The quarterback is the face of the franchise in the NFL. Generally, a successful QB means a successful team. Now depending on your league settings, the quarterback is not nearly as pivotal to your fantasy team success.
It is important to grab a top-tier running back or wide receiver because the position is much more volatile with a greater rate of turnover.
The majority of the quarterbacks who begin the season as the starter will finish the year in the same position.
It is hard enough to start in the NFL as a rookie QB, it is even harder to do it on a team like the Bengals. Andy Dalton was highly sought after as one of those second-tier QBs in this past year's draft and the Bengals used a second-round pick on him.
However, for the sake of this article, there is not any real value here in terms of fantasy this year.
The problem is he has looked pretty bad so far this preseason and the 49ers may want to see what they have in rookie Colin Kaepernick. I don't see Smith as the starter in Week 17 and he does not have any value this year in fantasy.
John Beck seems to be the front-runner in the three-way race between himself, Rex Grossman and Kellen Clemens. In terms of fantasy though, it doesn't really matter who starts because none of these players are going to light it up against the defenses of the NFC East.
It looks like Cam Newton has jumped out to the lead in the Carolina QB race with Jimmy Clausen. Newton has surprised me a bit in his first two preseason games with his desire to stay in the pocket and work through his progressions instead of looking to run as soon as possible.
Newton could be intriguing because of his speed and ability to pick up yards on the ground but he is not worthy of a draft pick at this point but could be a bye-week fill-in depending on his play and his opponent that week.
Jason Campbell was a popular pick last year as a sleeper after getting traded to the Raiders but he could not hold onto the starting job last year and looked downright awful.
Even though Campbell is back in the starting role, for now, I would not want him anywhere near my team in 2011.
Tarvaris Jackson left the Minnesota Vikings and signed with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason. Pete Carroll named Jackson the starter before the ink was dry on his contract.
The Seahawks brought in Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller as well this offseason to help Jackson, but I don't see him as more than a bye-week fill-in, depending on the opponent that week.
Matt Hasselbeck left Seattle for the Music City this offseason but I think the move hurt his fantasy value. He is an injury risk and hasn't been a viable fantasy QB since 2007.
I would not use a draft pick on him and he is nothing more than a bye-week fill-in at this point.
I think he will see an increase in completions this year because of the addition of Reggie Bush, but I don't think that is enough to warrant him being drafted this year.
Blaine Gabbert is the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars but the question is if it is the near future. Many assumed that David Garrard was going to be the starter on Week 1 but after he missed some time with a back injury and Gabbert looking good in practice, Del Rio could be leaning towards starting Gabbert.
I don't know if it really matters in terms of fantasy football who starts at quarterback as the Jaguars have been a run-first team with Maurice Jones-Drew and the fact that there isn't much of a receiving corp in Jacksonville.
I would be very surprised if Kyle Orton is not the starter on Week 1 but the fact that John Fox has not come out and said it yet is the reason he is so low. Orton is not a flashy pick but has put up decent numbers the past two seasons.
He has averaged 3727.5 yards per season and 20.5 touchdowns the past two years and only played 13 games last year. Once Orton is named the starter, I think he is viable option as a second QB, in leagues that start two QBs, or as a backup. This would move him up to around 20th on this list.
I have never been impressed with Sanchez as a fantasy QB and this year won't be any easier for him. LT is a year older, Braylon Edwards is gone and replaced with Plaxico Burress, who hasn't seen the field in two years.
The Jets have been a run-first team in the past and I think it will stay that way this year. I don't see Sanchez as anything more than a back-up/bye-week fill-in.
Matthew Stafford would be a Top 15 fantasy quarterback if he could stay healthy. He has the weapons around him in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best and Brandon Pettigrew but it is tough to rank a QB coming off shoulder surgery any higher.
I still think he is worth the risk though because when he is on the field, he is good. Really good. Draft him as a No. 2 QB or backup and hope he stays healthy because he could be a steal in the later rounds.
I don't think anybody would have expected Sam Bradford to have as much success as he did in his rookie year. He took over a 1-15 Rams team and made them respectable, doing all this without a recognizable name at wide receiver.
