If you want to win your fantasy league, you have to stay ahead of the game. Winning fantasy football championships is a year-round process and not just a seasonal hobby.
That said, over five months remain until the season kicks off. Maybe it's a bit too early to be looking at which players should be ranked where... BS!!!
Just because the NFL draft is still about a month away doesn't mean we should be deterred from learning as much as we can about the upcoming season.
For my first edition, I decided not to put any rookie quarterback potentials in the rankings as it would be too difficult to assess their value without having the slightest idea where they might be playing. However, I DO try to keep in mind all the possibilities when ranking the free agents.
Either way, there will be many more installments of player rankings in the coming months, so feel free to break this one down and let me know what you think.
32. Tarvaris Jackson (Buffalo)
31. Mark Sanchez / David Garrard (Jets)
30. Blaine Gabbert / Chad Henne (Jacksonville)
29. Christian Ponder (Minnesota)
28. Carson Palmer / Terrelle Pryor (Oakland)
27. Drew Stanton / Brian Hoyer (Arizona)
26. Alex Smith (Kansas City)
25. Brandon Weeden (Cleveland)
24. Matt Schaub (Houston)
23. Ryan Tannehill (Miami)
22. Sam Bradford (St. Louis)
21. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)
The Top 20 Quarterbacks for 2013
20. Jake Locker (Tennessee)
Locker has the potential to become a really nice fantasy player for years to come, and I believe he starts to put it all together in 2013.
His accuracy woes will keep his week-to-week fantasy stats inconsistent throughout the season, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he can put up some monster games as well.
First, Kenny Britt is in a contract year and out to prove he truly is an elite talent in this league.
Second, with Nate Washington falling out of favor, the electric, all-purpose wide receiver, Kendall Wright, will get a chance to shine after being horribly utilized last season.
Third, though Jared Cook may be gone, recent signee Delanie Walker has enough offensive skills to become a pretty good weapon in the Titans offense.
Fourth, the coaching staff has already come out to say that they plan on incorporating Locker’s upper-tier athleticism into the offense this season, and we all know how much a quarterback’s fantasy stock goes up when he’s utilized in the running game.
Chris Johnson’s pass-catching abilities are also a plus.
Overall, I still think it will take a year or two before Jake becomes fully entrenched as a viable option in the fantasy scene, but the potential is certainly there this season.
19. Philip Rivers (San Diego)
I’m pretty sure Philip Rivers’ days as a fantasy starter are over, but to be honest, it wouldn’t shock me to see him rise from the ashes for one last hurrah this season.
With WR Vincent Brown returning from injury, Antonio Gates a decent candidate for a comeback season and Danario Alexander (hopefully) shaking off the injury bug and finally living up to his potential, Rivers at least has the ingredients for well-baked fantasy pie.
His loss of arm strength and terrible offensive line play are obvious deterrents to such belief, but it’s possible a revamped San Diego coaching staff might be able to coax some of the old fantasy-stud out of him one last time.
18. Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay)
Freeman may have thrown for a career-high 27 TDs and had his first 4,000-yard season in 2012, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he improved any.
His accuracy is still among the worst in the league, while his feel in the pocket continues to be shaky at best.
He has the pieces to succeed surrounding him—an awesome pass-catching RB in Doug Martin, a playmaking giant in WR Vincent Jackson, and an athletic strongman in WR2 Mike Williams—but his inconsistent play and lack of growth thus far keeps him as a middling fantasy backup.
17. Jay Cutler (Chicago)
Despite the promising addition of Brandon Marshall before the season, Cutler’s downward spiral as a viable fantasy quarterback continued in 2012 as his fantasy points per game have now decreased in each of his four years as a Chicago Bear.
However, the hiring of pass-oriented head coach, Marc Trestman, should give plenty of hope for a Cutler turnaround to both Bears fans and fantasy owners alike.
Add to it the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett and expected step-up in play by second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery, and Cutler suddenly becomes a nice sleeper for 2013.
16. Joe Flacco (Baltimore)
When the Baltimore Ravens decided to move to a more up-tempo/no-huddle offense last offseason, Flacco immediately jumped up on my sleeper radar as a QB to watch for in 2012.
The first month indeed proved my instincts to be all well and good, but what I didn’t expect was how bad of an offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was.
Flacco and the Ravens offense would decline enough over the next two months to force Baltimore to make a change... and what a change it was.
