In case you missed the preview of the running backs, you can read it here.
NFL quarterback is widely considered the toughest job in pro sports. It is definitely the most scrutinized. Unless a teams runs a lot of Wildcat, the quarterback touches the ball on every snap and he must make calm and correct decisions in a fraction of a second.
While a great fantasy running back should be your draft day priority, your fantasy QB will most likely be your highest scorer every week.
A good fantasy QB can score 10+ points better than a middle-of-the-pack QB, but the good news is there are more quality fantasy QBs than in past years.
So, remember to select a backup with a different bye week, consider the quality of their O-line, and always be aware of the play clock…OMAHA! OMAHA! 52’S THE MIKE! HUT HUT
1 – Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers wasn’t only the No. 1 ranked fantasy quarterback in 2011, he was the No. 1 ranked fantasy football player, and he’s still getting better. If Foster, Rice, and McCoy are sure things, then Rodgers is death and taxes. He’s a top five pick overall, and without question the No. 1 QB.
2 – Tom Brady: The Patriots offense is all about precision and timing and it’s no secret that Brady knows it well and thrives in it. Brady might have the biggest platoon of reliable pass-catchers and the addition of Brandon Lloyd will only help stretch defenses. Brady also gets reunited with Josh McDaniels, his offensive coordinator during the record-setting 2007 season. 2012 should be business as usual for Belichick and Brady. Expect Brady to be around 5,000 yards and 40 TDs…no big deal.
3 – Drew Brees: America’s quarterback (refute that, I challenge you) had a historic 2011 when he broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record. But he’s had a tumultuous summer that started with an insultingly-long contract negotiation and ended with the suspension of half his defense and coaches. Brees has been the most accurate passer each of the last three seasons and his chemistry with Jimmy Graham will only improve. The real question is how the Saints and Brees will fare without Sean Payton calling plays.
4 – Matthew Stafford: The former Georgia Bulldog completed his first full season in 2011, after only playing in 13 combined games his first two seasons, due to injury. A healthy Stafford is a fantasy beast and if he can make it two full seasons in a row, being ranked the fourth best fantasy QB is the worst he will do. Calvin Johnson can also win jumpballs in double coverage, which gives Stafford the league’s both deadliest and most reliable deep threat. Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 TDs in 2011, and at just 24, he is absolutely still improving.
5 – Cam Newton: The No. 1 pick from the 2011 draft had one of the best seasons ever for a rookie QB. Though his passing numbers were well above average, Newton made the biggest fantasy impact running the ball, and I don’t expect him to reach 14 rushing TDs again. The Panthers have one of the biggest committees of RBs and newcomer Mike Tolbert will certainly poach some goal-line carries. Newton also lacks the quality and depth at receiver that the other top QBs enjoy.
6 – Eli Manning: Manning is not only coming off his second Super Bowl win and MVP, he is coming off his most productive year as a passer. In 2011, Manning crushed his old career high when he threw for nearly 5,000 yards. New tight-end Martellus Bennett will hope to adjust quickly and prove he’s no backup. If Giants receivers can break their habit of letting passes that hit their hands be intercepted, then Manning will improve on his career year. He needs to do a lot better than 29 passing TDs to be a top QB.
7 – Matt Ryan: Matty Ice has gotten progressively better the past few seasons. There is a lot to like about Ryan; he has a career NFL record of 43-19 and he may have arguably the best wide receiver pairing in the league in Julio Jones and Roddy White. The ageless Tony Gonzalez will provide a big target, and the Falcons used their first two picks in the draft on linemen, in the hopes of giving Ryan more time. Ryan will probably remain below the elite tier, but he also has the easiest schedule among all NFL quarterbacks.
8 – Michael Vick: Vick may have learned his lesson about animal cruelty, but the dude does not know how to slide. Vick was a fantasy juggernaut in 2010 but was way overvalued before 2011 drafts. His recent preseason rib injury raised red flags about his durability and willingness to protect himself. Another red flag is, throughout his career with both the Falcons and Eagles, Vick has only completed 16 games once. Drafting Vick in the 3rd or 4th round may prove to be a stroke of genius, just make sure you also select a viable backup.
9 – Matt Schaub: The Texans are widely predicted to be one of the best teams in the AFC, yet Schaub hasn’t appeared in any Top Ten lists I’ve seen. Why? People assume the Texans will be rushing for eight yards per attempt and will hardly need to pass the ball. Schaub also has brittleness concerns, as he’s only completed a full season twice as a starter. But the upside for Schaub is very appealing. He has Pro Bowl pass catchers in Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster, and back in 2009, he threw for 4,770 yards. Similar to Vick, approach Schaub with caution and a backup plan.
10 – Peyton Manning: Talk about uncertainty. How do you rate a 36-year-old coming off a dozen neck operations who hasn’t played in over a year? Cautiously is how. There’s a trend for this bottom of the Top Ten: risk-reward. Manning will have to learn a new offense and develop new chemistry with a group of young and average receivers. I’m not trying to insult Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker, but you can probably name ten pairs of receivers that are better. Manning will at least get to throw to familiar face, Jacob Tamme. Of course, if Manning looks like the Manning of old, then he will be a steal.
Philip Rivers: Rivers was a top fantasy QB for several years but is coming off a disappointing 2011 season. On the bright side, Antonio Gates is starting a season fully healthy for the first time in years. But, he’s 32 and the Chargers also lost Vincent Jackson to free agency. Starting RB Ryan Matthews is starting the season injured and it’s a big ask of Robert Meachem to replace Jackson. As a team, the Chargers have been regressing over the past two seasons and Rivers threw 20 picks last season, five more than his previous career high. As long as Norv Turner is still the coach, this team will continue sliding, in both wins and production for individuals.
Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben’s style of play has not matched his offensive line over the past few years. Roethlisberger seems to be perpetually in a boot as he is constantly recovering from the last tackler to roll up his leg. Big Ben was the most sacked QB in 2009 with 50, and he was sacked 40 times last season, third most in the NFL. Antonio Brown has emerged as a nice weapon for Roethlisberger, but Mike Wallace’s absence from training camp is not a good indicator for his upcoming season. The Steelers did strengthen their O-line through the draft, but that line needs a radical change to keep Big Ben healthy.
Josh Freeman: Freeman had an excellent 2010 when he led the Bucs to a 10-6 record. Not so much in 2011: the team went 4-11, while Freeman threw 22 interceptions. Freeman will bounce back in 2012. Greg Schiano will correct whatever problems existed under Raheem Morris and the Bucs added talent in important positions. The Bucs added two Pro Bowlers in receiver Vincent Jackson and tight-end Dallas Clark. Also, first round rookie Doug Martin should catch a lot of passes out of the backfield. Also, keep in mind that TB has the third easiest schedule for a quarterback and the Saints, who they play twice a year, will be missing many of their most important defensive players.
Jay Cutler: He may not exactly be a “sleeper” but Cutler will have a bounce back year and return to the production levels he achieved in Denver. The biggest concern for the Bears is their O-line, which has allowed the most sacks in the NFL over the past two seasons. The silver lining is they are a young group and the Bears are hopeful they can keep Cutler upright slightly more often. The real appeal for Cutler is his reunion with Brandon Marshall. Marshall can be an elite NFL receiver…when he wants to be. But maybe that’s why he and Cutler gel so well together: they’re both entirely self-serving. This will come down to the play of the O-line, but I think Cutler and the Bears are poised for a much-improved season.