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Although you probably remember 2009 as the “Year of the Quarterback,” National Football League passers dazzled us once again in 2010, compiling historically proficient and prolific fantasy numbers. How dominant have NFL passing attacks become? Did you know the league-wide passer rating (84.1) and the league-wide touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.47-to-1) both reached historic highs this season? In addition, the NFL set a new season record with 751 touchdown passes, and each regular-season contest averaged a record 443.1 total passing yards.
Which quarterbacks scored the most fantasy points? Here is a breakdown of the Top 40 fantasy quarterbacks. Fantasy points were calculated using the following formula: one point for every 20 passing yards amassed, four points for each touchdown pass, minus-one point for each interception, one point for every 10 rushing yards compiled and six points for each rushing touchdown. Points were not deducted for lost fumbles. In case you’re wondering, each quarterback in the following table lost an average of 2.4 fumbles on the season.
The biggest surprises? Michael Vick finishing 2010 ranked among the Top 10 fantasy passers was obviously the biggest fantasy storyline of the season. Vick’s unofficial coming out party during a Week 10 Monday night clash with the Washington Redskins was one of the most remarkable fantasy performances in recent memory. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed eight times for 80 yards and two scores to amass a mind-blowing 52.65 fantasy points in many scoring formats.
Where would Vick rank among the other fantasy signal-callers if he had started 16 regular season games? Prorating Vick’s numbers from his 10 full regular season contests played – brace yourself – produces this stat line: 4,470 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, 890 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns and a whopping 514.5 fantasy points. He obviously would have finished as the fantasy QB1 by a huge margin.
Josh Freeman was the other surprise in the Top 10. He finished as the fantasy QB9, despite throwing to rookie and scrub wide receivers, and a semi-washed up tight end all season. Imagine what Freeman could do with some top pass-catching talent around him.
Kyle Orton was a Top 10 fantasy quarterback most of the season until bruised ribs and the Tim Tebow experiment sidelined him for the final three games of 2010. Orton finished as the fantasy QB16.
Putting aside Matt Cassel’s dismal showing in the NFL playoffs, his play improved by leaps and bounds during the regular season. Cassel finished as the fantasy QB14, and he was a usable plug-and-play fantasy option in the right matchups during the second half.
The biggest disappointments? After Kevin Kolb became the quarterback to throw for 325-plus yards and two touchdowns in his first two career starts (2009), his upside potential in Philadelphia’s pass-happy attack was too tempting for some fantasy owners to ignore. However, Kolb ultimately was not ready to lead the Eagles offense, but you-know-who was more than up for the job, which resulted in a lot of wasted mid-round draft picks.
Nobody had expected Brett Favre to match his 2009 numbers while facing a more challenging schedule without go-to guy Sidney Rice for most of the season. Rice, as you may remember, had undergone an ill-timed hip surgery procedure. Nevertheless, the injury-prone Favre’s season-ending fantasy QB28 ranking was far worse than expected.
Jay Cutler wasn’t able to amass Kurt Warner-esque fantasy numbers, despite playing in new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s pass-happy “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. The Chicago Bears lacked the necessary offensive talent to run Martz’s offense effectively, settling for a more conservative, run-oriented attack, which won games but limited Cutler’s production to fantasy QB14 levels.
Donovan McNabb didn’t have as much gas left in the tank as some had predicted. Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan finally benched McNabb for the last three games of the season, opting to start journeyman Rex Grossman. In 13 games played, McNabb averaged 259 passing yards per contest but tossed multiple touchdown passes in just two games to finish as the fantasy QB21, while Grossman threw for multiple scores in two of his three starts.
Who threw for the most yards? An NFL record 22 quarterbacks passed for 3,000-plus yards. Philip Rivers led the way with 4,710, and Peyton Manning wasn’t far behind with 4,700 yards. Drew Brees, Matt Schaub and Eli Manning also topped the 4,000-yard mark. Orton was on pace to amass 4,494 passing yards until, as mentioned, he was benched for Tebow. Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer all were less than 100 passing yards off the elite 4,000-yard plateau.
Who threw the most touchdown passes? Tom Brady led all passers with 36 scoring strikes. Rivers, both Mannings, and Brees each tossed 30-plus touchdown passes. Eleven quarterbacks threw 25-plus touchdown passes, which was the second-most in NFL history (12 passers did it in 2009). By the way, Orton was on pace to throw 25 before giving way to Tebow.
