Fantasy options to replace Peyton Manning at quarterback

Josh Rouse

With   news of Peyton Manning’s neck surgery, many fantasy owners are looking for a quarterback to replace Manning, either on a temporary or permanent basis. There is no timeline for his return, so dropping him for a more viable fantasy option is a smart move at this juncture—unless you can trick one of the owners to trade someone like Mike Vick or Tom Brady for Manning.

Depending on the size of your league, there may not be a lot of great options available. Even worse is if you are in a league that uses two quarterbacks, because there will be even less free agent options. However, here are a few options that may be available to you.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams—Though he is young, he has shown flashes of greatness. Under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, expect Bradford and his ragtag group of receivers to flourish. New wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker offers a big play option, and Danny Amendola might just go over 100 receptions this season. There is also a chance that the Rams will be playing from behind a lot this season, so Bradford’s arm will be relied upon. Running back Steven Jackson will be utilized as a checkdown receiver quite a bit, as well.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears—In deeper leagues he’s probably been taken already, but in 8-10 team leagues he may still be available. Cutler is traditionally a big-time fantasy player, but after his numbers dropped last year he lost some of his street cred. He doesn’t have the best receivers available, although new receiver Roy Williams is expected to help a bit in this category. More importantly, he’s in a Mike Martz system that is traditionally pass heavy, despite last year’s drop off. If running backs Matt Fore and Marion Barber can supply a solid rushing attack, it should bring more people in the box on defense and allow him to use his arm to reach receivers in single coverage for some big plays. Worth a chance if he’s available.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills—Fitzpatrick was a fantasy shocker last season, starting the third game of the season for the Bills and never looking back. He took receiver Stevie Johnson from the edge of obscurity to being a top-tier receiver. The trio of Fitz, Steve-O and running back Fred Jackson, who regained control of the rushing attack after Marshawn Lynch was ousted to Seattle, should provide a stronger offensive attack this year. The one negative to be said is that Lee Evans, who helped Johnson get open by stretching the field with his speed, is now in Baltimore. However, I still expect Fitzpatrick to have a strong year and be a reliable fantasy option week-in and week-out.

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins—Looks miles ahead of where he was last year now that he has a decent deep threat receiver in Brandon Marshall. The offense has been adjusted to suit Henne’s style of play and Marshall’s presence alone can open up the middle of the field for other receivers to flourish. With Henne’s arm, he is a constant threat to throw a deep pass, and now the Dolphins have running back Reggie Bush to catch passes out of the backfield and as a slot receiver. He’s a bit of a stretch, but in deep leagues he could be just the ticket.