Now that the 2012 NFL draft has concluded and the offseason is winding down, it is a perfect time to start looking ahead to the 2012 Fantasy Football season.
Over the past few years the fantasy football landscape has begun to change. Running backs used to dominate the game, particularly in standard scoring leagues. Yet, that is no longer the case.
Last season, eight of the top 10 scorers in standard leagues were quarterbacks. In fact only two running backs, LeSean McCoy (sixth) of the Eagles and and Ray Rice (eighth) of the Ravens made the top 10.
Nowadays when fantasy owners construct their team it is absolutely essential to get an elite quarterback. If you do not have one, then it is just so hard to compete with the teams that do on a weekly basis.
Last season, five players emerged as elite at the position, and they remain the best bets to be in the elite class once again.
So without further ado, here is a ranking of the five elite fantasy quarterbacks heading into the 2012 NFL season.
Rodgers is the best QB in football right now, fantasy or otherwise.
In 2011, Aaron Rodgers was not just an elite fantasy quarterback, he was a machine. In 15 games, he threw for 4,643 yards to go along with 49 total touchdowns, 45 passing and four rushing.
Not only did Rodgers put up gaudy numbers, but he was also extremely consistent, throwing for at least 300 yards in eight of 15 games and at least two total touchdowns in every game he played.
Rodgers is blessed to quarterback a Packer offense that boasts a ridiculous amount of talent at the receiver and tight end positions, giving the star quarterback numerous options to rely on to make big plays.
All of the Packers' key players will be returning in 2012, including Jermichael Finley, who signed a new two-year contract with the team, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson; so there is no reason to believe Rodgers production will fall off in the the slightest.
The arrow on Rodgers is only pointing up, and he should easily exceed 4,500 total yards and 40 touchdowns again this season. No matter what type of league it is, he should be the first overall selection in the draft.
Brady will be great again in 2012.
Tom Brady had an incredible season in 2011 and proved again why is considered one of the top fantasy quarterbacks year in and year out.
Brady actually finished third in the rankings last season behind Rodgers and Drew Brees, yet Brady was not far behind after throwing for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns compared to just 13 interceptions.
Some may disagree with his ranking above Brees, who averaged 23.8 fantasy points per game compared to 22 for Brady. Yet when considering the talent around Brady that returns in Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as well as free-agent signee Brandon Lloyd and the turmoil surrounding the Saints, it is an easy decision.
With the offensive mind of head coach Bill Belichick and the incredible talent of Brady and his receivers, the sky is the limit for what he can produce in 2012.
Brees has been a fantasy stud ever since coming to the Big Easy.
Brees has been an outstanding fantasy quarterback ever since arriving in New Orleans, and he should be expected to excel again in 2012.
However, questions exist when in the past there were none.
The biggest question surrounding Brees' fantasy value for the upcoming season has to do with the suspension of head coach Sean Payton due to the "Bountygate" scandal. At this point, no one knows how big an effect it will have on Brees or the rest of the Saints offense.
The good news is that New Orleans was able to re-sign Marques Colston to a long-term deal and in doing so kept Brees' arsenal of weapons, that also includes Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson, mostly intact.
Robert Meachem did leave the Saints to sign a free agent contract with the Chargers, but Brees still has more than enough talent around him to be highly productive in 2012.
It will be hard for Brees to match his incredible 2011 season in which he set an NFL record for passing yards with 5,476 in addition to 46 touchdown passes. However, he should still throw for a ton of yards and touchdowns, but expect the Saints offense to slow down slightly without Payton on the sidelines to call the plays, causing Brees' overall value to dip ever so slightly.
Newton is a revolutionary talent.
There is no doubt that the biggest surprise of fantasy football in 2011 was the play of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton burst onto the scene with back-to-back 400-yard passing games and never looked back. By season's end, he finished fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy points, averaging an impressive 22 points a game.
The thing that separates Newton from all the other elite quarterbacks is his ability to make big plays with his feet as well as his arm.
As a thrower, Newton was very impressive, completing 60 percent of his passes and racking up 4,051 yards passing. He also threw 21 touchdown passes and threw 17 interceptions.
In addition to his tremendous production in the passing game, Newton took it to another level as a runner, rushing for 760 yards and setting an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14.
If he relied only on his ability to throw the ball, Newton may not be elite. However, running quarterbacks are deadly in fantasy football, meaning Newton should be among the elite players at his position for the 2012 season and beyond.
Stafford has nowhere to go but up.
Despite a slow start to his career due to injury, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford opened eyes in 2011 and appears ready for another monstrous statistical season in 2012.
Stafford, who was the first player taken in the 2009 NFL draft, finally lived up the hype last season as he threw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. As a fantasy quarterback, he finished fifth in scoring with an average of 20.8 points per game.
If anyone still questions whether Stafford is an elite level fantasy quarterback, he will silence all doubters this season, as the Lions offense is set to explode.
Not only does Stafford have the luxury of the throwing to Calvin Johnson, who is far and away the best wide receiver in the NFL, but the Lions have continued to add talented receivers around Stafford, which will only make him even more dangerous as a fantasy quarterback in 2012.
One player to watch out for will be second-year wideout Titus Young out of Boise State, who came on strong down the stretch last season and gives Stafford another viable deep threat opposite Johnson.
In his rookie season, Young caught 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns, which are solid numbers that should only increase.
The Lions also boast receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Jahvid Best (when healthy) and Tony Scheffler as well as rookie second-round pick from Oklahoma Ryan Broyles.
Broyles, who is coming off an ACL tear, is the all-time NCAA leader in yards and receptions and will add even more explosiveness to Stafford's arsenal.
When looking at all the weapons surrounding Stafford, who throws the ball as well as anyone in the league, it is easy to see why he has become an elite option for fantasy owners.