Fantasy Football Focus: Quarterbacks
August is great month for true football fans. Training camps are in full swing as teams prepare for preseason games, Madden is released, and most importantly, fantasy football season is just around the corner.
While I consider myself much more adept at drafting skaters and goalies than quarterbacks and special teams players, I have spent many hours at work this past summer reading fantasy football websites and football magazines in order to provide readers with the information necessary to not only compete, but potentially dominate their fantasy leagues this year.
Over the next week or so, I will break down positions and provide information on various players. I know that each league is run differently and that not everyone will agree with my choices, but here are my breakdowns of some of the more important positions for fantasy football teams, starting with quarterback. Enjoy!
Arguably the most obvious position in terms of the top four or five players, the quarterback position offers much debate in terms of who should be avoided and potential sleeper picks.
With rookie quarterbacks or first time starters on a couple of teams and at least one record-setting QB still in limbo, quarterback could be a difficult position to draft if the sure bets are chosen early. Here are my picks.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
2007 Stats: 398 Completions, 4806 Yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs
Brady is the most obvious pick not running the ball for the Chargers. Although Brady missed out on his fourth Super Bowl last year, his record setting season allowed him to establish himself as arguably the top fantasy football player in 2008.
Surrounded by four or five excellent receivers (including Randy Moss and Wes Welker) and an improved running game featuring Laurence Maroney and newly acquired LaMont Jordan, there is no reason to believe Brady will suffer much of a drop off this season.
It is impossible to say that Brady will match last year’s output, but it is safe to assume he will have another strong season as the Patriots remain a favorite to make the Super Bowl.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
2007 Stats: 337 Completions, 4040 Yards, 31 TDs, 14 INTs
Despite losing his favorite target to injury in 2007, Manning once again proved himself as a fantasy football stud last season with another strong campaign.
Manning puts in considerable effort off the field to maintain one of the highest football IQs in the NFL and has never missed a start in 11 seasons. I believe he will put up another 4,000 yard, 30 touchdown season as Reggie Wayne becomes his new favorite target and Anthony Gonzalez enters his second season.
It is yet to be seen whether Marvin Harrison can rebound from injuries and the off-the-field incidents that have plagued him recently, but if he can return at full strength, the Colts offense will be one of the NFL's best once again.
3. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
2007: 335 Completions, 4211 Yards, 36 TDs, 19 INTs
Luckily for fans of Tony Romo, most fantasy football leagues end before the playoffs.
All jokes aside however, Romo will be in much higher demand after throwing for 36 TDs last season. With a stronger defense giving him better field position and Terrell Owens and Jason Witten giving him two of the best targets at their respective positions, Romo should have a similar season as he settles into his third year as the Cowboys' QB.
The addition of rookie running back Felix Jones (who averaged 8.7 yards per carry while sharing the ball with Darren McFadden last season at Arkansas) should also open up the passing game by providing America's Team with a solid one-two rushing attack alongside Marion Barber.
1. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
2007 Stats: 277 Completions, 3152 Yards, 21 TDs, 15 INTs
As the quarterback in one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses and a preseason Super Bowl favorite, many of you will be scratching your heads as to why Rivers is a “sleeper.” Remember this however: Rivers is not only coming off a severe knee injury, but his numbers are also rather subpar considering the offensive talent he has around him.
Armed with Chris Chambers for the whole season (along with Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd), a healthy Antonio Gates, a weak division and some guy named L.T., 2008 could be a breakout year for Rivers in terms of fantasy numbers.
If Rivers can stay healthy and keep his mistakes to a minimum, he may finally be the QB the Chargers needed to emerge from the AFC.
2. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills
2007 Stats: 151 Completions, 1630 Yards, 7 TDs, 8 INTs
Although I have continually met the excitement of Bills fans (see Allan, Don) with scepticism this offseason, Edwards has the potential for a breakout season if all the pieces fall into place at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Named the starter over J.P. Losman early in the offseason, Edwards has strong receivers in the speedy Lee Evans and rookie (and potential red zone threat) James Hardy, a solid offensive line, and a running back in Marshawn Lynch who can run, catch, and even throw the ball when needed.
Though he lacks a tight end that he can consistently use as a last resort, Edwards looks to be the solution to the quarterback problem that has plagued the Bills since Jim Kelly retired in 1996.
3. Shaun Hill, San Francisco
2007 Stats: 54 Completions, 501 Yards 5 TDs, 1 INTs
I would be crazy to suggest picking Hill early in your fantasy draft, but he could potentially emerge as a steal if Alex Smith is injured once again or continues to regress under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Critics of this pick will say Martz, an offensive wizard, is all Smith needs to turn it around, but don’t forget that 49ers' players and coaches were on the field as Hill gave them confidence last season by winning his first two NFL starts late in 2007.
With Coach Mike Nolan desperate to keep his job, don’t be surprised if Hill gets the call early in 2008 if Smith does not get off to a strong start. Look for Hill as a potential second or third string QB who could pay dividends.
The only thing that should be noted when picking Hill is that San Fran lacks a No. 1 receiver and tight end Vernon Davis has struggled to be consistent in the NFL so far. Who will he throw the ball to?
1. John Kitna, Detroit Lions
2007 Stats: 355 Completions, 4068 yards, 18 TDS, 20 INTs
Despite putting up a lot of yards in 2007, Kitna will be hard pressed to match his output this season. Kitna does have solid receivers in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (despite a disappointing rookie season), but Detroit is starting rookie running back Kevin Smith.
This means that teams will be sitting on the pass if Detroit cannot get yards on the ground. In addition, Kitna has also been inconsistent throughout his career, as evidenced by a late season collapse that saw the Lions lose seven of their last eight games in 2007.
In five of the Lions' nine losses last season, the team failed to score more than 14 points.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2007 Stats: 20 Completions, 218 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs
Despite looking good in his only appearance last season, Rodgers enters 2008 with practically no game experience and a ton of pressure after the Packers named him their QB despite the circus created by Brett Favre's un-retirement during the offseason.
In addition to the offseason turmoil, the Packers' brass drafted two quarterbacks (not exactly a confidence boost) and engaged in a nasty contract dispute with breakout running back Ryan Grant.
Even with a talented core of receivers led by Greg Jennings, Donald Lee, and Donald Driver, a potentially inexperienced running game and all the negative attention off the field could be a disastrous mix for a QB starting for the first time. Approach Rodgers with caution when drafting this season.
3. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
2007 Stats: 291 Completions, 3324 Yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs
While McNabb was a surefire fantasy player only a few years ago, age, injuries, and a potentially tumultuous relationship with the Eagles mean he is a player to avoid this year.
Despite posting some solid numbers in terms of completion percentage and passer rating (both career highs in 2007), McNabb struggled to put up points as the Eagles scored more than 20 points only six times last season. With whispers that Kevin Kolb is the Eagles' QB of the future, McNabb will need a big season to ensure he is back in an Eagles jersey next fall.
As you can see, the quarterback position is an interesting one this season. In addition to Brady, Manning and Romo, players such as Drew Brees and Derek Anderson are poised for strong seasons. Teams such as Chicago, Minnesota, Oakland, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Miami are all faced with questions behind center.
If drafting early, there are some potential sure things at the QB position, but as always, things can change quickly in the NFL so make sure you have a couple of solid QBs to start this season.
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