With the lockout, bulk of free-agency moves and start of the pre-season behind us, there isn't a ton of movement in our fantasy quarterback rankings for 2011 since our last ranking update.
The highest-ranked quarterback in a new spot is San Diego's Philip Rivers, who led the NFL in passing yards in 2010 despite missing his top targets for many games. His 4,710-yard performance last year was the tenth most for any season in the history of the NFL based on data from Pro Football Reference.
Only 374 yards shy of the single-season record set by Dan Marino in 1984, we will never know how close Rivers would have got to Marino's record had his receivers been healthier.
Although there is an elite group of quarterbacks (top six or so), the position is relatively deep and I would be happy with any of my top ten quarterbacks as my fantasy starter. In addition, the immediate group of quarterbacks after the top ten provide plenty of upside with guys like Tampa's Josh Freeman, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Baltimore's Joe Flacco.
In other words, it's not necessarily a bad strategy to draft a quarterback in the bottom half of my top ten and take one of the better options at fantasy backup and play the quarterback with the better matchup each week.
Here are our top 25 fantasy quarterbacks for 2011:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Counting the Packers' post-season run, Rodgers threw three-plus touchdowns in seven of the final ten games of the season that he finished (Rodgers left his Week 14 matchup against the Lions with a concussion). Rodgers, who was named MVP of Super Bowl XLVI, fell just shy a third straight season with 4,000 passing yards. With arguably the league's most talented group of pass-catchers, Rodgers should continue to dominate for the foreseeable future even if he has a relatively tough strength of schedule based on fantasy opponents from Weeks 1 to 16.
2. Michael Vick, Eagles: On a per-game basis, it wouldn't surprise me if Vick posted 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. Philip Rivers, Chargers: As noted above, Rivers led the NFL in passing despite Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd missing a combined total of 22 games due to injury and/or contract dispute. Over the past three seasons, Rivers ranks third in passing yards (12,973) and passing touchdowns (92) behind only Brees and Manning.
4. 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 even if they are more committed to the run this year. Last year, Brees threw a career-high 658 pass attempts, which is the third-most in a season in NFL history. But he has the fifth-highest (652 in 2007) and seventh-highest (635 in 2008) totals as well.
5. 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). Throughout his 13-year career, Manning has been a model of consistency—11 4,000-yard seasons—and he threw for a career-high 4,700 yards last season. On a positive note, Manning, who signed a five-year extension, should have a healthy Dallas Clark and Austin Collie entering 2011. At the same time, it remains to be seen how much time Manning misses this pre-season as he recovers from neck surgeries and if he gets off to a slow start because of it.
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.
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 Dez Bryant, the team's first-round pick in 2010.
8. 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 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.
9. 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.
10. 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). Schaub provides solid value to those looking to wait on a quarterback in their draft(s).
To see the rest of our top 25 quarterbacks, click here. For other positions, see below:
- Standard scoring: Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Kickers | Team Defenses
- Point-per-reception (PPR) scoring: Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends
- Our Cheat Sheets: Standard Scoring | PPR Scoring
If you have any specific fantasy questions, feel free to send us a tweet or post your question in our fantasy football forum.
Good luck in (all of) your fantasy league(s) in 2011!