Fantasy Football: Top 10 Quarterbacks for 2013
Running deep with quarterbacks
After Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions accumulated 5,000+ yards and 41 touchdowns through the air in 2011, the copycat league that is the NFL decided to take notice, and in 2012 it seemed like almost every offense transitioned into a pass-happy scheme (except for maybe the Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins).
2012 surely witnessed the long awaited emergence of Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, two former first-rounders who are still trying to establish themselves as elite. They've definitely taken a step in the right direction this season, however, as it appears the shackles have finally been removed, and are being trusted with bigger roles in their respected offenses.
Fantasy football owners also experienced a strange wave of successful rookie quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson (all of whom finished in the top 10 among quarterbacks in fantasy rankings).
But this season wouldn't have been as magical if it wasn't for the extraordinary comeback of one of the all-time greats, Peyton Manning, who silenced his doubters by leading his new team to a 13-3 record and capturing the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
That said, 2013 will be a season in which fantasy football owners don't feel obligated in selecting one of the Big Three quarterbacks (Rodgers, Brees or Brady) because if 2012 showed us anything, it's that there's a longer list than usual of quarterbacks that can put up big numbers.
Here is a list of the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2013 fantasy football season.
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Despite almost throwing for 5,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (4,967 yards in 2012), Matthew Stafford's 20 total touchdowns was largely a disappointment in fantasy land this year.
In the aftermath of Stafford and Calvin Johnson's rare 2011 season, where the pair connected for 16 touchdowns, opposing defenses seemed to figure out how to take the league's most dominant receiver out of the game by constantly rolling a safety over the top to prevent Johnson and Stafford from connecting on any big plays.
The duo would eventually gain momentum and pile on the yards (as Johnson crushed Jerry Rice's NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season), but they never seemed to get it going down in the red-zone.
We did, however, see a glimpse of what could be with a healthy (and cooperative) Titus Young, Ryan Broyles and Brandon Pettigrew in the lineup to take some of the pressure off of Megatron.
Stafford will have to clean-up that sloppy technique and show a little more trust in his star receiver before regaining the trust of his fantasy football owners. But, the Lions remain one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL, and it's hard not to include a strong-armed quarterback that his Megatron at his disposal.
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
As scary as Andrew Luck was in his first season in the pros, year two will be much scarier.
Finishing the season as fantasy's ninth-ranked quarterback, Luck has brought longtime-Colt Reggie Wayne back to fantasy relevance. He even sparked life into T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery, making them nice sleepers for the 2013 fantasy football season.
Given his large frame, it would be easy to forget that Luck can be dangerous with his legs. At the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, Luck ran a 40-yard dash (4.59) .01 seconds under Cam Newton (4.58). He prefers his arm as his weapon of choice, however, accounting for 4,374 passing yards and 23 touchdowns as opposed to 255 yards (4.1 YPC) and five touchdowns on the ground.
With a full season under his belt, I can't wait to see how much this Stanford alumni has matured in his second-year.
8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
It's difficult to bet against Russell Wilson, especially at home, after the way he finished the 2012 season.
Leading his team to a 11-5 record and an NFC Wild Card spot in the playoffs, joining fellow rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (both of whom are on this list), Wilson finished as fantasy's 10th-ranked quarterback (ahead of Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford). He also led all rookies and broke Peyton Manning's rookie record for most touchdown passes in a single season with 26, while racking up an additional 489 rushing yards and four scores.
His versatility and calm demeanor allow him to operate the read-option attack as well as anyone right now. And don't be fooled by his height, he has some of the biggest hands for any human being and a big arm to go with it.
Wilson has shown plenty of growth and maturity, and has brought balance to the Seahawks offensive attack, all of which has cemented his status in my top 10 quarterbacks for 2013.
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan had his coming out party in 2012, finally emerging as the top 10 quarterback everyone expected him to be coming out of Boston College.
With one of the best wide receiver tandems in all of football (Roddy White and Julio Jones), along with a savvy old veteran in TE Tony Gonzalez, it was going to be hard for Matt Ryan not to succeed.
Proving to adapt well in first-year OC Dirk Koetter's new system, Ryan finishes the fantasy season as the seventh-ranked quarterback, and outside of a couple poor performances, was fairly strong throughout the season, racking up 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns.
With news that Koetter has decided to remain with Atlanta rather than interview for head coaching vacancies around the NFL, Ryan will look to capitalize following his best season.
6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton was going through a bit of a sophomore slump early in the season, forcing many of his fantasy owners to jump ship and move on.
But little did we know, Newton had something up his sleeve (or maybe it was a big "S" under his shirt).
Newton was phenomenal for the second-half of the season, and no other quarterback was hotter in the final stretch of the regular season. Finishing fourth among quarterbacks in the fantasy rankings, Newton threw for 3,869 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air while racking up a career-best 741 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
In a situation where he's not only the starting quarterback but the goal-line back and, on occasion, leads the team in rushing yards, Newton is a must-have. With another off-season to mature, Newton should start 2013 on a strong note, and finish that way.
5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
After putting his neck injury concerns to rest in 2012, Peyton Manning has returned to top 5 form and that's right where he'll be in 2013.
Manning has always been the type of intelligent, hard-working quarterback that elevates everyone around him. So whether it was Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis or Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker in Denver, Manning will find ways to maximize the talent around him.
Manning hasn't had a viable running back to take some of the pressure off since Edgerrin James back in his Colts days, but the Broncos appear to have two backs that can get the job done in Willis McGahee, and most recently, Knowshon Moreno.
With so many weapons at his disposal, Manning should continue his elite play and is fully expected to remain in the top 10 in 2013.
4. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
I'm going to rank Robert Griffin III right outside the Big Three, because I can't imagine him hitting a sophomore slump the way Cam Newton did for the first-half of the 2012 season.
Despite his remarkable athleticism, he's a true quarterback at heart, and is capable of making plays with his arm just as well as he does with his legs.
Watching RG3 and the Redskins absolutely freeze DeMarcus Ware, one of the best linebackers in football, with the read-option while leaving him practically uncovered in Week 17 further solidifies RG3's rank in the top 5.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady will always be Tom Brady until his hip breaks.
As long as coach Bill Belichick is calling the shots and the Patriots have Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd at Brady's disposal, he'll continue to be great.
Scratch that, because after Brady lost his most dangerous weapon in Randy Moss after the 2009 season, he found other ways to succeed and here we are three seasons later talking about how great Brady is.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
For the first half of the season, you wouldn't have known the Saints had a running game because all they did was pass.
With a streaky defense that let opposing teams rack up the points, it was up to Drew Brees to keep the score close and his team in the game.
Remaining in the top 3 in fantasy quarterback rankings for most of the season, his fantasy production took a hit when the Saints attempted to experiment with their three-headed rushing attack (with Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory) and put an emphasis on the run game.
Brees should return to top form when coach Sean Payton returns to the Saints' sideline after serving his season-long ban. Strengthening the defense wouldn't hurt as well, then maybe Brees wouldn't throw as many interceptions in comeback mode when he has to attempt 50+ passes.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Anytime a quarterback loses his top two receivers (Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson) for most of the season yet still finds a way to catapult his No. 3 and 4 receivers (James Jones and Randall Cobb) into the top 20 in fantasy wide receiver rankings by the end of the regular season, and still finish as the second best quarterback in fantasy football, he deserves top recognition.
Aaron Rodgers will continue to be the safest, most-rewarding quarterback worth taking in the first-round.