How many QB threw for 400-plus yards? We witnessed 11 individual 400-yard passing efforts by 10 different quarterbacks, which was the most since 2004 and the third-most in league history. Rivers led all signal-callers with two 400-yard outings (Week 3 and Week 5). Schaub amassed 497 passing yards (Week 2), which was the 2010 single-game high. The other quarterbacks that notched 400-yard games: P. Manning, McNabb, Tony Romo, Palmer, Favre, Cassel and Rodgers.
How many QB threw for 300-plus yards? There were 96 300-yard passing games by 35 different quarterbacks. Eight of the 300-yard games were posted by backup signal callers, and Jon Kitna logged four of them. Brees, Peyton Manning and Schaub each amassed a league-leading seven 300-yard games.
Who missed the 300-yard party? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns did not have a quarterback notch a 300-yard passing game. Nevertheless, Freeman is undoubtedly on his way to becoming a rock-solid fantasy passer – assuming the Buccaneers upgrade the talent around him. None of Cleveland’s signal-callers – Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace – was helped by the team’s glaring shortage of receiving talent and run-first philosophy. What about the offense-challenged Carolina Panthers? Matt Moore delivered one 300-yard passing game in Week 7.
Any notable individual accomplishments? Rivers’ 4,710 passing yards was a new single-season best for him. Peyton Manning set a new NFL single-season record with 450 completions, and Brees finished close behind with 448 completions. Peyton Manning also amassed personal bests in attempts (679) and passing yards (4,700). Getting back to Brees, he became the first player in NFL history to complete 400-plus passes in three different seasons (2007, 2008 and 2010). Brady’s active streak of 335 straight passes without an interception is a league record, and he tossed just four picks, which was the single-season low. Eli Manning set new personal-best marks in touchdown passes (31) and, unfortunately, interceptions (a league-worst 25). Vick, as you probably guessed, set new personal bests in completions (233), passing yards (3,018), completion percentage (62.6), touchdown passes (21) and rushing scores (nine) while playing in 12 games (10 full starts). Freeman's five touchdown passes against the Seattle Seahawks (Week 16) was a career high and the 2010 single-game best among all quarterbacks.
Any high-profile injuries? It seems like there is at least one every year. Tony Romo was ranked as the fantasy QB6 when he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in Week 7. Vick missed three games because of injured ribs and sat out a meaningless Week 17 contest with a quadriceps injury. The injury bug bit the promising Matthew Stafford for the second year in a row. Stafford missed 13 games because of injuries to his right (throwing) shoulder.
How did the rookies do? Given the starting nod in St. Louis from the get-go, Sam Bradford was obviously the best of the bunch and was a usable No. 2 fantasy quarterback some weeks. He was hovering around the fantasy QB15 mark for a good portion of 2010, but a season-ending slump – Bradford tossed just one touchdown pass in his last five games – took a toll on his fantasy stock. On the season, Bradford topped the 200-yard passing mark in nine games and tossed at least one touchdown pass in 11 contests.
Despite Cleveland’s obvious shortage of bona fide pass-catching talent, Colt McCoy played competently overall in eight games, but he was nothing special. McCoy topped the 200-yard passing mark and tossed at least one touchdown pass in five outings. He was never a fantasy option. With a new head coach coming in, McCoy’s future with the Browns is a question mark.
In three season-ending starts, Tim Tebow’s play was surprisingly competent overall. He averaged 217 passing yards, 1.33 touchdown passes, 66.33 rushing yards and one rushing scores per start. It looks like Tebow has the necessary raw talent to succeed in the NFL, but he needs more time to develop. Tebow was a fantasy option in consolation fantasy bowls.
Although Jimmy Clausen was regarded by many experts as the most pro-ready quarterback of the 2010 class, he was the worst performer of the group by far – even if you factor in the Carolina Panthers’ poor supporting offensive cast. In 13 games played (10 starts), Clausen tossed just three touchdown passes and failed to top the 200-yard passing mark. His future in Charlotte is uncertain.
Looking ahead to 2011, who are the most fantasy-relevant free agents at the position? Restricted free agents: Bruce Gradkowski (Raiders), Troy Smith (49ers) and Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings).
Unrestriced free agents: Peyton Manning (Colts), Michael Vick (Eagles), Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks), Kerry Collins (Titans), Rex Grossman (Redskins), Kyle Boller (Raiders) and Alex Smith (49ers).
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