By Matt Johnson

1.) Aaron Rodgers QB, Green Bay Packers:

This is an easy pick, Aaron Rodgers is not only the best fantasy QB, he is also the best QB in the NFL. In 2011, Rodgers set a Green Bay Packers record for passing yards in a season (4,643) and passing touchdowns (45). What makes these numbers even more incredible is that he set them in 15 games. Heading into 2012, Rodgers has a chance to break not only NFL records but fantasy records as well. When it comes to throwing the deep ball Rodgers is one of the best in the business. It’s not all Rodgers, as does have from arguably the best group of pass catchers in the game. WR’s Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are both Top 15 WR’s while TE Jermichael Finley is a Top 10 TE. It doesn’t end there as Green Bay also has WR James Jones and Randall Cobb as the team’s No.3 and 4 WR. With so much talent it is no wonder the team is often in 4 WR set’s and throwing the ball down field. Rodgers isn’t just a passer, he is one of the best at his position in getting out of the pocket, and finding ways to score on his own. In Rodgers 4 years as the Packers QB, he has averaged 4 rushing touchdowns per season, or 24 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. When you combine the record passing numbers with 4 or 5 rushing touchdowns per year, he is the not just the top QB in fantasy football, he is the top player as well. As for where should Rodgers be drafted, the answer is simple. The No.1 player has to be taken with the No.1 pick, sorry Arian Foster you just can’t compete with the belt.

2.) Tom Brady QB, New England Patriots:

If it weren’t for the hair, Tom Brady would fall behind Drew Brees on this list. Ok so maybe it isn’t the hair, it’s just about Brady. In 2011 Tom Brady was not just glorious, he was down right astounding. Brady passed Dan Marino‘s record for passing yards in a season with 5,235, along with 39 touchdown passes. While Brady’s success in 2011 was more than fantasy owners could have asked for, I have a feeling 2012 will be even better. While Brady already had the always reliable Wes Welker, and last year’s monster TE Rob Gronkowski, the rest of the Patriots receiving core was lacking. So in the offseason the Patriots brought in Brandon Lloyd. to stretch the field and give Brady another excellent weapon. Lloyd’s ability to streak down the sidelines and should see plenty of single coverage, while opposing safeties are helping cover. Rob Gronkowski. Lloyd’s best asset however is his hands, which rank up there among the best in the league. While I don’t expect Brady to repeat the yardage total from a season ago, there is a great chance he finishes with 40+ touchdowns this season. When you couple that with 4,800+ passing yards and 10 INT’s, that falls right in line for another Brady like season.

3.) Drew Brees QB, New Orleans Saints:

Coming off a 2011 season where we saw Drew Brees set the NFL record for passing yards (5,746), I feel like I’m slighting Brees by listing him as my No.3 QB. It’s no slight on Brees as he proved in 2011 he can keep throwing the football until his arm falls off. Brees chucked the ball 657 times, which only fell 35 short of the NFL record (Drew Bledsoe 691). Thanks to his great season Brees cashed in late in the offseason to become the highest paid player in the NFL. Now with the contract out of the way Brees is once again ready to lead his fantasy teams to the promiseland. In 2012, even without coach Sean Payton, this will remain Drew’s team and he will have the freedom to call plays as he always has. While Robert Meachem is gone, rookie Nick Toon should slide into that gap smoothly.In the end it doesn’t really matter the name on the back of the jersey, as long as the receiver can hold onto the football, Drew Brees will find him. While I don’t expect Brees to throw for 5,400 yards again, a repeat performance of his 46 TD’s from a season ago is more than achievable. He should be the 3rd QB off the board in drafts, but he is still a safe pick to take 5th overall or later.

