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2011 Top-Ten Fantasy Football Quarterbacks May Surprise You

Jeremy AlpertSenior Analyst IIOctober 21, 2016

2011 Top-Ten Fantasy Football Quarterbacks May Surprise You

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    The big question heading into the 2010 season was if Aaron Rodgers could repeat his Pro Bowl performance from a year ago.  The answer:  Hell Yes! 

    In fact, Rodgers even managed to improve upon it in a couple ways, with the most obvious one, of course, being that he led his team to a 31-26 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers while winning the game’s MVP honors in the process. 

    Though the other aspects Rodgers would surpass in 2010 may not have been as high-profile as his playoff run, witnessing an uptick in his yards per passing attempt while simultaneously seeing his sacks plummet were just as instrumental to his overall campaign as his final feat and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    As for how he did from a fantasy perspective, the same assessment applies.  Once again, Aaron “It Out” led all QBs in fantasy points by throwing for 3,922 yards and 28 passing TDs while adding another 356 yards and four TDs on the ground. 

    What made his No. 1 ranking so special, however, is that he was able to accomplish it in just 14.5 games (left the Week 14 game before halftime with a concussion, missed Week 15), and though his 21.9 fantasy points per game turned out to be a half-point less than what he put up in 2009, it was still second in the league next to Mike Vick (27.2 points/game in 12 games).

    Since Green Bay decided to pony up for WR James Jones, it looks like the Packers offense will remain intact for the 2011 season. 

    Actually, with the return of TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant, along with the emergence of RB James Starks and drafting of WR Randall Cobb, I’d have to say it’s almost a given Rodgers will put up better numbers this season than he did the last. 

    With 2010 seeing Aaron amass five 300-yard games and five more with 3+ touchdown passes (eight if you include the playoffs), Rodgers simply has to be my first QB off the board in 2011 fantasy drafts.

10. Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons

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    Ryan set career marks in every single statistical category in 2010, including the ever-important department of total fantasy points.  His 357 completions bettered his previous mark by nearly 100, while his completion percentage grew to a steady 62.5%. 

    He didn’t quite get to 4,000 passing yards, but 3,706 ended up the ninth best total in the league.  Ryan’s greatest fantasy improvement might have been in his touchdown total, as 28 would tie him with Aaron Rodgers for the sixth most in the NFL.

    All in all, Ryan was at the very least consistent throughout 2010, never sinking below double-digit fantasy points in any week while throwing for at least one TD in 15 of 16 games.

    Would I be confident going into the 2011 fantasy season with Matt Ryan as my starting QB?  Well, confident may not be the word I would use, but his game is definitely on a steady rise. 

    The addition of rookie stud WR Julio Jones and Roddy White taking over as one the Grand Poobahs of fantasy wide receivers has my attitude towards the situation as one of enthusiastic anticipation. 

    If the coaching staff stays true to their word and leans more toward the pass this season, Ryan will end up in the top-10 fantasy QBs in 2011.  Done deal.

9. Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions

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    To quote a former Chicago Bears head coach, Dave Wannstedt, “All the pieces are in place” for Stafford to jump up the fantasy scale this year. 

    First off, the Lions went out and drafted yet another play-making receiver in Titus Young.  He may be coming along slowly, but he will make a difference this season.

    Second, they still have a serviceable enough WR2 in Nate Burleson to take the pressure off of All-Universe WR Calvin Johnson. 

    Third, Detroit can still keep opposing safeties honest with RB Jahvid Best.  Add in that both Megatron and Stafford are coming into the season healthy and there’s no reason to think Stafford won’t break into the top-10 fantasy QBs in the league, especially in what looks to be a pass-heavy offense.

    When healthy, Stafford proved he can hang with the upper tier of fantasy QBs by putting up 18.6 fantasy points/game in 2.5 games last season.  The injuries suck of course, but in terms of overall tools, Stafford is as talented as it gets. 

    He has very solid red-zone targets in superhuman Megatronic Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew, and his offensive line was much improved last season allowing just 27 sacks in 633 pass attempts (tied for 6th-best in the NFL). 

    Speaking of pass attempts, he’s in good shape there as well, as Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan trends his offense toward throwing the ball (Detroit was 3rd overall in pass attempts in 2010 and 6th overall in 2009).

    I mean, what's not to love about this guy… except for the injuries, of course.  Stafford has a strong arm that can make any throw on the field, which is nice because he happens to have the most freakish wide receiver on the planet at his disposal in Calvin Johnson. 

    If Matty can stay healthy for an entire year, which I am predicting he finally does, landing in the top-10 fantasy QBs wouldn't be surprising in the slightest.

8. Matt Schaub: Houston Texans

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    I wouldn’t call Matt Schaub’s 2010 season a bust by any means, but coming off his first Pro Bowl selection the year before, it sure was disappointing. 

    Under normal circumstances, Schaub’s 4,369 passing yards and 24 touchdowns would be considered a really good year.  However, I suspect fantasy owners would be on opposite sides of the spectrum on this.

