Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's time to get down to it. Most of the big free agent names have been signed, trades have been made and your fantasy draft is just around the corner. With that in mind, we'll be coming out with our draft rankings all this week, beginning with the quarterback position.
1) Aaron Rodgers, GB - What's not to like about Rodgers? He loves to throw, has a great group of receivers and tight ends, and will run in four-to-five touchdowns a season. He's also durable, having played in 47 of the last 48 regular season games. In that span he's thrown for 86 touchdowns passes and 12,394 yards against just 31 interceptions. He's also run for 13 scores and 879 yards. He did all that with a suspect offensive line which should be improved in 2011.
2) Peyton Manning, IND - Selecting Manning almost guarantees you 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He's got plenty of receivers and tight ends so that even if one or two go down with injury (see 2010 when he lost Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon for various parts of the season and Anthony Gonzalez for all of it), he'll still get you top-three fantasy points. While there might be some concerns about his neck problem, he's played 16 games in each of the last 13 seasons.
3) Philip Rivers, SD - Rivers has put up numbers equal to Manning over the past three seasons and he too lost most of his receiving corps at different points last year. He led the NFL with 4,710 passing yards and yards-per- attempt (8.7 ypa). He's got the best pass-catching tight end in the league in Antonio Gates, but Gates has been slowed by injuries in two of the past three seasons. He'll get Vincent Jackson back, who was a non-entity in 2010 due to contract issues, but will likely lose Malcom Floyd to free agency. He's as durable as any quarterback, having started the last 80 consecutive games.
4) Tom Brady, NE - Brady may be a three-time Super Bowl champion and a sure- fire Hall of Fame selection, but he's not as consistent in the regular season as the three guys ahead of him. There was 2007 when he and the Patriots were "other-worldly" and last year when he posted an amazing 36:4 touchdown-to- interception ratio, but his other seasons are a step below that of Rodgers, Manning and Rivers. If we throw out his 2007 (50 TDs) and 2008 seasons (zero TDs) as being outside the curve, Brady averages 26.375 TDs per season, a notch below the top-three quarterbacks.
5) Michael Vick, PHI - Vick exploded onto the fantasy scene when Kevin Kolb was injured in last year's season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Vick took full advantage of his opportunity and finished the season at the top of all fantasy quarterback point totals. And he did it in just 12 games. That's also the question mark surrounding Vick...can he play an entire season given his style of football? If fantasy owners could be assured of getting 15 or 16 games from Vick, he'd be selected either No.1 or No.2 at his position, but past history says that's only slightly better than a 50-50 proposition. While you could hit a "home run" by drafting Vick, if you go that way get some "insurance" by selecting a competent backup quarterback as well.
6) Drew Brees, NO - The funny thing about Brees' production is that the team wins more the LESS he throws. Over the last seven seasons, they are 26-22 when he's thrown 600-or-more passes in a season and 43-19 when he's thrown less than 600 passes. If I can see that, so can the smart guys who run the Saints. They added first-round pick Mark Ingram and free agent Darren Sproles to their backfield which already included Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Expect to see a more balanced offense from New Orleans which leaves Brees just outside the top-five fantasy quarterbacks.
7) Matt Schaub, HOU - Most fantasy owners look back on Schaub's 2010 season and think failure and disappointment. Sure, he didn't match his 2009 totals for passing yards (4,770) or touchdown passes (29), but even in an "off" year, Schaub put up solid statistics (4,370 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs). He's got the most dangerous wide receiver in football, Andre Johnson, solid No.2 and No.3 guys in Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones and his starting tight end, Owen Daniels (knee), should finally be healthy. I'm expecting Schaub to post 2009-type numbers this season and a solid value given his current fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP of 57.5.
8) Tony Romo, DAL - If Romo can stay upright, he should have a heck of a season. He's gotten injured in two of the past three seasons which could make any fantasy owner "gun shy" about selecting Romo too high. But the upside is that a healthy Romo has targets that would make most quarterbacks drool. Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Felix Jones out of the backfield are all excellent receivers. Romo should be completely healed from last year's broken collarbone and an improved offensive line should help keep him. He'll be a bargain as a fifth-round selection (current ADP 48.7).
9) Eli Manning, NYG - Eli Manning's fantasy value could be determined by how quickly wideout Steve Smith can return from microfracture surgery. With him, along with the explosive Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, the Giants have a potent passing game. Without Smith, they are just average. We also don't yet know if free agent Ahmad Bradshaw will return to New York which would leave the running game a bit short. There are just too many questions to move Peyton's little brother any further up the draft board.
10) Ben Roethlisberger, PIT - "Big Ben" has raised his game to a new level over the past two seasons, despite many distractions. In his last 27 games, he's averaging 278.8 ypg passing and has a fine 43:17 touchdown-to- interception ratio. The trio of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders along with solid tight end Health Miller should allow the trend to continue.
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