Quarterbacks have ascended to the premier position in fantasy football. The proliferation of the RBBC in the NFL has watered down the running back position for fantasy purposes. The rule changes to protect quarterbacks and the handcuffing of defensive backs in their ability to bump and cover receivers have made quarterbacks fantasy scoring monsters. Let us dive right in with a first, post NFL Draft ranking of fantasy QBs.
#2 Tom Brady, NE: Has two of top three tight ends in football at his disposal in Gronkowski and Hernandez. Has the top possession, slot receiver at his disposal in Wes Welker, and now has a legitimate deep threat option in Brandon Lloyd. Oh yeah, he is also reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who was with Brady in his record setting 2007 season. Need I say more?
#3 Drew Brees, NO: The loss of head coach Sean Payton will not deter Brees from airing it out and scoring his usual crazy amount of fantasy points in 2012. Getting him signed and in camp on time is vital for the Saints. This franchise needs some good publicity and getting Brees signed would definitely be a step in the right direction.
#4 Matthew Stafford, DET: The Lions tipped their hand in this years draft with the second round selection of Broyles. They are going to be a throwing team for now and the future. Stafford has the best receiver in the game and absolutely no running game in Detroit. He is going to throw a lot and he is going to rack up huge fantasy numbers in the process.
#5 Cam Newton, CAR: Cam burst on to the fantasy scene with a record setting rookie campaign and will be a fantasy force for years to come. Needs to improve his touchdown passing numbers, as matching the 14 rushing touchdowns he amassed last season is highly unlikely. He has nice chemistry with Steve Smith but needs to find a secondary weapon from the remaining Panther wide outs.
#6 Tony Romo, DAL: Look for Romo to have his best fantasy season to date in 2012. A healthy Miles Austin really opens up the Cowboys offense, and Dez Bryant is primed to finally play up to his potential in 2012. The emergence of DeMarco Murray as a true number one running back will open up the play action game for Romo. He has the chance to best his career high 36 passing touchdown total from 2007.
#7 Michael Vick, PHI: For Vick to be successful in 2012, it all boils down to his being able to stay healthy and on the field. He is an explosive fantasy force, with arguably the strongest arm in the league, but his diminutive stature will always make him a risk to get injured. He must learn get out of bounds or slide more to avoid the big hits. He would be ahead of Romo, if I wasn’t worried about the games he may miss in 2012.
#8 Eli Manning, NYG: Little brother has finally passed Peyton in not only fantasy football rankings but more impressively in Super Bowl victories. Eli has two top ten wide out options in Cruz and Nicks who each have the after the catch skills to turn a 5 yard pass into a 80 yard touchdown. It would help Manning if Martellus Bennett can finally play up to his potential at the tight end position as it is integral to the Giants passing attack.
#9 Matt Ryan, ATL: Ryan is ready to make his move into the realm of premier fantasy football quarterbacks in 2012. He totaled 31 touchdowns last season and will have an entire off season to get used to his new toy, Julio Jones. The combination of Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Jones creates a lot of headaches for defensive coordinators and Ryan is going to use them all.
#10 Peyton Manning, DEN: It will take Manning a few weeks to shake off the rush and get comfortable with his new set of receiving options. Once he does, he will begin to put up Peyton like fantasy numbers. Has all the requisite tools he needs to be successful with Decker, Thomas, Hillman and Tamme, so look for him to easily finish in the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks by seasons end.
#11 Philip Rivers, SD: In a down season, Rivers still threw for 27 touchdowns and ran for another. Needs to get the interceptions back under control, develop some chemistry with Robert Meachem and hope that Malcolm Floyd can stay healthy. Will have Antonio Gates roaming the middle of the field creating mismatches and as a reliable red zone threat.
#12 Ben Roethlisberger, PITT: Ben has a plethora of deep ball threats to hurl it to in 2012. The Steelers bolstered their offensive line through the draft and that is vital to Roethlisberger having a big fantasy season. As long as he is upright, Ben has the weapons to light it up from anywhere on the field.
#13 Matt Schaub, HOU: Is reported to be recovering well from the foot injury that ended his 2011 season. Has a great rushing attack to allow him to take advantage of play action and needs Andre Johnson to stay healthy for 16 weeks to really be a fantasy factor.
