Injuries to big names (Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Matt Hasselbeck), the emergence of a new class of QBs (Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers), rejuvenations (Kurt Warner, Chad Pennington), stellar rookies (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco) and a quarterback in the top 10 that hadn’t started since high school (Matt Cassel), yes, 2008 was indeed an interesting year for the quarterback position.
What’s in store for 2009?
Simply continue reading, and you’ll find out as the Bruno Boys provide their take on the NFL’s top-50 fantasy football quarterbacks.
1. Drew Brees—New Orleans Saints (Bye: 5)
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints entered last season with high expectations after a strong finish to the 2007 season. And, Brees did not disappoint. Unlike the 2007 season, Brees started last year off on the right foot with eight touchdowns to only four interceptions in the first four games of the year. The Saints, however, did not enjoy the same level of success as Brees did as New Orleans never won more than two consecutive games in the season, finishing the year 8-8.
Brees, on the other hand, went on to enjoy the finest season of his career as he threw multiple touchdowns in 11 games, including the final six of the season, which included a pair of four-touchdown games. Brees finished 2008 by throwing for 5,069 yards, 34 touchdowns and 17 interceptions; all while completing 65.0 percent of his passes.
He, also, took the fewest sacks (13) in a season for his career and finished with an average yards per attempt of 8.0, highlighting his efficiency.
New Orleans returns many of their play-makers on offense, including receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson, tight end Jeremy Shockey and running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Thomas will fill the role of the retired Deuce McAllister, so there are some questions at the running back position for the Saints, but that just means more opportunities for Brees.
The offensive line is more than adequate and should do a fine job protecting Brees. The thing against Brees is he can be prone to interceptions from time to time as he had five multiple-interception games last season. With a strong supporting cast, his big-game potential and the fact that he usually plays exceptional in the second half of the season, Brees gets the nod as the top-rated quarterback entering the 2009 season. A repeat of last year’s numbers, or potentially slightly better, is a safe bet.
2. Peyton Manning—Indianapolis Colts (Bye: 6)
Last season, Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback, Peyton Manning, was edged by New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady for the top spot among fantasy football QBs on draft day. However, while Brady went down with an injury in week one, Manning rewarded his owners with another fine season despite injuries to key players on the offensive side of the ball, such as Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai as well as inconsistency issues from other players, such as Anthony Gonzalez.
At the start of last season, Manning didn’t appear set for a good 2008 as he threw just three touchdowns and four interceptions in the Colts’ first three games and had nine of his 12 interceptions before week nine. After that, though, Manning found his groove, finishing with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in the last nine games of the regular season.
With the way Manning finished last season, it appears he is primed for a great year in 2009. Harrison is gone, but returning at wide receiver are Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark always makes for a strong target at tight end. A healthy Addai will help the run game, but to make sure the Colts are covered there, the team spent their first-round pick on Donald Brown from Connecticut. The offensive line should be as solid as usual, helped by an improving Tony Ugoh at left tackle.
All that is nice, but there are some major questions.
How will Manning and the Colts fare without former head coach Tony Dungy, former offensive coordinator Tom Moore and former offensive line coach Howard Mudd? All three were key cogs for the Colts during the Manning era. However, Manning had basically taken control of the offense anyway with his ability to call plays, audibles and hot routes from the line whenever he chose, so this should not affect the Colts too much, at least for this season.
Secondly, who is going to step up and play the third receiver role? Possible candidates include Austin Collie, Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon, but all are extremely inexperienced and unproven. Due to questions like these, Manning may never reach his 2004 numbers again, but a 30-touchdown season is certainly in the cards.
3. Tom Brady—New England Patriots (Bye: 8)
Fresh off a tough loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, Tom Brady and the Patriots appeared ready for a huge 2008 season. Brady, in particular, appeared to be hitting his peak in terms of individual performances and statistics, causing many people to pencil him in as a top-five fantasy football pick last year. Alas, it was only eight minutes into the season last year when Brady took a shot to the knee from Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Bernard Pollard that sidelined Brady for the rest of the season.
A torn ACL was the diagnosis and Brady opted for surgery with a family doctor instead of the New England team doctor. Two post-op surgeries were necessary to clean the knee out and remove infections, and it was suspected Brady wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2009 season. Statements from himself, his teammates and his coaches have, however, put that rumor to bed.
So, Brady enters this season healthy enough to start from the beginning. Nevertheless, make no mistake about it, no matter what he or anybody from the New England organization says, Brady’s knee is not 100 percent and likely won’t be at all in 2009. Still, it is his arm that matters and that is intact and fine. Thus, to evaluate Brady’s potential for this season let’s look at a similar case, when Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback, Carson Palmer, returned from an ACL injury he suffered in the 2005 playoffs to start the 2006 season.
Palmer was shaky in his first few starts, but fought through it to finish with good numbers, throwing 28 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions. Now, considering that Brady is a better quarterback, on a better team and has had considerably more time to recover, and it’s easy to expect a return to a 30+ touchdown performance. What you can’t expect is a repeat of his 2007 season. Still, Brady is one of the top quarterbacks, and players in fantasy football.
4. Philip Rivers—San Diego Chargers (Bye: 5)
5. Kurt Warner—Arizona Cardinals (Bye: 4)
6. Aaron Rodgers—Green Bay Packers (Bye: 5)
7. Donovan McNabb—Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 4)
8. Tony Romo—Dallas Cowboys (Bye: 6)
9. Jay Cutler—Chicago Bears (Bye: 5)
10. Matt Ryan—Atlanta Falcons (Bye: 4)
11. Carson Palmer—Cincinnati Bengals (Bye: 8)
12. Matt Schaub—Houston Texans (Bye: 10)