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First Fantasy Rankings – QBs


To compile the rankings, I factored in each player’s 2008 fantasy numbers and statistical trends from the previous two years to help predict legitimate upside or downside potential. I also considered personnel and scheme changes that could affect fantasy production. In addition, I gave preference to passers who have demonstrated historical reliability and week-to-week consistency. The rankings are subject to change.


 


Key to the abbreviations used in each table:


 


G

= Games played


COM

= Completions


ATT

= Attempts


YDS

= Passing yards


TD

= Touchdown passes


IN

= Interceptions


RYD

= Rushing yards


RTD

= Rushing touchdowns


FP

= Fantasy points


FP/G

= Fantasy points per game


NA

= Not applicable



 


*Note

– I ranked rushing yards and rushing touchdowns only for quarterbacks who are competent scramblers.


 

Fantasy points were calculated using the following scoring system: 1 point for every 20 yards passing, 4 points for each touchdown pass, minus 1 point for each interception, 1 point for every 10 rushing yards and 6 points for each rushing touchdown.


 


 


1. Drew Brees | New Orleans Saints

| 9th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

413

635

5,069

34

17

-1

0

372.35

23.27


Rank


1

1

1

T1

3

NA

NA

1

1



 


2008 Recap:

Brees came within 16 yards of shattering Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s record for passing yardage in a regular season (5,084 yards; set in 1984) while amassing career-best passing numbers across the board. Despite not having his two top weapons – wide receiver Marques Colston and running back Reggie Bush – for long stretches due to injuries, the 30-year-old Brees posted consistent fantasy statistics almost every week. Brees threw at least one touchdown pass in 15 outings while averaging 316.8 passing yards, 2.13 touchdown passes and 1.03 interceptions per game. The former Purdue star also logged eight 300-yard passing games and two 400-yard passing games, and tossed multiple touchdown passes in 11 contests. Brees’ pass protection was stellar; he was sacked just 13 times (0.81 times per game).


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Do I really need to tell you that Brees is an elite No. 1 fantasy quarterback and one of the safest selections you can make on draft day? He has thrown at least 26 touchdown passes during each of his three seasons in the Big Easy and has not missed a regular-season game in the last four years. Although the odds are against Brees equaling or surpassing his personal-best passing numbers from last season, he should continue to roll up his usual outstanding fantasy production in New Orleans’ prolific pass-happy offensive attack. Even if free-agent wide receiver Lance Moore (restricted free agent) does not return, Brees still has plenty of weapons. New Orleans’ list of opponents ranks No. 8 in terms of difficulty, but Brees is matchup proof.



 



 


2. Peyton Manning | Indianapolis Colts

| 12th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

371

555

4,002

27

12

21

1

304.20

19.01


Rank


4

5

6

4

T7

NA

NA

6

8



 


2008 Recap:

Manning underwent surgery in July to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, and a slow recovery forced him to miss the entire preseason. Despite the setback, Manning managed to start every regular-season game for the 11th straight year. He struggled noticeably during the first month but regained his Pro Bowl form later in the season. The consistent Manning threw at least one touchdown pass in 14 of 16 regular-season games and tossed multiple touchdown passes in nine outings. He also notched four 300-yard passing games and logged seven other games with at least 240 yards passing while averaging 250.1 passing yards, 1.69 touchdown passes and 0.75 interceptions per outing. Indianapolis’ pass protection was superb as usual; Manning was sacked just 14 times (0.88 times per game). He won the 2008 NFL Most Valuable Player Award, becoming just the second player in league history to earn the honor three times.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

The 33-year-old Manning rates as a top fantasy starter and one of the safest choices on the draft board, but you already knew that. With an entire training camp and an entire preseason of practices under his belt, a healthy Manning should get off to a much better start than he did in 2008. The Colts have a new head coach, but the offensive staff and the playbook have not changed. Even though the club released wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Manning’s passing numbers will not suffer, because he still has an arsenal of talented targets around him. With Harrison out of the lineup for most of the 2007 season due to a knee injury, Manning threw for 4,040 yards and 31 scores. Indianapolis’ list of 2009 opponents ranks No. 13 in difficulty, but Manning performs well against just about any opponent. By the way, Manning never has failed to throw at least 26 touchdown passes in a season.



 



 


3. Tom Brady | New England Patriots

| 10th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2007

16

398

578

4,806

50

8

87

2

453.00

28.31


Rank


NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA



 


2008 Recap:

If you had spent a first- or second-round pick on Brady, you received the shock of your fantasy football life in Week 1. Brady had completed seven of 11 pass attempts for 76 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs before suffering torn ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee, which ended the 2007 NFL MVP’s season. The ACL tear, as you recall, required surgery. I posted Brady’s 2007 numbers in the above table, because he played the full season.  