As soon as Jim Caldwell replaced Cameron as the offensive coordinator, Flacco and his team would go on a run for the ages with Baltimore winning the Super Bowl and Flacco putting together the best fantasy stretch of his career.
However, after signing the largest contract in NFL history on March 1, the Ravens have since gutted their team, which includes them trading away WR Anquan Boldin.
Obviously, the loss of Boldin will hurt Flacco’s stock in 2013 if they can’t find a suitable replacement, but Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and the offensive system will all still be place, so I’m not tremendously worried here.
15. Michael Vick (Philadelphia)
Vick has obviously been a disappointment since his league-leading fantasy campaign of 2010.
After being burned for the last couple of seasons, it will be tough to take a chance on him considering his injury-marred past and the fact that he’ll be a 33-year old QB who still depends on his legs for strong fantasy numbers.
However, the Eagles' hiring of an innovative head coach like Chip Kelly makes him intriguing enough for me to list him here at No. 15.
If he can stay healthy, Vick is one of the few quarterbacks you can get later on in drafts that have the potential to give you top-10, if not top-5 fantasy numbers.
If you already have your starting QB in place, Vick would certainly be worth taking a chance on as a backup.
14. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati)
Dalton certainly made some forward strides during his sophomore season as he improved on nearly every statistical category from his rookie campaign.
In fact, through 12 weeks of the season, the Cincinnati QB was firmly fixed within the top-10 fantasy QBs. However, for the second year in a row, the youngster collapsed down the stretch when his fantasy owners needed him most.
A.J. Green alone will once again make Dalton an intriguing backup for fantasy teams this season, as will the continued rise of TE Jermaine Gresham, but Andy's ascension to starter status is still likely a couple of years away with the Bengals working on the development of last year’s rookie WR tandem of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones.
13. Eli Manning (Giants)
After a terrific 2011 season, both in real life and fantasy-wise, Eli Manning took a pretty large step back in 2012.
The expectations may not have been quite as high for him as they were for Matthew Stafford, but fantasy owners who took a chance on him as their starter were equally as disappointed with the ROI.
Hakeem Nicks’ year-long bout with the injury bug and a few other ailments across the Giants offense were part of the cause, but the “tired arm” Eli experienced in the middle of the season also played a part in his fall.
Assuming his arm trouble was a one-time thing, Manning’s potential to climb back up into the top-10 fantasy QBs this season will depend on the health of Nicks and whether David Wilson can handle enough of a load to consistently make plays catching balls out of the backfield or not.
I’m not yet sold on either one, which is why Eli is currently ranked just outside starter-status in 12-man leagues.
12. Tony Romo (Dallas)
So here are the final rankings for Mr. Romo since he became a starter for the Cowboys back in the middle of the 2006 season:
2012 - 10th; 2011 - 7th; 2010 – 30th (injured for 10 games); 2009 – sixth; 2008 – 12th (injured for three games); 2007 – second; 2006 – 17th (10 starts, Drew Bledsoe started the first six).
When you take away the years he failed to play a full 16 games, the rankings actually look pretty darn good… until you take a bit of a closer look.
Even though he’s stayed in the top-10 throughout his career, from what I can see, his final ranking got progressively worse each year as well.
The reason for this is NOT because he’s digressed as a quarterback (like Philip Rivers has), but more so because he simply hasn’t gotten any better. Quarterback play in the NFL has been steadily advancing over the last handful of seasons and unfortunately, Tony just hasn’t been able to keep up.
Whether his coaching is to blame or his teammates or Romo himself, the complete lack of advancement will likely keep his fantasy ranking in decline as more and more talent flows into the league.
The one thing that could catapult Romo into the top-10 this season is if Dez Bryant goes absolutely ballistic, which is certainly a possibility, but I’d still rather go with a younger QB than a 33-year old who’s been in neutral for seven years.
Let someone else fall for the “this is his year” crap.
11. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis)
The bad news for Andrew Luck heading into his sophomore season is that the Colts lost their offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, when he accepted the head-coaching job in Arizona. Arians was a pass-first guy, as evidenced by Luck heaving up the fifth-most pass attempts in a pass-happy NFL as a rookie last year, so obviously that will hurt a bit.
The good news is that their new offensive coordinator was the same guy who ran the offense while Luck was a Heisman Trophy candidate at Stanford, Pep Hamilton.
Hamilton may not have the same “air it out” mentality as Arians did—he incorporates more of a power-running game in conjunction with a short passing game—but that doesn’t mean Luck won’t still be passing the ball a bunch.
