Remember when you were a little kid and you saved your allowance to go to the toy store and buy yourself a shiny new toy?
Okay, stay with me here. You wander around the isles, searching for that right toy to grab. Minutes pass and your parents are becoming impatient. The problem is, there isn’t just one toy you want, but rather a handful. Any toy will be serviceable for you, but you want to pick the best possible one. That, my friends, is exactly what the quarterback position is like for fantasy football players in 2013.
In 2012, a whopping 21 signal callers eclipsed 200 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues. Twenty-one. That is the most since like, ever. Of course, you had your always elite guys, such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Rodgers has been a top-tier fantasy option for the past five or six seasons, Brees throws just about more than anyone in football and Brady is just so consistently safe. These three guys are highly regarded as “the big three” among fantasy quarterbacks and are often referred to as the top tier. Of course, this is only the beginning of a handful of viable starting quarterback options for fantasy rosters.
The second tier of signal callers aren’t as safe as the first, but just as exciting to own. Guys like Cam Newton, who’s numbers decreased a bit compared to his incredible rookie campaign, are high on my fantasy radars. He is progressing as a pocket passer, seeing a boost in his quarterback rating and threw five fewer interceptions than he did in 2011. Of course, fantasy owners salivate over Newton because of his elite running ability. In his first two seasons as a professional, Cam showed no fear in taking off and running, totaling at least 700 yards with his legs both years. With no steady runner in the backfield, he is basically the Panthers main red zone runner and has scored 26 times on the ground in two seasons. And from Week 9 of last season, he averaged 7.7 fantasy points per game with just his legs alone. His freakish size will present him as less of an injury risk than your typical running quarterbacks.
And how about the rejuvenated Peyton Manning? During his inaugural season with Denver, Manning threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both of which were the second highest of his career. His neck looked perfectly fine as he performed as one of the league’s best fantasy signal callers. With weapons all over the place, especially recent acquisition Wes Welker, Manning should once again thrive and remain a safe number one option. Don’t forget about the much younger, but higher upside of Matt Ryan. During last year’s drafts, I waited to select Ryan, and he rewarded me by taking another step forward in 2012. He thew for almost 600 yards more than the prior year and set a career high in touchdowns (32). I don’t even think I need to get into the weapons at his disposal and at 28-years old, Ryan can continue to get even better, which is scary.
This tier is what I call the “Took the NFL By Storm” tier. Superstar rookies and an emerging sophomore absolutely dazzled fantasy owners. First, let’s start with the always exciting Robert Griffin III. Ever since his first career game, RG3 was an absolute headache for opposing defenses. He threw for 3,200 yards and 20 scores. However, his real damage came from his legs, rushing for a ridiculous 815 yards and another seven touchdowns. When healthy, he is easily a top-five fantasy option, but after suffering an ACL tear in last year’s playoffs, his value has dropped a bit. Despite being a mobile quarterback, Griffin’s accuracy and decision making has been impressive, especially as a rookie. He only threw five interceptions all season long and was very effective in the short and long passing game. Only question is, will he start protecting his body?
Another rookie quarterback who wasn’t in the spotlight as much is Russell Wilson. After being drafted in the third round, many didn’t even believe this kid would win a starting job. Well, he did, and he ran away with it, tossing 26 scores and leading Seattle to the playoffs. He, too, added some value with his legs, rushing for a respectable 489 yards and five touchdowns. However, will he throw the ball enough to put up top-1o fantasy numbers? Last year, he started all 16 games for the Seahawks, but tied for 25th in the league in pass attempts with 393.
Finally, there’s Colin Kaepernick. I mean, what couldn’t this guy do since filling in for an injured Alex Smith? A huge body at the quarterback position that has good deep ball accuracy, can break off 50-yard touchdown runs and possesses an absolute cannon. A terrific offensive line, All-Pro running back, and a shiny new receiver to throw to in Anquan Boldin, Kaepernick has the arm and legs to emerge into a premiere fantasy signal caller.
The last tier contains guys that throw the ball a ton. Matthew Stafford set a league record for passing attempts in a season with 727. It was his second straight season leading the league in that category. Being able to throw the ball to a freak like Calvin Johnson should be enough reason to like Stafford alone, but now he has one of the better receiving running backs in football in Reggie Bush to dink and dump it to out of the backfield. His ADP is sliding due to inconsistency and a decrease in touchdowns, but a lot of that was just unlucky. If Stafford plays to his full potential, watch out.
The Colts certainly aren’t shy of throwing the football around, and second year quarterback Andrew Luck is more than capable of doing so. In his rookie season last year, Luck dropped back to pass 627 times, which ranked fifth most in football. He did throw an ugly 18 interceptions, but his new offensive coordinator is a West Coast offense type of guy, so expect more shorter completions and a decrease in turnovers. Luck’s legs are a bit underrated as well, rushing for 255 yards and five touchdowns last year. With no lock at the running back position, Luck could see some quarterback sneaks drawn up for him again this year.
Last but certainly not least, is a guy I am super high on coming into this season. Many may not be sold on him due to his inability to perform in the clutch, but Tony Romo is an awesome fantasy quarterback. He’s thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and has thrown 49 touchdowns during that span. Romo also finsished 2012 with the third-most passing attempts and with an injury prone backfield, I expect him to sling the football around a lot again in 2013. With emerging Dez Bryant and mister reliable Jason Witten by his side, Romo should finish inside the top-eight at his position, a feat he has accomplished in three of the last four years.
Times have changed in the Fantasy Football landscape. The days of a plethora of running backs being available to fantasy owners are long gone. Now, with ongoing rookie quarterbacks hitting the big leagues like last season, there are boatloads of viable fantasy quarterbacks at an owner’s disposal. If you want to be successful in your leagues this year, you might be better off selecting running backs in your first two rounds. Do this, draft a guy like Newton or Manning in the fourth or fifth round, or heck, wait until round eight and grab a very serviceable guy like Romo.
I know that’s what I’ll be doing.
For insurance, here are my current QB Rankings for the 2013 season:
1) Aaron Rodgers
2) Drew Brees
3) Cam Newton
4) Peyton Manning
5) Tom Brady
6) Matt Ryan
7) Colin Kaepernick
8) Tony Romo
9) Russell Wilson
10) Matthew Stafford
11) Andrew Luck
12) Robert Griffin III
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.