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

The Patriots’ decision to trade backup quarterback Matt Cassel to the Chiefs is obvious proof that New England head coach Bill Belichick and company have no long-term concerns about Brady’s surgically repaired knee. Brady, who will be 32 when the season starts, returns to the same offensive scheme with essentially the same talented supporting cast (wide receiver Joey Galloway will replace wide receiver Jabar Gaffney) that helped him amass some jaw-dropping, career-high fantasy numbers in 2007. However, remember that players rarely duplicate personal-best statistics. Do you still have doubts about whether Brady will be ready to play at a top level? Consider this:
Quarterback Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) suffered a similar knee injury (torn ACL and MCL ligaments) in early January 2006 (it happened during a 2005 season playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers). After undergoing surgery, a healthy Palmer returned the following season and threw for 4,035 yards and 28 touchdowns. Until we see Brady play in preseason, I am guessing that he will perform at his usual Pro Bowl level, but a slow start is not out of the question. New England’s list of 2009 opponents ranks No. 3 in difficulty.



 



 


4. Aaron Rodgers | Green Bay Packers

| 5th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

341

536

4,038

28

13

207

4

345.60

21.60


Rank


7

6

4

T3

T6

6

1

2

2



 


2008 Recap:

Rodgers amassed some outstanding numbers during his first season as Green Bay’s new starting quarterback. Because the Packers’ running game and defense both struggled down the stretch, Rodgers carried the team, averaging 277.1 passing yards and 2.12 touchdown passes per contest during the last six weeks of the season. Rodgers also rewarded his fantasy owners with some wonderful consistency; he scored at least one touchdown (passing or rushing) in 15 outings and threw for multiple scores in 10 contests. In addition, he topped the 280-yard passing mark eight times. The California product scored a handful of rushing touchdowns on quarterback sneaks, because the Packers’ short-yardage rushing game was dismal. On the downside, Rodgers was sacked 34 times (2.1 times per game), which ranked No. 7 among all quarterbacks.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Is Rodgers a one-year wonder like quarterback Derek Anderson (Cleveland Browns) from 2007? I do not think so. Anderson’s numbers dipped dramatically at the close of 2007 (his first full season as a starter), but, as discussed, Rodgers’ statistics improved down the stretch in 2008. I think the 25-year-old Rodgers will continue to perform like a fantasy stud for years to come. Although the Green Bay defense will improve, I do not think the club’s rushing attack will be any better than average, which means the Packers will remain a pass-first team. Green Bay’s list of opponents ranks just No. 30 in difficulty, which obviously is a huge plus for Rodgers. Something to keep in mind: Rodgers has been injury prone. He did play a handful of 2008 contests with a shoulder injury, but Rodgers managed to start all 16 regular-season games.


 


 


5. Kurt Warner | Arizona Cardinals

| 12th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

402

599

4,582

30

14

-2

0

334.90

20.93


Rank


2

3

2

2

T5

NA

NA

4

4


 


2008 Recap:

Late in the preseason, head coach Ken Whisenhunt abruptly benched inconsistent designated franchise quarterback Matt Leinart and turned the offense over to the cagey veteran Warner. Thanks to playing in a fantasy friendly, pass-first offense with talented wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, Warner was a model of fantasy consistency. He tossed at least one touchdown pass in 15 games and threw multiple touchdown passes in 10 contests. Warner also amassed career highs in attempts and completions while averaging 286.4 passing yards, 1.88 touchdown passes and 0.88 interceptions per outing. In addition, he notched six 300-yard passing games and one 400-yard effort. Warner no longer has any mobility, but he has a very quick release and receives some solid protection from his offensive line. Warner was sacked 26 times (1.6 times per game), which ranked slightly above average.

 


Early 2009 Outlook:

If you snagged Warner near the tail end of your 2008 drafts, do not count on getting him for cheap this year. Concerns about his age – Warner will be 38 when the 2009 season kicks off – are legitimate, but are you going to let that scare you away from drafting one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in the league? Warner can still play at a high level – you saw that in Super Bowl XLIII – and there have been no signs that his arm strength and passing skills have diminished. Warner also has taken his share of hits, but he has managed to stay healthy. Arizona’s list of opponents ranks just No. 27 in difficulty, which is clearly a bonus. One thing to remember: Boldin is rumored to be on the trading block, despite repeated denials from the Arizona front office. If Boldin is shipped to another team, Warner probably should slide down a slot or two in the rankings.





