The 2013 regular season is just around the corner, football is finally here. May we all pause for a moment of reflection on the beauty of another fantasy football season which now lies before us…
The world of fantasy football is a strange one. For example, in the NFL, the most important position on the field is unanimously considered to be the quarterback position. However, in fantasy football, the running back is generally considered more valuable.
The reality is that quarterbacks are now valued much higher than any other player in the league due to the fact that the NFL has evolved into a passer’s league. Teams now run their offenses entirely through the quarterback and will often throw the ball more than they run it over the course of a season. Subsequently, the astronomical paychecks for elite quarterbacks reflect this passing evolution.
Of course, it may seem odd that there is no correlation between reality and fantasy football when it comes to the value of quarterbacks versus running backs. To be fair, running backs are generally more highly valued at the top of a fantasy draft due to the fact that most standard leagues allow owners to start multiple running backs but only one quarterback. Another possible consideration is that quarterbacks are injured far less than running backs in the NFL overall. Therefore, finding a durable and productive running back is more difficult for fantasy owners in many cases.
For example, since posting my original fantasy football top 10 rankings by position back in mid-June, half a dozen players from those lists have struggled with significant injuries; three of which were lost for the season. Luckily enough, no significant injuries have occurred to any of my original top 10 fantasy quarterbacks which means that any reordering is either purely performance-based or as a direct result of injuries at other positions. With that in mind, here are the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks heading into the 2013 regular season.
10. Tom Brady – New England
Patriot fans may work themselves into an uproar over this one, but hear me out. The New England Patriots—and more specifically Bill Belichick and his coaching staff—are smart enough to realize that they have a wide receiver shortage and though that may sound like the punch line to a height-based receiver joke, it’s a serious issue.
The good part for New England fans is that their organization has prepared for their lack of experienced receivers as well as Tom Brady’s twilight years by investing in a top-notch offensive line and quality running backs capable of milking the clock and allowing the Patriot defense their best chance to produce. Though this is proven to be a recipe for success, it’s a change from the norm in New England and will subsequently affect Tom Brady’s fantasy value as evidenced by his No. 10 ranking.
2012 passing stats: 4,827 yards 34 TD 8 INT
Previous ranking: No. 8
9. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys passing offense seems to be undervalued every season. With the emergence of Dez Bryant as one of the league’s most explosive receiving options, it’s difficult to see why. Romo has literally been a top ten fantasy quarterback every year he has been healthy, despite his playoff woes in reality.
In regards to fantasy, Romo has reliable playmakers in Jason Witten and the previously mentioned Bryant, as well as young potential talent in rookie Terrence Williams and slot receiver Dwayne Harris. Though head coach Jason Garrett has publicly given up his play-calling duties, the Cowboys’ system remains the same and should allow Romo to produce similarly to his 2012 stats.
2012 passing stats: 4,903 yards 28 TD 19 INT
Previous ranking: No. 7
8. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Despite the marketability and charisma of the Carolina Panthers No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton has been a relative disappointment for his franchise on the field to this point in his career. With the league seeing a recent flurry of talented young quarterbacks having early success in their careers, a new level of expectations has been set for the Panther’s franchise quarterback.
Newton is now being expected to take the next step and lead the Panthers to a playoff berth… or at least break the .500 mark.
Over the past two seasons, the Panthers have managed only thirteen total wins. Regardless of the team’s struggles in this department, Newton has managed to develop into a budding fantasy superstar. Coincidentally, the worse the Panthers do overall, the better Newton seems to produce for fantasy owners.
2012 passing stats: 3,869 yards 19 TD 12 INT
2012 rushing stats: 741 yards 8 TD
Previous ranking: No. 10
7. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
It will be interesting to see how the San Francisco 49ers’ respond to their Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Head coach Jim Harbaugh made the decision at mid-season last year to bench quarterback Alex Smith in favor of his own draft pick Colin Kaepernick. Though it will be difficult to judge that decision in the long run, Harbaugh certainly saw favorable short-term results nearly bringing the Lombardi back to the Bay-Area.
Kaepernick has brought an exciting new dynamic to the 49ers’ offense with his speed as a runner. The read-option has taken the NFL by storm and Kaepernick has established himself as one of the most electrifying dual-threat quarterbacks in the game. .
2012 passing stats: 1,814 yards 10 TD 3 INT
2012 rushing stats: 415 yards 5 TD
Previous ranking: unranked
6. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
It seems unfair that the Colts were able to go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck with only one forgettable season to separate them. Many franchises wait years to have a player worthy of even being mentioned in the same sentence as either of those two. Yet regardless of how frustrating this may be for the fans of 31 other teams in the NFL, this is the reality of the situation.
