Although the start of the 2011 season is just around the corner, plenty of folks will have their fantasy football draft(s) between now and Sept. 8 when the last two Super Bowl winners square off at Lambeau Field to open the season.
Therefore, we have updated our fantasy quarterback rankings.
This year, however, it's my strategy to wait on quarterback, especially for my shallower leagues (10-12 teams), since the position is relatively deep.
Here our updated fantasy quarterback rankings for 2011:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Counting the Packers' postseason run, Rodgers threw three-plus touchdowns in seven of the final 10 games of the season that he finished (Rodgers left the Week 14 matchup against the Lions with a concussion). Rodgers fell just shy of 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 the league's latest $100 million man 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: 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. 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 very high. While Brees will spread the ball around in the Saints' high-powered offense to plenty of different receivers, which diminishes the fantasy value of the team's top receivers, Brees is going to air it out. Brees has three of the top seven most pass attempts in a season in NFL history: 658 in 2010 (third all time), 652 in 2007 (fifth) and 635 in 2008 (seventh).
5. 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.
6. 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. While I expect him to be under center Week 1, Manning, who signed a five-year deal with the Colts, may not be ready to go when the season starts on Sept. 11 as he recovers from two offseason neck surgeries.
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—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 led 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, will only 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. Helped largely to his 42 pass attempts in the first half in his third preseason game, Ryan leads all quarterbacks in pass attempts (67) this preseason.
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).
11. Josh Freeman, Bucs: Although Freeman was the last of three first-round quarterbacks drafted in 2009, Freeman enters 2011 as the highest-rated of that group on this list. Not only did he make huge strides in his own performance in his sophomore season, but the trio of Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount form a young but formidable group that should only continue to develop together.
12. Eli Manning, Giants: Manning, the other half of the "Football Cops" duo, has now thrown for 4,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons and he threw a career-high 31 touchdowns in 2010. That said, Manning threw a career-high (and NFL-worst) 25 interceptions last year and lost Steve Smith via free agency. The late-season weather in the Meadowlands isn't exactly fantasy-friendly, either. Over the past three seasons, Manning has had multi-touchdown performances in 58.8 percent of his games from September to November. In December and January, that number has dropped to 35.7 percent of his games. In other words, Manning is less likely to have a big game when you need it the most (fantasy playoffs).
13. Joe Flacco, Ravens: Flacco set a career high in touchdowns (25) and a career low in interceptions (10) in 2010, but he has lost his most reliable fall-back option in Derrick Mason, who was cut by the Ravens and signed by the Jets. While Mason's departure should help the fantasy value of Anquan Boldin, it does not help Flacco's fantasy value.
14. Matthew Stafford, Lions: Can Stafford, who was called a "China Doll" by (now former) teammate Zach Follett, stay healthy for a full season? That's the big question as he's only played 13 games in two years. Stafford, the top overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, has a big arm and the Lions have plenty of weapons in their offense. This preseason, Stafford has completed 77.4 percent of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions.
15. Sam Bradford, Rams: Bradford, the 2010 offensive rookie of the year, threw for 3,590 yards despite injuries to Donnie Avery (out for season) and Mark Clayton (played in only five games). Assuming a healthier receiving corps, the free-agent addition of Mike Sims-Walker and Bradford's continued development, Bradford should improve upon his 18-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011 under the tutelage of Josh McDaniels, the team's new offensive coordinator.
16. Jay Cutler, Bears: Last year, Cutler had the lowest yards-per-game average (218.3) and completion percentage (60.4) of his career since his rookie season, when he played in only five games. In addition, he was sacked a career-high 52 times. The good news is Cutler cut back on interceptions as he threw 10 fewer in 2010 than in 2009.
17. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals: While the Cardinals gave up an arm and a leg (starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick) to get an arm (Kolb), Arizona needed to upgrade its quarterback situation that was pitiful last year. With a top five (or better) receiver on the roster, Kolb should be a top 20 quarterback with plenty of upside.
18. Matt Cassel, Chiefs: Cassel threw for 3,116 yards and a career-high 27 touchdowns last year in Charlie Weis' only season as the team's offensive coordinator. More than half (15) of those touchdowns were thrown to Dwayne Bowe. Aside from Bowe, no other receiver gave them much in 2010 as Chris Chambers finished second amongst receivers in yards (213), which led to Kansas City drafting Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin, who broke his thumb in a fight with teammate Thomas Jones, and signing free-agent receiver Steve Breaston, who was with coach Todd Haley in Arizona.
19. Kyle Orton, Broncos: Benched for the final three games in favor of Tim Tebow, Orton still finished 10th in the NFL in passing yards (3,653). On a per-game basis, only Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees averaged more. Entering 2011, however, there are several questions about Orton. While Orton will begin the season as the team's clear-cut starter, will he get pulled for Tebow (or Brady Quinn) if the Broncos start poorly and have no shot at the playoffs? How will the coaching transition from Josh McDaniels to a run-first coach in John Fox impact the play-calling and Orton's passing numbers?
20. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills: After replacing Trent Edwards as the starter last year, Fitzpatrick threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games. Fitzpatrick got off to a hot start—four consecutive multi-touchdown games and 11 total touchdowns during that span. In his final nine games, however, he had only two multi-touchdown games and threw almost as many interceptions (11) as touchdowns (12).
21. Mark Sanchez, Jets: The Sanchize's numbers aren't great—he has yet to complete at least 55 percent of his passes in a single season and he's thrown more interceptions (33) than touchdowns (29) in his first two seasons. While he improved year-over-year in his second season (3,291 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions), he was aided by a strong start (eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his first four games) last year. Excluding those first four games, Sanchez threw nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his final 12 regular-season games. Only Santonio Holmes returns out of the team's top three wideouts from last year, but the Jets added Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason via free agency.
22. Jason Campbell, Raiders: Campbell, a five-year veteran, has career highs of 3,618 yards and 20 passing touchdowns. So, in other words, he's (still) not going to light the world on fire. On a positive note, only three quarterbacks have more rushing yards than Campbell (716) in the past three seasons: David Garrard (924), Rodgers (879) and Vick (771).
23. Colt McCoy, Browns: McCoy had three games with multiple interceptions in the eight games he played in 2010. Unfortunately, those three games were against the Ravens and Steelers. From Weeks 13 to 17, McCoy and the Browns face the Ravens and Steelers four times in five games. McCoy has been solid this preseason: 60.9 completion percentage, four touchdowns and only one interception.
24. David Garrard, Jaguars: While Garrard threw for only 2,734 yards, a three-year low, he also set career highs in passing touchdowns (23), which is also a franchise record, and rushing touchdowns (five) in 2010. The Jaguars traded up to 10th overall pick in this year's draft to select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Garrard's eventual replacement. That said, however, the future may come earlier than expected.
25. Donovan McNabb, Vikings: McNabb has yet to play his first game in a Vikings jersey, yet his days in Minnesota are likely numbered as he signed a one-year deal and the team drafted quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick in this year's draft. That said, McNabb has a decent supporting cast in Minnesota despite the departure of Sidney Rice to Seattle.
Over the next few days, we will update our rankings for other positions as well as our cheat sheets. To view all of our fantasy rankings, Visit the TheTipDrill.com, our fantasy section.
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!