The Olympics are over. Go USA! The Phillies are trying to save face with a AAA roster. I can now not watch any golf coverage for at least 12 months. If all that doesn’t add up to the NFL–then I wasn’t taken out of class in 2nd grade for being like, crazy good, at math and sh*t. We can’t ignore the NFL any longer. It’s coming, it’s nipping at our heels, it’s a highway patrolman behind an overpass. In summary: it’s lurking. When we talk about the NFL in these modern times, we are talking about QBs. Luckily for everyone who stumbles upon this blog, I happen to be the foremost expert on QB play and by expert I mean someone who believes strongly in their own opinion, but has absolutely no credentials. With the fantasy and actual seasons right around the corner, I’m left with no choice but to rank the QBs (fantasy rankings in parentheses).
1. Aaron Rodgers (4). I think Rodgers is going to be on a mission this year. He was on a steady rise, and then came the playoff game against the Giants last year. No real excuse there. Rodgers needed to win that game. I don’t see Rodgers as a guy who’s content to be known as a regular season hero who doesn’t always come up clutch in the biggest games. With a new chip on his shoulder, I put Rodgers atop the QB class for 2012. His fantasy value has been trailing off ever so slightly the past two years and with the emergence of Cam Newton’s running TD ability–Rodgers drops to 4th in my rankings.
2. Eli Manning (6)–We’ve seen that Eli is capable of putting up some good numbers with a decent set of wide receivers, so that in combination with his 2nd Super Bowl win puts Eli at #2 on the list. For several years, people talked about how Eli was already among the league’s best in clutch situations. I’ve got to say that I never really saw that to be true. Maybe it’s because Eli has saved some of his least clutch performances for games against the Eagles–but it’s unquestioned now that Eli is capable of making a run. This is what the NFL playoffs are all about. In terms of fantasy, Eli still doesn’t get enough chances to get top-5 status, and he’s no threat for bonus rushing TDs.
3. Tom Brady (1). Brady has now been to five Super Bowls, and even though they haven’t won since 2004–it’s hard to put that on Brady. Like Gisele said, Tom can’t throw AND catch the ball. With his arsenal of TEs and possession receivers, Brady is a lock to put up monster numbers during the regular season and despite questionable haircut decisions, remains one of the game’s true leaders. In terms of fantasy, unless you think Cam-Cam Juice is going to run for about 12 scores, TB and the Patriots ruthless offensive tactics have to make him #1.
4. Drew Brees (3). I’ve got to be honest–I don’t know who is coaching the Saints on opening day. The question is, does it matter? Brees stewed over his contract situation all pre-season, but I don’t see that hurting his play on the field. The Saints still have plenty of weapons and Brees is still comically accurate with the ball. The Saints have been a bit disappointing in the post-season since their Super Bowl win, but it’s tough to put that on Brees. The Saints defense surrendered about 460 points in those two games. In fantasy terms, the unstable situation in New Orleans is all that keeps Brees from topping the list.
5. Matt Stafford (5). Stafford had a monster year last season, managing to stay on the field and teaming up with Megatron to destroy opposing defenses. I’d still like to see a bit more of a running game in Detroit to balance things out, but I’m beginning to think we’re moving toward an NFL where teams throw on every play. Stafford is the kind of guy who looks like he’d be comfortable in that role. Stafford’s injury history will scare some people off in fantasy, but he’s a top-5 guy across the board.
6. Ben Roethlisberger (10). Now that Big-Ben isn’t obligated to get Hines Ward 90 catches for 776 yards, it feels like things have opened up in Pittsburgh. They need to get Mike Wallace into camp, and Big Ben needs Wallace to earn this high ranking. Antonio Brown was a nice surprise last year, but Wallace still opens everything up. Roethlisberger has also won 2 Super Bowls, which not many other guys on this list can say. For fantasy, I not sure the Steelers have abandoned the run to the point where we can go above #10 for Roethlisberger.
7. Cam Newton (2). We’re still just scratching the surface on what Cam Newton will become. I’m sure you can find detractors who will say the league will eventually catch up to Newton and his true-QB skills still lag behind some of the league’s other elite QBs. For me, the bottom line is, how difficult is it to game plan a defense to stop a guy? Newton is the most dangerous combination of running and throwing in the league. It sends his fantasy value soaring, and what if last year was just Newton getting comfortable at this level?
