This was not the season to be a little different and take a quarterback in the first round of your fantasy draft instead of a running back.
All the NFL does is make life easier for quarterbacks. Every season there is a new rule change designed to help quarterbacks complete more passes. Defensive backs cannot touch a receiver after five yards. Sack specialists cannot hit a quarterback in the head, below the knees, a second late or if he has ingested Gatorade within the past half-hour.
And now defenders are not allowed to hit “defenseless” receivers, nor can they hit a ball carrier too hard for fear of getting flagged or suspended.
Yet with all of the rules in their favor and with receivers becoming faster and bigger all the time, the upper-echelon quarterbacks are really having a hard time hitting the broad side of Flozell Adams.
Many if not most of fantasy football’s best quarterbacks entering the season are having off-years and do not look like they will be able to duplicate the numbers they have posted in years past.
So what is the cause of this quarterback quandary? Here is a look at the quarterbacks in question and why the starts of their seasons have not gone as well as fantasy owners would have liked.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Madden Curse is claiming another victim. While Brees has not suffered a season-ending injury—yet—it is obvious that the video game with the rotund former coach/announcer has used its voodoo on another cover boy. Or maybe Brees’ bad start can be blamed on Bourbon Street, Oprah, his balky knee or the injuries to his top two running backs, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.
Whatever the case, Brees has not been Brees through the first seven weeks of the season. While his passing yards and touchdown passes are roughly on par with what he would normally put up, interceptions have been his undoing. He has already been picked off 10 times in less than half a season when he usually only throws 11-for-17 over the course of a full campaign.
Brees’ problems would be more alarming if he was only throwing for 180 yards and one TD per game. While the interceptions count against fantasy owners, Brees probably will cut those down from here on out—only Jay Cutler suffers from season-long brain cramps —and should finish as one of the best fantasy quarterbacks again. Having a healthy Thomas and Bush around to keep defenses honest would certainly prevent Brees from pressing so much, that’s for sure.
Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings
Favre is trying to avoid being sacked by Father Time, his own body, Jenn Sterger, his wife, the NFL, Sidney Rice’s hip, Randy Moss’ bad pass routes and head coach Brad Childress’ public body slams. This is why Favre is following up the best fantasy season of his career with arguably the worst fantasy season of his career.
Favre’s quarterback rating is worse than Bruce Gradkowski, Alex Smith, Shaun Hill and Seneca Wallace’s. His 7-to-10 touchdown-to-interception is ratio is mostly to blame.
Favre has only thrown for more than 230 yards once in six games and has not had a 300-yard game yet. If Minnesota and fantasy owners knew this was going to happen, everyone would have asked Ryan Longwell to fly to Mississippi to tell Favre to retire so Tarvaris Jackson could take over.
Favre’s ankles and elbow have failed him as miserably as FOX and Cablevision have failed millions of cable subscribers. And Favre’s decision-making, which on and the off the field has never been good, actually seems to get worse when he plays hurt. Look no further than his lone season with the New York Jets.
Before he injured his throwing arm, he was on the verge of leading the Jets to the playoffs. After his shoulder was banged up, though, the guy was slinging interceptions quicker than Perez Hilton slings mud, and they were INTs caused by mental mistakes, not physical ones.
Unlike Brees, fantasy owners have to worry about Favre. If Minnesota’s season goes south in the next couple weeks, Favre might call it quits early and place the blame on his body and/or his personal soap opera. Get some Favre insurance and pick up Jackson ASAP, fantasy owners!
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Did you draft Brady thinking you could lock up another 4,000 or 5,000-yard season from the man? Then you must be pretty surprised that he currently ranks 17th in the NFL in passing yards.
The Patriots subbed Deion Branch in for Randy Moss. Spin this however you want, Bill O’ Reilly, but this is not an even trade in terms of talent, and Brady’s fantasy value is suffering because of it.
Since watching Moss and his unkempt beard get dealt to Minnesota, Brady only has three touchdown tosses in three games, and in two of those three he threw for under 200 yards.
I know Branch has been OK in his first two games back with the Pats, but he is a 10-yards-per-catch Wes Welker wannabe these days, not a down-field threat who can help Brady rack up 50-yard bombs or open the field up for New England’s rookie tight ends.
Brady has yet to throw for 300 yards or four TDs in a game this season. Do not expect a plethora of those performances anytime soon without Moss around, that’s for sure.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers was the fantasy football golden boy entering the season, picked by many pundits and experts to be the top quarterback stats-wise, with his face featured on several fantasy magazine covers back in August. He was likely drafted in the first or second round of every league in the country.
Too bad Denver’s Kyle Orton has been better. So has San Diego’s Philip Rivers. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and New York’s Eli Manning have been just as valuable.
While Rodgers has been far from horrible—1,841 passing yards, 15 total touchdowns (12 passing, three rushing), nine interceptions—he has already thrown more interceptions in 2010 than he did in all of 2009, and he does not look like he will lead the league in yards or touchdowns at this rate.
Injuries to teammates can be blamed on Rodgers’ troubles. Running back Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the opening game of the season, and since then defenses have hung back and forced Rodgers to dink and dunk instead of throwing deep down field. Tight end Jermichael Finley is done for the season after knee surgery, which eliminated one of his favorite targets as well.
Hopefully Green Bay gets No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings more involved in the offense on a consistent basis after forgetting about him for most of the first half of the season. Getting the banged-up Donald Driver 100 percent healthy would also be a boon for Rodgers.
Rodgers is far from a fantasy failure, but for those who selected him in their drafts thinking he would be the best quarterback to own, they are probably wishing they spent their high pick on a running back, waited a couple rounds and drafted Ryan or Orton instead.
And the premier quarterbacks in fantasy peril does not end there. Dallas’ Tony Romo is out from six weeks to the entire season after having his clavicle turned into mincemeat. Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning is running out of receivers to throw to now that Dallas Clark (out for the season) and Austin Collie (out indefinitely) are sidelined with major hand and wrist injuries. And Washington’s Donovan McNabb has been completing almost as many passes to opposing secondaries as he has to his own ancient receivers.
Guess this column is a lesson to fantasy owners that running backs still rule the roost and should always be drafted early and often—although this comes from someone who is still waiting for Chris Johnson to have that 200-yard, three-TD extravaganza he used to have on a weekly basis in 2009.