In 2004, two quarterbacks took center stage in the fantasy game. If you had either Daunte Culpepper from the Minnesota Vikings or Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, you probably got premiere production from the quarterback position that season. Of course, if you went to select either of those quarterbacks for last season, then you were in for a very unpleasant surprise as neither of them had much of a fantasy impact in 2005.
That anecdote is to impress to you that selecting a quarterback is one of the hardest things do do in fantasy football. You’ll be able to pick up at least one top running back and wide receiver with ease in most drafts as there are more available to you. Consider that the quarterback position is probably the most important position on the field for a given team and it makes you decision that much harder.
Well, no more. I’ve gone through the trouble of going through everyone’s stats last season, including quarterbacks who will be starters for the first time this season or returning from injuries. I’ll give you my top ten based on last year’s stats, their improvement, and factors such as offensive scheme, coaches, and weapons surrounding them. I’ll also highlight some sleeper quarterbacks who may not be highly rated but that I like for this upcoming season and maybe some to avoid. That being said, we’ll start with your top ten, from ten to one. I happen to have five quarterbacks each from the AFC and NFC, but that was not planned.
Top 10 Fantasy Quarterbacks
10.) Trent Green, Kansas City Chiefs
2005 Stats: 317/507 (62.5%), 4,014 yards, 7.9 yard avg., 17 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 90.1 QB Rating
Notes: For one of the best offenses in football two seasons ago, their overall performance as a unit last season was a bit disappointing, save for the elite running of Larry Johnson out of the backfield. Trent Green will be key in keeping this offense on track and focused on their goals if they are to once again return to that form. Enter new head coach Herm Edwards and new offensive co-ordinator Mike Solari. Trent Green is an accurate quarterback who has above-average arm strength. He’s not going to throw the ball for 70 yards downfield, but it’s not the Chiefs offense for them to do so. They could be a little better off at wide receiver, and Tony Gonzalez only had 2 touchdown catches last season, but if this offense gets going with the run and Johnson, look for Green to have his options at receiver open up and to begin to throw with increasing consistency. The key here is that Green completes over 60 percent of his passes, and while he didn’t have the best stats in scoring, he only threw 10 interceptions and makes great decisions with the ball. At 36 years old, you wonder how much more he has left in the tank, but he should rebound and be valuable, considering he threw for over 4,000 yards.
9.) Jake Plummer, Denver Broncos
2005 Stats: 277/456 (60.7%), 3,366 yards, 7.4 yard avg., 18 TD’s, 7 INT’s, 90.2 QB Rating
Notes: Jake ‘The Snake’ Plummer keeps my theme of AFC West quarterbacks in tact for at least another selection. Fresh off leaading the Broncos to the AFC CHampionship game, Plummer is one of those quarterbacks who represent a low risk quarterback who isn’t going to produce spectacular results but is a great supplemental player if you are loaded in other positions. The key here is that withing coach Mike Shanahan’s system means that Plummer isn’t there to make plays, just to not make mistakes. Another quarterback who isn’t going to launch balls downfield either, that hybrid west-caost offense that they run in Denver will keep his passes short. Although Jevon Walker will help, I believe that the loss of Mike Anderson will hurt the run game, which will put more pressure on the passing game. Plummer was avialable last season on the waiver wire late, but I don’t execpt him there unless he regresses this season.
8.) Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
2005 Stats: 345/509 (67.8%), 3,836 yards, 7.5 yard avg., 32 TD’s, 12 INT’s, 101.1 QB Rating
Notes: I could make a legitimate case for Palmer being the top quarterback last season, but he drops all the way to eighth on my list for the preseason because of the devastating injury he suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers in last year’s Wild Card playoff round. He’s still in rehabilitation, however he has practiced in Bengals’ 7 on 7 drills last month and is reported going to be ready for the season opener. I’m still a bit skeptical, which is why I dropped him. There’s no question that he’s got the physical ability when healthy, I’m just not fully convinced that he will be. There’s also no denying his weapons. Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, he’s got a 1-2 combination as potent as any. He’s got the running game to take the pressure off him as well. Palmer, unlike Plummer or Green, does have the arm strength to throw it all the way downfield, and he’s incredibly accurate as well in throwing to his receivers. All of his backs, like Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry are also very adept at receiving out of the backfield. He’ll be a steal in a later round and if he can regain his form he’ll be insane.
