1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers has to be considered the No. 1 fantasy quarterback, and it really isn't that close. All but one of his 2011 starts ended up with at least 20 points. Moreover, Rodgers threw three or more touchdowns in 10 of his 15 appearances.
Those are some crazy numbers right there. While we cannot expect a repeat of a 48 touchdowns, six interceptions and nearly 5,000-yard performance, there is no reason to believe that Rodgers wont be able to come close to those numbers in 2012. If that is the case, there will be some that consider taking him with the first overall pick.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady has put up an average of over 4,500 yards and 38 touchdowns in each of his last four healthy seasons. These numbers make him a near certainty to be a top 10 overall fantasy performer in 2012. In reality, if you want to play it safe in the initial round, I recommend you go with Brady over any of the running backs available not named LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice.
This is how serious I am on Brady's consistent ability to perform for your fantasy team throughout the 2012 season. It also doesn't hurt that he has a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, none more important than Rob Gronkowski.
The reason why Brady is below Rodgers on this list is because he won't bring nearly as much in terms of rushing the ball and threw twice as many interceptions than the Packers' quarterback in 2011.
3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
This will probably surprise a lot of people, but I see no reason to push Newton down any lower. He is a hybrid fantasy player at the quarterback position, something that will be leading this game forward into the future. What the young quarterback can do on the ground enables him to help you out in a myriad of different ways.
The reality is that you could easily hold off until the third round to select a running back if you pick up Newton in the initial round. While he will not give you as many yards as some of the top 'backs in the NFL, Newton is more valuable because he adds the passing dimension to your roster.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
I understand that many of my readers would put Brees at three or even two on this list, and that is completely understandable. As mentioned above, Newton is higher because of his ability to add another dimension in the run game. I am telling you, this is going to be the trend in fantasy football moving forward.
That being said, it is extremely hard to discount what the former Super Bowl winning quarterback brings to the table. We are talking about a quarterback that has accumulated an outrageous 28,000 passing yards and 202 touchdowns over the last six seasons. Those are video game numbers right there.
To put Brees' career into perspective, he has already surpassed Joe Montana in terms of total career passing yards and touchdowns. This is a representation of the trend towards passing dominated offenses in the NFL. It is also another reason that Brees is still a top-10 pick in fantasy circles.
Don't expect any of this to change in 2012. Brees put up a total of 13 300-yard games last year, which enabled him to average nearly 24 fantasy points per outing.
5. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
If it wasn't for the four quarterbacks ahead of him, Stafford would have put himself in a situation to be a perennial top-10 pick. That being said, he hasn't reached "elite" fantasy status just yet. The primary reason for that is because Stafford missed 19 games in his first two season before playing out the string in 2012.
Hard to rely on someone with that injury history, even in such a short career to this point. The 37 career interceptions that Stafford has thrown in 29 starts should also be cause for alarm.
6. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
As I mentioned in a previous article, Romo has been one of the most consistently good fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL over the course of the last few seasons. In essence, you are going to get a signal-caller that will put up 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. This makes Romo one of the safest bets outside of the top two at both the running back and quarterback positions.
Another thing to look at as it relates to Romo is the limited number of interceptions (26) he has thrown over the course of his last 38 starts. You just wont see many negative plays coming from the embattled quarterback.
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
I will venture to say that 2011 was stumbling block for Rivers more than anything else. His 20 interceptions last season nearly matched his total from the previous two years. Moreover, Rivers accumulated 20 or more points just three times. To say it was a down fantasy season for the quarterback would be an understatement.
Don't expect this trend to continue this season. From 2008 to 2010, Rivers threw 56 more touchdowns than interceptions and accumulated a total of 16 300-yard, multiple score games.
8. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Make no mistake about it, Manning is an elite quarterback in the National Football League. His success on the football field just doesn't translate all that well to fantasy football. Manning went a total of four games without throwing a touchdown.
It wouldn't be a bad idea to pick Manning up in the third round of your fantasy draft, but it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to reach on the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
9. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
The combination of passing and running as it relates to Vick has made him a godsend for owners around the fantasy football world over the course of the last decade, give or take a few seasons. He has now been replaced in that category by Cam Newton. Not helping matters for Vick is the fact that he threw just four less interceptions (14) than touchdowns (18), while tallying just one rushing score in 2011.
Don't get me wrong. Vick is still a QB1 in my books. He just appears to be on the downswing as it relates to fantasy football and should be selected with utmost caution. If you do go with the talented quarterback, make sure you have an able backup.
10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
I really though long and hard about putting Ryan higher on this list. In fact, the difference between Atlanta's starting quarterback and Rivers a few slot ahead just isn't that great. Ryan has accumulated nearly 8,000 passing yards and 57 touchdowns over the last two seasons, putting him on the brink of elite status.
What I like most about Ryan in terms of his sleeper value is the weapons that the young quarterback has on the Falcons offense. They're going to help him a great deal in padding those numbers and jumping up to the ranks. It wouldn't surprise me to see Ryan as a top five fantasy quarterback when all is said and done in 2012.
Note: Peyton Manning would sit at No. 4 on this list if he wasn't dealing with neck injuries and didn't miss the entire 2011 season. I just cannot put him up there with the risk that owners would possess by selecting the future Hall of Fame quarterback above any of these 10 players.