Fantasy Football 2012: Updated Quarterback Rankings for Week 1

Kevin Hanson@EDSFootballAnalyst IIISeptember 8, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 25:   Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts and  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins shake hands after a preseason game at FedExField on August 25, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

For the first time in more than 60 years, there will be five rookie quarterbacks starting their team's season opener.

From the time they were drafted in late April, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the draft, would start from day one for the Colts and Redskins, respectively. Both of these quarterbacks are franchise-changing signal-callers that have been labeled as "can't-miss" prospects and have looked every bit the part in the preseason.

Aside from Luck and RG3, there were two other quarterbacks drafted in the first round: Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall to Miami and Brandon Weeden at No. 20 to Cleveland.

Weeden was named the team's starter early in training camp. On the other hand, Tannehill started training camp at No. 3 on the depth chart. After a David Garrard knee injury, Tannehill leapfrogged Matt Moore to earn the team's starting job. Tannehill had built-in familiarity with the Dolphins new offense since he played for Mike Sherman, the team's new offensive coordinator, at Texas A&M.

Whether or not Weeden or Tannehill started in Week 1, it was expected by many that they would have eventually become the team's starter by the end of the season.

In addition to the four first-round quarterbacks, the Seahawks will start Russell Wilson, their third-round pick, against the Cardinals this weekend. Wilson was the sixth quarterback drafted in April as Denver took Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second round.

Wilson played as well as any quarterback, rookie or otherwise, in the preseason to win the team's "quarterback competition." Initially, it seemed as though coach Pete Carroll had an open competition at the position for the sake of having a competition. After all, the team signed Matt Flynn to a multiple-year deal and paid him starter's money in the offseason.

Only Atlanta's Matt Ryan had a higher passer rating this preseason than Wilson, who posted a 5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and added 150 rushing yards and a score on 10 carries.

Dan Pompei of the National Football Post wrote last weekend, "I’m told in July [Wilson] often was the only football person at the Seahawks facility, as he showed up every day at 6:30 a.m. to watch tape. Wilson has a little Peyton Manning in him. ... Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen ... shared Peyton’s notes with Wilson, and they were similar to the kind of notes Wilson takes. Wilson keeps a diary of every practice on an Excel worksheet."

While Cam Newton set the Week 1 passing record for a rookie with 422 yards, it was only the second time in league history that a rookie threw for more than 300 yards in Week 1. For his encore performance, Newton threw for more than 400 yards in Week 2 as well.

The previous passing yards record in Week 1 by a rookie was held by Peyton Manning (302 yards). In fact, there have been a total of only 15 Week 1 games where a rookie quarterback threw for at least 200 yards.

As Manning begins the next era of his career in the Mile High City, he gets a tough Week 1 matchup against the Steelers. Due to a sickle cell trait, however, Steelers starting free safety Ryan Clark won't play in Denver due to the health risks from the high altitude.

Considering Manning has not played a regular-season game since 2010 due to multiple neck surgeries, I'd prefer to not have to start him Week 1 against last year's top-ranked defense. As the season progresses and he continues to develop chemistry with his receivers, Manning will be a starting-caliber quarterback again during many weeks.

Andrew Luck, Manning's replacement in Indianapolis, also gets a tough matchup to begin his NFL career against the Bears. Of all rookie quarterbacks, RG3 has the best matchup from a fantasy perspective having to keep up with the high-octane Saints offense. It's possible (or likely) that the Redskins will be playing from behind and that the rookie will need to air it out.

One of the other quarterback battles during training camp was between Tennessee quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, the team's first-round pick in 2011. While he needs to improve on his accuracy, Locker was named the team's starter earlier this offseason. He has a lot of upside as a fantasy quarterback due to his strong arm and athleticism. Against the high-flying Patriots offense this week, it's possible that the Titans play from behind early and Locker gets a chance to put up big stats.

Unlikely to be on the team's roster in 2013, Kevin Kolb began training camp as the Cardinals' starting quarterback and now backs up John Skelton, who helped turn Arizona's season around last year. It's unlikely that you would start either Skelton or Kolb regardless of which one was named the starter, but he helps out your cause if you own Larry Fitzgerald.

While the Jets claim that Mark Sanchez is their unquestioned starter, it's only a matter of time before pressure will mount for a quarterback transition to Tim Tebow. In Week 1, however, it will be interesting to see how much Tebow takes away from Sanchez's production with Sanchez as the starter.

Here are my updated fantasy quarterback rankings for Week 1:

1. Tom Brady, Patriots (at TEN)
2. Drew Brees, Saints (vs. WAS)
3. Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. STL)
4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (vs. SF)
5. Cam Newton, Panthers (at TB)
6. Michael Vick, Eagles (at CLE)
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons (at KC)
8. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (at NO)
9. Philip Rivers, Chargers (at OAK)
10. Jay Cutler, Bears (vs. IND)
11. Jake Locker, Titans (vs. NE)
12. Peyton Manning, Broncos (vs. PIT)
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (at DEN)
14. Matt Schaub, Texans (vs. MIA)
15. Joe Flacco, Ravens (vs. CIN)
16. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at ARI)
17. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers (vs. CAR)
18. Andrew Luck, Colts (at CHI)
19. Sam Bradford, Rams (at DET)
20. Carson Palmer, Raiders (vs. SD)
21. Alex Smith, 49ers (at GB)
22. Christian Ponder, Vikings (vs. JAX)
23. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars (at MIN)
24. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (at NYJ)
25. Andy Dalton, Bengals (at BAL)
26. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (vs. ATL)
27. John Skelton, Cardinals (vs. SEA)
28. Mark Sanchez, Jets (vs. BUF)
29. Brandon Weeden, Browns (vs. PHI)
30. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (at HOU)
31. Tim Tebow, Jets (vs. BUF)

Note: Eli Manning and Tony Romo, both of whom played on Wednesday night, have been removed from this week's rankings.

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