Fantasy Football Rankings | Top 10 QB's - 2012
by Russ Bliss
There seems to be a clear cut top 10 in the fantasy football rankings at the quarterback position this year. But where the players fall within the top 10 is where the debate begins. I think the top 2 are pretty much agreed on, but who should rank higher between Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and Matt Stafford? Depends on who you ask and according to our STARTERS Draft Analyzer, Brady is the highest ranked of the four. There may be some room for debate on whether Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger deserve to be in the top 10, and some may even try making a case of one of my favorite fantasy football sleeper QB's this year, Robert Griffin III, but will Peyton Manning stay healthy? Will he be the Peyton Manning we've come to expect fantasy greatness from? Now that they forced out Bruce Arians, will the Steelers finally get back to running the ball more often thus cutting into Big Ben's production some? And how much faith are you willing to put into the ultra talented and upside-laden RG3? Each of those guys have just enough risk associated with them for me to like all 10 of the quarterbacks listed here more as a fantasy starter.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: If week 17 would have had any meaning for the Packers, it is possible Rodgers would have joined the 5,000 yards passing club as well in 2011. But it didn't, and so he had to settle for 4,643; to go along with 45 passing TD's and only 6 interceptions. He also chipped in another 3 rushing TD's, too. Rodgers is in the prime of his career and tearing it up in a way few other QB's have ever done in NFL history. With the Packers showing no sign of slowing down their passing attack, Rodgers is worth 1st round consideration in many fantasy football drafts.
2) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Brees went on an insane run in 2011 throwing for over 5,400 yards and 46 touchdowns. He also brought his interceptions totals back down to 14 after a career high 22 in 2010. You have to go back to 2005 to find a season with fewer than 4,000 passing yards for Brees. You have to go back to 2007 to find him throwing for less than 30 touchdowns. Yes, he's in a holdout right now but I am confident that will get resolved before the start of the regular season. Yes, the Saints are a mess with the coaching punishments handed down by the league in the bounty scandal. But the personnel hasn't changed much and Brees will again be at the helm of the most prolific passing attack in the league and should be the second QB off the board in fantasy football drafts.
3) Tom Brady, New England Patriots: If not for Drew Brees having 5,476 passing yards, Brady would be the new record holder for most passing yards in a season he threw for 5,235 in 2011. His 39 passing TD's represented a second consecutive season with over 35 and were the second most of his career. The Patriots have offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels back in the fold and added a legitimate WR in Brandon Lloyd. Under McDaniels' tutelage in 2007, Brady threw for over 4,800 yards and an NFL record 50 touchdowns. There's no reason not to like Brady's chances of challenging for 5,000 yards and reaching 35+ passing TD's again in 2012.
4) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: While the passing numbers for Newton as a rookie don't scream fantasy stud (4,051 yards, 21 TD's, 17 interceptions), they were pretty amazing considering the questionable talent he was throwing the ball to. And it becomes fantasy stud material when you add in his rushing totals (706 rush yards; 14 rush TD's). While it's hard to imagine Newton being able to reach 14 rushing TD's again in 2012 (he did only have 1 rush TD in the last 4 games of 2011), it's still likely to be between 8-12. Add in the likelihood of improvement as a QB and you get a guy who has blown away every expectation I had for him. There's a bust factor with Newton, but his boom is very high.
5) Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick is a dichotomy heading into 2012. He is both a rebound candidate from a disappointing 2011 season; and the poster child for the bust potential of Cam Newton. After a surprise 2010 season that saw Vick finally emerge as more of a passing QB in 12 games played (21 pass TD's, only 6 interceptions) who also kept the threat of his legs (676 rush yards; 9 rush TD's), Vick's 2011 season was a dud (18 passing TD's, 14 interceptions, only 1 rushing TD). We know Vick can be much better than his 2011 season was; and it also serves notice of what can happen to a fantasy QB who primarily is counted on to score with his rushing abilities. Everything is set up for Vick to bounce back in 2011 though as he commands an offense loaded with weapons who should be both healthy and happy in 2012.
6) Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: I personally think Stafford probably deserves to be ranked 4th overall as we finally saw what he's capable of when he stayed healthy for an entire season. His per game averages while missing a lot of his first two seasons was very good, but his totals for a full 16 games when healthy in 2011 were staggering: 5,038 passing yards, 41 TD's, 16 interceptions. The Lions have a great set of weapons to throw the ball to (including the most physically talented WR in the league in Calvin Johnson) and Stafford is very likely to tear it up again in 2012.
7) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: An expected change in offensive philosophy in 2012 to a more aggressive passing offense bodes well for Ryan. Ryan is coming off his best season yet in 2011 throwing for 4,177 yards and 29 TD's, and with second year WR Julio Jones poised to become one of the most dangerous WR's in the game, not to mention already dangerous veteran Roddy White, and there's an excellent chance Ryan emerges to challenge for the top 5 in fantasy football rankings at the position in 2012.
8) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: Despite having a 5 games stretch where he threw for 7 interceptions and only 3 TD's, Rivers did manage to finish the 2011 season with pretty close to his usual numbers. The only thing really off was the increase in interceptions to 20. Otherwise, 4,624 yards and 27 TD's aren't far off from what he had averaged the 3 years prior. While losing Vincent Jackson hurts some, it's hoped that free agent Robert Meachem is ready to ascend to the WR he was slated to be when he was a first round pick of the Saints back in 2007. Along with some other free agent signings and a finally healthy Antonio Gates, there's no reason to not think Rivers won't keep his yardage totals up, his TD's totals up, and bring his interceptions totals back down in 2012.
9) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys fans might think Romo isn't the QB who can lead them to the Super Bowl, but fantasy owners know he can win games for them. Since 2007, Romo has averaged 267.6 passing yards, 2 total TD's, and only 0.88 interceptions per game. His 2011 stat line of 4,184 passing yards, 31 TD's, and 10 interceptions would have been even better if not for missing almost an entire game due to injury after only 2 pass attempts. With Dez Bryant looking primed for a breakout season, and a healthy Miles Austin, there's no reason to not expect Romo to put up solid fantasy numbers again in 2012. Some think the loss of 3rd WR Laurent Robinson will hurt Romo this season, but he was successful before Robinson and still will be now that he's gone.
10) Eli Manning, New York Giants: After two season with a little over 4,000 yards passing, Manning blew up in 2011 falling just 67 yards shy of 5,000 for the season. Amongst top 10 fantasy scoring QB's in 2011, only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady posted a better yards per attempt average than Manning. In the last 3 seasons he has showed consistency in putting up quality numbers most weeks that he was lacking earlier in his career. The Giants may want to run more often in 2012 (they were the 32nd ranked rushing offense in 2011), but this offense is driven by Manning and the big plays he makes with his arm.
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