Are you ready for some fantasy football? Whether you are an agent, financial planner, or even an NFL player yourself, you are most likely going to be fielding a team this year. Our resident football analyst, Brandon Thorn, will be churning out posts to help you make your picks leading up to the start of the 2009 NFL season. Every post will include his top 10 at a specific position along with his sleepers, who you should consider picking up in the late rounds. The QBs are below.
1. QB Drew Brees ~ New Orleans Saints = Brees is entering his 9th season and at age 30 is now in his prime. Brees lit up opposing defenses last season for 34 touchdown passes, 5,069 yards (2nd all-time), and had a 96.2 quarterback ranking. He was the top performer in fantasy last year and carries the same value headed into this season. If TE Jeremy Shockey can stay healthy this year, Brees touchdown numbers could possibly improve.
2. QB Tom Brady ~ New England Patriots = Brady is coming off a serious knee injury, so some people may hesitate to pick him too high. I’m not one of those people because Brady has proven to be the consummate pro, he has an incredible work ethic and if anyone can come back 100% healthy one season after a serious knee injury it’s him. Prior to this last season Brady broke QB Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 49 touchdown passes in a single season with 50 to only 8 interceptions. You shouldn’t expect astonishing numbers like this for the upcoming year, but with the depth at every offensive position that the Patriots have, Brady will have the time and weapons to pick apart defenses once again.
3. QB Peyton Manning ~ Indianapolis Colts = Manning is probably the safest pick out of the top three because of his unmatched consistency. Over his 11 year NFL career Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards 9 times (NFL record) and has thrown for over 25 touchdowns every year of his entire career. WR Marvin Harrison is now gone, so WR Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall, or Austin Collie will need to step up. The Colts will be running essentially the same offense even with the loss of their head coach and offensive coordinator. Expect more of the same from one of the best to ever play, another 4,000+ yards & 25+ touchdowns.
4. QB Philip Rivers ~ San Diego Chargers = Rivers is one of the toughest, most durable quarterbacks in the game which is a big plus for fantasy owners. Coming off a career year in which he passed for over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions and a 105.5 QB rating. With RB LaDainian Tomlinson coming back healthy, less pressure will be on Rivers so his touchdown numbers could fall slightly. His excellent TD/INT ratio will continue, especially with the amount of weapons around him.
5. QB Matt Ryan ~ Atlanta Falcons = Ryan was last year’s offensive rookie of the year and lead his team to the playoffs. He posted decent numbers, 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 3,440 yards and an 87.7 rating. All these numbers should improve significantly with the continued improvement from WR Roddy White who appears to be a superstar in the making. It doesn’t hurt that the team traded for one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history this off-season either (Tony Gonzalez).
6. QB Kurt Warner ~ Arizona Cardinals = Arizona has the best receiving combo in the NFL with WR’s Anquan Boldin & Larry Fitzgerald. Assuming the team works out an extension with the disgruntled Boldin, Warner could throw for some incredible numbers once again. The selection of RB Chris Wells in the first round tells me the team wants to be more of a balanced attack and with Warner being 38 by the time next year starts, an injury could happen sooner rather than later. There is no doubting that Warner was a top 2 fantasy quarterback last year with his 4,583 yards, 30 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and 96.9 rating.
7. QB Donovan McNabb ~ Philadelphia Eagles = McNabb has more weapons around him now than in his entire career. His offensive line is much improved as well. Donovan posted a career high in yards last season (3,916) to go along with 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and an 86.4 rating. With RB LeSean McCoy joining the backfield, McNabb won’t throw quite as much last season so his yards could take a hit. What I do expect to improve to the 28-30 range is his touchdowns. WR Jeremy Maclin adds even more speed to an already very explosive offense. The Eagles have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, two very explosive tailbacks, and a massive offensive line. Don’t be surprised to see a career year out of the 11 year pro.
8. QB Aaron Rodgers ~ Green Bay Packers = Rodgers has the weapons around him to post a similar year to last season’s statistical breakthrough. In his first full season as a starter, Rodgers threw for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, with a 93.8 rating. A significant reason for this was how disappointing RB Ryan Grant was last year. This is a new season, and the team will look to gear their offense to a more balanced attack. Rodgers still has one of the top duo’s at WR in the NFL with WR’s Donald Driver & Greg Jennings and a very good #3 WR James Jones & #4 Jordy Nelson. Look for 3,500+ yards and around 25-28 touchdowns from the 4 year pro.
9. QB Tony Romo ~ Dallas Cowboys = Dallas lost WR Terrell Owens, so WR Roy Williams will finally get his chance to be the #1 on a good team. I don’t doubt Williams ability to step up nearly as much as I do with the other receivers on the roster. These names include WR’s Patrick Crayton, Travis Wilson, Manuel Johnson, Miles Austin, and Sam Hurd. TE Jason Witten gives Romo the best tight end target in the NFL, and with the best trio of running backs in the NFL (Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice) Romo will have solid weapons and a ground game to make life much easier in the best division in football.
10. QB Ben Roethlisberger ~ Pittsburgh Steelers = Big Ben isn’t known to put up very big numbers; all he does is win football games. Entering next season, I fully expect all of his numbers to improve. In 2008, Ben threw for 3,301 yards, he had 19 total touchdowns and only an 80.1 rating. With his offensive line benefiting from much needed upgrades through the draft, more receiving weapons, and RB Rashard Mendenhall coming back from injury, the Steelers entire offense will be much better next year and so will Big Ben’s stats.
1. QB Matt Hasselbeck ~ Seattle Seahawks = The year before last season when Hasselbeck suffered his season ending injury, he was stellar throwing for 3,966 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. He did so without newly acquired WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, rookie WR Deon Butler, and one of the best young tight ends in the league John Carlson. With new weapons around him expect Hasselbeck to have enough left in the tank to give you a productive season, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,250+ yards and 20-25 touchdowns.
2. QB Jay Cutler ~ Chicago Bears = Cutler had a career high last season in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns. He had arguably the best protection of any quarterback in the entire league, getting sacked only 11 times. In Chicago not only will the pass protection not be quite that good, he won’t have near the weapons he had in Denver. Still expect 3,500+ yards and 25+ touchdowns from Cutler.
3. QB Trent Edwards ~ Buffalo Bills = Buffalo got rid of QB J.P. Losman for a reason, because they are giving Edwards full control of the offense this season. The Bills strengthened their offensive line through the draft with OL Eric Wood & Andy Levitre, drafted TE Shawn Nelson, and added WR Terrell Owens. With these offensive pieces added with WR Lee Evans (who is one of the most underrated players in the NFL) as well as WR James Hardy who is a legit red zone threat at 6’6″, Edwards should post some solid numbers and is a good #2 QB for your fantasy team.
4. QB Jason Campbell ~ Washington Redskins = Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL has a bigger chip on their shoulder than this guy. Owner Dan Snyder and the Redskins tried to replace him by trading for QB Jay Cutler and drafting QB Mark Sanchez. Campbell has tons of talent and hasn’t been able to have the same offensive coordinator for back to back seasons in his NFL career. These are factors working against him, but I still expect Jason to prove people wrong with a solid season where he throws for 3,000+ yards and 22-25 touchdowns.