    The beauty of the fickle Houston QB, however, is that over the past few years, Count Chucula has actually become one of the better fantasy closers in the league, and 2010 only added to this reputation.

    During the fantasy playoffs over the last three seasons (weeks 14–17; a total of 12 games), Schaub has averaged 323.6 yards, 1.6 TDs and 19.4 fantasy points per game.

    In 2010 alone, Schaub averaged 320.3 yards, 1.75 TDs and just over 20 fantasy points per game.

    Stats like these can win you a fantasy Super Bowl, but only did so if you were one of those super-confident owners who stuck it out with him through thick and thin.

    As long as Schaub has Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to throw to, along with a bunch of average complementary players to fill in the gaps (such as Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter), he should have no problem remaining just outside the top tier of fantasy QBs. 

    He might never find himself mentioned alongside Rodgers, Manning or Brady, but if you can hold off drafting a QB until six or seven other teams have, then Matt Schaub is the guy you’ll want to target in 2011.

7. Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys

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    Before going down for the 2010 season and frustrating the hell out of fantasy owners who drafted him as their starting QB, Tony Romo was making those same owners look like geniuses through the Cowboys' first five games. 

    You can’t take away the fact that he got injured, but you also can’t ignore the numbers he was putting up to that point.

    Unfortunately, those majestic numbers would become a mere pipe dream when Tony broke his collarbone on the first play of the second quarter in the Cowboys' sixth game.

    Without their All-Pro QB, Dallas would go on to compile a losing record of 6-10 and break their streak of five straight winning seasons.  At the same time, many fantasy owners were left to wonder what might have been.

    On the other hand, the good news for Romo fans and fantasy owners is that the QB has completely recovered from his collarbone injury and will head into the 2011 season both fresh and hungry.  With Miles Austin, a seasoned Dez Bryant and All-Pro Jason Witten set to return, the sky’s the limit for Tony. 

    In fact, considering what we saw last season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him return to the top and crack the top-5 fantasy QBs in 2011.

6. Peyton Manning: Indianapolis Colts

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    If you were to tell me that you think Peyton Manning had a down year in 2010, my guess would be that you don’t play fantasy football.  

    Those of us who spend half our lives in the fantasy world would beg to differ with that judgment, though in the real world, you may actually be correct.

    I'm a bit worried about his neck this season, but if anybody is a gamer in this league, it's Peyton Manning. 

    The smart bet would be to place your money on his playing all 16 games and kicking some fantasy ass yet again because when it comes down to it, Peyton has been the most consistent guy in fantasy sports over the last decade.

    'Nuff said.

5. Philip Rivers: San Diego Chargers

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    Rivers was coming off of back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons in which he threw for a total of 62 TDs, but with a rookie running back behind him, no Vincent Jackson to throw to and a makeshift wide receiving corps due to his loss, the only thing fantasy owners could conclude was that Rivers’ stats were undoubtedly going to falter.

    Boy, were we wrong.

    So wrong, in fact, that the 29-year old Chargers QB ended up having the finest season of his career!

    Whatever the reasons may be, Rivers’ game matured yet again last season and you can count on him using what he learned come 2011.  4,710 yards, 30 TDs and 19.6 fantasy points per game is no joke, folks. 

    I still find myself having a tough time putting him in the same class as Rodgers, Vick, Peyton, Brees and Brady, but at this point, with V-Jax back and Gates healthy again, I’m not so sure he doesn’t deserve it.

4. Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

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    Coming off a second straight season putting up 34 TDs, 290+ passing yards/game and 21+ fantasy points per game, the 2009 Super Bowl victor and MVP had fantasy owners licking their chops at what he might do with the Saints in 2010. 

    After getting off to a sluggish start averaging just 1.5 TDs and 245.5 passing yards a game over the first two weeks, Cool Brees returned to form and went on a fantasy tear for the remainder of the year. 

    In leagues where interceptions count against you, he may not have been up to the standard we normally expect from him (set a career high with 22 picks), but if positive points are the only thing your league takes note of, Brees once again satisfied his owners by turning in the fourth most fantasy points for QBs in the NFL while tossing 33 TDs and over 4,600 yards.

    Despite New Orleans scoring just nine TDs on the ground and ending up 28th in the league in rushing offense (94.9 rush yards/game), Brees was still able to maneuver his way through stacked passing defenses in 2010 to his fifth straight season as a Top-4 fantasy QB. 

    In fact, Brees is the only QB in the NFL to finish in the Top 5 each of the last five seasons.  Needless to say, Drew has become one of the safest fantasy bets the league has to offer and though he’s a 32-year old 10-year veteran, his status as such isn’t likely to change any time soon. 

    His dependability is actually compounded by the fact he’s missed only two games in the last seven years, both times being in Week 17 because his team had already made the playoffs.

