There is seemingly light at the end of the seven-month long tunnel. Robert Kraft and Tom Brady should soon be heading back to (New England) Patriot Place hand-in-hand while Al Davis and Robert Gallery return to the unholy abyss that is (Oakland) Raider nation. The players are rumored to be happy and the owners are rumored to still be billionaires so all is well with the world. The only thing that fantasy football managers have left to do is to wait for the barrage of trades and free agency movement that is soon to come.
Rankings will alter heavily on the sway of a handful of players. Players currently ranked outside the Top 10 could make a Top 5 argument given the right situation, a la DeAngelo Williams. It’s too tough to really say who will be ranked where until the blizzard of contracts begins to slow down. However, we still need to begin to place players in order of value to begin to target who and when during the draft to ensure proper value. Again, a lot is going to happen in the upcoming weeks, but placing rank values now is still a necessity. You can monitor the rise and fall of value and perhaps get a guy you wanted in the fifth round in the seventh round. Here’s the July Top 15 quarterbacks for 2011, complete with a bonus sleeper pick that could outperform his ranking designation by 10 slots.
1 – Aaron Rodgers – The reigning Super Bowl champion has to come in at No. 1. His rushing capabilities make him a legit Top 2 or 3 rushing quarterback in the league. But his throwing capabilities are leaps and bounds ahead of the other top running quarterbacks. He should be expected to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards, while at the same time rushing for 350 yards and an extra five scores. He should finish in the Top 3 in rushing points for quarterbacks behind only Michael Vick and Josh Freeman while outscoring them in every passing category. There should not be any confusion as to who the No. 1 quarterback heading into 2011 is.
2 – Michael Vick – At the end of last season I had Vick ranked in at just outside the Top 5. While I’m still personally hesitant about hanging my entire season on the oft-injured Vick, the numbers are extremely hard to ignore. If Vick didn’t have the supporting cast of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy, he wouldn’t be anywhere near this ranking. But his talent mixed with his helping cast could lead to huge numbers. Having Vick at your quarterback spot also gives you the statistical output of a bonus running back each week too. While I don’t expect him to beat his old record of most quarterback rushing yards in a single season, I am expecting a career high in single-season passing statistics. His playing style does leave him open for a much larger chance of injury but fantasy is all about calculated risk.
3 – Tom Brady – It’s seems crazy to have Brady ranked any lower than No. 1 after coming off a Most Valuable Player season, but a little bit of a drop off is to be expected. Brady did amazing things with rookies and castoffs (again) and still managed to throw only a few interceptions. The best label to give Brady is the best non-rushing factor quarterback in fantasy football. I’m sure that “Goldie Locks” will stumble into the endzone 2-3 times from the 1-inch line but he won’t be juking out Brian Urlacher on a regular basis for huge gainers. Expect Brady to be low-to-mid 30s for touchdowns and an obvious 4,000-plus yards passing.
4 – Drew Brees – I still believe that the biggest threat to Dan Marino’s single-season passing record is the quarterback from the New Orleans Saints. The combination of his talent, the coaching philosophy and his offensive weaponry are capable of matching the legendary 5,000-yard season. The solid combination of the always steady Marques Colston along with the home run hitter Robert Meachem provides the best of both worlds. Brees was rumored to be playing much of 2010 with an injury, and hopefully 2011 will be his return to MVP status. Expect big yardage and touchdown productions from gold and black No. 9.
5 – Peyton Manning – This is the first time in about eight years I’ve had Manning ranked any lower than third for quarterback. Manning didn’t make a lot of friends last season when they spent a high pick on him and he rewarded them with an interception ridden roller coaster ride. Manning has elite talent and elite help all around him, as well as depth at the tight end, running back and the wide receiver position. Though I’m ranking Manning fifth, I’m still fully expecting him to outperform that designation. The person who is most upset at Manning’s interception full season is Manning himself. Please be completely sure that the extremely competitive Colt general spent the entire season working on improving his game.