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QB Keeper Throwdown

Just like the leaves changing in the fall, we can certainly start to see the seasons shifting. While LeBron James has packed up his basketball and headed south for the winter, Tom Brady has left ‘LALA Land’ to migrate to the northeast. This not only means that the football season is upon us, it also means that fantasy drafts are right around the corner. Many leagues wait until almost the end of preseason to draft in order to avoid major injuries suffered before the start of fantasy season. So, that means you’ve got about two to three weeks of stat cramming left to do before your number is called on draft day.

So … what’s your final game plan? How do you weigh out the differences between players ranked so closely to each other? A good example of a tight rank race would be the quarterback position. Who wins in the top-tier quarterback battle? If you, like many, are in a keeper league instead of a seasonal league, you’ve got to measure many aspects at once.

Before getting into the quarterback street fight, here’s the barometer of how this fight will be judged. Age must be taken into consideration. Though this seems obvious, it actually has more impact than people tend to think in a keeper format. Imagine if you took Adrian Peterson over LaDainian Tomlinson in a keeper league two years ago. Who would you rather have now? Another notable factor in keeper leagues is the situation of statistical relevant teammates. This could range from offensive line situation for runningbacks to quarterback situation for wide receivers value. It goes without saying that past years’ stats play a role, but don’t make the mistake of undervaluing players due to down seasons or an injury year. Michael Turner and Calvin Johnson are far better keeper options than many people who finished ahead of them in the stat line last year.

This week we’re examining the NFL centerpieces themselves. Many fantasy experts are claiming that this is the season to select an elite quarterback high, perhaps even using your first pick. I decided to breakdown the “Big Three” in a WWE “Tables, Ladders, and Chairs” style of throw down and compare Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. It’s time to measure up some close competition and see who comes out the victor.

Let the


Let’s start with the horseshoe blue 18 himself. Peyton Manning has been perhaps the most consistent, yet dominant fantasy player over the last decade. He has the crew around him to produce at an elite level yet again this season. His army features the likes of Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez. Not to mention a runningback tandem featuring Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. And, an offensive line anchored by perhaps the best center in football, Jeff Saturday, doesn’t hurt. Manning obviously has ridiculous upside for the immediate future. He offers more than 4,000 yards and close to 35 touchdowns almost every season. If you want to draft someone based on consistently good stats, you can cement your team around Manning. Do you think that Manning may have just a little bit of a sour taste in his mouth from last season? I’m guessing he’ll be looking at a return to the big dance. That means Manning will be looking to be a bigger contributor to his team than he was last season. And if that happens, he could surpass his impressive stat line from last year.

Drew Brees isn’t exactly sitting this fight out, though. It seems that almost every season Brees is flirting with Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record. He puts up huge yardage and touchdown numbers season-in and season-out. Perhaps the best factor in the Brees debate would be that Sean Payton is in Brees’ corner. Arguably, the most offensively original coach in the NFL, Payton and Brees seem to have a Brady and Belichick type of marriage. Brees performs better with Payton calling the plays, and Payton needs Brees to execute to be successful. Knowing this, Payton has assembled an offensive crew that includes Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush. That means that Brees has great receiving talent at every offensive skill position. The combination of coaching, surrounding talent and personal ability makes Brees arguably the number one quarterback in not only seasonal, but keeper formats as well. He’s also proved to be relatively durable since his shoulder surgery days in

San Diego
. He certainly doesn’t have the track record of Manning, but he hasn’t missed the amount of time that say Matt Schaub has over the past few seasons. And, the icing on the cake could be the fact that the

New Orleans
defense may play at such an outstanding level that the Saints offense could be on the field more. More time means more opportunity. And when you give Brees oppurtunity, he tends to capitalize. 

And Aaron Rodgers comes out swinging … I mean, throwing … Rodgers is walking into the season with perhaps the most intriguing offense in the NFL. Rodgers has Pro Bowl caliber talents at tight end with Jermichael Finley, wide receiver with Greg Jennings and runningback with Ryan Grant. And, don’t forget about old reliable Donald Driver. Not only can these guys produce with Rodgers now, but given that all except Driver are early in their careers, they could produce these stats for many years. Rodgers is already being labeled in some circles as the number one quarterback. That’s pretty impressive due to the fact that he is considerably younger than the previously mentioned competition. A bonus with Rodgers is the rushing yardage and touchdowns that he’ll be able to place on top of his passing statistics. The only mark against Rodgers is the talent outside the receiving corp. Rodgers led the league in sacks again last season by a long shot due to poor protection up front. Not only could this mean point deduction in some leagues, but it also increases the chance of injury.

… And, the fighters took the battle into the final round. There was no TKO, so the winner will be decided by the judges. The vote is in. The winner of the quarterback keeper cage match … in the green and gold trunks, Rodgers! As always, the decision will be debated, but can’t be overturned. Manning is obviously a great pick, but Wayne isn’t getting younger and neither is Manning himself. Brees is a great pick too, don’t get me wrong. No one will be disappointed to have him quarterbacking their fantasy team to the playoffs. But, he is entering the twilight of his career. He’ll be a great option for the next few seasons, but he won’t have the longevity of Rodgers. Rodgers offers Manning and Brees type numbers, but for a longer period of time. Also, we’ve already seen Manning and Brees in their prime. At such an early age, I certainly doubt that we’ve seen the best of Rodgers, yet.

Let’s be clear, all of these quarterbacks are great options to take with one of your first two picks. Rodgers, however, offers the chance to not only outperform Manning and Brees this season, but also continue at that level for the next decade, or so. Manning will probably pull a Favre and play at a high level for the next six years. But can his main option, Wayne, keep up? Jennings and Rodgers seem to be the younger version of Manning and Wayne. At first, Wayne was second fiddle to Marvin Harrison, until he took over the reigns due to
Harrison’s age. The same seems probable to happen with Jennings and Driver. If the baton is passed successfully, Rodgers could put up stats resembling Manning’s prime.

Totally dynasty keeper edge: Rodgers

Each week, I’ll breakdown players that are ranked close together and give reasoning as to why one offers more keeper upside than the other. It will include fights between Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson to the likes of C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews. See you then. As Han Solo would say, “Good luck … you’re gonna need it.”

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