7.) Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
2005 Stats: 211/357 (59.1%), 2,507 yards, 7.0 yard avg., 16 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 85.0 QB Rating
Notes: Missing the final 7 games of the season due to injury has given McNabb a lot of time to think about last season and the troubles not only he faced personally but they faced as a team. He looks to return to the field and exorcised those demonds right away, and it will be tough in that revamped NFC East, where the Eagles have been pretty much counted out by every major NFL expert. McNabb, however, enjoys that. He has the quarterback tools to come back and get right back into the groove. He’s got developing receivers and a running back who can line up as a receiver or come out of the backfield, and one of the more underrated TE”s in the game. McNabb has had trouble forcing hte ball into coverage throughout his career and will have to do something about either reading defenses better or just making the throws needed. He’s a Brett Favre throwback in the sense that he forces a lot of throws, but he doesn’t complete nearly as many as Favre did in his heyday. I look for McNabb to once again be solid and take the reigns of this team. He can also help you with his running, which Andy Reid has been vocal in saying that he will not limit McNabb’s natural running style despite the injuries from the past few seasons.
6.) Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams
2005 Stats: 192/287 (66.9%), 2,297 yards, 8.0 yard avg., 14 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 94.4 QB Rating
Notes: Bulger, like McNabb, had an injury-riddled 2005 season and is looking for a comeback. He’s definitely got the better of the two offenses to come back to, and unlike Carson Palmer, the questions aren’t lingering as much over his head. It’s interesting because of his offense and adapting to a new coach, but all signs so far out of St. Louis suggest that Scott Linehan has made the adaptation easy for his players and he is well-received by them. Bulger has the accuracy that other quarterbacks would die for, and understands too well the timing and complexity of routes in the NFL. He’s got some decent arm strength, not going to blow you away but will not wither when the throw needs to be made. In an ssytem with Mike Martz where timing and mistakes we’re everything, Bulger was very good at limiting said mistakes and capitalizing on his timing and relationships with both of his receivers. St. Louis, meanwhile, is stocked at receiver, with Torry Holt and Issac Bruce. They’ve also got Kevin Curtis and Shawn McDonald, who are very good inside slot receivers. Look for Bulger to be a solid pick as a comeback player and another value lower in the draft as people will not take a chance on him until later on.
5.) Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
2005 Stats: 294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 7.7 yard avg., 24 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 98.2 QB Rating
Notes: He’s coming off a very successful team campaign in 2005, leading his team to the NFC’s best record, an NFC West Title, and the NFC Championship. A disappointing Super Bowl result has done little to discourage Matt Hasselbeck, and now he’s got the opportunity to continue to shred a conference that, with the exception of the NFC East, hasn’t gotten decisively better. Hasselbeck is another one of those west-caost guys, making solid throws, often to dump down receivers and second and third options for minimal gains, but they are effective plays. He’s got a new receiving weapon in Nate Burleson to add to his current roster and will make for more dynamic plays from Hasselbeck. He’s another quarterback who won’t win you any matchups but will do little to hurt you week after week. The definition of a solid fantasy quarterback. He’s getting better as well and eliminating some of the holes that have been lacking in his game. He killed the consistency questions and has proven that he can be a leader for a team.
4.) Drew Bledsoe, Dallas Cowboys
2005 Stats: 300/499 (60.1%), 3,639 yards, 7.3 yard avg., 23 TD’s, 17 INT’s, 83.7 QB Rating
Notes: Many people’s favorite to be the best team in the NFC this season and their hopes don’t lie on anyone else’s shoulders than on Drew Bledsoe. And that is perfectly fine with him. Bledsoe led the resurgance of the Cowboys last seasons, and although they came up a bit short in their quest for postseason action, Bledsoe showed the NFL that he still had it. Bledsoe had incredible arm strength, able to make almost any throw with the combination of that strength and his accuracy. He tends to be a bit wild and throws more interceptions that you would be comfortable with, but doesn’t make too many careles mistakes. He’s not very mobile, but that really doesn’t matter when in Dallas, cause their offensive line is solid. Bledsoe has no shortage or weapons in the receiving corp, as Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, and Jason Witten give him premier targets all over the field. Rookie Sal Fasano from Notre Dame can make Dallas incredibly dangerous from the 2 TE sets. Bledsoe should, as long as health permits, be a great asset to a fantasy team with his high reward outputs, as long as he limits the turnovers. He will be negative for you in terms of sacks, though.
3.) Eli Manning, New York Giants
2005 Stats: 294/557 (52.8%), 3,762 yards, 6.8 yard avg., 24 TD’s, 17 INT’s, 75.9 QB Rating
Notes: Unfortunately for Eli, he still isn’t matching up to his brother to me. However, I love his upside enough to rank him 3rd in terms of fantasy quarterbacks. Although he started to fade a bit towards the end of the season, I still believe that he’s got the upside that rivals only the two top guys. He takes chances, and he’ll learn as he continues to develop exactly which chances he should take and how to settle it down a bit. He’s got the weapons to succeed in New York, and he’s also proven that he’s upto the challenge of New York pressure, so that is not a concern. What I am worried about is his turnovers are still high and he needs to find a better completion rate. His averages and completion percentage is low because he took more chances downfield than most quarterbacks do. He’s loaded with weapons, Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burrass are good offense receivers. Jeremy Shockey provides him an elite TE and Tiki Barber is one of the best in terms of catching the football out of the backfield. This could definitely be his breakout season.