8. Peyton Manning (12). Old neck injury. I have some concerns about Denver as a team on offense, which is why Pey-Pey’s fantasy ranking is a little lagging, but I have to believe that Peyton is still smart enough to be more effective than the rest of the slop on this list. He’s still going to able to do some Montana on the Chiefs kind of BS out there, and he knows how to avoid taking a beating. We’re getting close to the end, but I think he’s got at least one year left in him.
9. Philip Rivers (9). I’ve been defending Rivers for years and the guy continues to put up great stats. But where does the blame fall for all of San Digeo’s flame outs? Not only do they always lose in the playoffs, but Rivers is still capable of going on the road and losing a regular season game he has no business losing. You can do a lot worse, but you can also do better. And given the Mathews/Gates health and Vincent Jackson being gone scenarios, I’m not sure how this year will go for fantasy owners.
10. Michael Vick (7). The Eagles’ 1st pre-season game sent everyone into a panic. Vick injured his throwing hand. Mike Kafka looked awful. And, was that DeMeco Ryans or Brian Bosworth out there? While Super Bowl dreams may have been tempered for the time being, the Eagles still have a deadly offense. Vick has plenty of weapons and can still run when he has to–that combination barely gets him into the top ten. In fantasy terms, Vick’s ability to have that monster week bumps his value up a little bit in my mind, but it’s offset by the fact he never plays 16 games.
11. Jay Cutler (13). Did you forget how good Cutler and the Bears were before his injury last season? No one has ever failed the “face-test” quite like Jay Cutler, but he’s got a Philip Rivers skill set and hasn’t been blessed with teams nearly as good. With Matt Forte in the mix, being reunited with Brandon Marshall–things could finally be coming together for Jay Cutler. He’s even a father now. Yes, there is a double-chinned baby Cutler. His fantasy number looks low, but when was the last time you saw someone excited about drafting Jay Cutler?
12. Matt Schaub (8). Schaub has never been known as a big-time QB (except on the stat sheet) and the Texans haven’t been a team you can trust in big spots, but all that looked like it was changing last season. Then something happened to Schaub’s foot. What was that injury? I remember someone saying his foot was the size of a cinder block, and then we didn’t see him again. I’m looking for Schaub to continue to come into his own this year, and he’s always been a guy who can go for 4,000 yds.
13. Tony Romo (11). The question is, how much of “Dallas” as a general catastrophe is Romo’s fault. Being the person I am, I would like to place a majority of the blame on Romo. But, you’ve got to remember that at any given time, at least 1/2 the teams in the league are going to hate their QBs. Romo isn’t without skills. There are times where he looks shockingly competent. Dallas is still going nowhere, but alas, it’s not all on Romo.
14. Matt Ryan (16). It’s tough to get a read on Ryan, because he exceeded expectations immediately, but since then he’s been blessed with a good team and a lot of talent around him. Turner, Roddy White, even the ancient Tony Gonzalez. I’m starting to think that Ryan should be doing more. He’s falling on my list. With a bullet. This is a huge season for Ryan. It’s time to put up, or become the lost Hasselbeck brother. In fantasy terms, Ryan is the guy you’d be content to have on your bench.
15. Andrew Luck (18). Why not? Luck is supposed to be the most polished QB to come into the league in years. And, contrary to popular opinion, rookie QBs hae had some nice success over the past few seasons. My main concern is, how bad is this team around him? I’m counting on Luck being smart enough and tough enough to last the year and maybe even pile up some garbage time numbers. I wouldn’t have the stones to take him in fantasy, but he could reward the bold. Looked good yesterday!
16. Andy Dalton (17)
17. RG3 (14)
18. Flacco (22)
19. Fitzy (20)
20. Palmer (15)
21. Bradford (19)
22. Freeman (21)
23. Smith (25)
24. Hasselbeck (24)
25. Kolb (23)
26. Sanchez (26)
27. Henne (29)
28. Flynn (28)
29. McCoy (30)
30. Ponder (27)