    There are very few words I can think of that properly describe the 6-foot wonder at this point in his career.  Other than maybe Aaron Rodgers, there’s no other QB in the league you’d feel safer having on your fantasy team than the 2009 Super Bowl MVP, Drew Brees.

3. Tom Brady: New England Patriots

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    The 2010 season was a strange one for the Stetson Man...and when I say “strange,” what I really mean is freakin’ awesome.

    As expected, Brady came out of the gates looking like a machine throwing for eight touchdowns compared to just two interceptions over the first three weeks of the season. 

    However, the Patriots next four games would not be nearly as kind to the 11-year vet as Tommy would average a mere 211 yards per contest while tossing up just one TD in each of those four games (he also added two more INTs to his total). 

    An uninspiring start such as this would force fantasy owners to question their faith in the 33-year old QB, especially with WR Wes Welker playing at less than 100 percent and the shocking news that New England had decided to cut ties with one of fantasy’s surest bets over the past decade, WR Randy Moss, just four weeks into the regular season.

    But despite what was shaping up to be a slightly disappointing fantasy year for Brady, help would soon be on the way in the form of one of the most unlikely candidates anyone could imagine; former Super Bowl MVP and Patriots favorite son, WR Deion Branch.

    Brady and Branch immediately recaptured their rhythm, hooking up for 98 yards and a TD on nine catches to defeat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in Deion’s first game back as a Patriot.

    Branch would be relatively quiet over the next few weeks, but his presence alone seemed to trigger a fire in Brady that the league had never before seen.

    He may not have the same unlimited potential as an Aaron Rodgers or Michael Vick at this point, but with Ochocinco on board and coach Bill Belichick continuing to put him in a position to succeed, Brady should be considered an automatic Top-5 QB in your fantasy league with a slight possibility of ending up No. 1.

2. Michael Vick: Philadelphia Eagles

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    There’s no doubt what Mike Vick accomplished last season was astonishing, but the question is, should it really have been unexpected? 

    First of all, his athleticism has always been unmatched at the quarterback position; there’s never been a question about that. 

    However, there were some legitimate concerns heading into the 2010 season, especially regarding his stint behind bars and how it might have affected his game (seeing that his first season back in 2009 was basically a bust).

    Hindsight may indeed be 20-20, but it’s still hard to believe what we saw out of “Ron Mexico” last year.  Clearly jail was not nearly as negative of an experience for him as most presumed it would be.  In fact, it turned out to be quite the opposite.  

    With little else to do in the slammer other than work out and contemplate the err of his ways, Vick not only kept his body in top physical shape, but also had time to develop something he had previously been void of in his career: the mental strength of a world-class QB.

    The proof of this is in the pudding:

    Besides being selected to his fourth career Pro Bowl in 2010, Vick set personal career records in a number of different categories: Completions (233), Passing Yards (3,018), Completion Percentage (62.6), Passing TDs (21), Passing Yards per Attempt (8.1), QB Rating (100.2), and Rushing TDs (9)… all in just 12 games! 

    Yes, that’s right, all in just ¾ of a season. 

    Not only that, but the Philly QB was able to accumulate more fantasy points (basic scoring system) in those 12 games than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers were able to in a full 16 games!

    If that doesn’t convince you Mike Vick is back and an ultimate fantasy force to contend with, not to mention a legitimate consideration for the No. 1 overall fantasy selection, I don’t know what will.

1. Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers

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    The big question heading into the 2010 season was if Aaron Rodgers could repeat his Pro Bowl performance from a year ago.  The answer:  Hell Yes! 

    In fact, Rodgers even managed to improve upon it in a couple ways, with the most obvious one, of course, being that he led his team to a 31-26 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers while winning the game’s MVP honors in the process. 

    Though the other aspects Rodgers would surpass in 2010 may not have been as high-profile as his playoff run, witnessing an uptick in his yards per passing attempt while simultaneously seeing his sacks plummet were just as instrumental to his overall campaign as his final feat and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    As for how he did from a fantasy perspective, the same assessment applies.  Once again, Aaron “It Out” led all QBs in fantasy points by throwing for 3,922 yards and 28 passing TDs while adding another 356 yards and four TDs on the ground. 

    What made his No. 1 ranking so special, however, is that he was able to accomplish it in just 14.5 games (left the Week 14 game before halftime with a concussion, missed Week 15), and though his 21.9 fantasy points per game turned out to be a half-point less than what he put up in 2009, it was still second in the league next to Mike Vick (27.2 points/game in 12 games).

    Since Green Bay decided to pony up for WR James Jones, it looks like the Packers offense will remain intact for the 2011 season. 

    Actually, with the return of TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant, along with the emergence of RB James Starks and drafting of WR Randall Cobb, I’d have to say it’s almost a given Rodgers will put up better numbers this season than he did the last. 

    With 2010 seeing Aaron amass five 300-yard games and five more with 3+ touchdown passes (eight if you include the playoffs), Rodgers simply has to be my first QB off the board in 2011 fantasy drafts.

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