Not Just Another Rifle

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the world of snipers, the "JAR" or "Just Another Rifle" is what the Secret Service jokingly calls the sniper rifle used to protect the president.

Accuracy is paramount.

It's the same with fantasy quarterbacks. And while the top names are familiar to all those who play fantasy football - Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, there is another group of quarterbacks who are approaching this elite level.

The primary difference between the "Big Three" and the rest is consistency. While Rodgers, Brady and Brees do it on a week-in, week-out basis, the rest have yet to rise to that competency level. Given their improvement, however, it might not be long.

Rising Stars

Eli Manning - Facing New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas over the past three weeks, Manning has posted 1,153 yards (384.3 ypg) and seven touchdowns against just three interceptions. He's already set a career high for passing yards (4,105) and should break his mark for touchdowns passes and QB rating while cutting last year's interception total nearly in half. The normally balanced New York Giants attack has been forced by injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs to feature the passing game and Manning has produced in spades. As a seventh-round pick back in August (fantasyfootballnerd.com rank of 79) he's played well above his draft position (ranked sixth with 246 fantasy points). The trend should continue as the Giants have found three solid wideouts (Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham) and a decent pass- catching tight end (Jake Ballard) to take advantage of Manning's improved play.

Matt Ryan - Since their bye in Week 8, Ryan has raised the level of his game to approach elite status. He's averaging 22.2 fantasy ppg along with 298.5 passing ypg. Despite their talented rookie receiver, Julio Jones, being in and out of the lineup, Ryan has produced excellent numbers. With Roddy White, Jones and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan figures to continue to improve.

Matthew Stafford - Stafford has always had the talent, its just until 2011 he's never been able to keep himself of the field. He's made 13 starts this season, which is the same number he totaled in the last two years combined. Stafford has thrown for 3,754 yards and 29 touchdowns, both career highs. And he's done it without a running game what with Jahvid Best (concussion) out of the lineup for most of the season. Like the other star quarterbacks, Stafford is helped by a talented receiving corps including Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, rookie Titus Young and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Cam Newton - Newton is the one quarterback in this group that you wouldn't call an accurate thrower. Newton has managed to post top-five fantasy numbers with his feet as much as with his strong arm. He's already broken the mark for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback - 13. He's thrown 13 touchdowns, but also 14 interceptions. Still, he's only a rookie and has fewer weapons than the other quarterbacks in this group.

A Notch Below

Philip Rivers - Rivers is a bit below the rest, this year. He's been an elite quarterback for a few years, but has struggled with a porous offensive line and multiple injuries in the receiving corps. The improvement of running back Ryan Mathews has made the Chargers a more balanced team and taken some of the value away from Rivers, but do not drop him too far in the off-season or he'll make you pay.

Tony Romo - With all the talent the Cowboys possess at the wideout position and tight end, Romo should be a top-five quarterback every year. He hasn't been one which confuses fantasy owners. He's also shown that he and his team can't get it done in December a.k.a. fantasy playoff time (career December mark of 9-15, QB Rating of 84.1).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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