The NFL over the past decade has become increasingly more pass happy making the QB position even more of a priority than in years past. Think about the top QB’s in the league: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Mathew Stafford, Eli Manning…all are pro bowl caliber signal callers and each of their respective teams have legit chances to make deep playoff runs and possibly end their season with the Lombardi trophy. Like the NFL, in fantasy having an elite signal caller like Rodgers or Brady will help your team because the points these players can generate on a weekly basis are typically higher than other positions. However because so many teams are airing the ball out, there are a number of QB’s who can lead your team this season. Following are my top 24 signal callers for this fantasy season (24 because I assume most leagues are 10-12 teams and most teams have 2 QB’s on their roster) also all points/analysis/ADP use espn.com info and standard scoring.
1. Aaron Rodgers (ADP-2.8): He was the top QB scorer last season despite playing in only 15 games and managed to score 20 or more fantasy points in 14 of his 15 starts. I mean really do I need to convince you why he is ranked 1st?
2. Tom Brady (ADP-5.2): Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns last season without a true deep threat. Now with Brandon Lloyd in town to stretch the field along with two elite TE’s and his favorite target Wes Welker, Brady is in for a great year. Don’t forget the last time Brady had a deep threat (Randy Moss) and Josh McDaniels as his OC, he went off for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns! Expect big things this season from him.
3. Drew Brees (ADP-6.9): He has been fantasy gold since arriving in New Orleans as he has averaged 4,732 yards and 33 touchdowns, and thrown for over 5,000 yards twice including the record setting 5,476 yards he had last season. Sean Payton is suspended, but I don’t see it having too big of an impact on Brees this year, he knows the offense inside and out and should continue to put up big numbers.
4. Mathew Stafford (ADP-12.0): Stafford showed last season why he was a former #1 overall draft pick as he threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns lifting the Lions to their first playoff appearance since 1999. Detroit has plenty of weapons for Stafford to throw the ball to like Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew, oh and that guy they call Megatron is pretty decent too. Look for Stafford to again show he is among the league’s elite signal callers.
5. Cam Newton (ADP-16.5): Anyone who was wise enough to draft Cam last season with a late round pick or else plucked him off the waiver wire was rewarded with huge dividends as he threw for over 4,000 yards and had 31 total touchdowns. Newton had arguably the best rookie campaign in NFL history which was remarkable considering that he had very limited time to get prepared because of the lockout last season. Some will argue that Cam is in for a down year, but even if he throws for 3,300 yards 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions (very pedestrian numbers) his running ability will vault him again in the top 10 of QB’s. For instance if he throws for the above mentioned numbers and has an additional 450 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground (he had 706/14 last season) he would end up with 257 fantasy points which would have placed him 9th among QB’s. So by drafting Cam you are getting a player who’s floor is a top 10 QB and who’s ceiling could potentially be the top scorer in fantasy.
6. Eli Manning (ADP-27.6): Eli is the most underrated passer in the NFL and showed last year he belongs in the discussion among the top QB’s in the league as he threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns. With the weapons he has in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and rookie Ruben Randle I feel very confident in Eli as an upper echelon QB1 in fantasy and is the best option if you do not want to spend a 1st or 2nd round pick on your signal caller. While I do like Eli this season I would not reach for him in the 3rd round which is were his current ADP is but would consider grabbing him with a late 4th or early 5th round pick.
7. Tony Romo (ADP-50.0): Romo has been one of the top fantasy QB’s for a while now as he has averaged 4,292 yards and 31 touchdowns the three seasons he has been healthy enough to play all 16 games. He does have a bit of injury risk as he has missed multiple games 2 of the past 5 seasons and is playing with a pretty poor offensive line. However I still feel that Romo is worthy of the #7 rank and is still a fine QB1 for your squad.
