Fantasy football is officially here, and mock drafts and leagues are in full swing. Over the course of this week, I will give my 2012 fantasy football rankings for each position, starting with the top ten quarterbacks and so on. This might be one of the deepest classes of QB’s we have seen in a long time, and depending on strategy, it seems you can find value everywhere on the board this season.
There are 3-4 “elite” or top-tier quarterbacks this year. Most of them are familiar faces, and are being drafted in the 1st round in early fantasy football drafts. They are:
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford.
When I say elite, I mean a sure bet for 4,500+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns. These four guys deserve the status, and there is no denying that these are the QB’s fantasy football players covet the most.
After these four are gone, (most or all in 1st Round) you have a slew of quarterbacks that can be considered QB1 material. Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and Peyton Manning.
As you can see, there are plenty of arms to go around this fantasy football season, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Some other notable quarterbacks, that maybe aren’t receiving as much popularity as others, but still hold fantasy value include:
Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, and Robert Griffin III
These are all proven starters in the NFL besides the rookie RG3, and all of them are available after the “elite” class is gone. Most of these QB’s can be found in round 7 or later in recent drafts. They should be considered lower end QB1/high end QB2 that you can possibly rotate with another backup. We will get back to these quarterbacks later though in my second segment. For now, here are my latest rankings and projections for the top 10 fantasy football quarterbacks for 2012.
1.) Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers (Projected Stats: 4,600 Passing Yards, 46 Touchdowns)
Without a doubt the best quarterback in the league. His arm strength and accuracy continues to get better if that’s even possible. Rodgers threw for a career-high 45 touchdowns last season, and I don’t see anything stopping him from repeating that total again. He will be the first QB taken off the board in majority of drafts, maybe even as high as the #1 pick.
2.) New Orleans Saints - Drew Brees (Projected Stats: 4,900 Passing Yards, 43 Touchdowns)
Yes, we all read and watch the news. The Saints were involved in a bounty scandal, and head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the season. Last time I checked though, Drew doesn’t play defense or coach the team, and throws lazer beams all over the field. He’s without question he is the most consistent, reliable quarterback next to Rodgers. Last year, he led the NFL in completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdowns. Scandal or no scandal, Drew deserves the recognition of what he does every Sunday, and is the second best quarterback on the board in my opinion.
3.) New England Patriots – Tom Brady (Projected Stats: 4,750 Passing Yards, 42 Touchdowns)
Tom Brady has without a doubt the deepest core of targets in the league. With weapons like Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd at his disposal, Brady should have no problem putting up massive numbers. He surprassed 5,000 yards last season, and just fell short of 40 touchdowns. The recent uprising of running back Stevan Ridley in training camp is intriguing, and just may lessen the load a little, but Brady is Brady. Expect the same type of result this season.
4.) Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford (Projected Stats: 4,950 Passing Yards, 42 Touchdowns)
If there’s one thing the Detroit Lions love to do, it’s throw the football. Last season, the Lions offense featured the league’s highest percentage of passing plays. This resulted in Matt attempting 663 passes, totaling 5,038 yards, and 41 touchdowns. Two other factors on why I put Stafford in the top 5. Last season was the first season in his young career that he actually played all 16 games. If he stays healthy, there is no reason the kid from Georgia won’t repeat last year. The other factor is quite obvious, and his name is Calvin Johnson.
5.) New York Giants - Eli Manning (Projected Stats: 4,800 Passing Yards, 33 Touchdowns)
It amazes me that most “experts,” and people in general, don’t look at Eli as an elite quarterback. The man has won 2 super bowls, one more than his almighty brother, and both were accomplished by beating the gracious, Tom Brady. What does this guy have to do to gain some respect around here? The knock most fantasy players give me on Eli, is that he throws to many interceptions. Fact is, he’s actually improving from 2010, where he threw a massive 25 passes to the other team compared to just 16 last season. Go back further and combine the ’08 and ’09 season where he only threw 24 total in 2 seasons. Eli is fearless, a fourth quarter warrior that has paid his dues. Now pay the man with the respect he deserves.