6. Tony Romo | Dallas Cowboys

| 7th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

13

276

451

3,448

26

14

41

0

266.50

20.50


Rank


15

16

12

6

T5

NA

NA

10

6


 


2008 Recap:

Romo amassed upper-echelon fantasy-point totals in nine of 13 games played. He threw at least one touchdown pass in 12 contests and tossed multiple touchdown passes in eight outings. In addition, Romo notched six 300-yard passing games while averaging 265.2 passing yards, 2.00 touchdown passes and 1.08 interceptions per contest. Romo sat out three games with a broken pinkie on his right (throwing) hand, which was the first time the Eastern Illinois product had missed any starts since becoming Dallas’ No. 1 signal-caller in 2005. Projecting Romo’s 2008 statistics for 16 regular-season games gives you 4,244 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions and 328.5 fantasy points, which are similar to his 2007 numbers. Romo was sacked just 20 times (1.3 times per game), which is considered below average. For the second season in a row, Romo disappointed his fantasy owners with soft fantasy production in some of his December games.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Romo, who will turn 29 in April, has logged reasonably consistent fantasy numbers during the last two years, but his overall production will likely dip a bit this season. Although the skills of wide receiver Terrell Owens (Buffalo Bills) were diminishing, replacing his production will be a challenge. If wide receiver Roy Williams cannot elevate his game and provide a big-play presence, I could see enemy defenses double-teaming Jason Witten. According to the latest reports out of Dallas, wide receivers Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin are supposed to compete for Owen’s former starting spot but both are inconsistent and largely unproven. The Cowboys’ salary cap situation is not ideal, so signing another capable receiver in free agency may not be an option. Drafting a receiver is a possibility, but rookie wide outs rarely do well. By the way, the Cowboys do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft; they traded it to the Detroit Lions as part of the deal to acquire Williams. With a trio of good running backs currently on the roster – Marion Barber III, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones – I suspect the Cowboys offense will become a little more run oriented. Dallas’ list of opponents ranks No. 11 (tie) in difficulty, so Romo should still have to do his share of throwing.



 



 


7. Philip Rivers | San Diego Chargers

| 6th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

312

478

4,009

34

11

84

0

333.85

20.87


Rank


12

12

5

T1

T8

NA

NA

5

5


 


2008 Recap:

Since running back Ladainian Tomlinson’s once-outstanding skills have diminished, Rivers has become the straw that stirs the drink in the club’s offensive attack. You should credit in part the presence of head coach and quarterback guru Norv Turner for River’s outstanding season. The 27-year-old Rivers posted career-high passing numbers across the board and cut his interceptions from 15 in 2007 to just 11. Rivers tossed 2.12 touchdown passes per outing, tossed at least one touchdown pass in 14 games and tossed multiple touchdown passes in 12 contests. His passing yardage, however, did lack some week-to-week consistency. The North Carolina State product racked up five 300-yard passing games; however, he failed to top the 250-yard passing mark in nine contests. Overall, Rivers averaged 250.6 passing yards per outing. He was sacked 25 times (1.6 times per game), which ranked slightly above average.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Although Rivers lacks the coveted game-to-game consistency of the elite fantasy quarterbacks, he has clearly emerged as a No. 1 option and should continue to improve under Turner’s tutelage. Despite the presence of the aging Tomlinson and smallish running back Darren Sproles, San Diego’s offense should continue to utilize a pass-first approach. Rivers has been durable; he has not missed a start in three seasons. San Diego’s wide receivers – Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Malcolm Floyd (restricted free agent) – are an underrated bunch, and Antonio Gates is still an elite tight end. The Chargers’ list of 2009 opponents ranks No. 17 (tie) in difficulty.



 



 


8. Jay Cutler | Denver Broncos

| 4th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

384

616

4,525

25

18

200

2

340.25

21.27


Rank


3

2

3

6

2

7

T3

3

3


 


2008 Recap:

The former Vanderbilt star with a rocket arm posted career-best numbers across the board, setting new Denver franchise records for attempts, completions and passing yards during his predicted breakout season. Cutler carried a team that was handicapped with an injury-depleted running back corps and a surprisingly inept defense. He notched at least one touchdown (passing or rushing) in 15 out of 16 games and tossed multiple scoring strikes in eight contests. Cutler also threw for 280-plus yards in nine outings, threw for 300 yards in seven contests and threw for 400 yards once. Overall, Cutler averaged 282.9 passing yards, 1.56 touchdown passes and 1.13 interceptions per game. Although Cutler, who will turn 26 in April, was third in the league in pass attempts, he was sacked just 11 times (0.69 times per game), which was impressive. Cutler’s interception total, however, was high; only Brett Favre (retired) threw more picks (22).


