2010 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks

In 2010, there is a clear cut top 3 at the position, and I'm happy ranking them in any order. The next tier of very solid starting fantasy football QB's runs from 4-7 and I'd be happy to start any of them on my rosters every week with confidence. 8-12 is a group that realistically has a great chance to meet the high expectations of their upsides, but by no means are sure things. 13 and 14 are both top tier fantasy backups who can be relied on with a god amount of confidence if necessary. After that, the answers to the questions each player comes with are harder to predict. I see 15-17 as being the next best group with realistic chances to achieve their potential with players ranked 18-22 being just a notch below. 23-28 is a group I'd rather not have at all, but at least I have some hope they could surprise. 29-31 is a group that unless I was in a dynasty league, and was drafting the rookies, I have almost no hope for in 2010. And let's just be honest, whoever the starting Buffalo Bills QB is, they have almost no chance of being fantasy relevant. 

1) Drew Brees: While 2009 saw Brees throw for the fewest yards (4,388) of his 4 years in New Orleans he managed a second consecutive season with 34 touchdown passes. His 4 year average of 4,574 passing yards and 30.5 touchdown passes is solid for fantasy purposes and while the Saints say they want to run the ball more, the fact remains they have a great corps of pass catchers and Brees produces.

2) Peyton Manning: There is probably no safer pick in all of fantasy football than Peyton Manning. In 12 seasons he's only thrown for fewer than 4,000 yards twice, never thrown for less than 26 touchdowns (and averages 30.5 per season), and has never missed a game. If not for the fact that in 2009 the Colts wrapped up the AFC South after week 15, Manning easily could have ended up leading all QB's in fantasy scoring. Thru the first 14 games, Manning had 7 games with 3 or more touchdown passes, 9 games with 300 or more passing yards, and averaged 301 passing yards and 2.4 touchdown passes per game. Manning is a fantasy machine and could easily be the top ranked QB.

3) Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in most formats in 2009 despite not having thrown for the most yards or touchdowns. That's because he adds the dimension of rushing capabilities to his prolific passing production. In two seasons now as the starter for Green Bay, Rodgers has averaged 4,236 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns, 261 rushing yards, 4.5 rushing touchdowns per season. His star is on the rise and with the Packers being a team with a pass first mentality, there's no reason to think Rodgers won't be one of the top 3 fantasy QB's in 2010.

4) Tom Brady: It's a testament to how much is expected from a quarterback when 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns (in his first season back after a major knee injury) are considered somewhat of a disappointment. Brady at times looked tentative and had an up and down 2009 with 10 of his touchdowns coming in 2 games, and three games where he threw for none. Now that he's regained confidence in his knee, Brady should be ready to approach 2010 with his former swagger. The only real concern is how much he will miss Wes Welker the first half of the season as Welker recovers from his own knee injury. Outside of Randy Moss and free agent acquisition Torry Holt, the Patriots have a lot of young, unproven talent at WR, but the talent is there with Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and rookie Taylor Price. I expect Brady will find a way to get by and still be a solid fantasy football starter in 2010.

5) Matt Schaub: In 2009 Schaub finally made it thru an entire 16 game season without missing a game and the results were spectacular. He led the NFL in passing yards (4,770) while throwing for 29 touchdowns. While he has a lot of talent and solid pass catchers, the thing that prevents Schaub from ranking higher on the list is that the Texans were horrible rushing the football in 2009 and had to throw a lot. The team has said it wants to get back to rushing the football better and it's likely Schaub's numbers will come down slightly in 2010. But still, Schaub is a solid starting fantasy QB.

6) Tony Romo: Romo set a new career high in passing yards in 2009 with 4,483 despite the team insisting they were going to run the ball more often. Romo finally showed consistency in 2009 avoiding the late season slump he had experienced in prior season. He threw for over 300 yards 8 times in 2009; 4 in the first 8 games and 4 in the last 8 games. He threw 13 touchdown passes in the first 8 games and 13 in the last 8 games. Romo has a high upside with stud WR Miles Austin, stud TE Jason Witten, high upside rookie Dez Bryant, and even overvalued, but still good WR Roy Williams. 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2010 is a fairly safe estimate.

