Finally, one of fantasy football's most painful offseasons ever, is coming to a close. The threat of the lockout has come and gone, and preseason games will be coming to an end in a few short weeks. Then the long anticipated 2011 season will kick off, and then your fantasy football stars will hit the field after a preseason that offered very limited preparation time to get them ready for their 16-game schedule.
With such a short offseason to get teams ready, repercussions are sure to be seen during the regular season. Injuries are expected, and teams will need to alter their rosters as they go.
The best thing you can do for your fantasy football team is prepare. No roster is set in stone and no player is protected from injury. While your first and second-round superstars will certainly earn their merit, it may be those players picked towards the end of your draft that make your team a championship contender.
So at this point in the 2011 season, it is important to determine what players are worth that you are targeting for your team
To figure out what players are safe and who is more of a gamble.
What their upside is, and where they could come back to bite you.
Research and practice is the only way to obtain this kind of data. So when your first pick comes, the hours logged in mock draft lobbies and breaking down fantasy articles will finally pay off.
So here is my breakdown of this years fantasy quarterbacks in no particular order.
The Best of the Best
It will cost an early pick for any of these quarterbacks, but they will produce plenty of fantasy points every week.
Aaron Rodgers, who better to start with than the reigning Super Bowl champion? Rodgers is probably the safest quarterback to have leading your team come Week 1. He totaled eight multi-touchdown games last year and ended with just shy of 4,000 yards. This coming despite a late season concussion and an offensive line that got him sacked more often than you would expect. Still, Rodgers rushed more times than he did in 2009 and has racked up 660 yards on the ground with nine touchdowns over the last two years.
Michael Vick, he’s proving to be the sexier pick among quarterbacks for the 2011 season. And with good reason. Despite not starting for the Eagles at the beginning of the 2010 season and playing through injuries; Vick still racked up 3,000 yards through the air and threw 21 touchdowns. This while of course running the ball another hundred times for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. While those numbers do stimulate my fantasy sex drive, it is not an accident that Vick only played in 12 games. It would take a miracle for Vick to not miss time in 2011, and while he is still arguably the best fantasy quarterback to own, I’d keep a back up in mind for him, and not Vince Young.
Tom Brady, he‘s had kind of a rough offseason. Luckily, for reasons not related to the football field. There was the water slide incident, and we all know what a good dancer he is now, and we even got to see his emotional side, when he talked about being drafted into the NFL. But none of this will keep Brady from having another stellar fantasy season. He threw for 36 TDs (only had four interceptions) last year while racking up 3,900 yards. This is more impressive when you consider that Randy Moss had only 13 receptions from Brady. Insert Chad Ocho and a platoon of other targets for Brady to throw too, and he is primed to have a standout fantasy season.
Drew Brees, since 2006 the Saints quarterback has thrown for at least 4,300 yards in every season (including a 5,069 yard year in 2008), while missing just one game in that span. Not to mention the fact that Brees has thrown 101 touchdowns in the past three years combined. While he doesn’t fit the new fad of quarterbacks that can run the ball, he more than makes up for it in the air. If he could ever limit his interceptions (22 last year), Brees definitely has enough weapons at his disposal to possibly be the No. 1 fantasy QB by the end of the season.
Peyton Manning, his health doesn’t just effect his own fantasy value, it effects the entire Colts offense. Manning is trying to return from a neck surgery he had during the offseason, and the Colts are beginning to sound doubtful that he will be ready for the start of the season. When he’s on the field Manning’s stats speak for themselves, recording at least 4,000 yards very consistently for the last seven seasons, and throwing for 33 touchdowns the last two years. There is no telling how the surgery will effect his play, and missing the preseason only hurts his value further. But still, when Manning is ready to play, he will still remain very qualified as your fantasy team's starting QB.
Philip Rivers, he threw for 4,710 yards last year, to go along with 30 touchdowns. Numbers that look even better when you include the fact that Vincent Jackson didn’t have a reception until Week 14. With Jackson already connecting with Rivers during the preseason, look for the two to have a much better relationship in 2011. Rivers’ numbers could very well improve, especially if Ryan Matthews can prove to be a threatening running back this year.
Tony Romo, he’s really getting hyped up this year. Everyone seems ready for Romo to be able to return as the Cowboys' starting quarterback after missing the last 10 weeks of the season with a collarbone injury. And quite frankly, it wouldn’t be a stretch for Romo to have a bounce back season and put up numbers similar to his 2009 campaign, when he posted 4,483 yards with 26 TDs. With Dez Bryant in his second year, and targets like Miles Austin and Jason Witten; Tony Romo should have a strong return in 2011.
Matt Schaub, last season he put up 4,369 yards and 24 touchdowns. Those numbers weren’t even quite as good as his 2009 season, when he recorded 4,470 with 29 TDs. He tends to turn the ball over a little more than owners would like, but a superstar running back like Arian Foster could very well help to change that. With a healthy Owen Daniels, and stud receiver, Andre Johnson to throw too, Schaub could easily improve upon his already impressive stats.
