Now that most of the important free agents have signed and the NFL draft is over, we can fast-forward to the upcoming football season.
Just like it is never too early to do some Christmas shopping, it is never too early to work on your fantasy football cheat sheets. So there is no time like the present to work on updating the quarterback rankings on your fantasy draft list.
It is official: The NFL is a passing league now. The NFL had a record-breaking passing season in 2011, with three quarterbacks throwing for 5,000 yards and six throwing for at least 4,500. Three-hundred-yard passing games were easier to find in box scores than paper towels at Costco.
But while passing offenses are better than ever, some signal-callers should see their fantasy values dip a bit this season. Here are three quarterbacks whose fantasy values will go down in 2012:
Brees is coming off one of the greatest seasons for a quarterback in the history of the NFL and fantasy football—a record-breaking 5,476 passing yards and a league-leading 46 touchdown tosses. After a historic season like that, there is nowhere for his fantasy value to go but down.
You can definitely make the argument that Brees’ fantasy worth is bound to sink because he will be hard pressed to duplicate those amazing numbers, especially since he had never thrown more than 34 touchdown passes in a season before 2011.
The better argument against Brees throwing for 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns, though, is that he will be quarterbacking New Orleans’ offense without head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines for the first time. There is no telling what effect that will have on Brees and the Saints offense, but I will go out on a limb and predict that it will not be positive. The play-calling will not be as solid, communication problems will arise and the Saints will at times be out of sync.
Then you have the smaller factors going against Brees. Carl Nicks, arguably the best guard in the business, will not be around to block for Brees after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Speed receiver Robert Meachem is also gone after joining the San Diego Chargers.
And lastly, there will probably be a bunch of opponents unhappy with the Saints about their infamous bounty program. You think defenses might give Brees a couple extra shots after plays are over in fits of revenge? If he was not already a marked man, Brees is certainly one now.
Do not get me wrong, Brees will still be worthwhile to own in fantasy leagues in 2012. Just look for a drop-off to the 4,800-yard, 36-TD range and not a repeat of 2011.
Peyton’s little brother had the most magical year of his career in 2011. Not only did he engineer a crazy amount of fourth-quarter comebacks and lead his Giants to a Super Bowl championship, he torched his career high in passing yards by almost a full 1,000.
Manning had never thrown for 4,100 yards before 2011, yet last year he threw for an ungodly 4,933 yards. Combined with his 29 touchdown passes, it made for the most valuable fantasy year of Manning’s career. This made him beloved among crusty fantasy owners and landed him a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.
By the way, Peyton has never thrown for 4,900 yards before and will be hard pressed to do so in Denver with that weather and those receivers.
So Eli proved he is among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL like he had said he was. But considering his prior track record, should we expect him to take his fantasy worth even higher and break the 5,000-yard barrier? Or was 2011 a one-year aberration and he will settle back into a 4,000-yard QB in 2012?
I pick the latter. While Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, arguably the best WR tandem in football, are still around, Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham is not. Neither is Manning’s top tight end Jake Ballard thanks to the torn ACL he suffered in the Super Bowl.
The Giants have tried replacing Manningham and Ballard—as well as RB Brandon Jacobs—through the draft, but we will have to wait and see if the rookies can be as productive. With fewer weapons on the field, defenses might be able to key on Nicks and Cruz more.
The Giants’ schedule is no cakewalk, either. Not only does Manning have to face his familiar foes—Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia—he has to face the staunch defenses of the AFC North. He will not be lighting up Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati the way he does most teams.
Whose fantasy value takes the biggest hit in 2012?
Manning will be an above-average fantasy quarterback, no doubt. Just don’t bank on his first 5,000-yard season coming in 2012.
Even though Sanchez was berated by Jets fans and the media for taking a step back in his development, fantasy football owners did not complain about his 2011 season. Despite being his typical turnover machine, he set new career highs with 3,474 passing yards, 26 touchdown tosses and six rushing touchdowns.
But even with a brand-new, multimillion-dollar contract and a new-found friendship with former enemy Santonio Holmes, Sanchez’s job is in jeopardy. The God-loving, ball-running, wobbly-passing Tim Tebow is in town.
At worst, Sanchez will be on the sidelines five to 10 plays per game when Tebow runs the Wildcat, Green Gun, Sparano Surprise or whatever name his special offensive set will be called. That right there will dent Sanchez’s statistics.
One of the reasons Sanchez’s numbers were better in 2011 was that Brad Smith was not around to run the Jets’ option package, so Sanchez got more snaps. More snaps equals more throws; more throws equals more yards and TD. Simple fantasy math.
This is not even counting the fewer pass plays that might be called by new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s run-heavy scheme, either.
Meanwhile, Sanchez will have to deal with more pressure than ever before. A couple bad throws could have him looking over his shoulder at Tebow and get him verbally crucified by the Jets' impatient fanbase. He may get hooked out of the game quicker than an unfunny comedian gets hooked off the stage at the Apollo.
Sanchez’s mediocre receiving corps has not been upgraded this offseason. Gone is gun-toting Plaxico Burress and who knows how second-round draft pick Stephen Hill will handle the No. 2 receiver role? If this Sanchez-Holmes bromance that’s brewing blows up like a One Tree Hill romance, Sanchez will be down to throwing to tight end Dustin Keller and that’s it.
It all adds up to what could be another rough season for Mr. Sanchez and fantasy owners have to rank him accordingly.