8. Phillip Rivers (ADP-61.4): Fantasy football players tend to have short memories which will cause Rivers to fall on many draft boards because of the abysmally high 20 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles he had last season. However he did get better as the season wore on throwing for 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in the second half of the season compared to 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in the first. Despite his struggles he still had 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns last season and has averaged 4,400 yards and 30 touchdowns the past 4 seasons. Don’t hesitate to take rivers he is going to be just fine this season.
9. Michael Vick (ADP-38.3): If Vick could stay injury free for an entire season he could be fantasy’s top scorer, but it is something he just has not been able to do most of his career. When he is on the field he is a fantasy machine as he still has speed and elusiveness to gain considerable statistics on the ground. If you draft Vick make sure that you invest in a solid QB 2 someone like Matt Ryan (who himself can easily be a top 10 option this year), Jay Cutler, or Big Ben as insurance.
10. Peyton Manning (ADP-44.6): I went back and forth ranking Vick and Manning but decided that since Vick has higher upside and both players in my opinion need a solid backup plan I would give the edge to Vick. You know the warning signs he had neck fusion surgery and has not played in nearly 2 years, but if anybody can come back from that its Manning. He has the best mind of any QB in history and so I feel confident that Manning can bounce back and have a terrific year. If he stays healthy I think 4,000 plus yards and 30 touchdowns are easily in reach.
11. Matt Ryan (ADP-61.9): Ryan finished last season with an 8th place finish in fantasy points and enjoyed a breakout season with career highs in both yards and touchdowns with 4,177 and 29 respectively. The Falcons are moving toward a more heavily pass oriented attack which will only benefit Ryan. He is easily capable of posting top 10 numbers yet again and is a huge bargain this year. He has an ADP right behind Rivers at 61 which is worth his value because he is the last QB I would truly feel safe with leading my fantasy team.
12. Jay Cutler (ADP-97.4): Cutler I think is in for a career year as he finally has a solid stable of WR’s to throw to lead by Brandon Marshall. Couple this with the fact that he has one of the leagues best catch passing backs in Matt Forte and you get an offense who is poised to be explosive. Offensive line troubles aside Cutler should be a Fringe QB1 in standard leagues and a solid starter in leagues with 12 plus teams. Given his ADP of 97 he is an absolute steal!
13. Matt Schaub (ADP-86.4): If you were to prorate Matt Schaub’s numbers last season you would get 3,996 yards and 24 touchdowns which is pretty impressive considering Andre Johnson was only available for a “full” 3 games with him. The Texans like to run and run and run some more but now that Schaub is healthy again and has Johnson back I think he is in line for a good bounce back year. Don’t forget the previous two seasons in 2009 and 2010 e averaged 4,570 yards and nearly 27 touchdowns. He should be fine and with a ADP of 86 he is well worth the pick.
14. Ben Roethlisberger (ADP-81.5): Big Ben was somewhat of a disappointment the past 2 seasons but is poised for a bounce back campaign. The Steelers rushing attack is lead by a banged up Issac Redman, and Jonathan Dwyer. Rashard Mendenhall may not be on the PUP list but is still not going to see the field anytime soon. With the lack of a run game Pittsburgh will have to air it out and they have a trio of talented WR’s who can get the job done in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emanuel Sanders. If Ben can stay healthy which may be a challenge due to his past ailments (has not played a full season since 2008) he could live up to his ADP in the 9th round. I however would not by any means stretch for him.
15. Carson Palmer (ADP-135.4): I do not see why so many people are down on Palmer this year, I think he played very well considering he came in mid-season to a new team. If you were to prorate Palmer’s numbers last season he would have amassed 4,688 yards and 23 touchdowns. He did have a lot of interceptions last season with 10 in 9 starts, but give him some slack he had to learn a new system in the matter of two weeks. I think Palmer will be fine this season as he has had time to learn the offense and work with his receivers, so all things considered he should be a fine QB2 who is ridiculous value with an ADP of 135 in the middle of the 14th round!
