figures to be involved in offseason trade rumors next year. Entering a contract year, Glennon is a good bet to be looking for a starting gig after one more year backing up Winston.

Cook is buried behind Carr in Oakland, so we won't get a look at him for a while. Kessler and Driskel could make starts in 2016, considering that their competition is the likes of Josh McCown, Griffin, Kaepernick and Gabbert. Dallas will try to develop Prescott as a potential heir to Romo. Hogan is an intriguing long-term replacement for Smith in Kansas City. Hackenberg was brutal at Penn State, but the Jets will try to develop the 21-year-old, who has a huge arm and serious accuracy issues. Brissett will back up Garoppolo during Brady's suspension and is in the long line of potential starters in New England once the future Hall of Famer calls it quits. Allen will compete for backup duties in Jacksonville.

Grayson was a 2015 third-round pick and makes the list as a developmental prospect behind Brees. Geno Smith will open 2016 as a starter if the Jets don't re-sign Fitzpatrick, which provides him with a glimmer of dynasty appeal. Sanchez is a competent backup, but it will be disastrous for Denver if he "beats out" Lynch as the team's Week 1 starter. We saw a much-improved Gabbert last season, but he'll still be among the league's worst starters if he beats out Kaepernick. Foles is currently on the Rams' roster, but it's possible he ends up being traded or cut.