Did you draft Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Michael Vick and not win your league last season? Well, unless you got lucky and drafted Darren Sproles, Victor Cruz, Rob Gronkowski, Jordy Nelson, or you’re in a league full of idiots, then probably not. I am a 10-year veteran of fantasy football, and in more than 500 drafts I’ve never taken a quarterback before Round 6 ever. Why? You only start one quarterback, while you have to start at least two running backs, two or three wide receivers, and most leagues now have flex players where you can start up to three running backs and even four wide receivers.
I’ve done more than 100 mocks already for the 2012 season and I can tell you that most teams that took a quarterback early all have serious holes on their team. Do you really want to be stuck with Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells or Reggie Bush as one of your top running backs? I didn’t think so.
Rodgers is currently going at pick No. 4, and in virtually every mock draft I’ve done, the feedback from the player that has Rodgers is, Well, I could have done better at wide receiver or running back, but at least I have Rodgers.” That will not cut it. To win you must have a good all-around team and there are plenty of quarterbacks you can take later in the draft.
Quarterbacks that are going in round 1 are Rodgers, Brady and Brees. Cam Newton is being taken on average around pick 16, but has gone as high as eighth and as low as the mid-third round. As people continue to mock they are noticing more and more the quality of quarterbacks they can get later. After Matthew Stafford as a late second- or early third-round pick, the next quarterback off the board is Michael Vick, averaging around pick No. 5 in round 5. So, Vick is being taken, on average, 18 picks after Stafford. The next quarterback off the board is usually Eli Manning or Peyton Manning, averaging as a mid-to-late fifth-round pick. And what about Tony Romo? He is averaging round 6 pick No. 4, followed by Phillip Rivers in round 6. Matt Ryan’s average pick is round 7 followed by Robert Griffin and Matt Schaub in round 8 and Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger in round 9. Ryan as the 11th quarterback and Cutler as the 15th quarterback off the board sounds great, doesn't it?
Well, I am here to tell you, that if you want to win your league in 2012, you will wait for your quarterback and take either Ryan or Cuter. You can always draft a backup in Josh Freeman, Matt Flynn or Ryan Fitzpatrick later and they will do just fine. Ryan is 26 years old and will be entering his fifth year in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons. His touchdown passes have gone up in each of the last four seasons (16-22-28-29). Also, Ryan went from 3,705 passing yards in 2010 to 4,177 passing yards in 2011. Ryan even had two rushing touchdowns last season. Not bad for a statue. Ryan has two great weapons at wide receiver in Roddy White and Julio Jones. White is entering his eighth year with five consecutive years of more than 1,100 yards and had 115 receptions in 2010 and 100 in 2011 even with the emergence of rookie Julio Jones. Look for White to have another good season. He has to slow down sometime, but I see no reason that will be anytime soon.
Jones played in 13 games last season and totaled 959 yards and eight touchdowns. Look for him to have a monster season in 2012. Look for him to get around 1,200 receiving yards and 12-14 touchdowns, making him and excellent early round 4 pick. He is being taken on average at pick No. 3 in round 4 in the mock drafts.
Let’s not forget about Tony Gonzalez. He is now 36 years old and entering his 16th season, fourth with the Falcons. Last year, Gonzalez snagged 80 balls for 875 yards and seven touchdowns. He has only missed two games in his career. One in 2006 and one in 1999. Not bad at all for someone being taken on average in round 10 in 12-team mock drafts. Ryan also had four passing touchdowns to his running backs last year, and they will be incorporating more short passes to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling and even Michael Turner this season. Completing an unusual swap of offensive coordinators, the Falcons hired Dirk Koetter from Jacksonville to replace Mike Mularkey only four days after the Jaguars introduced Mularkey as their new coach. The Falcons hired Koetter despite the Jaguars ranking last in the league in total offense and yards passing in 2011. Koetter’s offense ranked 29th with an average of 15.2 points per game. Koetter was hired as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator in 2007. He worked with Falcons coach Mike Smith for one year. Smith was the Jaguars defensive coordinator before he became Atlanta's head coach in 2008. Smith said Koetter will bring “a fresh set of ideas to our offense.”
The Falcons also added two offensive linemen in the draft. Peter Konz from Wisconsin and Lamar Holmes from Southern Mississippi and a big fullback in the fifth round, Bradie Ewing from Wisconsin.
Last season the Falcons had a difficult schedule for teams in the fantasy playoffs. This season, however, they play New Orleans at home during Week 13, at Carolina in Week 14, followed by the New York Giants, and if you somehow make the fantasy Super Bowl in Week 16, the Falcons will be at Detroit, which should be a shootout. The Falcons have the easiest schedule in the NFL this season.