Follow the trends to find bargains

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - During the 2011 NFL season, five quarterbacks averaged at least 300 yards per game passing: Drew Brees (342.3), Tom Brady (327.2), Matthew Stafford (314.9), Aaron Rodgers (309.5) and Eli Manning (308.3).

For all five, the passing yardage average was a career high. And clearly, all five will go extremely high in your upcoming fantasy draft.

The question many fantasy owners want to know is, "Who might be the next quarterback to join this elite group?"

Checking the past three seasons, only a small number of quarterbacks can claim that their passing yards per game average has increased in two consecutive seasons. In fact, none of the 300-yards-per-game passers from 2011 can claim entry into this "club."

But knowing who is headed in the right direction could give us a clue as to who could be the next member of the "300" club.

Our first candidate to join the "300" club is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. "Matty Ice" has increased his production from 208.3 ypg in 2009 to 231.6 ypg in 2010 and 261.1 ypg last season. The Falcons realize that their offensive talent is in their passing game with wideouts Roddy White, Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and third down receiving back Jacquizz Rodgers. White led the league in targets the past two seasons while posting his fifth consecutive 1,100-plus yard season. More exciting is the improvement expected of second- year wideout Julio Jones. Jones is a dynamic receiver just coming into his own after a 54-catch, 959-yard, eight touchdown rookie season in which he had virtually no training camp. Throw in a still effective Hall of Fame tight end and an exciting receiver out of the backfield and Ryan could easily find his numbers approaching the magic 300-ypg mark.

Next on the list is Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer struggled with the limitations of the Bengals offenses in 2009 and 2010 throwing for 193.4 ypg and 248.1 ypg, respectively. Last season despite coming over midway through the year, Palmer averaged 275.3 ypg. That's despite no training camp or preseason and a very young receiving corps. Working with the likes of 23-year- old Denarius Moore, 24-year-old Darrius Heyward-Bey and 24-year-old Jacoby Ford, Palmer only needs a 10-percent improvement to reach the 300 ypg mark. With defenses still more afraid of running back Darren McFadden than Palmer & Co. we think there is a good chance that he reaches the magic number.

Using the same trend theory, we have concluded that two well-known quarterbacks won't make the list: Houston's Matt Schaub and Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys.

Schaub is trending in the wrong direction, throwing for 298.1 ypg in 2009, 273.1 ypg in 2010 and just 247.9 ypg last year in 10 games before his season came to an early demise due to injury. The emergence of a great running game behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate and an improving defense, which has kept the Texans from falling behind, should continue and Schaub should not be expected to come anywhere near the 300 ypg mark.

The inclusion of Romo may upset Cowboys fans, but the trend is downward for the Dallas starting quarterback. He averaged 280.2 ypg in 2009, 267.5 ypg in 2010 and 261.5 ypg last season. Again the running game is the culprit. DeMarco Murray blossomed last season into a star, at least until he was injured, and the Cowboys should be a well-balanced offense in 2012.

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

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