4.) Matthew Stafford QB, Detroit Lions:

How about the kid Matthew Stafford, after not even starting a combined 16 games in his first 2 seasons, not only did Stafford stay healthy, but he was one of the Top 5 QB’s in fantasy football. Sure it may have something to do with his No.1 target Calvin Johnson, who caught 16 of Stafford’s 41 touchdown passes. That said Stafford still passed for over 5,000 yards and touchdowns are touchdowns, no matter who they are thrown to. I think Stafford could be in for an even bigger year in 2012, as he continues to progress entering his 4th season as an NFL QB. One reason i think Stafford is headed for even more success is because of his No.2 WR Titus Young. Young is a great at getting yards after the catch, and just turning a 5 yard screen pass into a 65 yard race down the sidelines. When you combine Young with the best WR in the game, you have the makings of a buffet for Matt Stafford. There should be no worries about a running game, as the Lions have none to speak of, leaving them to throw on nearly every play. All of this bodes well for Stafford, as he could be in line to move into the ranks as an elite quarterback.

5.) Eli Manning QB, New York Giants

For the people who are exiting out of this article now on the fact that I have Eli over Cam Newton, just give me one minute of your time. In 2011 Eli Manning had a roller coaster ride of a year. While Manning threw for a career high 4,933 yards, his 29 touchdown passes were a disappointment for fantasy owners. Manning has a great supporting cast, Hakeem Nicks has been a Top 10 WR and last year’s sensation Victor Cruz set New York ablaze with his frequent touchdown celebrations. This offseason the team lost Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers, but the additions of WR Reuben Randle and TE Martellus Bennett make this a better group then what Manning had in 2011. Randle and Bennett both have big frames, and should provide Eli with more targets in the red zone. While the Giants would love to run the ball inside the 20 with Ahmad Bradshaw, the additional weapons may change the Giants game plan. While I expect a slight drop in passing yards, I could see a career high in TD passes, and fewer turnovers push him just ahead of Cam Newton. As for why I would pick Eli over Cam. In a standard scoring, 1 year league I think Eli is the safer pick over Cam Newton, who may not come close to his 14 rushing touchdowns as a rookie.

6.) Cam Newton QB, Carolina Panthers

Now here we are at No.6, “Superman” Cam Newton before I dig into why I think he hits a slump this year, I’ll put the good ahead of the bad. Newton is a rare athlete, with his size, speed and arm strength, there is only 1 Cam Newton in the NFL. While Cam passed for 4,000 yards as a rookie, the stat that captivated fantasy fans across the globe was his rushing touchdowns (14). Newton shattered the record for rushing touchdowns by a QB in one season, and rushing touchdowns by a rookie. Newton also became the first rookie ever to throw for 10 touchdowns and rush for 10 touchdowns as well. Newton did all this with only one legitimate WR, the previously disgruntled Steve Smith. The Panthers didn’t do much to help newton in the offseason bringing in Louis Murphy, and relying on Brandon Lafell to be healthy as their No.2 WR. While I love Newton’s future as a fantasy QB, I think fans should be ready for Newton to take a step back in 2012. I’ll start with the 14 rushing touchdowns Newton had last year. That accounted for 98 fantasy points in standard leagues, which lifted Newton into the Top 5. While I’m not saying he won’t go the whole season without a rushing touchdown, I believe a much safer estimate for this season would be 7 or 8, a 42 point fantasy drop.The Panthers have a load of RB’s, and brought in Mike Tolbert specifically for his ability to score from inside the 10. When I take that into consideration, along with the standard sophomore slump most rookies go through, Newton is safer as my 6th QB, with the upside to be in the Top 5.

7.) Peyton Manning QB, Denver Broncos

Raise your hand if you still get that eerie feeling every time you see Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos jersey. After spending 14 seasons in Indianapolis, Peyton sat out his final season in Indy recovering from multiple neck surgeries. After the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the 1st pick it signaled the end of Manning’s days as a Colt. Now in Denver, Manning will look to silence the critics who say he doesn’t have the arm strength he used to, and he won’t be able to make the throws the former 3 time MVP could make. Sure some of that may be true, but off instincts and accuracy alone, Manning is a Top 10 fantasy QB. Manning has already formed a tight bond with Broncos WR Eric Decker, meanwhile Demaryius Thomas and Manning’s former teammate Jacob Tamme are solid options as well. There will still be concerns about Peyton Manning’s health in 2012, and what will happen to his neck on the first big hit. Those concerns have some validity but this is still Peyton Manning, and the risk is certainly worth the reward.  As for when to draft Manning, his current Average Draft Position (ADP) is 41, which is right in line with where he should be going. If you don’t want to take a risk on Manning that is fine, but without taking chances you will never win.

