Fantasy freaking Football. That’s what Midwest Sports Fans founder Jerod Morris says each year as the calendar turns to July. Just two months before the NFL kicks off, this is definitely fantasy football season.
So with that I’ll begin my annual fantasy football series of rankings, starting with the quarterbacks before moving on to the running backs, receivers, tight ends, kickers and finally defenses.
From the no-brainer first overall pick to the late rounds, we have you covered. Today we cover the quarterbacks.
So without further adieu, here are our 2013 fantasy football rankings for quarterbacks.
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
I laugh at all the publications that suggest that with a deep quarterback pool you can wait until Round 3 to get Rodgers. I don’t disagree with the deep quarterback aspect of it, but if you want Rodgers you better strike late in Round 1. You know the drill, after the top eight or nine running backs and Calvin Johnson are selected, you know the Cheesehead sitting in your draft room and picking Aaron. And stat-wise, Rodgers remains the best of the bunch based on his body of work over the past three years and the fact that there remains no shortage of receivers in Green Bay. Rodgers is also a nice, safe pick, even if he is overvalued in many drafts.
2. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
If Rodgers is spoken for when your turn comes in Round 2, then take Brees. In fact Brees has thrown for 1,600 more yards and five more touchdowns than Rodgers over the past two years. Brees does throw a few more interceptions each season, but that is not penalized in many formats. Rodgers gets the hype thanks to playing for the Packers, but Brees is actually a better fantasy value.
3. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
The true run on quarterbacks will begin in earnest towards the end of Round 3 and the beginning of Round 4 in most leagues. As of early July you can make the case for several quarterbacks at the No. 3 slot. I am going to go with Griffin because for most of last season he was projected as a fantasy first-round pick and possible top quarterback in 2013. If his surgically-repaired knee checks out and you can get RGIII in Round 3, you have a potential steal on the level that Adrian Peterson was last year. However be leery of all the media-driven propaganda coming out of Skins camp, no one will truly have a true read on Griffin’s Week 1 availability until late August.
4. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Newton’s Law – if you project Cam for 20 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns, that would be the equivalent of 35 passing touchdowns under a standard format of six points per rushing touchdown/four points per passing touchdown. If rushing yards count double, then Newton’s 700 rush yards and 4,000 pass yards is essentially the same as a 5,400-yard passer. Get a team around Newton and his value rises even more.
5. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
It was absolutely hilarious listening to the talk shows after Week 3 last year that were throwing the towel in on Manning’s career. Three months later he finished the season with second-best numbers of his career (next to his paranormal 2004 numbers), finishing with 4,600-plus passing yards and 37 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. I expect Manning to regress slightly at age 37, but I still have him near the top and some have him not far off from Brees and Rodgers.
6. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
We know the story, the Patriots have lost a lot this offseason. Wes Welker is departed, Rob Gronkowski could miss part of the season, and the Aaron Hernandez is out of the picture as well. It’s as much gloom and doom as Brady has experienced in his decade-plus career. But then let me throw these stats: 109 touchdowns against 24 interceptions over the past three years. I wouldn’t go too far down with Brady, and if he’s available Round 4, grab him.
7. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
The man who called his shot in a fourth grade writing class saying that his life goal was to play quarterback for either the 49ers or Packers. Don’t get me wrong, I have nearly as big a man crush on Kaeptain Komeback as Jerod Morris does, but remember a few things: Kaepernick only threw for a pedestrian 10 touchdown passes in his eight regular season starts, although he also scored three times on the ground. Then there is the likely loss of Michael Crabtree for the 2013 season thanks to an Achilles tendon tear.
Fantasy fans will be salivating over Kaepernick’s Week 1 matchup against a Packers defense that he annihilated for 181 rushing yards back in January, but those kind of crazy rush yards will likely be an aberration. Kaepernick’s top rushing totals in the regular season were 84 and 66 yards in the Niners two five-quarter epics against the St. Louis Rams.
8. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Ryan has averaged 30 passing touchdowns over the past three years, and bumped up his passing yards last year to over 4,700 with a completion percentage approaching 70. With Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez all in the fold, consider myself sold on his prospects.
9. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
Those who drafted Stafford in the early-second round last year were burned. Stafford again flirted with 5,000 passing yards, but his passing touchdowns plummeted from 41 to 20, which I consider an aberration. Split the difference and have Stafford throw for 5,000 and 30 touchdowns and he’s a great value in Round 5 this time around. As long as Calvin Johnson is on the field I like Stafford’s chances, especially with Reggie Bush as a nice dump-off option.
10. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
We thought he had a chance to be decent, but he has a chance to eventually become the all-time face of Seattle’s franchise. I wouldn’t expect much more than 3,000 passing yards, but his final eight regular season games were amazing, 16 touchdowns against two interceptions, a 67 percent completion percentage and 361 yards, plus four touchdowns on the ground.
The only negative on Wilson is that he appears to have a limited ceiling statistically, his first 300-yard day came in a Divisional Playoff game in Atlanta where Wilson was in comeback mode form the second quarter on. ESPN’s John Clayton is on record as saying that ideally Wilson’s pitch count would be a maximum of 26 to 28 passes per game. One positive factor is the addition of Percy Harvin.
11. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
If you want to compare Luck and Wilson, it’s a coin flip and also a matter of opinion. Fantasy Pros says 51 percent have Luck in their rankings higher than Wilson. The case for Luck is that he had a somewhat flawed rookie season completing just 54 percent of his passes, but he also threw 50-plus passes in several games. If he takes the expected leap this year, you can make a case for Luck having a much higher ceiling than Wilson. The only possible negative on Luck would be offensive coordinator/interim coach Bruce Arians leaving in the offseason, but Luck has already dealt with transition in the coaching ranks during his brief career. Blue Horseshoe opens with home games against the Raiders and Dolphins, so Luck should get off to a rousing start.
12. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys
Remember that infamous botched field goal hold in Seattle? That was the end of the 2006 season, meaning Romo will be entering his seventh full season as the Cowboys starting quarterback. Romo’s stats got a bump upwards last year thanks in large part to the emergence of Dez Bryant. Romo finished with more than 4,900 yards passing. There is an established baseline here, he’s a solid low-end starting quarterback, and it is a substantial drop between the top-12 and the 13, 14, 15th ranked quarterbacks on this list.
13. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
We’re now getting into bye week options or quarterbacks to stash away in case of injury. And you can do much, much worse than the Red Rifle, who approached 4,000 yards passing and notched 27 touchdowns in 2012. With one of the best receivers in the game in A.J. Green on the payroll, Dalton could improve even more in his third year in the league.
14. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
If you are in a 14-team league, the last of the starters is only a Super Bowl MVP who just got a gigantic pay day. Flacco has never been exceptional statistics-wise, the past four years he has settled in the 3,500 to 4,000 yard range, with 20 to 25 touchdowns over the past few years. Not a bad option if you have waited in the draft while loading up with running backs and receivers.
15. Matt Schaub – Houston Texans
I have seen one list where Schaub is not even listed among the top 20 quarterbacks! It isn’t like Schaub has gone that far downhill, everyone else has just stepped up over the last few years. In 2012 Schaub went for 4,000 yards and 22 touchdown passes, that’s about his ceiling at this point in his career.
16. Eli Manning – New York Giants
So many Super Bowl rings on the back end of these rankings. Eli gets a little frustrating, drafted him high last year after putting some big yardage numbers up in 2011. Benched him for Week 2 after not doing much in the opener, that is when he went off for 510 yards on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The receiving corps is a little down with the Giants this year, but Eli is still a good fill-in
17. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
As we get into more of the fantasy backups, I like to look at potential upside. Do not look much at Tannehill’s rookie numbers as he was thrown into the fire immediately. The Dolphins improved their receiving corps immensely in the offseason, and with former Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman on the Miami staff to give Tannehill guidance, his learning curve shouldn’t be too steep. Also, teammates and other observers have raved about Tannehill’s improvement during offseason camp and he has some running ability as well. This would be a good player to take a flier on in the later rounds.
18. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
This is season No. 5 for Cutler in Chicago already, where he has throw 82 touchdown passes in 56 games. His ceiling remains about 25 touchdown passes and 3,500 yards, and at age 30 that is likely as good as it will ever get. He does have Brandon Marshall at his disposal, so there are two to three opportunities to play him in case your starter is hurt or on a bye.
19. Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs used a third-round pick this year on N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon, suggesting the team might move on after Freeman’s contract expires after this season. That is possible, but I am not giving up on Freeman, who has put up seasons of 25 and 27 touchdowns in two of the last three campaigns. He’s still only 25 years old and a little competition may be all it takes for him to get to the next level.
20. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
It’s a bit ridiculous that I have Rivers ranked 19th among the 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. Critics can talk about his so-called regression all they want, but Rivers has 30, 27, and 26 TD passes over the past three seasons. You could do worse than having him as a backup, especially with new head coach Mike McCoy – a noted quarterback guru – in town.
21. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger did throw for 26 touchdowns last year against only eight interceptions and has thrown for over 250 yards per game over the past four seasons. The loss of Mike Wallace knocks him down a bit this year.
22. Michael Vick – Philadelphia Eagles
I’m anticipating Vick will go much earlier in many drafts just on name recognition alone. It is not a matter of if but when Vick gets hurt one final time and Nick Foles or Matt Barkley take over as starter for good.
23. Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs
Smith expressed his frustration at losing his starting job with the 49ers last season, stating that he had done nothing wrong except for being on the wrong end of a concussion. Well that, and missing a week or two was all it was going to take Colin Kaepernick to prove that he was the better man for the job. And guess what, Smith wound up with a 104.1 quarterback rating on the season, that keeps most signal-callers employed as starters.
Smith jumped into a nice situation in Kansas City, where he might be hailed as one of the better quarterbacks to land in there since the last San Francisco player who relocated there after being displaced as a starter 20 years ago, Joe Montana.
24. Christian Ponder – Minnesota Vikings
The jury remains out on Ponder, that is not necessarily a negative statement. In his first full season as a starter, Ponder had a quarterback rating of 81.2 and 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. That’s not horrible for his first time around. Ponder will have to do more to tread water in the quarterback-heavy NFC North, but he might just be up to the task as the Vikings’ receiving corps appears improved.
25. Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams
The Rams addressed their receiving corps in the offseason, meaning it is put up or shut up time for the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner in year four in the NFL. It wasn’t like Bradford was horrible last year, throwing for 21 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions, but much more was expected from him.
26. Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals
I’m not a huge Palmer fan, but consider that he managed to throw 22 touchdowns against 14 interceptions as a member of the woeful Oakland Raiders last year. The Cards have been looking for a competent quarterback ever since Kurt Warner hung them up a few years back, and at even this point in his career, Palmer may prove to be an adequate match.
27. Matt Flynn – Oakland Raiders
I think Matt has finally landed in a place where no one can un-seat him for the starting job. Problem is the Raiders remain stuck in the past in their going vertical philosophy, and Flynn doesn’t have the greatest arm strength. As a result, Flynn will likely find himself horizontal far too often.
28. Blaine Gabbert – Jacksonville Jaguars
There was improvement last year, Gabbert completed over 58 percent of his passes, but only threw nine touchdowns in 278 attempts. Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts do give him a couple of nice targets. He obviously remains on a team that will be playing catchup in most contests.
29. Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans
For all the propaganda that has been out with Ryan Tannehill looking far better in OTA’s this off-season, you do not hear that much about Locker. Ron Jaworski was recently quoted as saying that Locker still ‘has a long ways to go’ while the Titans coaching staff is trying to ween him off of depending on the playbook on his wristband. I personally have not been nuts about Locker even going back to his U-Dub Huskie days.
30. Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles
How long Michael Vick lasts is anyone’s guess. One week? Two weeks? Even five or six weeks? It is not a matter of if but when Vick goes down for good and Foles plays the remainder of the season as the Eagles quarterback. Did a decent job getting on-the-job training the second half of last season.