This year, he gets to work with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels—the same guy who has worked with the likes of Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. I see Sam Bradford as a sleeper this coming season and he should be on everyone's radar.
Eli Manning said recently he is on the same level as Tom Brady and hopefully someone in your league thinks so and drafts him way too high. Hopefully, that guy isn't you because I think Eli Manning is on his way to a down year this year—especially after the loss of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss this year.
Last year, he did throw for over 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns but had 30 turnovers, which averages to a little less than two a game. It is tough to rank a quarterback who turns the ball over that much any higher.
I would not rely on Manning as my No. 1 but he is worth a late-round pick as a backup.
Donovan McNabb is still a big name in the NFL but I would be hesitant using a top draft pick on the new Minnesota Viking. To say he struggled in Washington last year would be an understatement, being benched at times.
He is in a new organization and playing with the likes of Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin and could have a bounce-back year.
If McNabb is still available in the later rounds, pick him up and hope he can become trade bait with his play but I would not want him as my No. 1.
Anybody who had their league championship in Week 16 last year and started Josh Freeman should send him a thank-you card for his five-touchdown performance. Even before then, he put together a solid season last year and should be considered a sleeper pick entering this season.
He threw for 25 touchdowns and almost 3,500 yards last year with only six interceptions. I could see Freeman taking that next step this year and end up falling somewhere between 10th and 15th in terms of fantasy points for QBs next season.
Colt McCoy is my top sleeper pick entering the 2011 season and could be a real steal in the later rounds. McCoy has a new coach in Pat Shumur who was the offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams last year and worked well with another young QB, Sam Bradford.
I expect Shumur to use the same formula he did with Bradford last year, in running short passing routes that will allow McCoy to get into a rhythm and build some confidence.
It doesn't mean big yards but will lead to high completion percentage and if you are in a league that rewards completions, McCoy is a good backup to have.
Someone in your league will draft Kolb very high and it could work out for him but there are too many question marks for me to rank him any higher. He gets to throw to one of the best wide receivers in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, but Steve Breaston is gone and there isn't much at the position after that.
Not to mention Ryan Williams, the man who was supposed to start at running back, went down with a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Kolb does get to leave the tough NFC East and heads to the much easier NFC West but I can't rank a quarterback who hasn't played a full season any higher than 15.
He has great upside but you would be taking a big risk if you rely on him as your starting quarterback to start the season.
I can't remember the last time the Bills didn't have a QB battle in training camp or questions at the quarterback position. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect quarterback for Chan Gailey's offense and going into the season as the starter should only help him.
In 13 games last season, he threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns but Fitzpatrick is a bit of a gunslinger and it shows in his 13 interceptions. I think another year in Gailey's offense and getting all the first-team reps in camp can only help Fitzpatrick in 2011.
Jay Cutler would be a Top 10 quarterback if he played behind something that somewhat resembled a NFL quality offensive line. This is not the case this year as he will be scrambling for his life back there. Like Fitzpatrick, he is a gunslinger and throws way too many interceptions to be ranked any higher.
Jay Cutler also doesn't have the best supporting cast around him. He does have Matt Forte, who is one of the better pass-catching running backs, but the Bears got rid of Greg Olsen. At receiver, they have a bunch of No. 2 wide receivers and no No. 1.
If you can deal with the interceptions, Cutler should put up enough points to finish in the top 20.
I have never been impressed with Tony Romo as a starting fantasy quarterback and always felt he is drafted too high. He is coming off a fractured collarbone injury and is playing behind an offensive line that has some serious questions.
With that said, he has one of the best groups of talent around him and if he comes back healthy, he could be in line to have a big year.
Romo is a high risk/high reward pick and team owners should plan on drafting a good backup if they want to roll the dice with Romo.
Big Ben has put up decent numbers over the years and had one big year in 2009, but the fact the Steelers rely so heavily on the run hurts his numbers and his value.
Last year, he did a great job after his suspension of cutting down his interceptions, throwing only five. This will only help his value as his opportunities to make plays are limited due to the running game. He has been pretty consistent over his career, throwing around 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns a year, which makes him a borderline starter in fantasy football.