8.) Tony Romo QB, Dallas Cowboys

No more Jessica Simpson, no more broken collarbone, and hopefully no more injuries to Miles Austin. Let’s hope that’s what has held Tony Romo back for so many years. Granted last season wasn’t quite a disappointment as Romo threw for 4,100 yards and 31 touchdowns. Romo was finally productive for the first time since 2007 when he threw for 36 touchdowns. There is no question the talent surrounding Romo is enough to be a Top 7 fantasy QB, but the problems of last season are still there. The Cowboys Offensive Line is down right despicable, while Jerry Jones was addressing the Cowboys defense, Romo was busy taking out a life insurance policy. If the Cowboys fail to address their O-line Romo will be left scrambling around just as we saw against Oakland. Because of all the pressure, what could have been a 60 yard bomb is instantly turned into a 3 yard sack. Every hit Romo takes brings him closer to injury, and even as gritty as Romo can be (the game vs. San Franciso a perfect example) very few people on this planet can sustain the beatings he gets every Sunday without missing some time. In the end it all will come down to the 5 guys up front, if they protect Romo he is a Top 7 QB, if not he will be left on the sideline, while fantasy owners curse the name Doug Free after he let’s Jason Pierre-Paul slip by and bury Romo into the turf.

9.)  Michael Vick QB, Philadelphia Eagles

As talented as Michael Vick is, I find it tough to put him among my Top 7 QB’s when I’m only going to get 12-13 games out of him. Don’t get me wrong, there will be weeks where Vick lights up a defense for 400 passing yards and 75 more on the ground, but where will my points come from when he is sitting out with an injury. Vick has the tools to be a fantasy superstar, with his blazing speed and ability to throw on the run, he is the type of QB that can make or break your season. I won’t put all of what happened in 2011 on Vick as WR Jeremy Maclin missed 3 games and DeSean Jackson was kryptonite on big plays. However the problem remains the same, Vick isn’t a pocket passer, he likes to go out there and scramble around, leaving his body and fantasy owners to suffer. 9 may be a little low for Vick, but if I had to pick between Vick, Romo or Peyton Manning, I’d take  16 games of Manning and Romo over 13 of Vick. In the end Vick is your wildcard at QB, he will either lead you to a championship or be the sole reason you are on the outside looking in come playoff time.

10.) Matt Ryan QB, Atlanta Falcons

I am expecting big things this year from Matty Ice, and that’s exactly why I have him rounding out my Top 10 Fantasy QB’s for 2012. As Matt Ryan heads into 2012, Ryan has 3 things going for him and their names are; Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. Those 3 names will help boost Ryan into the ranks of QB’s who fantasy owners can start on a weekly basis. Another reason why I believe Ryan will take the next step this year is the decline of Michael Turner. Turner now lacks the burst he had seasons ago, and while Jacquizz Rodgers is an intriguing 2nd option, he doesn’t have the bulk to be a workhorse. When I take a look at Ryan’s numbers from a season ago, 4,177 passing yards, 29 touchdown passes. Now heading into 2012,  Ryan now has 2 Top 15 WR’s and a Top 5 TE to throw to, I expect a substantial increase in touchdowns. If I were to predict what fantasy owners could expect in 2012, I’d guess 34 touchdowns and 4,300 passing yards is an achievable goal. That would put him right into the Top 10 among fantasy QB’s and a steal with his ADP sitting at 70 as of today.

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Matt Johnson

I am a sports writer entering my first year in college. I am also a aspiring sports radio host.

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