The quarterback position is as deep as ever in fantasy football, but the top three quarterbacks are still in a tier of their own heading into 2013.
The top three quarterbacks drafted in 2012 (Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New England's Tom Brady and New Orleans' Drew Brees) were the top three producers of fantasy points. Brees led all quarterbacks and players in fantasy points, while Brady and Rodgers were tied for second.
Brees led the NFL in passing yards (5,177) and passing touchdowns (43) and became the first player in league history to throw for 5,000-plus yards and 40-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. Not only is Brees the only player with multiple 5,000-yard seasons, but he now has three of them.
No quarterback had more games of two or more passing touchdowns than Brees (13). In addition, he led the league in 300-yard passing games with 10.
With the return of head coach Sean Payton in 2013, Brees should exceed or come close to 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns once again.
After throwing for 5,235 yards in 2011, Brady fell short of that total this year with 4,827 yards, the fourth-highest total in the league this season. Brady threw 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for four touchdowns.
With the exception of Week 13, Brady threw for 300-plus yards and/or scored two-plus touchdowns every week this season. In other words, he had double-digit fantasy points in all 16 games this season.
Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating (108.0) after setting the single-season record last year. In fact, Rodgers has had a passer rating of 100-plus in each of the past four years.
More efficient than any other quarterback, Rodgers threw 39 touchdowns and only eight interceptions last year. In 2011, he threw 45 touchdowns and only six picks.
Over the past four years, only Brees (156) has thrown more touchdowns than Rodgers (142). Brady was third during that span with 137.
Three Rookies in Top 11 Fantasy QBs in 2012
This was an unprecedented year for success of rookie quarterbacks. Five different rookies were their respective teams' Opening Day starter. Three of those rookies finished in the top 11 in fantasy points this season.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III led all rookie quarterbacks, and he was the most consistent from beginning to end. Unfortunately, RG3 suffered a torn LCL and ACL in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs and may not be ready for the start of the 2013 season.
Tied for fifth in fantasy points with Denver's Peyton Manning, Griffin was third in the NFL in passer rating (102.4) and posted a remarkable 20:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a rookie. In fact, he never threw more than one interception in any game.
While his passing stats may not be gaudy, his rushing stats were.
RG3 finished with a QB-most 815 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. In fact, he finished in the top 20 among all players in rushing. Along with Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham, he is only the third quarterback since the 1970s to rush for at least 800 yards in a season.
Even if he is recovered from the knee injuries to start the 2013 season, it would be surprising if he runs as much in 2013 (and the future) as he did this year. With knee and concussion injuries forcing him to miss time, the exciting plays he can make as a runner come with a heavy cost.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the top overall pick in 2012, led the Colts to a nine-win improvement year over year. Considering the team lost their head coach for much of the year to leukemia treatments, what Luck and interim head coach Bruce Arians (now the Arizona Cardinals head coach) did was simply amazing.
While his efficiency statistics aren't great, Luck and the Colts played from behind often, and no quarterback led his team on more game-winning drives than Luck (seven). In the process, he threw for a rookie-record 4,374 yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL among all quarterbacks this season.
Seattle's Russell Wilson was good in the first half of the season, but he was great in the second half.
In his first eight games, Wilson threw 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and he averaged 6.98 yards per pass attempt and 3.6 yards per rush attempt. In his final eight regular season games, however, Wilson had a 16:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, averaged 9.03 yards per pass attempt and 6.2 yards per rush attempt. In fact, all four of his rushing touchdowns this season came in the second half of the year.
Wilson finished the year with a rookie-record 26 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Along with Rodgers, RG3 and Denver's Peyton Manning, Wilson was one of four quarterbacks to finish with a passer rating of at least 100.0 this year.
The Mannings in 2012: Peyton Was Elite, Eli Was Not
Excluding a relatively slow start in Weeks 1 and 2, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning posted nine 300-yard games and a 34:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He finished second in the NFL in passer rating (105.8) and threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both of which were the second-highest totals of his illustrious career.
With a pair of stud receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Peyton should continue to put up MVP-caliber statistics in 2013. Both Thomas and Decker finished with 85-plus receptions, 1,000-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns this past season.
Younger brother Eli Manning had a disappointing season.
Eli ended the season with nine consecutive games with fewer than 300 passing yards. In fact, he wasn't even close to that amount in most of the games. In four of those nine games, Eli had fewer than 200 passing yards, including in Weeks 15 and 16, when it matters the most in fantasy football. When the season was over, he finished with almost 1,000 fewer passing yards in 2012 (3,948) than in 2011 (4,933).
Fortunately for Eli and his fantasy owners in 2013, he should have a healthier Hakeem Nicks, who missed three games. Although he played in 13 games, Nicks was never 100-percent healthy at any point in the season. When both Nicks and Victor Cruz are healthy, he has one of the league's top-five wide receiving duos as targets like his big brother does.
Other QB Notes
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished third in the NFL in passing yards and was only 97 yards shy of 5,000. While he shattered his previous career highs in passing yards (4,903) and pass attempts (648), he also tied his career high in interceptions (19). With stud receiver Dez Bryant finally breaking out in a big way, Romo should continue to be an excellent second-tier fantasy quarterback in 2013.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton started the season slowly, but he came on strong and finished tied for fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. In his first eight games, Newton had a six-to-eight touchdown-to-interception ratio, but that ratio improved with 13 touchdowns to only four interceptions in the second half. While he finished with fewer passing yards and scored fewer touchdowns in his second NFL season than he did as a rookie, he rushed for a career-high 741 yards and still scored eight rushing touchdowns.
The Bears had their first 1,000-yard receiver since 2002 with Brandon Marshall, who set the franchise's single-season receiving record. That said, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler threw for only 202.2 yards per game while throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. With quarterback guru Marc Trestman hired as the team's new head coach, things are looking up for Cutler.
Atlanta's Matt Ryan took a big step forward in his development in 2012. Ryan finished with career highs in 2012 (previous highs in parenthesis): 68.6 completion percentage (62.5 percent), 4,719 passing yards (4,177) and 32 passing touchdowns (29).
Like the Manning brothers above, Ryan has one of the league's top receiving duos (and arguably the best) with Julio Jones and Roddy White.
My Top 25 Fantasy Quarterbacks for 2013
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
4. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
11. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
12. Eli Manning, New York Giants
13. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
17. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
18. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
20. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
21. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
22. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
23. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
24. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
25. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
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