7) Phillip Rivers: For the second consecutive season, Rivers threw for over 4,000 yards despite having fewer than 490 total pass attempts. His touchdown totals went from 34 in 2008 to 28 in 2009, despite the emergence of WR Vincent Jackson. San Diego moved up in the draft to acquire RB Ryan Mathews so they could get back to being more effective rushing the football, but I don't see that hurting Rivers production too much. More of a concern is the threat of Jackson's holdout lasting into the regular season. But there's still TE Antonio Gates, developing WR's Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee, and playmaking 3rd down RB Darren Sproles to help out. Even a prolonged Jackson holdout shouldn't drop Rivers below 3,900 yards and 26 touchdowns. And that's the low end of his potential fantasy football projections.

8) Brett Favre: Have to admit I was wrong about Favre in 2009. I certainly didn't expect one of his best seasons ever (4,202 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, only 7 interceptions) in his storied career. And while officially Favre hasn't decided if he wants to retire before the 2010 season begins, I would bet a jersey he plays, and starts, week 1. As I've stated in my fantasy football blog plenty of times: Favre just has a sense of entitlement in which he feels he doesn't need to practice with his teammates before the 2nd week of preseason. If the results are anything like what he did last year, he may be right. There is concern that a 20th NFL season would have to be take a toll on him, and I doubt he could have single digit interceptions ever again, but the weapons are there for him to have another great season.

9) Jay Cutler: Many are going to shake their head at Cutler being ranked this high, but between the continued development of the Bears young and talented WR's, along with the insertion of Mike Martz's aerial circus style offense, and Cutler could be primed for a big season. He certainly should easily best last year's 3,666 passing yards, and probably the 27 touchdowns, too. However, his 26 interceptions last season could be about the same in 2010 as Martz's offense more often than not have produced a lot of interceptions. Cutler is a medium risk/high reward candidate in 2010.

10) Kevin Kolb: High risk/high reward candidate finishes out my top 10. There are safer options than Kolb, but Kolb has been in the Eagles system for 3 years, executed it very well when called upon to do so last season, has great weapons to throw the football to, and plays in an offensive system that is pass heavy. Kolb doesn't have Donovan McNabb's arm strength, but he is very accurate and his yardage numbers will be enhanced by the run after the catch abilities of his targets. Michael Vick will run some trick plays on occasion, but that won't cut much into Kolb's fantasy points.

11) Joe Flacco: Thru the first 6 weeks of 2009, Flacco was on fire throwing for 1,674 yards and 11 touchdowns. It appeared he was on his way to a huge breakout season, but in the last 10 games, Flacco only managed 1,939 yards and 10 more touchdowns (4 of which came in one game). It's expected the addition of WR's Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth along with the return of 14th year veteran Derrick Mason will finally give Flacco the full complement of weapons to throw the ball to that he has lacked the past 2 seasons. Between that and his continued development, Flacco should be able to be started with a fair amount of confidence most weeks.

12) Eli Manning: Was 2009's 4,021 yards and 27 touchdowns a sign of what's to come from Eli? Or was it the exception? In the 3 years prior to that, he had averaged 3,273 yards and 22.7 TD's. Good arguments can be made that it is a sign of both Eli finally coming around and the emergence of a young and talented WR corps. Some will say it was a fluke and only happened because the problems and injuries the Giants had at RB forced Eli to throw more. But when you look at the fact he had fewer attempts in 2009 than in 2 of the prior 3 seasons, you'll notice the only thing that really changed was that he set new career highs in both completion percentage and yards per pass attempt. While I think Eli is finally emerging, Tom Coughlin still prefers a strong rushing attack and that's just enough for me to keep Eli out of the top 10 in my fantasy football quarterback rankings.

