I do pre-season fantasy football pieces a little differently these days.
There are plenty of rankings out there already, both on the newsstands and online. It is a well worn trail – the downside being that such analysis quickly becomes outdated as events occur during training camp and the pre-season. A player that one could be trumpeted for success one day could be lost for the season the next.
First I have to give a quick tip of the hat to Fantasy Football Index out of the Seattle area. Below you see their just-released 2012 edition alongside one of the covers for what was known then as ‘Fantasy Football ‘92’.
After a quarter-century the publication remains timeless. only minor tweaks have been done over the years. They now do segments on offensive lines as well as individual defensive players – but other than that FFI remains a meat-and-potatoes read, in particular explaining the potential upsides and downsides on individual players.
They also did a closing piece this year on the Oakland Raiders employees and Bay Area writers who started what was believed to be the first ‘fantasy football league’ 50 years ago. One of the participants was a Raiders staffer named Ron Wolf.
Wolf, of course, wound up becoming a real-life NFL GM who traded a first-round draft pick one year for a QB project who had some potential but who, at the time, was also attempting to drink the city of Atlanta dry. (You know who I’m talking about…)
As for my rankings, instead of just merely ranking say, 40 QBs/70 RBs/100+ WRs/etc. and drone on with endless situational stats, I will do some rankings but also give reasons why you should or shouldn’t consider such players in various draft/auction formats.
With that, I start with profiling the quarterbacks for 2012.
Chad Henne is unfortunately not included, though he ought to be taking Blaine Gabbert’s job soon enough…
1. Aaron Rodgers (GB)
For the last couple years, I have personally targeted Rodgers as a first-round pick over most of the top tier running backs. Yes, there are other prolific QBs out there who will produce numbers near that of AR.
But if you are drafting say, number four or five overall, would you rather have the top QB who is likely to play the entire season or a top running back who could be carted off with a torn ACL at any moment (hello AP/Jamaal Charles)? Even at number one overall, I might just opt to take my chances on #12. And also keep in mind the refs will be protecting the QBs even more than ever this year.
2. Tom Brady (NE)
#12 in ’12. Sounds like a nice campaign slogan. And Brady remains near unstoppable, throwing 75 TDs against just 16 INTs the past two years. And this year may prove to be the best since 2007. Let’s check down with Tom – Brandon Lloyd, then look for Welker, then Gronk, then Aaron Hernandez, or dump off to Joseph Addai if really desperate. More than ever Brady is in paradise this year and is worth a #7 or #8 overall pick.
3. Drew Brees (NO)
He is coming off setting the league’s single-season passing yards record, but I will personally be unlikely to draft him in any leagues considering Drew has lost a couple of his weapons and the other events that have swirled around the Saints organization this off-season. No city in America knows what karma can do to a person quite like New Orleans, and Brees has enough of it going against him that he might as well have Robert the Doll along with his NyQuil on his nightstand. How many opposing teams are going to be (secretly) passing the hat to have HIM carted off this year???
4. Cam Newton (CAR)
Like Michael Vick in 2010, Cam won a lot of money for owners fortunate enough to draft him late or grab him off the waiver wire (even if it meant an enormous FAAB) after Week 1. After 14 rushing touchdowns to go along with 21 passing TDs (equivalent to 42 pass TDs/0 rush TDs in standard formats), Cam’s value is now through the roof and many fantasy owners will now reach in Round 1. Newton’s Law in this case says that what rushing stats come up in a rookie year now must come down, at least somewhat.
5. Matthew Stafford (DET)
Right now I love seeing him listed as the number 4/5 QB on most boards. Coming off a year in which Stafford threw 663 times for 5,000+ yards and 41 TDs?? Sign me up!!!
As someone who made hay once in the day by having both Jerry Rice and Steve Young (1991) on my roster, my dream would be to draft Calvin Johnson at #3 or #4 overall, and then pray that Stafford is somehow still on the board at #21 or #22. Although I see a lot of mocks where Stafford lasts until the third round, I also see others where he goes top-15 or even top-10. What will happen in most drafts is someone will grab Stafford just to make sure he does not fall into the laps of whomever drafted Cal in Round 1.
6. Tony Romo (DAL)
This starts the ‘second tier’ of the QB rankings, but also contains outstanding values to be had in Rounds 4-5 in typical 12-team formats. The oft-maligned Romo now gets compared to a vintage Brett Favre by many. Don’t know about you, but Favre was usually decent on a fantasy football roster.
In 2011 Romo ended up throwing 31 TDs v only 10 picks (that would be a slightly better ratio than Favre), and his stock could end up going even a little higher if Miles Austin is healthy the entire season. Romo still has the monkey of coming up empty in the playoffs – or not making the playoffs – but that fault does not come into play in regular season fantasy football.
If you do draft Romo, then handcuffing backup Kyle Orton in the late rounds is a must. Orton would be a top-ten QB for the Cowboys if Romo goes down, and you would need to burn 50-60% of the FAAB allotment if he were on the waiver wire with a long-term Romo injury.
7. Peyton Manning (DEN)
This year presents the unique opportunity to possibly own Peyton Manning with a 4th-5th round pick rather than late 1st-early 2nd. Yes, this is a gamble. Upside is Peyton returns to near 100%, adjusts quickly to his new surroundings, and you end up with a bargain. Favre wound up having the best season of his career in 2009 after showing up with the Vikings without an off-season – and Manning has had OTAs to work with his new teammates. Downside is Manning re-injures the neck and is done, then at least you didn’t burn a top pick and hopefully you have devised a contingency plan. There will be leagues where someone reaches and takes Peyton third-round out of name recognition – don’t worry at that point, you’ll have similar talents available.
8. Eli Manning (NYG)
Seeing him ranked a little higher on some boards. The Giants have slowly evolved into a passing team over the past few years, with Eli’s pitch count going up from 509 to 539 to 589 last year. Eli also has the benefit of now having two stud wideouts with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Eli sometimes throws a few too many to the other guys for my liking (25 picks in 2010) but is still now one of the top QBs and does have his name on a couple of Super Bowl trophies.
9. Michael Vick (PHI)
The waiver wire wonder of 2010 was WAY overvalued as a first-round pick last yea, and at age 32 now has even more tread on the tires, even if he did take that two-year sabbatical. If your league rewards for yards per completion, Vick will still be good with Maclin/DeSean Jackson. But in many leagues this will be another brand name that will be reached for perhaps a round or two before he should.
10. Robert Griffin III (WSH)
I’m ranking him higher than I see him on many mocks, and that’s because someone will reach in many leagues. That’s part of the fallout of Cam Newton’s rookie season, which means the expectations for RG3 amongst fantasy owners will be much higher. He will be a fun player to own, but I would suggest perhaps rolling the dice with him in the kiddie pools where you’re not investing much $$$ wise. In the big boy leagues I would go with someone with a more proven track record.
Click here to find out who else makes the top 30.