by Russ Bliss (01/21/13)

see Russ's updated July 2013 Fantasy Football QB Rankings!

2013 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks Rankings

Just in assembling an early top 10 fantasy football rankings list at the quarterback position I have come to realize that the 2013 season will have unprecedented depth at the position. If you look at this list, there is no listing of Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, or Josh Freeman; all of whom a good argument could be made they deserve to be on the list here. How this is going to affect fantasy football draft strategies in 2013 will be interesting to pay attention to in coming months.   

1) Drew Brees: In 3 of the last 5 seasons, Brees has thrown for over 5,000 passing yards. His fewest passing TD's for any one season in that span is 33. Brees is at the pinnacle of his career and has proven to be just consistently exceptional year to year. I can't think of any reason for him to not be ranked #1 as both the safest QB pick, but also the one with consistently amongst the highest upsides year to year.

2) Aaron Rodgers: When 4,295 passing yards, 259 rushing yards, 39 passing TD's, 2 rushing TD's, and only 8 interceptions are considered a disappointing season, you know just how good a guy really is. I think Rodgers gets labeled a disappointment in 2012 more for not improving on his outstanding 2011 season than he really should. His numbers were great and on both a per game basis and overall, in standard scoring systems Rodgers ranked 2nd only to Brees in 2012 QB fantasy production. Smack dab in the middle of the prime of his career, Rodgers has shown both consistency and huge upside.

3) Tom Brady: While Brady is at the tail end of his exceptional career, he's still got another few as an elite fantasy option. His numbers were down some in 2012 from his outstanding 2011 season, Brady still threw for 4,827 yards and 34 TD's, while pitching in another 4 rushing TD's.  There's no reason to not expect Brady to throw for over 4,500 yards and have another 35 TD's in 2013.

4) Matt Ryan: As predicted before the 2012 season began, Ryan was ready to step up and become one of the elite fantasy QB's. 4,719 passing yards and 32 TD's were career highs and with Julio Jones emerging into an elite WR option, plus a second full season in Dirk Koetter's fast paced throwing attack should mean we still haven't seen the best of Ryan (who is entering the prime years of his career) yet.

5) Colin Kaepernick: Kaepernick will enter the 2013 season as the 49ers starting QB and I firmly believe they will revise their playbook to take full advantage of what Kaepernick brings to the position. After taking over as the starting QB the last 7 games of the 2012 season plus the first two playoffs games (this writing is before Super Bowl 47), he completed nearly 63% of his passes (153 of 244) for 2,104 yards and 13 TD's. He also is a great rushing threat with speed and agility as good as any QB in the game. His 181 rushing yards in the playoff game vs. Green Bay were most ever by a QB in a single game. Including playoffs, but excluding any game in which Kaepernick didn't even play in 2012, you get 81 rushing attempts in 13 games, for 617 yards and 7 TD's. With an offense that will be tailored specifically to him in 2013, it's not far-fetched at all to think Kaepernick will have around 4,000 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards, and score upwards of 35 combined TD's.  

6) Matt Stafford: The only things missing from Stafford in 2012 were completion percentage and TD's. Both were way down from 2011. But in yardage terms, Stafford fell only 33 yards shy of having a second consecutive season with 5,000 passing yards or more. It certainly seemed like his WR's (including Calvin Johnson; who had nearly 2,000 receiving yards but only a ridiculous 5 TD's) got tackled at the 1 yard line an awful lot in 2012 and checking the game logs, I counted 7 times the WR was tackled at the 1 yard line and another 9 when the receiver was tackled inside the 5. I discounted any times that ended with a Stafford TD pass, so these 16 other times either led to a rushing TD (three of which Stafford scored himself), a FG or didn't score any points. I think Stafford's 20 TD passes in 2013 were more a fluke and I believe you'll see him eclipse 30 in 2013 while coming close to 5,000 yards again.

7) Cam Newton: For the first half of the 2012 season, fantasy owners who burned a 1st or 2nd round pick on Newton were extremely disappointed in him as he had only 6 TD's and 8 interceptions while his rushing only produced 347 yards and 4 TD's. But he got it turned around the second half tossing 13 TD's, only 4 interceptions, 394 yards rush yards and another 4 rush TD's. I was worried heading into 2012 that Newton could be a candidate for a sophomore slump, but he still managed to finish as a top 5 fantasy QB in 2012 in most formats. He just didn't elevate his game from the prior season. While there are concerns with his offensive coordinator having left, the Panthers promoted from within to keep stability for him and as long as they get him some better weapons he should be fine in 2013 as a top 10 fantasy QB.

8) Peyton Manning: Outside of the impressive play of the rookie QB's there couldn't have been a bigger surprise at the QB position than Manning in 2012. Selected much later in fantasy football drafts than he normally would have been because of concerns about how well he'd return from the neck issues that held him out in 2011, Manning paid big dividends for those who grabbed him (usually in round 4 or later). His 4,659 passing yards, 37 TD's, and 68.6 completion percentage were the second highest of his storied career in those categories. While his arm strength may not be what it was before the neck injury, he more than made up for it with his accuracy and smarts. A second year for everyone else on offense in Denver to be in the system should mean another stellar campaign from Peyton. 8th may be a little low for a ranking on this list.

9) Tony Romo: Few players get as little love from fantasy owners than Romo. But in 2012 he passed for over 4,900 yards and 28 TD's. His 19 interceptions tied a career high, but historically he doesn't throw that many picks. Just like in 2011, Romo was much stronger in the second half of the 2012 season throwing 15 of his 28 TD's in the last 6 games while eclipsing 400 passing yards twice in that span. It's no coincidence that Romo's numbers really took off at the same time Dez Bryant started to live up to his elite talent level. If Bryant can start and keep that level of elite play from start to finish in 2013, Romo could be seriously undervalued in 2013 fantasy football drafts.

10) Andrew Luck: Luck's rookie season for the Colts exceeded all expectations both in terms of production, and wins. 4,374 passing yards set a new rookie QB record. His 23 TD's compared to 18 interceptions are numbers that most rookie QB's have reversed. He also produced additional points on the ground rushing for 255 yards and 5 rushing TD's. If there was one thing was a drawback, it was that 4 of his 5 lowest yardage totals came in the last 4 games of 2012; showing that he was wearing down at the end of the season. A second season, knowing the full rigors of a full 16 games should help prevent Luck from hitting that wall late in the 2013 season. My biggest concern for Luck heading into 2013 is the switch in offensive systems from former coordinator Bruce Arian's vertical attack to new OC Pep Hamilton's more west coast approach. On the plus side though is that Hamilton was the offensive coordinator at Stanford Luck's senior season, so it's a system Luck already knows well, and has performed exceptionally in.

That's how I see it while we're still in January of 2013. It's a good bet that as the months go by, the list will change and the rankings within it, too. It's also to be noted that these are just a generalized ranking and not customized to any of the wide varieties of scoring systems many fantasy football leagues have. For those types of rankings, the best, and most accurate fantasy football rankings can be found within our fantasy football draft analyzer, which along with Lineup and Trade Analyzer's to use throughout the season, is part of our Championship Package.

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