Andrew Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and he did not disappoint Colts’ fans. Right out the gate, Luck even managed to do something the great Peyton Manning never could; he took Indianapolis to the playoffs in his inaugural season. Despite lofty expectations, Luck appears to be the real deal and could be well on his way to the heights of fantasy football superstardom. Dynasty owners rejoice.
2012 passing stats: 4,374 yards 23 TD 18 INT
2012 rushing stats: 255 yards 5 TD
Previous ranking: No. 5
5. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons franchise quarterback finally arrived in the eyes of pundits around the NFL with his performances in the playoffs last season. Ryan displayed poise and precision in the pocket throughout the Falcons’ last-second come-from-behind victory over the Seattle Seahawks and again in their rugged, smash-mouth battle against the San Francisco 49ers’ where they were narrowly defeated.
Atlanta looks to be geared-up for another playoff push with their skill position players leading the way. Matt Ryan appears to be a true field-general with his pin-point accuracy and absolute command over the huddle. He is only beginning his tenure on the top-five fantasy quarterbacks list but with arguably the best supporting cast in the NFL, Ryan should be here a while.
2012 passing stats: 4,719 yards 32 TD 14 INT
Previous ranking: No. 6
4. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Surely it will come as a surprise that Russell Wilson is this high on the list of fantasy quarterbacks, especially when compared to his 2012 draft-class counterparts. However, Wilson is excellent at taking care of the ball and may have the most accurate deep-ball in the NFL. His ability to avoid pressure and extend plays is truly remarkable and it allows him to take advantage of eventual lapses in coverage.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Wilson is his Peyton Manning-like film study habits. Even as a third-round draft pick, Wilson began preparing himself both mentally and physically with the idea of starting in mind. His work ethic immediately paid off and Wilson is now one of the most dynamic and exciting young players in the league. Plus, Wilson has shown a tendency for sliding and getting out of bounds before taking big hits which should allow him to stay healthy even as a capable option quarterback.
2012 passing stats: 3,118 yards 26 TD 10 INT
2012 rushing stats: 489 yards 4 TD
Previous ranking: No. 4
3. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
We never should have doubted you Mr. Manning. New team, same old results for “the Sheriff.” Manning didn’t take long to acclimate himself to Denver and their receiving options. The duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker proved formidable for opponents with Manning under center. Plus, management decided to add receiver Wes Welker in free agency.
If Manning can overcome the loss of two centers already this preseason—amongst other injuries along the Broncos’ offensive line—then this offense can be really scary in 2013. Plus, with the issues on the defensive side of the ball, Manning and the offense could be involved in a fair amount of shootouts.
2012 passing stats- 4,659 yards 37 TD 11 INT
Previous ranking- No. 3
2. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Brees really shouldn’t be ranked No. 2 on this list; he is more like 1B. The Saints quarterback was a blessing-in-disguise for the city of New Orleans, uniting the community with a Super Bowl following the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.
Since then, Brees has only posted back-to-back 5,000 yard seasons and gone to a few Pro Bowls. Even in an off-year, Brees was a top two fantasy quarterback in 2012. Now that he has head coach Sean Payton back, Drew Brees should once again become the gold-standard when it comes to fantasy football quarterbacks.
2012 passing stats: 5,177 yards 43 TD 19 INT
Previous ranking: No. 2
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
It seems like an eternity since the Brett Favre versus Aaron Rodgers debate still raged on. Similar to the Colts, the Green Bay Packers have had an uncanny stretch of solid quarterback play. That streak doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon as Rodgers is still young and in his prime.
Although the Packers allowed former No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings to walk in free agency, they remain stacked at their skill positions. Plus, they still have tight end Jermichael Finley—who is reportedly having his best training camp ever—along with James Jones, who unexpectedly emerged as a red zone threat last season.
There are endless statistical facts which validate my theories as to why Rodgers will continue his dominant behavior over the NFL. However, all you need to know as a fantasy owner is that he WILL continue his dominant behavior. Trust me, it’s a mathematical certainty.
2012 passing stats: 4,295 yards 39 TD 8 INT
Previous ranking: No. 1
DISCLAIMER: Some people are sure to notice the absence of Robert Griffin III. Though RGIII is likely to perform like a top 10 fantasy quarterback while healthy, the odds of him starting 16 games this season are against him. This unfortunately makes Griffin a somewhat risky draft pick in standard formats. If you draft him, be sure to take a handcuff.