Despite the NFL lockout reaching triple-digit days last week, there has been encouraging news on the labor front that will hopefully lead to a relatively quick resolution from this point. If so, we won't miss any 2011 regular-season games.
Without a new collective bargaining agreement in place, however, it remains to be seen what will happen with guys like Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton, who all may (or may not) have new homes in 2011.
That said, what we do know is that teams are collectively airing it out more than they have in recent seasons.
If you look at the chart below, teams threw it more times in 2010 (17,269 times) than they did in any of the previous seven seasons. In addition, the three 17,000-attempt seasons in the last eight years have all occurred within the past four seasons.
Here are our fantasy quarterback rankings for 2011:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: If it weren't for the concussion suffered against Detroit that caused him to miss a game and a half, Rodgers would have thrown for 4,000-plus yards for a third straight season. Even so, he was only 78 yards shy of the mark despite being without Jermichael Finley and much help in the running game for the majority of the season. While he's nowhere near as dangerous on the ground as Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Rodgers has finished either second or third in rushing among quarterbacks in the past two seasons.
2. Michael Vick, Eagles: On a per-game basis, it wouldn't surprise me if Vick amassed better statistics than Rodgers in 2011. In an eight-game stretch from Weeks 9 to 16, Vick posted 2,219 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, six interceptions, 489 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. That was nearly 12 fantasy points per game from his rushing statistics alone during that span. But will Vick stay healthy for 16 games (or 15 games since most fantasy championships take place in Week 16)? That's what worries me.
3. Drew Brees, Saints: Since becoming a Saint in 2006, Brees has thrown for 4,300-plus yards and 26-plus touchdowns every season. In other words, the floor is high. And while Brees will spread the ball around in the Saints' high-powered offense, one thing is for sure: he's going to air it out. Last year, Brees threw a career-high 658 pass attempts, which is the third-most in a season in NFL history. But he also has the fifth-highest (652 in 2007) and seventh-highest (635 in 2008) totals as well.
4. Peyton Manning, Colts: With the exception of Drew Bledsoe's 691 pass attempts in 1994, no quarterback in NFL history aired it out as much as Manning did in 2010 (679 attempts). In other words (or numbers), Manning threw 42.4 pass attempts per game in 2010. Manning has thrown for less than 4,000 yards only twice in his 13-year career and threw for a career-high 4,700 last season. Provided Dallas Clark and Austin Collie can stay healthy for a full season, Manning should be good for 4,500-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns for a third consecutive season.
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers: Rivers led the NFL in passing yards (4,710) last year even though Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd missed a combined total of 22 games due to injury and/or contract dispute. While it's unlikely that the team will be able to re-sign third-down back Darren Sproles, who finished second on the team in receiving (520 yards), the Chargers drafted wideout Vincent Brown in the third round. Over the past three seasons, Rivers ranks third in passing yards (12,973) and passing touchdowns (92) behind only Brees and Manning.
6. Tom Brady, Patriots: Although he threw for (only) 3,900 yards (seven QBs threw for more), Brady led the NFL in passing touchdowns (36) with the fewest interceptions (four). Brady threw for two or more touchdowns in each of the final nine games of the season without throwing any interceptions in the final 11 regular-season games. Of all quarterbacks in my top ten, Brady has the least amount of talent at the wide receiver position to which to throw. But, then again, that hasn't stopped him before.
7. Tony Romo, Cowboys: In Romo's last full season (2009), he finished with almost 4,500 passing yards and posted a 26-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The third-leading receiver on that team (after Miles Austin and Jason Witten) was Patrick Crayton. This year, it's possible -- even likely -- that the Cowboys have three players finish with 1,000-plus receiving yards: Austin, Witten and second-year receiver Dez Bryant.
8. Matt Schaub, Texans: Despite having a "down" year, Schaub still finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards (4,370) after Rivers, Manning and Brees. And over the past two seasons, Schaub has compiled the second-most passing yards (9,140). Currently drafted after eight or so other quarterbacks, Schaub provides solid value to those looking to wait on a quarterback in their draft(s).
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Roethlisberger, who was suspended for the first four games of 2010, threw for 3,200 yards in 12 games in 2010 despite battling a foot injury, which is now almost "healed up," down the stretch. Had he been eligible to play a full 16 games and maintained his per-game average, Roethlisberger would have thrown for more than 4,200 yards. In 2009, Roethlisberger threw for 4,328 yards. With a strong receiving corps lead by Mike Wallace, there's no reason to believe Big Ben won't throw for 4,200-plus in 2011.
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons: Granted, the Falcons gave up a lot in order to move up to the sixth overall pick to take Alabama receiver Julio Jones. That said, the addition of Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers, their fifth-round pick, do nothing but help Ryan's fantasy stock for 2011. Meanwhile, Ryan set career bests in passer rating (91.0), completion percentage (62.5), yards (3,705), touchdowns (28) and interceptions (nine) in 2010.
To see our full list of top 20 fantasy quarterbacks for 2011, click here.
Over the next two weeks, we will release our keeper rankings in addition to expanding the number of quarterbacks included in our standard-scoring rankings. Check back at TheTipDrill.com, our fantasy section, and follow us on Twitter @EDSFootball or on Facebook for our fantasy updates.
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