Projecting quarterback totals is an art in and of itself. So many factors must come together and work perfectly for the passing game to succeed that it's difficult to know exactly how things will shake out this far out from the start of the season.
But with that said, here are my top five quarterbacks for the 2009 fantasy football season.
1. Peyton Manning (IND) 4200 PYD / 31 PTD / 12 INT
Manning finished last season as the seventh ranked fantasy football quarterback. Going in to the season, Manning was returning from knee surgery, which limited his mobility.
Not that Manning was overly mobile in the past, but a staple of the Colts' offense was the stretch play which requires that Manning be mobile enough to move laterally to hand the ball off the the running back. Without the ability to execute this play as they had in previous seasons, the Colts offense shifted to a pass-heavy system.
The offensive line suffered a myriad of injuries and as a result were unable to play as a cohesive unit. Top it all off with Joseph Addai's injuries, and Payton ended up having a down year. Well, down for Payton at least.
This year the Colts bring in a new head coach and offensive coordinator, but the offensive system should resemble past seasons. Manning is truly the Colts' offensive coordinator.
The offensive line is not as good as it has been in the past, but is still a respectable group of hogs. Addai should be fully healed, and with the addition of Donald Brown (1.27, UConn), Addai should have a fire lit under his butt and realize that his job is in jeopardy.
With the running game in check, Manning will have control of the air and should reestablish his productive relationship with Reggie Wayne, and continue building continuity with new number two wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.
Look for Manning to increase his yardage totals on a healed knee with a solid running game, and increase his touchdown totals.
2. Drew Brees (NO) 4500 PYD / 30 PTD / 16 INT
In 2008, Brees had the opportunity to post such gaudy numbers due to injuries to Reggie Bush, and the defense's inability to stop the Little Sisters of the Blind.
While the defense has not gotten particularity better, in the last few games of the 2008 season the Saints discovered what they had been missing all year: a running game, courtesy of Pierre Thomas. Transitioning to 2009, the Saints should continue to utilize the running game.
It should also be noted that the top two receivers on the Saints are coming off of surgery.
Marques Colston is recovering, on schedule from what we hear, from microfracture knee surgery. Lance Moore is recovering from shoulder surgery for an injury he suffered lifting weights in April.
A combination of all of these factors should be a decrease, however slight, in Brees' numbers, but an increase in the win total for the Saints.
3. Donovan McNabb (PHI) 4250 PYD / 29 PTD / 13 INT
McNabb played a full slate of games last year for the first time in a while, and put up solid numbers doing so. But he played half the year without Kevin Curtis, his No. 1 wide receiver.
Running back Brian Westbrook missed two full games, and should have sat out two more as he was totally ineffective. Even with all those issues, McNabb still put up good fantasy numbers, and for the position you drafted him, he outperformed your expectations.
For 2009, expect a big step forward. Kevin Curtis is healthy, and the Eagles added Jeremy Maclin (1.19, Missouri) to the receiving corps. The combination of last season's rookie standout DeSean Jackson and Maclin give the Eagles' passing game the verticalitythat it hasn't had since McNabb started taking snaps.
The Eagles also added their future running back in LeSean McCoy (2.21, Pittsburgh). With Westbrook pushing the wrong side of 30, and now having underwent ankle surgery this week, McCoy will fill a large role in this offense sooner rather than later.
McNabb's totals will increase this year. With the addition of McCoy, the running game will be solid even when Westbrook is sitting on the sidelines, and Maclin will be returning kicks, allowing Jackson to focus on his receiving duties. If McNabb can stay healthy, he should finish the season in the top three of fantasy quarterbacks.
4. Aaron Rodgers (GB) 4100 PYD / 28 PTD / 13 INT
Rodgers had a fantastic “rookie” season, finishing as the third best fantasy quarterback. The running game in Green Bay was nonexistent at times last year, which allowed Rodgers to post incredible numbers in his first year starting.
The running game should be back on track this season, so Rodgers' numbers may slightly decrease. However, the expected emergence of Jordy Nelson will give Rodgers' another viable threat in the passing game.
Also keep in mind that the Green Bay defense is in the middle of a transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Until the defense gets their legs, expect some shoddy defense performances, which will require Rodgers to perform well to get the Packers some wins.
Just imagine how good Rodgers could be with a top five tight end. He already has one of the game's top wide receivers in Greg Jennings.
There isn't really much more to say about Rodgers. He had a great year last year, and we expect it to continue this year and would be very surprised if Rodgers finished outside of the top five in 2009, barring injury of course.
5. Tom Brady (NE) 4100 PYD / 30 PTD / 10 INT
Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first week of the 2008 season courtesy of Bernard Pollard. Heading in to 2008, many were expecting Brady to have a repeat performance of his all-world 2007 campaign wherein he posted 4806/50/8. Those expectations were overblown at best.
Quick question: Since 1997, how many quarterbacks have led the league in touchdowns in consecutive seasons?
Entering 2009, Brady again joins a prolific offense that was designed to score, and score quickly. However, the departure of Josh McDaniels leaves some unanswered questions as to how the offense will be designed.
The Patriots surely feel confident about Brady's rehab as they dealt backup QB Matt Cassel to Kansas City in the off season. Randy Moss and Wes Welker will continue to be Brady's favorite targets, and should post solid numbers respectively.
But don't expect the world from Brady this year. Coming back from a knee injury, one that would have been career ending just 10 years ago, takes time.
By the time the preseason starts, Brady will not have thrown a pass in an NFL game in over eleven months. It's going to take some time to shake the rust off and get back in the NFL groove. So don't expect huge 2007 numbers, and you'll be perfectly happy with his performance this season.
Answer to the quick question: Zero.
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