In 13 games at Stanford in 2011 with Pep as his OC, Luck’s average game was 22-of-31 for 270.5 yards and almost three TDs per game (2.85).
He also had a couple of rushing touchdowns, so Luck’s running abilities won’t disappear, either.
With Reggie Wayne still playing at a relatively high level and 2012 rookies T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen all expected to improve, Luck could very well end up in the top-10 fantasy QBs again in 2013.
10. Robert Griffin III (Washington)
If Robert Griffin can make it back from his knee surgery for Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season, he definitely deserves a spot here among the top-10 quarterbacks.
Obviously, if he is put on the PUP list and misses the first six games of the season, he shoots down the list a handful of spots.
Either way, because of the nature of his injury and reasoning behind how he ended up injured, it will be hard for him to climb any higher than this throughout the offseason.
His role as a running quarterback, whether it was ever a fully intended role or not, will undoubtedly be scaled back during his sophomore season, thus capping his fantasy potential for the year.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Fred Davis (if re-signed) being healthy, along with Griffin’s pure, freakish athletic ability will do him well this season.
However, it’s his natural ability and upbringing as a pocket passer that will keep him among the elite, so don’t give up on the kid too fast if you were ever thinking of doing so.
9. Russell Wilson (Seattle)
Here’s something a lot of fantasy owners either won’t be aware of heading into drafts this summer or will completely overlook:
If you were to take away the first five games of Russell Wilson’s 2012 rookie season, he would have averaged enough fantasy points to be the fourth-best fantasy QB in the league for 2012—right behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Basically, the kid is a bona fide stud and will likely be the most underestimated quarterback in fantasy drafts this year.
It won’t be easy for him to repeat what he did, but his running ability alone should get him into the top-10 and if everything else falls into place, a top-5 finish is hardly out of the realm of possibility… especially with the Seahawks trading for Percy Harvin.
The kid definitely has something special going on and I’m telling you right now; any fantasy owner willing to wait and grab this guy at the right time will look like a genius when all is said and done.
8. Cam Newton (Carolina)
It’s scary to think of what Cam Newton would be able to do if he were to put it all together for an entire season.
Except for a couple of nice fantasy performances, Cam’s entire first half of 2012 could be deemed as mediocre at best. However, fantasy owners were saved when Superman suddenly led all quarterbacks in points for three weeks straight en route to a top-5 fantasy finish to the year.
My belief is that Newton will grow and become a little more consistent during his third year in the league, but that the Panthers' general confusion on what direction they want to go on offense will hold him back a bit.
Even though WR Steve Smith will be 34 when the season begins, he still seems to have enough in the tank to help keep Newton in the top-10.
That being said, if you draft him as your starting QB, be ready to deal with a few bumps along the way.
7. Matthew Stafford (Detroit)
The entire fantasy world waited… and waited, and waited and waited… but there was no “Second-Half Staff” push to be had. Many would experience the disappointment of a wasted fantasy season as Stafford failed to match his top-5 numbers from 2011, but there is plenty of hope for a return to the elite in 2013.
As disheartening as his season was, throwing for just 20 touchdowns after putting up more than double that number the year before (41), Stafford was still able to walk away with 4,967 yards; the seventh-highest total in NFL history.
The return of Nate Burleson and eventual return of Ryan Broyles both add to the encouragement, as does the expected progression of RB Mikel Leshoure.
However, the addition of Reggie Bush will undoubtedly have the biggest impact as the Lions are beginning to look more and more like the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” teams from 1999-2001.
In all reality, with Calvin Johnson still having room to grow, Stafford’s upside is well within the top-5 range and depending how things mesh over the summer, he just might make it there in my August rankings.
6. Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
Matty Ice was really close to putting up top-5 numbers last season (finished in seventh) and would have done so if not for a couple of midseason doozies at home against Oakland and Arizona.
In fact, now that Tony Gonzalez has committed to a return, it wouldn’t shock me to see him end up in the top-5 by the end of 2013. You can plainly see his progression from year to year, both in his physical play and his statistical numbers.
The addition of Steven Jackson as a versatile, pass-catching RB out of the backfield is a considerable upgrade over Michael Turner and should aid in Ryan’s ascension as well.
So, with Julio Jones on a meteoric rise, Roddy White still being Roddy and Tony G back in the mix, Ryan should at least be able to climb one spot into the No. 6 hole this season.
5. Tom Brady (New England)
Tom Brady has held the No. 3 spot in fantasy scoring for three years running, but I believe his streak ends here.