Matt Ryan, going from the 2009 to the 2010 season, Ryan passed for nearly 800 more yards with six more touchdowns and five less interceptions. In 2010 his final stat line read at, 3,705 yards through the air with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. For 2011, it is easy to believe that Ryan’s numbers will only improve. As the Falcons offense continues to rack up more and more touchdowns through the air, and with the addition of rookie receiver Julio Jones (6’4” 220 lbs.) to reel in passes opposite of Roddy White, it is very possible for Ryan to have his best season yet in the NFL.
Quarterbacks with plenty of value to hold down the starter role for your fantasy squad.
Ben Roethlisberger, he obviously didn’t play a full season last year, due to a four-game suspension to start 2010. But Big Ben still passed for 3,200 yards. His 17 touchdown were pretty average, but Roethlisberger did improve in one stat. He averaged more carries per game than in 2009 and he scored two touchdowns on the ground with 174 yards. With another year throwing to Mike Wallace and veteran Hines Ward; a full 2011 season can see an increase in all of Roethlisberger’s fantasy statistics, making him worthy of a starter role.
Josh Freeman, he is exactly where he wants to be for his third season in the NFL. Getting to start all 16 games for the Buccaneers last year, Freeman passed for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with only six INTs. Freeman also ran the ball 68 times for 364 yards. Another year in Tampa Bay’s young growing offense will only improve upon Freeman’s production. While the bulldozer LeGarrette Blount continues to earn himself the reputation of being a power back, Josh Freeman will see the benefits of throwing to Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn during their sophomore years.
Joe Flacco, his name doesn’t bring about a ton of excitement among fantasy owners, but Flacco was consistent enough in 2010 despite passing for a run-first team. His overall numbers didn’t improve quite as much as owners hoped they would from the addition of Anquan Boldin, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in 2011. While the Ravens lost veteran receiver Derrick Mason, the addition of Lee Evans and rookie receiver Torrey Smith certainly helps Flacco’s chances of cracking 30 TDs this year.
Let Them Go
Avoid these quarterbacks, and let them be someone else’s headache.
Eli Manning, well he did have 31 touchdowns last year…but he also turned the ball over 30 times. He has targets to throw the ball too, but then again that has never really been an issue for Little Manning. Eli is the cause for his own inconsistencies, and a deteriorating offensive line doesn’t make for an improved season. He is worthy of a bench spot for someone’s team in your league, but he is not worth targeting for your team.
Jay Cutler, while he not only turned the ball over through the air 16 times, Cutler also fumbled the ball nine times. And that makes sense, seeing as he was sacked more times than any other QB. Not a statistic you want a quarterback on your team to own. The addition of Marion Barber is a step toward running the ball more in Chicago. Cutler’s value looks limited while throwing to the same mediocre receiving core in 2011.
Mark Sanchez, he had one or less touchdowns in 10 contests last year, and he averaged just 205 passing yards a game. Rough stats for a quarterback that had 507 passing attempts in 2010. While his stats should improve in his third year, I would like to see at least one solid season from the Jets' starting QB before placing him on your draft board.
Donovan McNabb, going to the Vikings offense will definitely help McNabb to get drafted as a team's backup QB. But age is why McNabb found his place here on my list. He is 34 years old and coming off a season where he managed only 14 touchdowns and tossed 15 picks. His days using his legs are far behind him, so his success throwing the ball will need to dramatically improve if he is to be worth a roster spot.
Look for cheap value on these quarterbacks that could put up solid fantasy numbers.
Matt Stafford, being healthy is the one thing working against Stafford, that and maybe having the Lions' offensive line blocking for him. But still, Stafford is a quarterback with a lot of upside. He’s throwing the ball to all-star receiver Calvin Johnson, and will be throwing it a lot in a Lions offense that loves to air it out. He has earned a reputation of missing a lot of games, but he still remains a low cost, high reward quarterback.
Sam Bradford, his rookie season was pretty successful, especially when you consider the lack of receiver support he had. Bradford threw the ball 590 times in 2010, and had a 60 percent completion percentage. While the Rams no longer have Mark Clayton, they did however bring in Mike Sims-Walker. Add in a rookie tight end and a new rookie receiver to throw too, and Bradford is a sleeper candidate in his sophomore year.
Kevin Kolb, he isn’t really a sleeper by definition, but Kolb could definitely outperform expectations in 2011. The Cardinals are a team that performs much better with a proven quarterback like, Kurt Warner. Unfortunately, Kolb is anything but a proven quarterback in the NFL. He’s seen time starting for multiple football teams, and now he is starting for Arizona, where he will be paired up with arguably the best wide receiver in the league, Larry Fitzgerald.
Quarterbacks that are still worth mentioning in fantasy discussions.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, is a quarterback worth mentioning. He had a lot of success throwing to Steve Johnson last year and racked up 23 touchdowns. David Garrard, is still the starter in Jacksonville and coming off one of his best seasons, but you will still hear rookie Blaine Gabbert’s name as a threat. First overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cam Newton doesn’t appear to have any immediate value during his first season in the NFL, and neither does rookie Andy Dalton playing for the Bengals. Finally second-year man Colt McCoy could possibly start to emerge this year from the waivers.