16. Jake Locker (ADP-144.1): Locker in 3 partial games accumulated 586 total yards and 5 combined touchdowns with no interceptions good for 46 fantasy points (15.3 avg). I can’t wait to see what this kid can do as a starter this season. Yes he has some accuracy issues but because of his ability to gain yardage and touchdowns on the ground I feel he has great upside, and to be honest I prefer QB2’s with high upside instead of middle of the road QB’s with low ceilings. (also its worth noting that his ADP is likely to rise quickly considering he is now the starter.)
17. Andrew Luck (ADP-112.9): As you likely already know Andrew Luck is the most highly touted QB since fellow Stanford product John Elway came into the league. Andrew has all of the intangibles that it takes to become an elite QB in the league. Still he is a rookie and will have some growing pains this season, but considering the Colts are likely to be playing from behind often this season he will be throwing the ball quite a bit. Don’t discount the colts, they still have some play makers like Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie and have drafted additional help via the draft with Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Ty Hilton. Also he has ability to add points on his legs as he had the same 40 yard dash time (4.59) as Cam Newton. All things considered I’d rather have Luck on my roster than any other rookie including RGIII.
18. Robert Griffin III (ADP-85.2): Like I said I’d rather have Luck on my roster, but RGIII is another great QB2 who can post solid numbers this season. If you were to combine Rex Grossman’s and John Beck’s numbers last season you would get 4,009 yards and 18 touchdowns. RGIII is considerably more talented and with the addition of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to the receiving corps along with his obvious upside he brings in the running game, he should be a very strong QB2.
19. Joe Flacco (ADP-119.5): Flacco is a pretty good QB2 this season as he has averaged 3,615 yards and 22 touchdowns the past three seasons. He has decent receivers in the sure handed Anquan Boldin and a deep threat in Torrey Smith, not to mention the best pass catching back in the league in Ray Rice. Can Flacco take the next step this season? If he does he will be worth every bit of his draft slot.
20. Josh Freeman (ADP-120.9): Freeman had an off year with a whopping 22 interceptions and only 16 touchdowns only one year after posting 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. However the entire Buccaneer team appeared to quit during the season, that should not be the case this year. With the addition of Carl Nicks at guard the Buc’s have one of the best O-Lines in football so he should have plenty of time to throw the ball. The arrivals of Vincent Jackson and rookie Doug Martin will also add fire power to help stimulate the offense this season. Considering his ADP you really aren’t risking much to get him.
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick (ADP-138.1): Fitzpatrick started the season strong with 64 fantasy points through the first 3 games then struggled for the rest his season. He was very up and down as he scored 14 or more fantasy points in 7 contests while scoring single digits in the same amount of games. If he can stay steady this season he could drastically outplay his ADP.
22. Andy Dalton (ADP-120.1): Dalton had a great rookie season with 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns which was even more impressive considering he had limited time to prepare for the season with the NFL lockout. He has one of the best young talents to throw to in A.J. Green and if he can avoid a sophomore slump should put up even better numbers.
23. Alex Smith (ADP-117.8): Smith is the definition of a game manager, he is efficient with the ball and his main job is to not lose the game for them. Many look to the additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and A.J. Jenkins and instantly think that Smith is in for a career year. However I look at the addition of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James into an already stacked backfield and see the 49ers running and running and running some more this season. And ask yourself this…even if he is in store for a career is that really saying much considering his best season came last year with 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns? I think not. Don’t be a fool and reach for Smith because he is still just average, however if he falls to the 12-13th round he is not a bad option.
24. Christian Ponder (ADP-170): Ponder is going un-drafted in many leagues because there is such a strong stable of QB’s this year. Still I think that ponder can be a decent QB2 this season especially if the Vikings realize the need to use Harvin more and once Jerome Simpson comes back from a suspension. At this point in the draft you could definitely do worse.
So there you have it fantasy fans my updated QB rankings for the 2012 season. Hopefully I did this with enough time to help those of you with late drafts. As always comments are encouraged.