Last week, we provided our updated running back rankings for the upcoming season. That update featured a number of changes, including a few in the top ten, based on each team’s draft picks, free agent signings and various other news.
The early quarterback rankings were provided back in March and, as can be expected, they haven’t changed nearly as much as the running back rankings. Whereas rookie running backs are expected to step in and contribute immediately and later round picks can provide unexpected production at the position if given an opportunity, only rookie quarterbacks taken in the 1st or 2nd round generally play much in their first year in the league. On top of that, they almost never end up as solid fantasy performers because they don’t produce solid statistics and most fantasy leagues only start one quarterback.
Quarterback is generally the most overrated position in fantasy football. Basically, the top tier of quarterbacks start getting selected in the second round of fantasy drafts despite the fact there is very little difference between the top ranked fantasy quarterback and lowest rated starter. In ten team leagues, the points per game difference was only 4.6 and in twelve team leagues it was 5.8. In most twelve team leagues, the 12th quarterback will be taken in the 8th or 9th round, making it extremely difficult to justify selecting one in the 2nd round.
Here are the updated rankings, including a change at the top spot.
1. Tom Brady, NE – He’s certainly a risk and unlikely to post a repeat of his magnificent 2007 season. However, the potential is there and reports indicate he’s back to full health. It’s worth noting that he was injured in week one last year so he’s had plenty of time to rehab.
2. Drew Brees, NO – Less of a risk than Brady and almost certain to post huge numbers in the pass happy Saints offense. A healthy return for Reggie Bush and 16-games seasons for Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey would pretty much guarantee huge production once again in 2009.
3. Aaron Rodgers, GB – Enterting just his second season as a starter, fantasy’s 2nd ranked passer in 2008 isn’t getting the respect he deserves. He should be better in 2009 as should each of his receivers other than Donald Driver. Four of the team’s top five wide receivers have less than four seasons in the league. If running back Ryan Grant can avoid getting nicked up, the Packers offense will be dynamic.
4. Philip Rivers, SD – Rivers will try to duplicate his superb 2008 season and figures to do so with a full year of a healthy Antonio Gates. The team features big play threats at wide receiver, the league’s top pass receiving tight end and two excellent receivers at running back.
5. Kurt Warner, ARI – Health is always an issue, especially for an immobile 38-year old quarterback, but the Cards return their offensive nucleus and added running back Chris Wells. Basically, there isn’t any reason why Warner should suffer a drop-off given the talent that surrounds him.
6. Peyton Manning, IND – The Colts addressed the running back position and a return to glory is possible but the offense bogged down too many times in 2008 for that to be likely. Manning will need a huge season from tight end Dallas Clark given the lack of depth at wide receiver.
7. Donovan McNabb, PHI – The Eagles may just have the league’s best offensive line in 2009 with the additions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews. Adding rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis means the team can line up three speedsters. McNabb is always a value pick for some reason but in 2009 there is a chance that he could vault into the top five.
8. Matt Schaub, HOU – Houston’s offense is underrated despite featuring numerous playmakers who are all still young and getting better. Schaub is a perfect candidate to vault into the top five if he could ever stay healthy for 16 games.
9. Tony Romo, DAL – A turbulent offseason for Dallas’ quarterback which included the loss of big play threat Terrell Owens at wide receiver. There is potential at wide receiver in Miles Ausin and Patrick Crayton is a solid slot receiver but Owens’ departure creates a void. I’m not convinced Roy Williams will adequately replace Owens’ production.
10. Matt Hasselbeck, SEA – Injury issues and age are red flags, but T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and John Carlson form a solid nucleus of receivers. The team didn’t address a shaky running back position so the Seahawks offense will revolve around Hasselbeck and the passing game, barring an unexpected bounceback season from Julius Jones.
11. Jay Cutler, CHI – Likely to be fantasy football’s most overrated quarterback in 2009. Don’t be the one to drink the Kool-Aid. Huge 2008 numbers won’t be duplicated in Chicago due to the team’s reliance on the run and solid defense which will reduce the number of games in which Cutler is forced to pass 30 or more times. The Bears averaged almost six fewer passing attempts per game than the Broncos last year which translates into almost 100 fewer attempts over the course of a season.
12. Carson Palmer, CIN – With no T.J. Houshmandzadeh, an offensive line in flux and Cedric Benson as the current starter at running back, Palmer has a lot of forces working against him. Nonetheless, he’s a top talent and there is receiving talent (albeit with considerable risk) in Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry and Andre Caldwell.
13. David Garrard, JAC – Seems to do it with smoke and mirrors. Garrard had surprisingly strong season totals in 2008 thanks to the rushing yards. Garrard should benefit from the addition of the aging but still talented Torry Holt, who could have a bounceback season given the dearth of talent amongst the team’s wide receivers.