13) Donovan McNabb: What will happen with McNabb now that he's left Philadelphia and gone to Washington? One has to ask why would Philadelphia trade McNabb to a division opponent if he really had any great years left in him? McNabb had better weapons and a better offensive line in Philly than he now does in Washington and he's only managed to play a full 16 games in a season once in the last 5 years. All this should point to a guy I'd stay away from in 2010, but McNabb is also a prideful guy with a chip on his shoulder and enough skills to be a potential fantasy football sleeper in Mike Shanahan's offense. If the offensive line holds up, and someone besides Chris Cooley and Santana Moss step up catching the ball, McNabb might have another season in him as a potential fantasy starter. 

14) Matt Ryan: First the good news: despite missing two games to injury, Ryan threw for 22 touchdown passes in 2009. Now the bad: his yards per game, yards per attempt, and completion percentage all went down from his rookie season. Part of it is that RB Michael Turner struggled with injury in 2009 and that didn't give Ryan the threat of a rushing attack he enjoyed in 2008. Another part of it was that the Falcons still haven't developed another WR besides Roddy White to throw the ball to. They did add TE Tony Gonzalez before last season but it wasn't enough to make Ryan live up to lofty expectations. While he'll be starting his 3rd season, it's hard to imagine Ryan will take a dramatic step up in production. Consider Ryan to be a borderline fantasy starter with good potential but not likely to be an every week consideration.

15) David Garrard: Garrard gets the nod at 15 for 3 reasons: 1 is that he provides the added element of fantasy points thru rushing (645 yards and 5 touchdowns the last 2 seasons combined). The second reason is that for the first time in a long while, there's a legitimate big play WR in Jacksonville in Mike Sims-Walker (something Garrard has never had). Third is that 2009 is a make or break season for him as an NFL QB. Perform and he stays a starter. Be mediocre and he likely turns into a quality NFL backup. His average passing stats the last 2 seasons don't wow anyone (3,608 pass yards, 15 TD's, 11.5 int's), but there's reason for optimism that he can do better and improve on both his yardage and touchdown totals.

16) Matt Leinart: I'm in the minority of people who think Leinart can succeed as both an NFL and fantasy football starting QB. Only reason he isn't ranked higher on this list is that I don't know if Ken Whisenhunt will have the patience with Leinart to let him work thru the struggles he'll have at times replacing Kurt Warner. The Cardinals signed Derek Anderson and speculation is that Leinart will be on a short leash if he struggles. While I think that would be a mistake, I don't get to make those decisions. Leinart has had a couple of seasons of watching and learning from Warner, he has potentially the best WR in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, and a slew of other weapons, so the pieces are there for him to succeed. Just don't expect 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. 3,500 and 23 is more realistic.

17) Chad Henne: I liked Henne as a fantasy football sleeper before the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall, but now that Marshall is on board, Henne is being talked about by everyone as a sleeper. In the 13 games he started in 2009, Henne threw for 2,786 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Averaged out for 16 games, that would be 3,429 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. You have to figure that he'll show some improvement in his second year as a starter. The addition of Marshall, along with the development of Brian Hartline, plus the steady hands of Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo should mean that Henne is a top backup fantasy prospect with upside to be a decent starter.

18) Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger will miss at least 4 games due to a suspension for violating the league's conduct policy to start the 2010 season. Too bad as he had a great 2009 throwing for 4,328 yards and 26 touchdowns. But the team was already talking about how they wanted to get back to running the ball more way before the suspension and it didn't help that they traded away Santonio Holmes. Mike Wallace is a great fantasy sleeper after a surprisingly strong showing in 2009, but he's not as good as Holmes. Roethlisberger has proven he can be a legitimate fantasy football star, but with an increased emphasis on running the ball, along with the loss of Holmes, plus the likelihood it will take a week or two for him to get back into stride when he returns from his suspension, and there's plenty of concern that Roethlisberger will be no better than a high upside fantasy backup in 2010.

