I'll attack this position in greater detail later this week (via slideshow), but here's my updated rationale for this season's 32 presumed starting quarterbacks:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Matthew Stafford, Lions
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Cam Newton, Panthers
6. Eli Manning, Giants
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
8. Michael Vick, Eagles
9. Philip Rivers, Chargers
10. Tony Romo, Cowboys
11. Matt Schaub, Texans
12. Peyton Manning, Broncos
13. Jay Cutler, Bears
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
15. Carson Palmer, Raiders
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
17. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
18. Joe Flacco, Ravens
19. Andy Dalton, Bengals
20. Mark Sanchez, Jets
21. Matt Cassel, Chiefs
22. Andrew Luck, Colts
23. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
24. Alex Smith, 49ers
25. Matt Flynn, Seahawks
26. Christian Ponder, Vikings
27. Sam Bradford, Rams
28. Jake Locker, Titans
29. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
30. Brandon Weeden, Browns
31. John Skelton, Cardinals
32. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
**The biggest risers in the countdown since the July 10 rankings: Matt Cassel (seven spots), Joe Flacco (three spots) and Indy rookie Andrew Luck (three spots).
**Conversely, the most noticeable slides featured Carson Palmer (two slots), Tony Romo (two slots), Mark Sanchez (three slots) and the Cardinals (10 slots...reflecting the likelihood of John Skelton starting over Kevin Kolb).
**Regarding Romo, his ranking has been suspended at No. 9. And if favorite target Jason Witten should miss extensive time during the regular season with a potentially serious spleen injury, Romo may slip another two slots.
**Alex Smith posted career highs in passing yards and pass attempts (445) last season, and he almost broke new ground in TD passes (17) and fewest interceptions (five). But does that make Smith a more palatable option in the fantasy realm?
In 2011, he attempted 30 or more passes 10 times. In those outings, Smith combined for 2,000 yards passing (200 per game) and 11 passing touchdowns (or 1.1 per game). Comparatively speaking, Ravens QB Joe Flacco had 11 games of 30-plus passes last year; he also had per-game averages of 258.3 yards passing and 1.18 TD passes.
**The Vikings' Christian Ponder has a golden opportunity to post stellar stats in the first five games (Jaguars, Colts, 49ers, Lions, Titans), including a tough Week 3 home matchup with San Francisco (playing from behind).
**Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves some props for attaining career marks in yards passing (3,832) and touchdowns (24) last season. He also warrants modest praise for eclipsing the per-game marks of 275 total yards and/or three touchdowns—my minimum weekly threshold for elite fantasy QBs—seven times. But here's the killjoy fact of the day: Fitz tallied zero or one touchdown in eight of the 16 starts.
**From Weeks 4-15 last season, Eli Manning (4,933 total yards, 30 TD) averaged 40.36 passes per outing.
**Even if Cam Newton is not a lock to replicate last year's output in total yards (4,757) or touchdowns (35), fantasy owners should feel obligated to grab him in Rounds 2 or 3 because of last season's scintillating rookie numbers: two 400-yard passing outings in Weeks 1 and 2 (an NFL rookie record), 10 games of 30 or more passes, 12 games of 275 total yards and/or three touchdowns, seven rushing TDs from two yards or less and a rock-solid completion mark (60 percent).
**It's been said many times in The Fantasy Blog, but it really doesn't matter who fantasy owners favor more: Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford. They're both amazing fantasy performers, flanked by top-shelf playmakers on offense. But for me, I'm simply going with the QB (Stafford) who only needed three NFL seasons to eclipse 5,000 yards.
**I refuse to make any bold fantasy proclamations about Peyton Manning for the first five games, even though it would be nice to see him and Brady roll for 350 each in the Broncos-Patriots clash on Oct. 7. While I have no doubts about Peyton's long-term viability in Denver, he's still no better than my No. 11 QB for this transitional campaign.
**Aaron Rodgers' 15-game contribution in 2011 (4,643 yards passing, 48 total TD) might have been the most efficient season of any quarterback in NFL history:
1. Sixteen straight games of a positive TD/INT ratio (including the playoffs).
2. Twelve games of 300 total yards or more and 10 outings of at least three touchdowns.
3. Zero games of two or more interceptions.
History has shown that quarterbacks who throw 45 or more TDs one year endure a noticeable dip the following season. But it's still not enough to bump Rodgers from the highest perch of an impressive class of elite passers.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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