I always thought Matt Cassel was a product of the New England system and was overvalued when he was traded to Kansas City. Last year, he showed he is a capable starting quarterback and a viable fantasy option.
He threw for over 3,100 yards and had 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions last year. I think he will improve on these numbers with another year under Todd Haley and the addition of Steve Breaston. He falls into the same category as Big Ben where his value is hurt by the reliance on the running game, but Cassel is definitely a fantasy starter in 2011.
Matt Schaub is a Top Ten quarterback and can be drafted as a starter in fantasy football. His numbers did drop from 2009 but that was not because of him so much as Arian Foster running wild last year.
The offense did not have to rely so heavily on the arm of Schaub and this could actually help him for this season. He still has Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to throw to and defenses could turn their focus more to Foster, opening up the passing game more for Schaub.
He should produce some good numbers next year.
I think Joe Flacco is in line for a big year with the addition of Lee Evans to the receiving corps that already includes Anquan Boldin. He threw for over 3,500 yards to go with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year.
He should only improve on those numbers this year as he is still fairly young and hasn't reached his full potential yet.
Proceed with caution. Vick exploded back onto the fantasy football scene last year but there are some things that make me hesitant to give him my full vote of confidence for 2011.
The first is that he is a big injury risk with the way he plays as a scrambling quarterback. He takes more and harder hits than most quarterbacks so you will need to make sure to have a good backup if you draft Vick.
Second is that Vick started to revert back to some bad tendencies toward the end of the season last year. He threw six picks and had three fumbles lost in the final five games of the regular season. He started to scramble more and was forcing some passes.
I still think he is a top quarterback but is not worth a first-round pick.
Matt Ryan threw for over 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns with only nine interceptions and the Falcons felt the need to give him another weapon in first-round pick Julio Jones. This should only help Ryan in 2011 and at 26 years of age, I don't think we have seen the best yet.
Matt Ryan is starter material and owners will not be disappointed drafting him.
It is hard to put one of the best fantasy players over the past decade this low but Manning enters 2011 with some question marks—specifically his neck injury. Manning has not fully recovered yet from neck surgery he had during the offseason and hasn't been able to practice yet.
Now, I would be very surprised if he misses any time during the regular season but it is important for quarterbacks and wide receivers to find their timing again before the season after a long offseason. I think Manning's numbers will dip a little bit and think the next four quarterbacks will post better numbers this coming season.
The guy is one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in the game today. He threw for over 4,700 yards and 30 touchdowns and did it without his No. 1 wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, for the majority of the season. He also only had Antonio Gates for 10 games.
Rivers has thrown for over 4,000 yards the past three years, averaging over 30 touchdowns each season and not missing a game in five years.
Rivers is one of the safest bets at the quarterback position and can be drafted without worry.
Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Deion Branch, a healthier Wes Welker and newly acquired Chad Ochocinco has Tom Brady in line for another huge year. He threw for 3,600 yards, 36 touchdowns and only four picks and did the majority of this damage after Randy Moss left.
It really doesn't make sense but Brady could potentially have a better year than last year with the improved health of Welker and the addition of Ochocinco.
Draft Brady and get ready to watch points just roll in as he will finish the year as one of the top fantasy QBs.
With the additions of Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, defenses will have to start respecting the running game a little more which should only help Brees this coming season. He threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns last year but also threw 22 interceptions. This is partially due to the fact the Saints had no real running game.
Drew Brees is another safe bet and I expect him to have similar numbers to 2010 but with much fewer interceptions.
I think you could put any of my Top Three in at No. 1 but Aaron Rodgers gets the spot because he is much younger than Brees and Brady and could potentially get even better than last year. He threw for 3,922 yards and had 32 touchdowns, four of which were rushing, and did this all without Ryan Grant who went down in Week One.
Rodgers gets Ryan Grant back along with Jermichael Finley from injuries and adds them to offensive weapons like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones.
This all adds up to another big year from Rodgers, making him the top fantasy quarterback heading in to 2011.