19) Alex Smith: Why anyone thinks there is (or should be) a QB controversy in San Francisco is beyond me. Smith acquitted himself well after taking over as the starter in the 6th game of the season. 18 touchdowns and an average of 214 pass yards per game despite being on a team that wanted to play smash mouth football showed a lot of promise. Smith also has good weapons like Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Josh Morgan to throw the ball to. The 49ers are expected to run more in 2010, but Smith will still have some good value as a middle of the road fantasy backup.

20) Matt Stafford: His numbers in 2009 weren't overly impressive, but his moxie was. Stafford showed a lot of toughness despite missing 6 games because of injury. In the 10 games he did play in, he threw for 2,267 yards and 13 touchdowns. His 20 interceptions were very high, but that tends to happen to rookie QB's thrown into starting jobs on bad teams. He should show improvement in year 2 and with better weapons around him he could be a nice high upside backup QB with fantasy football sleeper potential. He just needs to show he can stay healthy behind a suspect offensive line.

21) Jason Campbell: I am probably in the minority when it comes to thinking Campbell will succeed in Oakland, but I like bucking conventional wisdom. If the combination of JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, and Charlie Frye could combine to throw for 2,875 yards and 10 touchdowns with rookie WR's and Chaz Schilens out for half the year, I have to imagine Campbell can reach 3,300 yards and 16 touchdowns with the rookies having a year under their belts and Schilens supposed to be healthy. Campbell is easily better than the best traits of all 3 of last season's scrubs rolled into one. My biggest concern with Campbell is that he does get erratic and if he has two bad games in a row will Tom Cable get impatient and start playing musical QB's? Otherwise, I think Campbell makes a decent fantasy backup.

22) Carson Palmer: Maybe I am not giving Palmer his due but I just do not have a lot of hope for Palmer bouncing back and being anything near the QB he was before his elbow injury in 2008. He did manage to play all 16 games in 2009, and put up 3,094 yards and 21 touchdowns, but he struggled mightily throwing for less than 200 yards in 7 games and 1 or no touchdowns in 11 of 16 games. Maybe Antonio Bryant helps, maybe rookies Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham help too, but I don't think the problem for Palmer was his supporting cast in 2009; it was Palmer himself. I hope he bounces back strong in 2010 and proves me wrong, but I don't think he will.

23) Mark Sanchez: The numbers from 2009 prove that Sanchez was a master at managing the Jets run heavy offense as a rookie and wasn't asked to open things up much. The team says it will pass more in 2010, but I doubt it will be enough for Sanchez to have any real fantasy value. There are some good weapons there if Santonio Homes comes back from his suspension with the right attitude, if Dustin Keller builds on the great post-season he had, and if Braylon Edwards holds onto passes thrown his way. But really, the only reason Sanchez ranks this high on my list is because there is no doubt at all that he has best combination of potential and job security than the other QB's left on the list.

24) Josh Freeman: Freeman started the last 9 games of 2009 as a rookie and while his numbers weren't great in those games (1,839 yards, 10 touchdowns, 18 int's) it certainly showed some promise for a rookie. Losing Antonio Bryant hurts him, but the team drafted two of my favorite upside WR's in Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams and while I like them, it's not likely Freeman will be able to be consistent throwing to 2 rookies most of the season. It's likely to be another year or two before Freeman makes more than spot filler as a fantasy backup.

25) Kyle Orton: You'd think after throwing for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2009 Orton would rank deserve a higher ranking, but losing Brandon Marshall hurts him a lot. Then there's the drafting of Tim Tebow and the free agent acquisition of Brady Quinn. If the Broncos really liked what they saw from Orton last season, they wouldn't have made the moves they made. There's speculation that Tebow may be given starts towards to the end of the season if playoff hopes are dead, and that before then, Quinn would get a chance to see what he can do. These things said, on the bright side for Orton will be that he's in his second season as the starter in a pass oriented offense and there's hope he performs well enough in a contract year to have some weeks where he'd be fantasy worthy. But his job security is unstable and he just has the feel of a guy who is playing out a year before moving on to being a veteran backup next season.

