I can’t say enough about Rodgers. We can make a compelling case for selecting him with the first overall pick, but he should definitely be off the board in the Top 5. Rodgers put up incredible numbers, spreading the ball around among a fantastic receiving corps. A top quarterback selection this past season in drafts, Rodgers rewarded owners with 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That kind of efficiency is important to fantasy owners, as turnovers can often make the difference between winning and losing. Honorable mention for Drew Brees and Tom Brady for the top spot, but in my opinion, Rodgers was just too good. (And keep in mind, he didn’t play in Week 17).
Newton exploded onto the scene in 2011, putting up gaudy numbers through the air and on the ground. Playing with a Carolina team that many believed would struggle all season, Newton gave them a dynamic playmaker under center. He topped 4,000 yards passing, added 21 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. But perhaps more importantly, he also added a rushing dimension, with 700-plus yards and a ridiculous 14 touchdowns on the ground. Offensive coordinator
Rob Chudzinski deemed him the team’s goal line back early in the season, and he proved more than capable. By season’s end, Newton had proven himself not only as Carolina’s quarterback of the future, but also their quarterback of the present.
Stafford finally turned in a full season after injuries ended his first two seasons prematurely. With a porous defense and lackluster running game, Stafford had no choice but to dial up big passing numbers, particularly to Calvin Johnson, en route to a playoff appearance. Stafford threw for more than 5,000 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 16 interceptions, as he finally fulfilled his vast potential.
You can’t spell “elite” without E-L-I. Fantasy owners were pleasantly surprised by a new and improved Eli Manning this season. Sure, there was the occasional left-handed pass, deep throw into double or triple coverage, or other questionable decision. But Manning finally got over the hump and can surely be mentioned with the top quarterbacks in the league. He made a star out of Victor Cruz, even without a running game, throwing for 4,933 yards, 29 scores and 16 interceptions. While he’s a clear step down from the guys already mentioned, he’s easily a Top 10 guy next season.
Rivers actually had a disappointing fantasy season. After struggling through the first six games, he was able to play better down the stretch. With more than 4,600 yards, 27 scores and 20 interceptions, it sounds strange to say, but fantasy owners were hoping for more. We were looking for Rivers to make the next step as an elite quarterback, and drafted him accordingly. Rivers is still a top-tier talent, and will be a starter in leagues next season.
One of the most electrifying athletes in the league, we expected big things from Michael Vick for an encore to his 2010 performance. But once again, Vick struggled to stay healthy, missing three full games in the middle of the season. He threw for 3,300-plus yards and 18 scores was nice, but the 14 interceptions hurt a bit. And unlike Cam Newton, Vick failed to do as much damage on the ground as we’d hoped for, rushing for 589 yards, but just one touchdown. He looked to get on track late in the season, but his first-round draft selection probably doomed most owners who took him. He should be a decent mid-round selection next year, but probably needs to be paired with another quarterback for those weeks he’ll miss.
Like Philip Rivers, Roethlisberger got off to a slow start. As the season wore on, it became apparent that these are not your father’s Pittsburgh Steelers. This team shied away from running the ball, and is now putting the ball in Roethlisberger’s hands. He rewarded owners with 4,000-plus yards and 21 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. We knew how dangerous a weapon Mike Wallace could be, but it was Antonio Brown who really emerged this season as a fantastic receiver. Roethlisberger has been hobbled for the past few weeks, but he will once again be a Top 10 quarterback next season, with considerable upside.