#14 Jay Cutler, CHI: The trade for Brandon Marshall does wonders for the fantasy value of Cutler for 2012. Just as important is the departure of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. Cutler took a beating during the “Mad Mike” era in Chicago and can now get back to his gun slinging ways with his favorite target back in the fold. Bennett, Hester, Sanzenbacher and Jeffery make up a fine collection of secondary options for Cutler as well.
#15 Andy Dalton, CINN: Dalton had a moderately successful fantasy season as a rookie and has a fantasy stud wide receiver in AJ Green. Jermaine Gresham is a nice red zone target for Dalton and don’t underestimate having Jordan Shipley back in the slot for 2012. Look for both Green and Dalton to improve on their rookie fantasy campaigns and become one of the most dangerous QB/WR tandems in fantasy.
#16 Joe Flacco, BAL: Flacco to Smith will be a call that is made over and over again in 2012. Joe has a huge arm and Smith has the speed to keep up with it. Boldin will remain a solid underneath, over the middle option and Pitta and Dickson are a poor mans ‘Gronk’ and Hernandez. Ray Rice in the backfield keeps defenses honest in coverage and he has hands like a receiver. The weapons are all in place for Flacco to have a breakout fantasy season.
#17 Robert Griffin III, WSH: While he will not match the season that Cam Newton put up as a rookie, Griffin will definitely make some fantasy noise in 2012. He has receiving weapons in Moss, Garcon and Davis as well as two young running backs that can catch the ball. Shanahan made Plummer fantasy worthy back in the day and he can certainly do the same with RGIII.
#18 Josh Freeman, TB: Freeman needs to shake off the debacle that was 2011 and look to the future with deep ball threat Vincent Jackson on board. The Buccaneers will run the ball to set up the pass and Freeman has plenty of talented toys to throw to. Winslow, Jackson, Williams and rookie Doug Martin will all help Freeman to rebound and become an effective fantasy quarterback in 2012.
#19 Carson Palmer, OAK: The Raiders have quietly amassed one of the more impressive receiving corps in the NFL. Moore, Ford, Heyward-Bey and Murphy are all quality wide outs that Palmer can utilize effectively. New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is bringing a hybrid west coast system to Oakland and Palmer could flourish. He has speed burners galore spread out wide as well as lined up in the backfield and just needs to get the ball into their hands.
#20 Alex Smith, SF: Smith was an excellent game manager in 2011 and protected the ball the way Harbaugh wanted him to. Now the 49ers have stocked up on wide receivers and Smith will get his chance to shine. No matter how much Harbaugh loves to pound the rock, you don’t spend the money that San Francisco did for a Manningham and Moss without looking to get a return on the investment.
#21 Sam Bradford, ST LOU: 2011 was a complete waste for Bradford as he struggled to stay on the field with a bad ankle, let alone produce any fantasy numbers. The Rams are now under the control of Jeff Fisher and he loves him some Sam Bradford. The Rams drafted Quick and Givens as the future of the wide receiving position, they will join Steve Smith, Danario Alexander and Danny Amendola as targets for Bradford in 2012. Fisher helped to make Steve McNair a fantasy star and will do the same with Bradford.
#22 Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUFF: Sorry, I really don’t see it with Fitzpatrick. Some folks have him top 20 and I think I may have him too high at 22. Has nice weapons with Johnson, Jackson and Spiller but he strikes me as an average quarterback. Started off hot in 2011, fell off badly, perhaps due to that undisclosed rib injury reported after the season. I don’t buy it and I didn’t get the Bills giving him the big contract either. I may just be missing something but I see a bye week replacement only in Fitzpatrick.
#23 Andrew Luck, IND: Luck could really surprise and end up finishing the season as a top 15 fantasy quarterback but that would take a lot of things falling perfectly in to place. The Colts did all they could to surround the rookie with talent through the draft but how quickly they can get up to NFL speed could hamper Luck fantasy wise. Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie are great weapons for a young quarterback to have at his disposal and will help Luck immensely.
#24 Matt Cassel, KC: Cassel flashed some fantasy potential back in 2010 but was struggling early last season before an injury shut him down. The loss of Jamaal Charles in week two really set back the entire Chiefs offense in 2011. Cassel does have some nice receivers and running backs to utilize and could have a nice rebound 2012.
