This may take a long, long time …
There are so many quarterbacks on fantasy radars for the 2013 campaign. Why? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because the position is the deepest it has ever been. In 2012, 21 quarterbacks scored 200 fantasy points or more, and with the arrival of some stellar rookies and an explosive sophomore out of San Francisco, there are so many options to choose from as your starter. Like I said, this could take some time, so let’s get right to the signal callers I love for this season.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Mark my words. Romo will be the biggest fantasy bargain among all players for the upcoming season. Despite he’s tendency to collapse during crunch time, Romo seems to never get the credit he deserves as an awesome fantasy quarterback. Throughout the entire offseason, I have been giving Romo tons of love, and that won’t change here. Among quarterbacks with 100 career starts, only Drew Brees has a higher percentage of 300-yard, two-touchdown games than Romo. Those big games are very welcoming for fantasy owners. And as much as people hate Romo, fantasy owners should love him. During three of the past four seasons, Romo has finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback. With that being said, I think my ranking of him (8th) is more than fair, though some may think it’s a bit high. Dez Bryant became what we were expecting him to be last season, and will be a monster target for Romo this year. Meanwhile, if healthy, Miles Austin is a serviceable number two, while tight end Jason Witten is as reliable as anyone. The weapons are there for Dallas and Romo to succeed. While Dallas may want to run the ball more, the injury prone DeMarco Murray may force the Cowboys to lean on Romo once again. Romo is currently being drafted in the seventh round, being the number 11 quarterback off the board. Trust me, barring injury, he’ll finish much better than that. Book it.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: In 2012, Stafford threw the ball a whopping 727 times (NFL record), but managed to throw 21 less touchdowns than he did the previous season. A lot of that had to do with some serious bad luck, as almost everyone knows about the Lions’ receiver’s tendency to be tackled inside the five-yard line. In fact, there were 23 different times where a Lions’ wideout was tackled inside the five yard line, while Calvin Johnson was tackled at the one-yard line a whopping six times. The Lions will continue to throw the ball more than anyone in football, and bringing in an elite pass-catching back in Reggie Bush will only help solidify the passing game even more. Expect a huge statistical bounceback season from Stafford this year.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: I’m a believer in new head coach Marc Trestman and his style of offense. Back in the 2002 season, Rich Gannon posted the highest completion percentage of his career (67.6), and eventually went on to win the MVP award under Trestman. Cutler has never really thrown the ball enough to be a very relevant fantasy signal caller, having only eclipsed 600 attempts once. That could very well change under Trestman, a guy who historically loves airing the ball out. During Gannon’s MVP season, he also posted a career high in attempts (618), and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cutler did the same with guys like Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery to toss the ball to. Cutler won’t finish as a top-12 guy, but in two-quarterback leagues, or as a bye week replacement, Cutler may be one of your best second tier options this season.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Freeman has a ton to prove as we approach the 2013 season. The team drafted rookie signal caller Mike Glennon, who is breathing down his neck for that starting job. Of course, Freeman will start the season, but he hasn’t been exactly stellar to start his career. Still, I’m a believer in his talent, as well as the talent around him. Despite having an up-and-down 2012 campaign, Freeman still finished as the number 13 fantasy signal caller. He’ll get his top two offensive lineman back in Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks and I honestly think he takes that next step this year.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: I’m not giving up on Vick just yet. Sure, he can’t seem to stay healthy, and sure, he is 33-years old. However, I fully expect him to enter Week 1 as the team’s number one quarterback, and under head coach Chip Kelly and his style of offense, there is a possibility of a rejuvenation process for Vick in fantasy land. Since 2007, Kelly’s quarterbacks at Oregon have posted rushing yardage totals of 583, 718, 668, 486, 206, and 752. The offense will be run heavy and quick. Last year, Vick was solid during the two minute offense situation, sporting a quarterback rating of 98.0. Despite what people think, Vick will be a fine fit for this offense, and with number three overall pick Lane Johnson on the team, as well as the return of Pro Bowl lineman Jason Peters, I expect the offensive line to be better, which is imperative to not only Vick’s success, but his survival as well.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: I like this kid more and more everyday. Manuel was strong in his debut on Sunday afternoon, though most of his passes were intermediate, likely in attempts to help build the rookie’s confidence. However, I think Manuel is a very sneaky candidate to creep into top-15 quarterback contention. Buffalo will run the ball a lot, but will also use Manuel’s size and athleticism to allow him to run the football. I think he quietly has some appealing weapons at his disposal in two great pass-catching backs in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. He also has a proven number one guy in Stevie Johnson, as well as some speedsters in Robert Woods and Da’Rick Rogers. Many have said he is raw, which is fair. He does have a lot to work on, but I think the upside is massive for this guy. I think Buffalo’s offense is a lot better than people think. Obviously, you aren’t drafting him as anything more than a backup, which is still unlikely because quarterback is so ridiculously deep. However, in a two-quarterback league or as a bye week fill-in, Manuel is very valuable. Don’t be surprised if this rookie makes headlines this year.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.