26) Matt Cassel: Expectations for Cassel in 2009 were so unrealistic as to be ludicrous. In 2009, Cassel showed exactly what he is: a dink and dunk QB who isn't accurate throwing the ball past 15 yards and needs to have superior weapons around him to make up for his deficiencies. He does have some decent weapons in Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, and Jamaal Charles but I didn't believe in Cassel last season, and am not buying into him being much better in 2010.

27) Vince Young: Even assuming there is no fall out whatsoever from his Dallas strip club incident; Young just doesn't inspire a lot of fantasy confidence as a QB. He did win 7 of his 10 starts, and his 188 passing yards and 1 touchdown per game average showed hope, but I am just not sure he has the mental makeup to get thru the struggles. It's one thing to come off the bench for an 0-6 team that coming off a 59-0 drubbing by the Patriots has nowhere to go offensively but up; it's quite another to start the season 0-0 and have to deal with the ups and downs. The last time Young did that, he folded under the pressure.

28) Matt Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck bounced back from an injury plagued 2008 to start 14 games in 2009, but still managed to miss 2 whole games because of injury. His numbers weren't bad, but definitely started taking a downward spiral as he threw for less 200 yards in 4 of the last 6 games of the season, and 9 of his 17 interceptions in the last 3 games. 7 of his 17 touchdowns came in two games against the Rams and Jaguars. The Seahawks acquired Charlie Whitehurst and if Hasselbeck struggles to start the season, it won't be long before we see Whitehurst take over. Hasselbeck can be efficient, but he's no longer a viable fantasy starter and his upside is limited.

29) Sam Bradford: Let's add this all up. Rookie quarterback who got injured his last year in college, plus a young, talented, but unproven group of WR's, plus an offensive line that is suspect at best equals a poor bet for fantasy production. Bradford can come with all the hype rookie 1st overall picks come with, but rookie QB's usually struggle even in decent situations, let alone messes like St. Louis. At the very least, barring injury or a mercy benching if the OL is really as bad as I expect it will be, Bradford is in almost no danger of not being the starter in St. Louis over A.J. Feeley.

30) Matt Moore: Moore was another prime fantasy football sleeper candidate for 2010. At least he was until the Panthers drafted Jimmy Clausen. Moore started the last 5 weeks of the 2009 season and went 4-1 while throwing for 990 yards, 8 touchdowns, and only 1 interception and showed promise but the Panthers drafted not just Clausen (with their first pick), but also another QB later on. Moore is likely to start the season, but unless he is winning and putting up good numbers, it's expected that Clausen will finish the season as the starting QB in Carolina.

31) Jake Delhomme: Delhomme gets one more chance to correct the turnovers and inconsistency problems that have plagued him since a horrific 2008 season playoff performance against the Arizona Cardinals. 2,015 yards, 8 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 11 starts in 2009 got him booted out of Carolina. But somehow the Browns think he can get it turned around and Delhomme is expected to start the 2010 season as their starter. But the Browns also brought in Seneca Wallace and drafted Colt McCoy, and it will surprise no one if both of them get playing time in 2010. The weapons aren’t there for Delhomme and the rushing attack isn't nearly as good to take pressure off of him. Delhomme has not just wilted under pressure since the aforementioned playoff game, he's melted, dissolved, and evaporated.

32) Trent Edwards: The starting QB job in Buffalo is a 3 man competition between Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian Brohm. Edwards is the most talented of the group and likely will get the nod to start the season, but like in Cleveland, it's likely all 3 get playing time during the season. Edwards used to have some promise both for the NFL and fantasy, but constant injuries made him look indecisive and shaky in his own confidence in 2009 and it's more likely he folds up rather than get it turned around. With a shaky offensive line and mediocre weapons no matter who the Bills starting QB is, you shouldn't be counting on him, even as a fantasy backup.

