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Twilight of the Elite Quarterbacks?

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Last summer, the Top 5 of Quarterbacks drafted where Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan.  Rodgers through Stafford were all drafted in the 1st round with Stafford slipping to the 2nd on occasion.  Matt Ryan's ADP kept rising with each passing month and he ended up somewhere in the 2nd/3rd round of most drafts.

The current Top 10 list of fantasy Quarterbacks in standard scoring leagues reads as follows:

1) RG3

2) Matt Ryan

3) Drew Brees

4) Eli Manning

5) Cam Newton

6) Michael Vick

7) Tony Romo

8) Philip Rivers

9)  Ben Roethlisberger

10) Alex Smith

Listen, only two weeks of the season have gone by.  This current Top 10 ranking should be taken with a massive grain of salt, for the most part.  Do I think Alex Smith will be ranked ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady by season's end?  Of course not.  For the record, I don't think Smith will be ranked above them by Week 4.

Still, there are some things worth noting on this list.  First, RG3 is a beast.  Everybody knows that by now.  Even in a losing effort last Sunday against the Rams, he still piled on the numbers with three total touchdowns and close to 300 total yards (passing and rushing).  I expect RG3 to stay in the Top 10 for the remainder of the season.  I also expect that his numbers might slightly drop off in the second half as teams begin to figure him out more, similar to what happened to Newton last season.

I also don't expect Philip Rivers to last on this list that much longer. He's had a good two weeks but his numbers have been inflated because Ryan Mathews has been absent, due to injury.  Once Mathews returns, probably this week, I expect Rivers' numbers to taper off a bit because I believe Coach Turner when he told us in the offseason that he was going to give a million carries to Mathews.  The Chargers' running game has been pathetic these last couple games and this has forced Rivers to pass more.  Rivers will still be good and worthy of being started, just not 3 touchdown good like he was last Sunday, for example.

The quarterback I've been most impressed with has been Michael Vick. Vick had a very shaky start against the Browns in Week 1 after throwing 2,458 interceptions but he still managed to have a very good fantasy day with 317 passing yards, 32 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

Last Sunday against the Ravens, still a very tough matchup, Vick rose to the occasion with 371 passing yards, three total touchdowns and 34 rushing yards.  We're at the point now where it's not only safe to start Vick but he's actually one of the best fantasy QBs in the game.  He's becoming matchup proof and even when he has a bad game in reality, you can still count on him in fantasy football.

Let's talk a little bit about the quarterbacks that aren't in the Top 10, but were drafted in the 1st round and were regarded as Top 5 prospects heading into the season.

Aaron Rodgers

I'm not even remotely concerned about Rodgers, going forward. He's had two of the toughest matchups on his schedule with the 49ers and Bears. Next up he plays the Seahawks in Seattle, which will be another difficult game. After that, though, there's a lot to like on his schedule with two games against Detroit, the poopy Jaguars, the Giants defense that made Josh Freeman look like a star last weekend, and the Vikings. He's not really a buy-low candidate but you might be able to get a better deal than normal on him. He's still the best fantasy football QB in the land, regardless of how bananas RG3 has been...for two games.

Matthew Stafford

I'm still high on Stafford, too, but I'm a little concerned that he doesn't spread the ball around more. Anyone who watched the 49ers game last Sunday night, saw Stafford forcing it to Calvin Johnson on almost every throw. The Lions' offense would work better if Stafford passed it more to his other receivers and his numbers would improve too. He does have a couple nice fantasy matchups in his next two games; playing against the lowly Titans and the Vikings should go a long way in raising up the QB rankings.

Tom Brady

Believe it or not, of the elite QBs that haven't cracked the Top 10, Brady may be the quarterback I'm most worried about. The reason for that worry is the solid play of Stevan Ridley, whose been one of the best surprises of this young fantasy football season. Over two games, Ridley has rushed for close to 200 yards, two touchdowns, with five receptions and 51 receiving yards.  As long as he can stay healthy and not have any of the ball security issues he had last year, Ridley is here to stay.

Brady hasn't had this good of a running back since Corey Dillon, which was years ago. In the past, to compensate for the Patriots' total lack of a running game, Brady has thrown the ball more than he normally would. To put a finer point on things, let's take a look at where Brady was last year, after two games.

For the first two weeks of the 2011 season, Brady had 88 attempts, 63 completions, 940 passing yards and seven touchdowns.  In his first two 2012 games, Brady has 77 attempts, 51 completions, 552 passing yards and three touchdowns.  As you can see, his numbers are dramatically down across the board, especially when it comes to passing yards and touchdowns.

Look, the season is still very young and only two games have been played.  We've already talked about taking the rankings after two games with a healthy grain of salt. It stands to reason though, that with a vastly improved running game, Brady and the Patriots would pass less. And it's not like the case with Rodgers where the opening two matchups have been tough.  Brady's faced the likes of the Titans and the Cardinals. 

Another reason why Brady's numbers are down is because of the improved play of the Patriots defense, now ranked 13th when they were ranked near the bottom in 2011. Again, using basic reasoning skills, if the Patriots' defense is playing better and not putting the pressure on Brady to score, plus his running game is also alleviating pressure off him; his numbers are going to suffer.

With an improved running game and defense, Brady owners might be in for a long season, considering he was drafted in the 1st round and the expectations that come with that. We still have a lot of football to be played but I do feel like Brady is the biggest concern going forward.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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