Obviously, it’s no big deal if he ends up where I have him ranked here at No. 5, but his staying at this position in my late-summer rankings is completely dependent upon Danny Amendola and his ability to pick up and play well within the Patriots offense.
It can’t be overlooked just how big of a difference Wes Welker made in Brady’s career as a fantasy quarterback. There’s no doubt the Stetson Man has always been a winner, but it wasn’t until Welker showed up in 2007 that Tommy started going nuts in the stat column.
- In his six years as a starter pre-Wes, Brady had one 4,000-yard season and zero seasons with 30-plus touchdowns.
- In his five full years (injured in 2008) with Welker as his slot-man, he put up four 4,000-yard seasons (3,900 in 2010) and four with 30-plus TDs (28 in 2009).
A healthy Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez could make up for a bunch of the Welker loss, but not all of it.
If Amendola looks good in OTAs and in preseason games, Brady will continue to have top-3 potential, but it’s not as much of a given as in years past.
4. Peyton Manning (Denver)
It seems there is nothing Peyton Manning can’t do.
After missing the entire 2011 season, Manning came back to put up the second-most passing yards (4,659), touchdowns (37) and completion percentage (68.6 percent) in his 14-year career.
Most importantly, he also put up the second-most fantasy points in his career as well.
Owners who took a chance on him were pleasantly surprised, though it’s definitely worth mentioning that the year off seemed to take a slight toll on Peyton’s arm during the second half of the season.
That being said, though he’ll be 37 years old at the start of the season, I don’t see him having another second-half swoon in 2013 as he’ll be two years removed from his neck surgeries and will have had an entire offseason to build up his stamina.
Already having one of the best wide receiver duos in the game in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker certainly wasn’t going to hurt his fantasy potential this year, but now that the Broncos have added one of the best slot receivers to ever play the game in Wes Welker, there’s no telling how high his ceiling is.
It’s also worth mentioning that Denver has one of the easiest schedules (if not the easiest) in the league this season.
At the end of the day, Manning provides top-tier play on a weekly basis, but it’s been rare for him of late to win you a fantasy week on his own. I believe the addition of Welker changes that this year, and it’s entirely possible we see a repeat of his 49-touchdown season in 2004.
3. Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco)
Colin Kaepernick’s arrival onto the fantasy scene during the second half of last season was truly a thing of beauty.
From what I witnessed, I fully expect him to be a force in fantasy leagues for years to come, especially now with WR Anquan Boldin in the mix.
His dominance will begin this season, but not without a few hiccups here and there. His “down” games will still turn out to be okay due to his insane running ability, but what will make him worth taking as a top-3 QB in 2013 will be the games where he absolutely blows the roof off of the league.
His performance against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs last season when he threw for two TDs while running for 181 yards and two more TDs won’t turn out to be a one-time thing.
Look for Kaepernick to outright win your fantasy week at least three times this coming year and never do too little to lose one for you.
The sky’s the limit for this kid.
2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
It’s a tough choice between Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees for the top slot, but I think Rodgers ends up just a touch behind in the end.
Losing Greg Jennings isn’t too much of a concern considering he was gone for half of 2012 anyway. In fact, the difference in Rodgers’ weekly fantasy output during Jennings’ absence in 2012 was less than one fantasy point per game.
What might hold Aaron back a bit this season is if the Packers end up signing a starting running back who can actually be useful on first and second downs. Even then, I’m not entirely sure it would hurt his fantasy numbers more than help them.
Whatever the case, the man has found himself in the top-2 fantasy QBs during each of the last five seasons and there’s not much of a reason to believe his streak will end here.
1. Drew Brees (New Orleans)
With Sean Payton back on the sidelines and all of his WRs, TEs and RBs staying put (except for Devery Henderson, whom they’re likely better off without anyway), Drew Brees should be able to throw for 5,000 yards and 40-plus TDs for a third year in a row this season.
Losing starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod (one of the greatest names in sports) would likely hurt another QB, but because Drew gets rid of the ball so quickly, I don’t think it will affect him the way it would a lesser quarterback.
Brees was already a good bet to be the near the top in 2013, seeing how he’s been in the top-2 four of the last five seasons, but with Jimmy Graham in a contract year and already feeling the need to prove himself after a “down” 2012 season, I feel even better about ranking him here.
The rankings above will be turned inside out over the next five months, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't bitch and moan or simply express your opinion over who should be ranked where and why.
In fact, I encourage the input (no matter the type), so leave your comments below.
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