2012 Fantasy Football: Early QB Rankings
Last season was insane for the quarterback position in fantasy football. A rookie threw for 4,000 yards and rushed for 14 touchdowns. Who knew Cam Newton had it in him?
The league had three 5,000 yard passers, and three also passed for over 40 touchdowns.
Clearly, this is a passing man’s league.
With that in mind, now is as good a time as any to start the process to trying to figure out exactly who will be the top fantasy quarterback to own in 2012, and who down the line could end up being a quality steal in drafts.
Here are my early quarterback rankings for 2012:
1. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Who else? Rodgers had nearly 400 fantasy points in standard leagues, and racked up 4,600+ passing yards and 45 touchdowns in just 15 games. Give him one more game, and he could have had 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Seriously.
2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
A lot of people were worried Brady wasn’t going to be the same anymore after taking a step back following his knee injury back in 2009. I said they’d be wrong, because 2009 was all about Brady getting comfortable again. And after that, he’d be back on an elite level.
It turns out I was right (and many others, I’m sure), as Brady has been outside of this world the past two years, piling up 9,000+ passing yards and 75 touchdowns, while throwing just 16 interceptions.
That isn’t going to suddenly stop in 2012. He has a freak in Rob Gronkowski, the best slot receiver in the game in Wes Welker, and very solid secondary options in Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. Brady could actually be even better in 2012.
3. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
I’m only ranking Brees below Brady because there are a few things that are bothersome. Sean Payton not being there, along with other suspensions and the fact that Brees isn’t even signed – those things all worry me. Still, even if Brees isn’t throwing for a CFL-like 5,400+ yards and 46 touchdowns, he’s still going to have a huge year. Cuz he’s friggin’ Drew Brees, that’s why.
4. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
I like Newton at four because of his excellent tools and versatility as a fantasy weapon. I don’t think he runs for 14 touchdowns again, but he’s such a weapon near the goal-line that he could still creep toward 10. And he’ll only get better as a passer, so close to 4,000 yards and 20+ touchdowns should be a lock, too.
The fact is, this dude is changing the way we look at the quarterback position, and he was still considered raw entering his rookie year. He’s only going to get better.
5. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
Stafford is a gamer. There’s no doubt about it. Throwing for 5,000+ yards and 41 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter was no fluke. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t put up elite production again.
With that said, consider the following: he’s only made it healthy through one full season, he throws picks, and his top receiver (Calvin Johnson) is on the cover of Madden this year. None of those are reasons to not draft him, but they are tiny red flags to consider.
6. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles)
Vick was sought after in 2011 fantasy drafts as if he knew the location of the fountain of youth. Unfortunately, the risks he carried ended up out-weighing all of that potential, and he was a huge disappointment if you drafted him in the first round. If not he was still solid, but probably still not what you expected.
Vick was hurt for most of 2011, his team wasn’t playing well, he wasn’t protected properly, and he made some really bad throws. That all led to a career high in interceptions and the loss of trust from fantasy owners.
But it could be time for Vick to tease us again. He is still an exceptional athlete with a big arm, and he has loads of talent around him. If he can stay healthy, he’s still a top-10 option with the upside to carry him into the top-three.
7. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
I love the fact that 2011 was a bad year for Rivers, and he still passed for over 4,600 yards and 27 touchdowns. Sure, it was a weak season when you compare him to the guys who threw for 40+ touchdowns, but if you owned Rivers, you were still doing pretty good.
The fact that he was still solid despite turnover struggles (25 total), makes me believe he’ll come back stronger in 2012 and blow everyone away. He has a solid running back, an elite tight end, and a quality receiving corps. The loss of Vincent Jackson doesn’t make me feel good, but Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown aren’t bad options, collectively. Maybe I’m the only one, but I really like Rivers for 2012, and I’m confident you can even get him at a bargain after round four.
8. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
The Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL, Peyton’s little brother can’t get any respect. Hey, at least he’s still cracking my top-10 and he’s above his big bro.
Manning said he was elite early last year, and he proved it down the stretch with nearly 5,000 passing yards en route to his second Super Bowl victory. He’s not as consistent as you’d like from week to week, but he does give you huge games from time to time. Last year’s yardage swoon might be a bit of an aberration, but he’s still a lock for about 4,000 yards and 27-30 scores. And that ain’t bad.
9. Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos)
I get the concerns – that’s why he’s barely inside my top-10. Manning has been away from the game for a year and he’s had his neck poked and prodded at more than the Pillsbury doughboy. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get it done. He has solid weapons in Denver and he’s still Peyton. If the Broncos can protect him, expect close to his usual production.
10. Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)
Romo is a beast, yet people don’t really view him as an elite fantasy quarterback. At least, not compared to the sick guys in the top-five. Still, Romo was insane in 2011, as he passed for over 4,100 yards and 31 touchdowns, despite playing with cracked ribs for a few weeks.
He’s accurate, throws less picks than advertised, and has awesome weapons. Sooner or later it’s all going to come together and equate to a career year. It could happen in 2012.
11. Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Freeman was shaky as a rookie, exceptional in year two, and broke down in year three. In the fantasy realm, 2012 may be his make or break season – especially with the addition of big-play man, Vincent Jackson. I personally think Freeman had too much pressure on him last year, and not enough help from his supporting cast. V-Jax makes Mike Williams one of the best number two receivers in the game, and the addition of Doug Martin will help a lethargic ground attack. I’m expecting a big bounce-back year for Freeman.
12. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Ryan broke out in 2011 with his first 4,000-yard season and a career-high 29 touchdowns. It’s clear that he’s solid and has weapons, but I just don’t trust him to be my top guy on a consistent basis. He’s still growing and getting better, though, so there’s definitely upside with him.
13. Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins)
Too high for RG3? I don’t think so. Cam Newton was an after thought last year, and look where that got us. Griffin III may have some bumps in the road, but overall he’s a special talent that should make a big impact from day one. He has all the tools and athleticism to be an elite QB1 right away, and I think he will be.
14. Matt Schaub (Houston Texans)
Schaub’s 2011 was ruined by a bum foot, but still tossed for 2,400+ yards and 15 touchdowns in just 10 starts. The fact that he went down makes you wonder if his fragility is returning, but when healthy, there’s no doubting his elite ability and the weapons that surround him. He’s a risk, just like anyone coming off of injury, but he could be a major steal, as well.
15. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben is that steady, safe option that isn’t sexy. In fact, most times you cringe when drafting him, but later you rest easy in knowing he’s on your roster. As long as Mike Wallace plays, Big Ben should be solid again in 2012.
16. Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
Cutler went down last year, but it was just his thumb and he’ll be back at 100%, along with a new but familiar toy in Brandon Marshall. Mike Martz is gone and the Bears have begun to take their offense seriously, so I like Cutler’s chances of posting his best numbers as a Bear. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a top-10 passer in 2012, but it’ll mean QB1 numbers.
17. Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)
I can see Flacco is getting better and I don’t hate his weapons, but I still don’t think it’s quite good enough. Not for a QB1 I have to trust week in and week out. He has the potential to blow up at any time, but overall he’s too average to go much higher than 17.
18. Jake Locker (Tennessee Titans)
For now, I’m assuming Locker beats out Matt Hasselbeck for the starting gig in Tennessee. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, and has a better arm, too. He also flashed brilliance as a rookie, and I think it’s time he is the guy under center. If that happens, he could be a huge sleeper with a hopefully strong round attack and some nice weapons in the passing game. His ability to run gives him that added dimension that would keep him inside the top-20.
19. Carson Palmer (Oakland Raiders)
Palmer is going to throw picks and lose games. That’s just what the dude does. But I’m not going to damn him for that when he can pile on the yardage and touchdowns in this offense. Hypothetically, at least. His receivers are explosive and he doesn’t have any competition, so he’ll start and has reasonable potential heading into 2012.
20. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
Luck is a cerebral quarterback with all the tools necessary to be productive. With solid weapons around him from day one, I can’t imagine a talented quarterback with such a good head on his shoulders tanking. He’ll make some mistakes, but I think he sticks inside the top-20 and ends up being a serviceable QB2 at the very least.
21. Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams)
The jury is out on Bradford, who was solid as a rookie but was beyond average in 2011. His weapons had a lot to do with it, while he was also hurt (ankle) for a good portion of the year. The Rams drafted some nice talent, so hopefully his stock will start to pick up a bit.
22. Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo Bills)
Fitzpatrick is your classic average fantasy quarterback. He’s solid in spurts, but overall he’s inconsistent. He started incredibly hot in 2011, and then faded over the final 13 games. That’s quite the fade if you ask me. I think he’s serviceable, but you shouldn’t bank on him as your QB1 for the entire year.
23. Kevin Kolb (Arizona Cardinals)
Classic high risk/high reward with Kolb. He’s flashed great potential in Philly and Arizona, but he’s also been a very inconsistent and erratic option. Toss injury-prone to the pile if you’re looking at his 2011 season. Still, he’s got the talent and the weapons, so he’s a sleeper worth taking a chance on as a backup.
24. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
Dalton was very solid as a rookie and should only get better with quality talent around him. However, he’s still young and in an offense that likes to run the ball. He’ll be a decent QB2, but I don’t expect much more than that in year two.
25. Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers)
Having Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will help Smith, but he pretty much “is what he is” at this point in his career. He can post decent numbers, but this is still a ball control offense. He isn’t likely to blow up anytime soon.
26. Matt Flynn (Seattle Seahawks)
I’m high on Flynn, but this three-headed quarterback race in Seattle has me worried. I think Flynn can be a very solid starter, but he’s currently in limbo.
27. Mark Sanchez (New York Jets)
Sanchez actually wasn’t a terrible fantasy option in 2011 (32 total touchdowns), but he was a turnover machine and now has Tim Tebow breathing down his neck. It’s him against the world, and it could honestly go either way. That’s exactly why I’m not taking a chance on him this year.
28. Matt Moore (Miami Dolphins)
Moore was steady as the starter down the stretch last season, but he’s not a true franchise quarterback, and nothing about his tools or play consistently wows you. He lost Brandon Marshall, too, so you can’t love his prospects. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ryan Tannehill steal the starting job early, either.
29. Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs)
Cassel doesn’t have any competition in KC, unless you consider Brady Quinn a threat. I don’t, so you can count on Cassel starting most of 2012. Unfortunately, he’s not a very good quarterback and the Chiefs are set up to run a lot. I’d stay away from him if possible.
30. Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns)
Weeden is ranking so low because he plays on the Browns and is a rookie – I actually like his talent and think he can be a quality NFL starter. However, the elite talent on offense is at running back, and definitely not in the receiving corps. Weeden may struggle early.
31. Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings)
I like Ponder’s mobility and willingness to look down-field. However, he’s fragile and turns the ball over too much. He could take a positive step forward in his development, but he’s a major risk.
32. Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Gabbert was inept as a rookie in 2011, but maybe going through hell will make proving all the skeptics wrong in 2012 that much sweeter. Yeah, maybe. One thing is for sure – if he can’t look competent with a complete upgrade across the board at receiver, he’s done as a starter.