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Part 1: The Top 20 Overall.
There are more talented runners than ever among top fantasy QBs, though the elite draft picks at the position remain members of the old guard.
1. Aaron Rodgers, GB: His passing yards were down last year and receiver injuries are causing some alarm, but he remains the league's most efficient TD passer, and that's the best way to score fantasy points.
2. Drew Brees, NO: Gunning for a third straight season of 5,000 yards passing, which he just might do, since he doesn't run at all, and is willing to risk INTs for big plays. Both those qualities keep him from being the No. 1 fantasy QB, but just barely.
3. Peyton Manning, DEN: He thrived last season after being considered ready for the retirement home, and will again be throwing to two of the best young receivers in the NFL.
4. Tom Brady, NE: He made undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins look like a young T.O. in the first preseason game, a reminder that Brady actually elevates his receiving corps, rather than being dragged down by them.
5. Colin Kaepernick, SF: He had enough snaps and big-game play last year that you can't consider him a flash in the pan. He won't get you 5,000 - or even 4,500 - passing yards, but likely will lead all QBs in rushing yards.
6. Cam Newton, CAR: His uneven 2012 season featured a couple huge fantasy outings. With some new depth in his receiving corps, there is reason to believe 2013 will be closer to his rookie campaign, meaning he could break 4,000 yards passing, 700 yards rushing and 30 total TDs.
7. Russell Wilson, SEA: The most impressive thing about last season for him was a TD-to-INT ratio of 26-to-10. He was third among QBs in rushing yards with 489, and like the two picks before him, could break 700 this year. Also, his pedestrian passing total of barely 3,100 yards could improve.
8. Robert Griffin III, WAS: RG-3's stock is sinking a little in my book, mainly because it looks like he won't play in the preseason. Still, he can throw and run like the three preceding QBs, and led all QBs in rushing yards last year with 815.
9. Matt Ryan, ATL: Ryan probably deserves to be higher. All of his numbers have been improving the last three years, and he has a real chance to break 5,000 yards passing and 35 TDs this year. If QB rushing yards and rushing TDs didn't count in fantasy, he'd be at No. 5.
10. Andrew Luck, IND: Great rookie campaign faded near the end. That fact and 18 INTs against 23 TDs make him a little risky as a fantasy starter, but he has fantastic young receivers and now a great mentor in back-up Matt Hasselbeck.
11. Matthew Stafford, DET: How does a guy who almost broke 5,000 yards passing last year fall this far? Well. His 4,967 pass yards were a downgrade from more than 5,000 in 2011, and his passing TDs fell from 41 in 2011 to 20 last year, a travesty, considering he had the top fantasy WR (Calvin Johnson) on his team. He has the arm to be a top fantasy QB, but needs to prove it again.
12.Tony Romo, DAL: Despite being a yardage machine, a high INT count keeps Romo falling down the fantasy charts. Still, with a new play-caller on the sidelines and WR Dez Bryant poised for a big year, Romo may surprise.
13. Eli Manning, NYG: Throwing for about a thousand yards less in 2012 than he did in 2011 made Manning the Younger one of the bigger fantasy disappointments last year. He should bounce back, and if you spend early picks on other positions, he's not a bad consolation prize.
14. Andy Dalton, CIN: Surprisingly prolific passer last year who, like Luck, faded in the last four games, leaving him short of 4,000 yards, but 3,667 and 31 total TDs ain't too shabby.
15. Michael Vick, PHI: I predicted a poor year for him in 2012, and he delivered. With a new coach this year, he can only be better, and improved rushing numbers should make him a worthy back-up.
16. Joe Flacco, BAL: Poor Flacco wins the Super Bowl and still can't get any fantasy respect. In the real world, he does just enough to win, but fantasy begs for more than that. He's a pretty safe second banana, but not much else.
17. Matt Schaub, HOU: Having top-flight RB Arian Foster on his team limits Schaub from passing for 400 yards and four TDs every game. He's capable of it, and that makes him a nice late-round bet, but he is likely to end up right around 4,000 yards and 22 or so TDs.
18. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: I'm a little more down on Big Ben than most. He continues to have a nice TD-to-INT ratio (26-to-8) last year, but he misses a few games with injury every year and isn't always going to get you 300 yards passing week in and week out.
19. Alex Smith, KC: I'm not going to call him a sleeper, but in an Andy Reid pass-heavy offense, I wouldn't be surprised if he moves up the fantasy ranks as the season plays on.
20. Jay Cutler, CHI: I don't know why I'm even entertaining this idea, but with talented WRs, a true pass-catching TE and a new coach who likes to throw and dotes on QBs, he's at least worth having around to start during your starter's bye week, right?
I had my overall top 20 last week stacked with so many RBs, I'll force you to go back and look at that post to find out who my top 12 RBs are. So, let's start this list with the lucky No. 13.
13. Stevan Ridley, NE: If for any reason the Pats' passing game falters, Ridley could have a huge year, but even if that doesn't happen, his 1,263 yards rushing and 12 TDs from last year would be just fine.
14. Steven Jackson, ATL: A new venue with a prolific offense could mean more goal-line chances for Jackson, though he also won't carry the load the way he did in St. Louis for so many years.
15. Reggie Bush, DET: Looked ready to bust out last year after a promising 2012, but sort of plateaued just short of 1,000 yards rushing with a modest 7 TDs. Detroit's offense could help him get over the hump.
16. Chris Johnson, TEN: Showed flashes last year of his greatness in 2009, collecting five 100-yards-plus rushing games. He's a clear No. 2 in fantasy terms now, but could be a very good one.
17. DeMarco Murray, DAL: Injury-shortened 2012 season deflated his value for this year, but he no longer has Felix Jones looking over his shoulder, and Dallas may run a little more often.
18. Lamar Miller, MIA: There's already an assumption he'll beat out Daniel Thomas to be the No. 1 RB on a team that will run early and often. If the hype is right, he's a solid no. 2 fantasy back, maybe more.
19. Frank Gore, SF: A fading star who nevertheless has managed to reach 1,200 rushing yards and eight TDs each of the last two years.
20. Ryan Mathews, SD: An injury-prone, over-hyped fantasy mess the last two years, Mathews may finally surprise us this year if San Diego's new commitment to exploiting him can be believed.
Next week: WRs and TEs.
* Bleacher Report features its top fantasy football draft choices, with RBs, not surprisingly, heading the list.
* ESPN's experts list their sleepers and busts. I'll have my sleepers list ready in a couple weeks after I get a couple more preseason games under my belt.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
There has been virtually no criticism of hitting coach Todd Steverson. We'll see how long that lasts.Continue reading "Hitless Wonders" »
Posted on Apr 24, 2017