The countdown is on to the start of training camp and the 2009 NFL Season, which means it's time to sharpen those pencils and get ready for another exciting season of fantasy football. Today we're going to take a look at the guys behind center and where each one should fall in your draft order.
There are always a few surprises on draft day, but one surprise you won't see is Drew Brees going any later than #1. His 2008 season produced incredible numbers for fantasy owners, and while nobody expects him to repeat the same stats, he will most likely be the top-producing quarterback of 2009. Remember that 15 yards is all that stood between Brees and Dan Marino's all time passing record.
Our #2 QB ranking belongs to Peyton "Mr. MVP" Manning. Manning continues to be an elite quarterback and 2009 will be no different. He turned things around last year after starting out a bit slow and threw for over 4,000 yards. He won't have the aging Marvin Harrison to throw to, but there's still a star-studded cast surrounding him in Indy.
Last year's #1 fantasy football quarterback is back this year in the #3 spot. His injury in Week 1 last year hurt many teams in every league. The poor guy who took Brady with a high pick paid for it by scrambling for a backup. Those who drafted his targets (Moss, Welker, and cast) also felt the pain until Matt Cassel came into his own. 2009 should be the year that Brady makes up for 2008. His favorite targets are still there (plus Galloway!) and he's looked good all through the offseason. You won't see his record 50-TD season, but 40 TD's isn't out of reach.
I'll admit that I've never been a fan of soap operas, but I've watched every episode in Green Bay and Minnesota. The one guy who came out of the soap opera smelling like a rose is our #4 ranked quarterback: Aaron Rodgers. You've got to respect a guy who is standing in the shadow of one of the greatests QB's of all time and steps out to throw for 4,038 yards and 28 TD's. He has outstanding targets once again in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Look for a stellar 2009.
Rounding out the Top 5 is Philip Rivers from San Diego. Rivers had a monster 2008 and many anticipate a repeat. As LaDainian Tomlinson's production declined, Rivers was a lightning rod and lit up the skies with over 4,000 yards. He was just so much fun to watch. His enthusiasm, drive, and talent coupled with a good relationship with Vincent Jackson should mean good things for fantasy football owners in 2009.
With his contract situation taken care of, Kurt Warner is back for another "go-round" as our 6th ranked QB. Warner passed for 4,582 yards along with 30 TD's last year. Keep in mind that he had some of the best wide receivers in the league and no real run-game to speak of. The Cards are looking to balance their offense a little more this year with their first round pick Beanie Wells. The upside here is that if the running game stalls, the coaching staff will look to Warner to go to the air. He's a Top 10 pick all the way.
What do T.O., Jessica Simpson, and a pinky finger all have in common? Answer: Each was a distraction for our #7 Quarterback last year. The pinky finger injury forced him to miss 3 games, but he still had an impressive season. T.O. may be gone to Buffalo, but Romo's still got Jason Witten and Roy Williams. Both players are incredibly talented, but Williams will need to step up this year or Romo's value will decline. Seriously, you can only go to Witten so many times before he gets injured or they start applying double coverage on him. Williams will need to spread out the field. If he can do that, Romo will be able to throw at will and that means points for you.
Donovan McNabb lays claim to the #8 spot on our preseason rankings of quarterbacks. It's funny what a benching will do to a guy. After throwing 5 interceptions inside of 2 weeks, McNabb got benched and that's when things got interesting. When he took the field next, he began a transformation that included 9 touchdowns and a trip to the NFC Championship. This year he's joined once again by Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson. Both should help him contribute to a healthy fantasy year.
Matt Ryan from the Falcons comes in at #9 and he's a great guy to have under center in Atlanta. He came out of nowhere last year to surprise everyone, especially his replacement, Michael...oh what's his name again? Ryan will be the general in ATL with a cast of players including Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. It will be very interesting to watch him now that his freshman year is over and other teams now know what to expect.
Rounding out the Top 10 is Matt Schaub. Oftentimes you'll read about guys like me that say "don't expect a repeat of last year's numbers." Usually - it's applicable, but not in this case. Schaub has an elite receiver in Andre Johnson, a solid TE in Owens, and a clear bill of health. He should have very little trouble beating last year's stats. Reaching 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns is certainly doable, considering that he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns while missing 5 games.
The Bears definitely upgraded their QB-capabilities this year with the addition of Jay Cutler. Cutler threw for more than 4,500 yards last year in Denver, but it's not realistic to think he can do the same in the Windy City. If you draft Cutler, temper your expectations. Remember that he's not throwing to guys like Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, and Eddie Royal. Devin Hester is fast and agile, but he's no Brandon Marshall. When the move was announced, Cutler's fantasy value dropped like the temperatures in Chicago in December. The real winner in Chicago will be Matt Forte, because teams will still fear Cutler's cannon-like arm so they won't be able to stack the box. Cutler will still produce a 3,000 yard season and that may be enough for some owners.
#12 goes to Carson Palmer. He may have lost T.J. Houshmandezadeh, but he's still got Chad Ochocinco who appears ready to play like the old Chad Johnson. If he were on a decent team, he'd be a Top 5 QB. He's that talented, but there's only so much you can do with a mediocre cast around you. All the reports that I've seen seem to indicate that his elbow is in good shape and that he's ready to play. Palmer is one of my sleeper picks to have a bounce-back season this year. That shouldn't be too difficult considering that last year was a bust.
The #13 ranking belongs to Big Ben who could very easily trade places with Carson Palmer on this list. Ben Roethlisberger leads a solid team on the field once again. Santonio Holmes has worked incredibly hard this offseason and appears to be in incredible shape. I expect Holmes to be a strong factor in Roethlisberger's aerial game this year. Could he land a third Super Bowl ring? I wouldn't bet against him.
The receiving corp is very different in Kansas City than New England. Matt Cassel's about to find that out. He did an amazing job throwing for over 3,500 yards last year. Not bad for a backup to Brady. He showed the world that he could play, but now we get to find out if he can play with a team not quite as talented. As good and consistent as Dwayne Bowe may be, he's not in the same league as Wes Welker or Randy Moss. I would anticipate Cassel reaching around 2,900 yards and 15 - 18 TD's this year.
Peyton's little brother grabs the #15 ranking. I actually like Eli's potential much better than Cassel, but Eli has two things going against him. 1) New York is a running team. 2) Plaxico became a prima donna with a gun. Eli doesn't really have a scary weapon to throw to, and their ground game is very good. If they're focusing on life after Plax, perhaps there's a light at the end of the tunnel for Manning.
Mike Holmgren may have ridden out of Seattle on his well-deserved Harley, but they still have Matt Hasselbeck (#16 ranking) and they've added Houshmandezadeh. I'm told that Hasselbeck is back and healthy, so expectations are much more optimistic for 2009. His strength of schedule chart looks promising so perhaps an upgraded receiving corp, a healthy body, and an easy schedule add up to positive numbers.
The fantasy football rankings above were derived as a consensus from twenty of the leading fantasy football websites.
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