6.) Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton (Projected Stats: 3,750 Passing Yards, 30 Touchdowns)
On the subject of elite and super bowls, after one season with the Panthers, that is what players have dubbed Cam Newton. Is the kid a good quarterback? Of course, he is. Is he elite? The answer is no. Cam Newton was a mirage last season because of his massive 854 passing yards his first two games. He was nothing more than mediocre the rest of the way, failing to surpass 215 passing yards his final seven games. Eli threw 72 more passes than Cam last year. Cam had a lower completion percentage and a lower passing touchdown total. Eli just won his second super bowl. That’s enough for me to warrant this ranking at six. Yes, he is swift on his feet, and rushing touchdowns by QB’s is a wonderful thing. Problem is, Carolina’s backfield is stacked this season. DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart might be the best running back duo in the NFL. Can’t help but notice the fact that goal-line vulture Mike Tolbert has jumped on board as well. I fully expect Cam’s rushing touchdowns to regress dramatically this season. Oh, and remember when I said most people knock on Eli about his interceptions. Guess what? Cam threw 17 last season, one more than Eli. Sorry ESPN, sorry experts, and sorry to anyone else that believes it. Cam cannot be called elite already. Cam is a valuable fantasy asset, but let’s not crown the kid just yet.
7.) San Diego Chargers - Phillip Rivers (Projected Stats: 4,700 Passing Yards, 28 Touchdowns)
Rivers struggled enormously in 2011. He had 8 games where he threw multiple interceptions. He also failed to throw a touchdown, or just managed one, in 8 of his 16 games. Not usual numbers for a guy that historically has been a top 5 fantasy quarterback. Chargers receiving core has a fresh new look this season. Vincent Jackson is gone, and Antonio Gates is permanently questionable each week. They hope to develop Vincent Brown into a reliable target, Robert Meachem came over from the Saints, and Malcom Floyd is still trying to fit in. If Gates can stay healthy, and Matthews develops into the producing back the Chargers expect him to be, Rivers can turn around his ugly ’11 performance. I expect his interception total to decrease, and he should be an easy bet for 4,500+ yards and 25 touchdowns in a pass happy offense ran by Norv Turner. 5-6th round is reasonable for Rivers, as he is still one of the better slingers in the league.
8.) Philadelphia Eagles - Mike Vick (Projected Stats: 3,100 Passing Yards, 26 Touchdowns)
Mike Vick can be a real bread winner for your fantasy team. He’s a dual threat in an offense filled with explosive teammates. However, playing a full 16 games is highly unlikely for Vick and his owners, and that will drive you crazy. He’s only done it once in his career, and has recently promised to make a more conscious effort on the field to protect himself. I actually drafted him in the Rant Sports 2nd Mock Draft based on the fact of how far he fell. He was still on the board 64 picks in (ADP of 31.9). If he falls that far, the gamble is worth it. The risk is great, but the reward can be even greater, IF Mike can stay healthy.
9.) Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning (Projected Stats: 4,400 Passing Yards, 30 Touchdowns)
Peyton’s neck injury scares me. I thought he would never play again. First off, I will not be drafting him this season unless he drops to me at a ridiculous spot. Truth is, I have no idea if Peyton’s neck stays intact after he gets drilled once or twice. I hope it does, Peyton is a fun player to watch, but it’s clear he isn’t 100%. Manning’s neck is affecting his arm strength. Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, most of his throws “have been short and intermediate, with only a handful of them long.” SI’s Peter King hints that Manning may have to become a “chain-mover” that doesn’t throw deep very much. Imagine having to hold your breath every time Peyton gets sacked this season, because that’s what you will be doing every week. Nevertheless, he is the great Peyton Manning, and his masterful display of the game cannot be ignored. Just don’t go crazy on him early, and be sure to select a decent back up in case the worst case scenario happens.
10.) Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan (Projected Stats: 3,950 Passing Yards, 30 Touchdowns)
Tony Romo was going to make my top ten, but sometimes I worry that guy just wants to play golf for a living. Live the good life, and put the pressure of being a Dallas Cowboys hero behind him. I’m not the biggest fan of Matt Ryan. He tends to be cautious sometimes, unwilling to be a risk taker despite a roster full of explosiveness. Julio Jones to be more specific, just flat out excites me. I also like the fact that the Falcons plan to lighten the workload on Michael Turner, and new coordinator Dirk Koetter wants Ryan to be more decisive and more confident in his throws. Ryan, a proven, consistent starter, is currently being drafted between the 7th-9th rounds. The upside is evident, and if you like to stack you’re roster needs in other positions early on and wait, this is the type of guy you go after.
That will wrap up this edition of the top ten quarterbacks in my 2012 fantasy football rankings. Tune back in tomorrow, where I will wrap up the rest of the quarterbacks edition, and what you should expect from them this upcoming season. I will then move onto the always controversial, running back category.
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