There’s a handful elite, and borderline elite, quarterbacks around the National Football League that will, undoubtedly, have big-time performances in 2015. As long as they stay healthy, of course. But there is also a small group of quarterbacks who are bound to take a huge leap forward this year. And, who knows, maybe a small portion of them could begin to enter the “elite” conversation.
Here’s a short list of guys I have pegged as breakout performers for the 2015 season:
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Of the guys on this list, I’m highest on Tannehill. In his three seasons under center for Miami, he’s never missed a start and has led them to a 23-25 record as starter despite a lack of viable weapons in a division dominated by the New England Patriots. Tannehill, 27, has seen his numbers improve from season to season, as he’s coming off his best season statistically (by far): 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 92.8 QB rating. If Miami can get his sack total down (league-high 58 in 2013 and 46 last year), the sky is the limit for a guy who now that he’s got receivers such as Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, a washed up veteran Greg Jennings and rookie DeVante Parker.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
As a rookie, the overlooked quarterback out of Louisville had an impressive 2014 campaign after starting 12 games for Minnesota. In those 12 starts, Bridgewater went 6-6 and tossed for 2,900 yards, 14 touchdowns and completed 64.4% of his pass attempts with a washed up Greg Jennings as his leading receiver. Impressive. But I think what’s the most scary about 2015 is the fact that he’ll have Adrian Peterson back, which will take the pressure off his young shoulders and will open up the playbook a little more for him. I can see him tossing 3,500+ yards, 20-25 touchdowns and completing 60+ percent of his attempts as a sophomore. No sophomore slump for Teddy when he’s got receivers like Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson at his disposal.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Okay, look, I know this probably isn’t a popular pick. But the 27-year old, entering his fifth season under center for the Bengals, has seen his numbers improve vastly from season to season in his first four years in the league. He’s led the Bengals to 10+ wins in each of the last three seasons, and though his numbers dropped from 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns in ’13 to just 3,300 yards and 19 touchdowns in ’14, Dalton has all the pieces around him on offense to win now: a formidable tandem at RB, an elite No. 1 wideout and improved depth along the offensive line. It’s Dalton’s time to finally win a playoff game for Cincy.
Others Of Note, who may need another year or two: Derek Carr (Raiders), Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Tyrod Taylor (Bills).
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images