#25 Matt Flynn, SEA: Don’t believe the hype. There may be a dog and pony show quarterback competition in Seattle but Flynn is their guy for 2012 and beyond. Now, who he will be throwing the ball to is another dilemma altogether. Sidney Rice has not been healthy for years, Mike Williams is still an enigma and Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are not proven commodities. Flynn may wish he had stayed in the cozy confines of Green Bay by mid season.
#26 Christian Ponder, MINN: Ponder already got his baptism by fire out of the way last season and that will help his development going forward. Of course some decent wide receivers would help it even more. Ponder has Percy Harvin and a pair of tight ends to throw the ball to in Minnesota, and needs a healthy Adrian Peterson to draw defenders into the box. Jerome Simpson will help once his suspension is over and Mike Jenkins will be back from injury. Ponder throws well on the run and that may serve him well in 2012.
#27 Mark Sanchez, NYJ: Nope. I do not see it happening for Sanchez in 2012. In fact, I believe the Jets have set him up to fail and are patiently waiting for it to happen. His number one receiver is a diva who does not trust him as a quarterback, his number two wide receiver will be an unproven rookie and Tim Tebow will be lurking over his shoulder. The end is near for Sanchez in New York.
#28 Matt Hasselbeck, TENN: If the Titans want to win now they will keep Hasselbeck under center for 2012. With a healthy Kenny Britt back on board, Nate Washington stretching defenses and rookie Kendall Wright lining up in the slot, Tennessee has a nice complement of wide outs. Oh yeah, Chris Johnson will be looking to redeem himself out of the backfield as well. Hasselbeck could put up very nice fantasy stats in 2012.
#29 Kevin Kolb, AZ: Ugh. Skelton should be the starter in Arizona but the money tells me it will be Kolb. Once Manning passed on Arizona, the quarterback position took a massive hit. Kolb is a nice man, but he is not a starting NFL quarterback. Hopefully the Cardinals switch to Skelton sooner rather than later in 2012. The team actually had some momentum once he took over last season.
#30 Blaine Gabbert, JAX: The Jaguars went out and got the kid some weapons in Blackmon and Robinson, so he had better learn to stand tall in the pocket and deliver. His rookie season was a debacle of huge proportions and I wonder if he hasn’t already developed ‘David Carr syndrome’, and hears phantom pass rushers. Jaguar fans probably never thought they would look back so longingly on the Garrard era, but I’m guessing they will.
#31 Brandon Weeden, CLE: Has little to work with other than Richardson and Greg Little. Will gain valuable experience in 2012 but have no real fantasy value.
#32 Ryan Tannehill, MIA: See Brandon Weeden and insert Bush and Hartline.
#33 Tim Tebow, NYJ: Waiting patiently for the Sanchez era to end and I suspect it won’t be a long wait. Then Tebow will work his funky magic and become a nice bye week replacement with #2 fantasy QB upside.
#34 Josh Johnson, SF: Harbaugh loves this kid and he will leapfrog Kaepernick into the starting line up should Smith get hurt or falter badly. If he gets in there, he is a sneaky good fantasy option with the ability to gain yards on the ground as well as having a cannon for an arm.
#35 John Skelton, AZ: Skelton knows to get the ball to Fitzgerald when he is on the field and isn’t afraid to throw into coverage to do it. That alone should vault him over Kolb into the starting position for the Cardinals, but he’ll have to wait for the Kolb experiment to fail.
#36 Jason Campbell, CHI: The Bears learned from the Hanie(ous) situation that happened in 2011 when Cutler went down. Campbell can excel with the weapons the Bears have if forced to play.
#37 Kyle Orton, DAL: Goodbye Jon Kitna, hello Orton. Kitna faltered so bad last season that Romo came back with broken ribs to replace him in a game. Orton can keep the Cowboys on track should Romo get hurt.
#38 Jake Locker, TENN: May actually beat out Hasselbeck for the starting gig and if he does, he moves into the Hasselbeck ranking.
#39 Chad Henne, JAX: It could be the best thing to happen for Jacksonville if the Gabbert era implodes and Henne trots on to the field. With the new toys in place for the Jaguars , and Jones-Drew keeping play action as a possibility, Henne could be a top 20 fantasy QB if called upon.
#40 David Garrard, MIA: Somebody has to keep the seat warm for Tannehill.
There we go folks. Our first post NFL Draft look at the QB position. Training camp will absolutely alter these rankings and they will be adjusted accordingly.