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Cutler deserves a higher rating based on ability and upside – I originally had ranked him No. 3 – but his future in Denver is uncertain. As you surely know, Cutler is bitter about the team’s aborted attempt to trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Pro Bowl signal-caller has publically demanded a trade. Assuming Cutler stays in Denver, his numbers will likely take a hit if the NFL suspends wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a significant part of the season. Marshall was arrested recently in Atlanta, Georgia for disorderly conduct. Although authorities dropped the charges, Marshall will likely receive a suspension – possibly four to eight games – for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, because this was his fourth arrest in the last three years. Until we learn whether Cutler will stay in Denver and whether Marshall will be suspended, any further speculation about Cutler’s fantasy stock is nothing but pure speculation.


 



 


9. Matt Ryan | Atlanta Falcons

| 2nd Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

265

434

3,440

16

11

105

1

241.50

15.09


Rank


17

18

13

13

T8

16

T5

15

19


 


2008 Recap:

Determined to land a quarterback who could lead the team and replace the beleaguered Michael Vick as the face of the franchise, the Falcons spent their No. 3 overall selection in the 2008 draft on Ryan, and he exceeded all expectations. Ryan claimed the club’s No. 1 quarterback job in preseason, starting all 16 regular-season games and a competitive playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Granted, Ryan’s 16 touchdown passes were disappointing from a fantasy perspective, but his abundant passing yardage and low number of turnovers (11 interceptions and one lost fumble) clearly suggest the best is yet to come for the Boston College product. Ryan tossed at least one touchdown pass in 11 games and threw for multiple scores in five outings while averaging 215.2 passing yards, 1.00 touchdown passes and 0.69 interceptions per contest. He also topped 300 yards passing in two outings and notched seven 200-yard passing games. As you probably remember, Ryan won the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

The 23-year-old Ryan has a great feel for the pro game, a better-than-average supporting cast and is loaded with a ton of upside, which is why I think he rates as a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback. The Falcons prefer to be a run-first team, but I think 3,700 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes is not out of the question for Ryan. If the Falcons add a big-play tight end to their offense as a complement to wide receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, Ryan could surprise. On the downside, Atlanta’s list of 2009 opponents ranks No. 4 in difficulty; it includes some challenging matchups against competitive NFC East and AFC East squads.



 



 


10. Ben Roethlisberger | Pittsburgh Steelers

| 6th Year



 


G


COM


ATT


YDS


TD


IN


RYD


RTD


FP


FP/G


2008

16

282

470

3,314

17

15

101

2

240.80

15.05


Rank


14

14

14

12

T4

17

T3

16

20


 


2008 Recap:

Roethlisberger carried the Pittsburgh offense on his back for a majority of the season due to injuries and inconsistency at the running back position. However, any fantasy owner who had expected “Big Ben” to duplicate the 3,154 passing yards and especially the 32 touchdown passes that he had racked up in 2007 thanks to a more aggressive passing attack was disappointed. The passing yards were there, but why did Roethlisberger’s touchdown numbers fall off by nearly 50 percent? The Steelers were shackled with what was one of the toughest NFL schedules (based on opponents’ 2007 win/loss records) in close to a decade. The 27 year old played most of the season with a dinged shoulder, and he toiled behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL (sacked a league-worst 47 times). Roethlisberger threw for at least one score in 11 out of 16 games but threw multiple touchdown passes in just five outings. He notched three 300-yard passing games and topped the 200-yard passing mark in five other outings but failed to top 200 yards passing in eight contests. On the season, Roethlisberger averaged 206.6 passing yards, 1.06 touchdown passes and 0.94 interceptions per contest.


 


Early 2009 Outlook:

Roethlisberger is a prime candidate for a bounce-back fantasy season. With a much softer schedule (No. 29 in difficulty) and hopefully an improved offensive line, Roethlisberger proved two seasons ago that he is capable of posting better-than-average numbers as a low-end No. 1/or a high-end No. 2 fantasy quarterback. The Miami (Ohio) product never has thrown for more than 3,513 yards in a season while playing in Pittsburgh’s run-first attack, so you should expect 3,400-3,500 passing yards at the most. However, Roethlisberger’s touchdown total should rebound back into the upper 20s/lower 30s, which represents the key to his fantasy value. Although the club lost slot wide receiver Nate Washington (Tennessee Titans) to free agency, Roethlisberger still has plenty of capable pass-catchers at his disposal.



 



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