For the 2011 fantasy football season, the top 10 quarterbacks are pretty much set in stone.
While there may be some variation regarding their exact slots within the top 10 among fantasy experts, the following players are undoubtedly the top signal-callers for the upcoming season: Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and, of course, the legendary Peyton Manning (if he is healthy enough to play this year).
Unfortunately, not every fantasy owner will be lucky enough to select one of the aforementioned fantasy studs and will be forced to pick from a few younger players who seem primed to make a jump into this elite group in 2011.
Some of these players include Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, Baltimore's Joe Flacco, and Kansas City's Matt Cassel—three guys who were able to exceed expectations last season and lead each of their respective teams to winning records.
Yet there are two other young guns ready to make their mark on the NFL this season. They were both picked No. 1 overall in each of the years they were drafted and they are both set to become the faces of each of their respective franchises.
Stafford was drafted in 2009, one year prior to Bradford, but injuries and a lackluster supporting cast have hindered his development quite a bit. He was able to throw for 13 touchdowns in just 10 games during his rookie season, and last year he had a 6/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in just three games before sitting out the rest of the season due to a right shoulder problem.
Bradford was impressive as a rookie last season, finishing 2010 with 18 touchdowns and 3,809 passing yards. His numbers are even more impressive due to the fact that he was playing with a rather lackluster receiving corps whose top performer, Danny Amendola, was only able to garner 689 receiving yards for the entire season.
Both Stafford and Bradford look primed to excel this year. But which of the two players would be the smarter pick come Draft Day?
The Lions added some talent this offseason, but it was mostly on the defensive side of the ball. The only offensive players that the Lions picked up this summer were journeymen running backs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell—two guys that will hardly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators.
The team did pick up a nice piece in this year's draft (running back Mikel LeShoure), but an Achilles injury already has him sidelined for the entire 2011 season. Stafford does have star wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) to throw to, as well as a young and quickly improving tight end in Brandon Pettrigrew. But Stafford could still use some more help on offense, especially if running back Jahvid Best cannot improve on a mediocre 2010 rookie campaign.
The Rams focused much of their offseason efforts on defense as well, but they did add some decent pieces on offense in running back Cadillac Williams and wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Still, the fact of the matter is, Bradford needs more established options to throw to if the Rams want to go anywhere this season.
Fortunately, the team does have one of the game's elite running backs, Steven Jackson, who seems primed for a big year in 2011 and will hopefully be able to open up the passing game a bit more for Bradford this season.
Also, don't forget that the Rams hired former Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as their new offensive coordinator. Though his brief stint in Denver ended rather horribly, there is no denying that he is an offensive genius and should be able to get Bradford to the next level rather quickly.
As far as pure numbers go, it is unfair to compare their stats from last season due to the fact that Stafford only played in three games. But both have been impressive so far through two games in the 2011 preseason:
- Stafford: 12/17, 156 yards, 3 TDs
- Bradford: 15/27, 183 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Though it would be foolish to base your decision off preseason stats alone, both of their performances so far this summer have many fantasy owners salivating over their incredible potential.
But in the end, only one of these men can be chosen as the winner. And that man is Sam Bradford.
Many fantasy experts actually have Stafford ranked higher than Bradford this season, but when you really think about it, Bradford is easily the safer option. Not only does he have one of the best offensive minds in the game (Josh McDaniels) tutoring him this season, but he also has a stud running back to help take the pressure off of him, which is something that Stafford lacks in Detroit.
Bradford also plays in perhaps the weakest division in the NFL that features some pretty subpar defensive units. Though Stafford was extremely impressive during his brief appearance in 2010, Bradford will begin the season in a much better situation.
It will certainly be a tough choice for any fantasy owner, but if you must choose between Stafford and Bradford, go with the latter.