33) Derek Anderson: While I expect Matt Leinart to stick as the starter in Arizona and be at least moderately successful, there's always the chance he won't. If he doesn't, Anderson will get a chance. Anderson boasts a strong arm and can wing the deep ball. Larry Fitzgerald is just the type of WR who specializes in going up and getting these types of passes. I doubt Anderson would succeed for long, but for a few games, if pressed into action, he could be worthy.

34) Jimmy Clausen: I like Matt Moore, but facts are facts. And the facts are that Panthers drafted not just one, but two QB's (three if you want to count QB-converted-to-WR Armanti Edwards). The Panthers were thrilled to have Clausen fall to them in round 2. He has a stronger arm than Matt Moore, but is not as good a game manager, yet. No matter how well Moore may play, if the Panthers find their playoff hopes dashed by mid-late season, it will be no surprise if they turn to Clausen to see what the rookie has.

35) Charlie Whitehurst: The Seahawks are giving Matt Hasselbeck the starting job, but if he struggles like he did late last season, it won't be long before Whitehurst gets a chance in 2010. Optimally, they'd like Whitehurst to watch and learn for a year, but he's been watching and learning for 4 years in San Diego and his time is just about at hand. He's unproven, but Pete Carroll thought enough of him to get him as his QB of the future, and I think it was a smart move. At the very least, Whitehurst should be handcuffed to Hasselbeck on any team where Hasselbeck is going to be miscast as a starting fantasy QB.

36) Byron Leftwich: I personally think Dennis Dixon should be starting for Pittsburgh until Ben Roethlisberger returns from his suspension, but the Steelers sound like they want Leftwich to hold down the fort until his return. Leftwich did okay in that capacity a couple of years ago for Pittsburgh and could at least be decent t start the season. But make no mistake: once Big Ben returns, Leftwich (or Dixon) will return to being the backup.

37) Seneca Wallace: Eric Mangini may be the head coach, but the new offensive system being installed in Cleveland is all Mike Holmgren's. Wallace knows the system very well and while he isn't suited to be a starter, there's plenty of questions about whether Jake Delhomme can get back his confidence and be an efficient QB. Again, it will be no surprise to anyone if Delhomme gets benched and that would lead to Wallace getting starts during the 2010 season. The Browns do not want to throw rookie Colt McCoy in unless both Delhomme and Wallace flop.

38) Michael Vick: Disregarding anything not involving his skills on the football field, I've never been a big fan of Vick as a fantasy QB, even when he had a full time gig. Oh sure, he was an exciting runner, but he has never been a good or accurate passer. However, he has some great players around him in Philadelphia and while he will be regulated to trick and gadget plays a couple of times per game behind Kevin Kolb, if Kolb (whom not everyone is convinced will be as good as expected) struggles, Vick is next in line to start. Maybe he's finally matured enough to take advantage of a golden opportunity if it presented itself. Personally, I'd be surprised if he succeeded though. But I've been wrong plenty of times the last 2 decades.

39) Ryan Fitzpatrick: I don't know why there is any buzz about Fitzpatrick, but I guess when the only other serious competition is Trent Edwards, there's always a chance for a mediocre player to get a shot. In 6 of 8 starts in 2009, Fitzpatrick threw for less 200 yards (2 for less than 100 yards). Fitzpatrick is about as unexciting an option as there is for QB's who have a legitimate chance, barring any injuries to current projected starters, to start 3 games or more.

40) Brady Quinn: This goes below unexciting as a fantasy option. I used to believe Quinn could be an effective NFL and maybe even fantasy football QB, but those days are gone. He was horrible last season and I doubt if he'd be much better if pressed into action in Denver. Maybe it was coaching (or the lack thereof) in Cleveland, but it certainly never looked like Quinn was comfortable in the pocket or running an offense.