The 2012 Fantasy Football season will see a higher value for QBs than any previous year. After four different players eclipsed 5,000 passing yards last year (and another hit 4,900), the expectations for QBs to carry fantasy teams is higher than ever. The Elite Five, as they’re known, are obvious first- and second-round choices, but who comes after them? Here are the top 25 fantasy QBs of the 2012 season:
Sleepers are marked with an asterisk (*)
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – The top overall scorer for the past decade, Rodgers is in no danger of be dethroned anytime soon.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots – His 5,200-yard season was overshadowed last year, but he’ll be the 2nd-best QB in fantasy land again in 2012.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints – Now the single-season passing yards record holder, Brees will have to carry the Bountygate-ridden Saints with his golden right arm again this year.
4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – He threw for over 5,000 yards in his first full NFL season, so the sky is the limit for Stafford this year.
5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers – After the most prolific rookie season by any NFL QB in history, fantasy owners are chomping at the bit to see what Newton has in store for an encore.
6. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys – With a truckload of offensive weapons around him, there’s no reason Romo shouldn’t put up career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2012.
7. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos – If his four off-season neck surgeries don’t scare you, then the eldest Manning will be a steal in most fantasy drafts this year.
8. Eli Manning, New York Giants – After throwing for a career-high 4,933 yards in 2011 and winning his second ring, Little Manning will be a surefire No. 1 fantasy QB this season.
9. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers – Many considered 2011 a “down year” for Rivers, but his numbers were as high as ever. However, that included his interception total, which should drop back down to normal with a revamped Chargers offense ready to roll.
10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – He was the 10th overall scorer in all of fantasy land in 2011, so Ryan will be a major steal on draft day if he falls past Round 5.
11. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles – That’s right; Vick is a No. 2 QB in fantasy leagues with 10 teams or less. Roll your eyes and scoff all you want, but don’t come crying when your team finishes 3-10 because he throws so many interceptions and/or can’t stay on the field.
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – Always a draft-day bargain, Roethlisberger’s value should rise if the Steelers re-sign Mike Wallace before the season starts.
13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans – He was a big letdown over the past two seasons, but he has a ton of weapons around him, so Schaub is high-end No. 2 QB this year.
14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – Don’t jump on the bandwagon yet; Cutler wasn’t exactly setting the woods on fire before he went down with an injury last season. Plus, fantasy owners can’t bank on the fact the Turnover Machine will just light it up from Day 1 with Brandon Marshall. Consider yourself warned…
15. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals – After a monster rookie season, Dalton has the potential to become a top 10 fantasy QB with weapons like A.J. Green around him.
16. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – He should have been a top 10 option last year after a stellar 2010 campaign, but Freeman faltered in 2011. With three new offensive weapons at his disposal, this young passer should start to find a new rhythm this year.
17. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts* – He was drafted No. 1 overall for a reason: Luck is the best rookie QB in the league. The Colts are going to throw the ball a ton in 2012 and Luck has the skills and weapons around him to succeed as a big-time fantasy sleeper.
18. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – If he can stay healthy, Bradford might have a decent season if you go back to his promising rookie campaign. However, that’s easier said than done.
19. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins – He won’t be awful, but for what the Redskins gave up to get RGIII, he’ll bust like a piñata in 2012. Don’t expect quality fantasy numbers from the rookie this year.
20. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks* – With all the potential of the receivers, tight ends and runnings backs in Seattle, Flynn is a huge sleeper this year. The Seahawks haven’t had a decent QB since Matt Hasselbeck, but Flynn might set the woods on fire in The Great Northwest.
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills – He just got paid, so the chip is off Fitzpatrick’s shoulder. However, he has plenty of quality receivers at his disposal, so he’s a very high-end No. 3 option in smaller leagues and a solid No. 2 in larger leagues.
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore is obviously a run-first team, but Joe Cool is as steady as they come throwing the ball. He’s a great bye week fill-in and backup.
23. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders – Palmer is only a decent option as a backup in larger leagues. Sure, they say he could be pretty good with all these young receivers in Oakland, but don’t buy it.
24. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans* – Big sleeper alert here. If you haven’t drafted a backup QB by the very late rounds, Locker is a great sleeper option.
25. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs – The bottom of the fantasy barrel. Dwayne Bowe is holding out, so Cassel is nothing more than a bye week fill-in in larger leagues.
What do you think? Rant your comments below on how you would rank these QBs.