With many fantasy drafts happening this week and early next week, it’s time to begin our 2011 fantasy football coverage! We’ll start with the quarterback position and why not? It’s a position that in most scoring formats earns more points than any other spot.
The Strategy: When looking for the right QB for your fantasy team this year, I say don’t wait too long. With quarterbacks there’s very little fluctuation, for the last several years the same names appear year in and year out atop the fantasy QB leaderboard: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc. The 2011 breakthrough of Mike Vick is more of an exception rather than a rule. It’s far more frequent that we see running backs emerge from nowhere (Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis to name a few from ’10) than a QB. With that being said, I say the best and safest approach is to grab a top QB in one of the first four rounds and then be through with the position and start stockpiling at other spots.
The “Scope” Rankings
Tier 1 (Late 1st round/Early 2nd round) picks
1. Aaron Rodgers: The cream of the crop, coming off a Super Bowl winning season, Rodgers is a safe bet to put up huge passing numbers and mix in a few rushing TDs along the way.
2. Michael Vick: The classic “risk vs. reward” pick, Vick was spectacular in 2010 and helped carry many fantasy teams to championships. However, there are risks with Vick as he is more susceptible to injury than other QBs due to his great rushing prowess. Also, there’s some question if Vick can repeat the tremendous numbers he put up last year as NFL defenses might choose to follow the blitz-heavy schemes that gave Vick some trouble late in the year.
Tier 2 (late 2nd/3rd round, 4th round)
3. Drew Brees: As long as Brees and Sean Payton are together in New Orleans, the Saints will lean heavily on the pass and will put up nice numbers in the process. A very safe, strong selection; his TD passes the last 3 years … 34, 34 and 33 respectively. Now that’s consistency!
4. Phillip Rivers: Rivers put up huge numbers last year without Vincent Jackson for most of the season. Now that his #1 WR is back for a full season, I’d expect Rivers to have quite the fantasy year.
5. Tom Brady: As great of a QB as Brady is, sometimes his fantasy numbers don’t quite overwhelm as the Patriots often had big leads in games last year and chose a run-heavy approach to run out the clock in those games.
6. Peyton Manning: There are some risk factors with the lingering neck injury and a rising interception total, but given his history I’d take a chance that Peyton is under center when the Colts open the regular season and once again produces huge numbers in 2011.
7. Tony Romo: As maligned of a QB as Romo is at times in the NFL, fantasy owners know that when he’s healthy he can put up numbers with the best of them. Dallas has plenty of weapons too: Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to name a few.
Tier 3 (5th, 6th round)
8. Matt Schaub: The Texans QB will connect early and often with Andre Johnson, but a nice running game and what figures to be an improved defense might hold his passing numbers in check a little.
9. Eli Manning: I tend to rate Manning a little higher than most. I really think he’s coming into his own with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham as his WRs. Also, I think the Giants defense may be slipping a little meaning a few more shootouts for the G-men and better stats from Eli.
10. Ben Roethlisberger: As much success as Big Ben has had with the Steelers, I don’t think he’s among the elite fantasy-wise. The Steelers will still run often with Rashard Mendenhall, and they’re defense is so good Roethlisberger is more often the guy protecting the lead rather than trying to overcome a large deficit.
Tier 4 (7th, 8th, 9th round)
11. Matt Ryan: I’m not as high on Ryan as others, but he’s still a guy who should be a consistent producer at QB for your fantasy squad especially with the addition of Julio Jones to complement Roddy White as his primary receivers.
12. Josh Freeman: A young QB who threw 25 TDs and only 6 interceptions last year. If Freeman takes the next step in his game in 2011, he’ll be mentioned among the game’s elite signal callers.
13. Matthew Stafford: Some eyebrows may be raised by my selection of Stafford, a guy who’s missed more games than he’s started, as my 13th ranked fantasy QB. However, Stafford has a chance to be a Top 7 fantasy QB if he stays healthy because of elite weapons around him in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew and an explosive pass-catching RB in Jahvid Best. Stafford is my sleeper QB. I would make sure to get another QB a few rounds later if I draft him for insurance, but the upside is high and for whatever it’s worth he’s looked quite good in the preseason thus far.
Other Sleepers/Late Round targets
• Sam Bradford: Bradford had a nice rookie season, and now gets a chance to work with new offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, who has had plenty of success with the likes of Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton putting up big numbers. Bradford lacks a #1 WR, but still figures to exceed 20 touchdown passes in his second year in the league.
• Chad Henne: Henne has looked great in the past two preseason contests and has more passing yards than any other starting QB this preseason. It’s only preseason but there’s an explanation for the success. Henne has plenty of weapons to work with in Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess and now Reggie Bush. Also, Brian Daboll’s new offense appears to be very quarterback friendly and should help Henne have a much improved season. The Dolphins defense figures to be very good, so I wouldn’t count on the team being in too many shootouts which may hamper Henne’s numbers from a fantasy standpoint.
For more Fantasy coverage, check out The Finsiders interviewing NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.