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2012 Early Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks

By: — March 30, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, the strategy of grabbing a lower-tier starting quarterback for your fantasy squad is becoming obsolete. Look no further than the massive passing yardage and touchdown totals put up by the upper-tier quarterbacks in 2011, with three players throwing for more than 5,000 yards, ten players topping 4,000 yards and seven players throwing for 29 or more touchdowns.

And we haven’t mentioned what Cam Newton did rushing the ball in his rookie season.

The chic fantasy strategy at quarterback in 2012 will be to grab a top five quarterback and it won’t be a surprise if three quarterbacks are taken in the first round in drafts for 12-team leagues.

And the numbers back up that this is likely a smart strategy. The top five fantasy quarterbacks in 2012 averaged 28.4 points per game whereas the quarterbacks ranked 6th through 10th averaged 22.2, a not insignificant difference of 6.2 points per game.

With the first wave of free agency over, here are my initial 2012 fantasy football quarterback rankings:

The Top 12

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Only a Week 17 day off prevented Rodgers from being the top-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2011. With his key weapons back for 2012, expect more of the same.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots – Gains a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd making the New England offense even more unstoppable.

3. Drew Brees, Saints – More of a risk with head coach Sean Payton suspended for the 2012 season, the only key loss the team suffered on offense. Robert Meachem left town but he is replaceable.

4. Matthew Stafford, Lions – After his breakout 2011 season with over 5,000 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes, the only concern with Stafford is his health and that of wide receiver Calvin Johnson. With nothing of significance added to help replenish the team’s rushing attack, expect plenty of passes from the Lions once again next season.

A repeat of 14 rushing TDs from Cam is too much to expect.

5. Cam Newton, Panthers – Newton burst onto the scene with 854 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a pair of rushing scores in his first two games on his way to finishing the year as the fourth ranked fantasy quarterback. There are only two red flags. He threw for under 200 yards in each of his last three games (478 yards in those games) and it is highly unlikely he will reach 14 rushing touchdowns again – a league record for quarterbacks he set last season.

6. Michael Vick, Eagles – With Vick, it’s all about the injuries. If you peg him as missing one or two games, then he is close to being a top-five fantasy quarterback. If it’s four or five games, knock him down to somewhere between 10th and 12th.

7. Eli Manning, Giants – In leading the Giants to another Super Bowl victory, Manning enjoyed the finest year of his career with 4,933 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Mario Manningham left town but he wasn’t a key cog in the Giants regular season passing success in 2011.

8. Philip Rivers, Chargers – The weapons are leaving the Chargers offense with wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Mike Tolbert skipping town one year after the departure of Darren Sproles. That hurts as does having injury issues amongst his receivers (Antonio Gates, Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd). But, can Rivers possibly be as bad as he was last year?

9. Matt Ryan, Falcons – Expect less from tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner but more from wide receivers Roddy White and especially, Julio Jones. Net result should be career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns.

10. Peyton Manning, Broncos – Broncos are sure to add to their offense but at this point they are missing a slot receiver and a running back capable of making big plays in the passing game. Check back later on this one.

11. Tony Romo, Cowboys – Star third wide receiver Laurent Robinson left town for the Jaguars, Jason Witten started looking old down the stretch and Miles Austin has hamstrings tighter than a steel bar. Oh, Dallas also found a running game last year with DeMarco Murray.

12. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – The Bucs were a mess last year and Freeman suffered because of it. However, Vincent Jackson is in town to provide him with his first real deep threat and Mike Williams should benefit from drawing less attention. Freeman’s rushing prowess makes him the 12th ranked fantasy quarterback over other options such as Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III.

Running backs up next…

  • Glenn

    Pretty much with you until Josh Freeman. I drafted him as part of a QBBC last year and he killed me. So I must admit I am a little biased. I think he had a good first year and everyone had high hopes for him. I just don’t think he is that good. His accuracy & decisions last year were horrid. I would plug Schaub or Cutler in at #12.

  • Dave Stringer

    @ Glenn,
    Thanks for the comment. I figured Freeman at 12 might garner some criticism but he was put in some bad decisions last year with the Bucs playing from behind and got little help from his WRs. Both situations figure to improve in 2012.

  • jd

    I can keep 2 between cam newton, jimmy graham and aj green…cam I feel like will have a sophmore slump, but its hard for me to actually drop him, you see a top 5 fantasy year? I think only if he gets help at wr position

  • Dave Stringer

    @ jd,
    There are two elite tight ends so Graham is a no-brainer. Newton or Green is a toss up but, as much as I love Green’s talent, he needs Andy Dalton to step up in order to become an elite fantasy wide receiver and Newton projects as a top 5 quarterback. I would go with Newton.

  • jd

    I agree with you, graham is being kept without a doubt…what has me worried about cam is his passing #s as the year went on seemed to have gotten worse and worse, remember he had almost 900 of his yards in the first 2 games. I know the probowl doesn’t tell us much, but what about cams awful passing #s in that game, while all other QBs that day had great #s…I’m really hoping they get some wr help in Carolina

  • Dave Stringer

    @ jd,
    With LaFell coming back from injury and Gettis, there is at least a chance the Panthers will not take a wide receiver in the draft.

  • Tom Caputi

    Pull the trigger early on the most important position on the field and for fantasy if you want to rest easy for the season. Grab a quality back-up in mid-rounds in case your starter goes down so fantasy season is not over early.

  • Andrew

    I think Brady is the number 1 QB, not Rodgers. Patriots picked up Lloyd which is a big help but the bigger one was having Josh McDaniels join New England as OC.

    Lloyd works at his best in a McDaniels system and the last time Brady was in a system under McDaniels was 2007–the year he threw for FIFTY touchdowns.

    With a weak schedule and lots of viable options, he’s my number one.

  • Dave Stringer

    @ Tom Caputi,
    Don’t grab that 2nd signal caller too early. If you grab a QB in round one or two, you are sacrificing at other positions and need to think about acquiring quality depth at positions other than QB.

  • BillyZ

    In my PPR league we get to keep 2 players. I have Ray Rice, Matthew Stafford, Miles Austin, and Brandon Marshall. I’m leaing toward keeping Stafford & Rice. I know Rogers, Brady, Brees, Gronk, Graham, Foster, will be kept by others. Who should i keep?

  • Dave Stringer

    @ BillyZ,
    Keeping Ray Rice is a no brainer. I would rate Austin the worst option, leaving the second choice between Stafford and Marshall. The Bears offense will likely see improvement with Marshall in the line up but Stafford’s 2011 production coupled with the Lions returning all of their key skill position players make him my choice over Marshall.

  • BillyZ

    Thanks Dave, those were my thoughts. By 2 being kept there will be no stud QB’s or RB’s remaining and the top 2 TE’s will be gone when the draft begins. At best Newton, Vick, or Rivers would be there at QB. With my first pick I’ll likely be looking at a player like Austin, Marshall, Bryant, or Wallace.

  • Dave Stringer

    @ BillyZ,
    Looks like you will have plenty of options at WR, which seems very deep for fantasy purposes in 2012.

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  • Big Dan Callahan

    Rivers best years are behind him, and Freeman is not a top ten in my opinion. Big Ben and that recieving core make the list, also Cutler with his fav WR back cracks the list. Love your websight!

  • Dave Stringer

    @ Big Dan,
    Thanks. I’ve been taking some heat over Freeman at 12 – let’s see how he does this year.

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