2.) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
2005 Stats: 305/453 (67.3%), 3,747 yards, 8.3 yard avg. 28 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 104.1 QB Rating
Notes: Peyton comes in at number two for a few reasons. First of all, the departure of Edgerrin James. He’s a big part of that offense and I don’t know if they’ll have a replacement for him. Dominic Rhodes is a decent running back, but I dunno if he’ll be as active for them as James was. Of course, this could have an adverse effect and force the Colts to pass more, but I don’t see that likely happening with coach Tony Dungy. His receiving options remain, Harrison, Wayne, and Stokely, with Dallas Clark at TE. Rhodes and first round pick Joseph Addai are adaquate catching the ball out of the backfield. Peyton is an elite quarterback, with the perfect combination of the arm strength, accuracy, and ability to read defenses that all coaches covet. Peyton, however, still hasn’t won the big game and his TD production went down considerably from his record-setting 2004 season. I just enjoy the upside of the top guy more so he had to drop to number 2. You’ll almost be guaranteed that someone will reach to take Peyton high, though, so keep an eye on those lower QB’s unless you want to be the one doing the reaching.
1.) Tom Brady, New England Patriots
2005 Stats: 334/530 (63.0%), 4,110 yards, 7.8 yard avg., 26 TD’s, 14 INT’s, 92.3 QB Rating
Notes: Just when you think Tom Brady has done it all, he continues to get better and add more dimensions to his game. With Corey Dillon injury-prone last season, Brady took the team on his back and threw the ball more. What resulted was more than 4,100 passing yards, a career high. Brady has also been able to make better throws and although suffering 14 interceptions last season, he is putting the ball where it needs to be. This offense is looking to get better and better, and with the stable of TE’s he has at his disposal with the addition of Chad Jackson from Florida, he will no doubt be another force for fantasy teams. He is the kind of quarterback to get you a victory in any given week. Brady doesn’t take many chances and although he tied his career high with the 14 picks, he will no doubt benefit from that and learn. I expect that, with the competition in his division with Miami tightening up, Brady will rise to the occasion. He’s got 3 Super Bowl title, and that passing title is right around the corner.
-Steve McNair, Baltimore Ravens
I’m sure that he’s glad to be out of Tennessee. So much so that I believe that he’s going to have quite a revival season in Baltimore. He’s got some weapons, and depending on his health, McNair could see a return to his MVP season only a few seasons ago. McNair will make the Raven offense credible, a quarterback they have… well, really never had. A good TE who also happens to be injury prone in Todd Heap, and a running back lookking for redemption after a horrible season in Jamal Lewis, and some receiving weapons make them dangerous, and makes McNair a prime candidate for a good season.
-Jon Kitna, Detroit Lions
Well, what can I say? It’s Detroit. They’ve got the weapons there, and Kitna is better than anything they’ve had in years, much like in Baltimore (read: Harrington, Joey). It’s not that I’m bagging on Joey, it’s just that it wasn’t the situation for him. Jon Kitna, however, has everything going for him. He played great three years ago as the starter in Cincy. He’s got Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator, he’ll have everything on his side. Kitna’s very accurate and, probably most importantly, has veteran presence and saavy to succeed in that system. And if not, Josh McCown is waiting in the wings.
Fool’s Gold QBs
-Mark Brunell, Washington Redskins
I know he’s got the weapons, but I still am not sure about him. He’s getting older and I just don’t trust the weapons he has with the exception of Clinton Portis and Santana Moss. Speaking of Portis, with Al Saunders coming from K.C. I also have to believe that the running game will be featured even more now with Saunders running the show. Not to say that Gibbs wasn’t committed to the run himself, but he has been known for passing offenses. Brunell isn’t showing me anything that garners confidence in him, I’m sorry, he just doesn’t.
-Aaron Brooks, Oakland Raiders
I’m still not sold on him, either, going to Oakland. He’s had some good seasons in the past, but at the same time he’s going into a tough situation. One thing he has going for him is Art Shell, who everyone else is getting used to as well. He also has Randy Moss, and an incredibly talented receiving corp. Jerry Porter and Moss together give him two viable weapons outside, with Lamont Jordan out of the backfield.