14. Matt Cassel, KC – Goes from New England’s talented offense to a Chiefs team that features Dwayne Bowe and not much else (unless you believe Mark Bradley is ready to hit his stride). The loss of Tony Gonzalez at tight end was a big blow and two of the team’s most talented offensive players, Larry Johnson and Brian Waters, are wild cards. Not convinced he’s a top tier quarterback able to lift a team.
15. Trent Edwards, BUF – Gets a chance to shine with the addition of Terrell Owens, who provides another deep threat as well as an excellent red zone target. Needs to put it together this year but must avoid tendency to dump the ball off if he’s going to take it to the next level both as a starting quarterback and as a fantasy performer.
16. Matt Ryan, ATL – Talented young quarterback who is unlikely to be given an opportunity to put up big passing numbers. Moves up with the addition of Tony Gonzalez at tight end but the fact remains that head coach Mike Smith is committed to running the ball. Sophomore slump is unlikely but the Falcons are a running team.
17. Jason Campbell, WAS – Campbell’s in the same boat as Edwards but must make do with young, big receivers in Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and has more talent at tight end in Chris Cooley. This might be Campell’s last chance to put it together.
18. Chad Pennington, MIA – Enjoyed a solid season in 2008 despite a lack of talent at wide receiver, which should be better in 2009 with another year of experience. Benefits from no late season bad weather in Miami but will be riding the pine if the team isn’t in contention for a playoff spot.
19. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Another overrated fantasy quarterback. Has achieved starter status once in five years. Basically, the team doesn’t need to throw a lot of passes with their solid defense. Loses his top deep threat in Nate Washington and will throw less in 2009 with return to health of top two running backs in Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall.
20. Jake Delhomme, CAR – His receivers are a year older and his running backs are a year better. Expect the Panthers to rely heavily on the ground game. Delhomme is pretty much guaranteed to be a fantasy backup.
21. Kyle Orton, DEN – Orton’s move to Denver upgrades his ranking as he will benefit from better receivers and playing for a team that figures to rely more on the passing game. However, Orton isn’t a risk taker so he’s unlikely to attempt the throws into traffic that Cutler did. If he changes his ways, he could have a surprisingly good season.
22. Eli Manning, NYG – Generally overrated as a fantasy peformer, Manning figures to suffer a drop in production with the loss of both starting wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Averaged less than 12 points per game with Burress out late last season.
23. Daunte Culpepper, DET – Assuming he beats out Matthew Stafford, Culpepper moves up due to the additions of Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt at wide receiver. With Calvin Johnson, Culpepper could produce some decent numbers if the offensive line provides enough time for deep plays to develop.
24. Joe Flacco, BAL – The Ravens are going to run and run often. Flacco figures to put up better numbers if he can become a more accurate deep thrower but his potential as a fantasy quarterback is limited by the team’s run-first offensive philosophy.
25. Brady Quinn, CLE – Prospects seemed reasonable prior to the Winslow trade. Now, not so much. Addition of two young wide receivers in Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi might help down the road but not in 2009.
26. Kerry Collins, TEN – Unless the running game struggles, which seems doubtful, Collins won’t have an opportunity to produce big numbers. The addition of Nate Washington provides a deep threat but Collins isn’t likely to be useful for fantasy purposes.
27. Brett Favre, MIN – Ranked 15th in 2008 with more talented receivers and a running back who enjoyed a career year in Thomas Jones. His upside is limited due to his age, the lack of polished wide receivers and due to the team’s emphasis on the running game.
28. JaMarcus Russell, OAK – There have been mixed signals coming out of Oakland regarding his progress and we’re less convinced he will be able to retain the starting position for the whole season with Jeff Garcia breathing down his neck. The team’s major strength is at running back. Oakland might have the weakest group of wide receivers in the league.
29. Shaun Hill, SF – Head coach Mike Singletary made it clear he wants to pound the rock and play defense. The 49ers do sport talented youngsters at wide receiver in second-year player Josh Morgan and 1st round pick Michael Crabtree. Apparently Alex Smith is rejuvenated so there is an outside chance Hill won’t start on opening day.
30. Marc Bulger, STL – An offensive line in flux and the youngest group of top three wide receivers in the league spells potential disaster for Bulger. Don’t buy into predictions of a bounceback season.
31. Luke McCown, TB – McCown is surrounded by decent talent but his accuracy is an issue and likely won’t be starting by midseason. Potential addition of Plaxico Burress would provide a better outlook.
32. Mark Sanchez, NYJ – Hello to the worst current starter in terms of fantasy potential. When the rubber hits the road, you’ll be drafting some backup QB with a high upside ahead of Clemens.