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Fantasy Football 2011: A look at quarterbacks

08.01.11 at 8:32 am ET
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The writers at Rotobahn.com would like to thank WEEI for bringing us on board as its provider of fantasy football content. We’ll be bringing you all the information you need to make sure your 2011 fantasy season is a winning one.

We’re going to kick off with some positional rankings and some early analysis on the relative depth of each position, and how that can help you in your fantasy drafts this year. With all the free agent mayhem going on, these rankings are very likely to evolve more than they normally would in a typical preseason, where rosters are largely determined.

We’ll start with the quarterbacks and we’ll come back tomorrow with the receivers.

1. Michael Vick, Eagles

Vick is the clear number one for fantasy purposes; his upside is ridiculous, but be warned, because that upside comes hand-in-hand with significant injury risk. If you like taking quarterbacks early (we don’t) and if you like risk, then Vick is a play-to-win selection that could pay big dividends. We think he becomes viable as soon as the elite running backs are off the board. His weapons are also high-end with two No. 1-caliber receivers and nice depth behind them. For this reason, we are not overly  concerned with DeSean Jackson’s holdout. Vick also has a nice young tailback to throw to in LeSean McCoy.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Rodgers is a great NFL quarterback AND a great fantasy quarterback. That said, his price tag will be high enough in 2011 for you to consider other options. We are also concerned that Green Bay will opt to expose its star player a little less with a healthier backfield. In that scenario, Rodgers could play better football and still lose some stats. We encourage you to allow your competition to use a first-rounder on him, but we do so with full acknowledgment of his mad skill.

3. Tom Brady, Patriots

Brady, as Rotobahn predicted, returned to vintage form in 2010. In his second year back from ACL reconstruction, we saw the old Brady. What made 2010 really impressive, at least to us, was how he changed his approach midseason after the Moss deal, and continued to post insane numbers. The Patriots went back to the same tendency-free offense that they made their bones with, but they took it to a new level. Now, with the addition of Chad Ochocinco, the Pats are loaded with talent at all the skill positions. Brady is a lock for fantasy success in 2011.

4. Philip Rivers, Chargers

Rivers earned our deep respect a few years back at Foxboro, when he played the AFC championship game on one good leg. His subsequent return from ACL reconstruction was also impressive as he played like a stud in 2008, after only six months of rehab. Fast forward to 2010 and all of San Diego’s roster mayhem and injury problems. Rivers was the calm in the eye of a storm. The point of this love-letting is that we are out of things to worry about when it comes to this guy. He overcomes, period. For this reason, we put San Diego’s star passer right up there with Brady and Manning for fantasy. With Vincent Jackson back in the fold and with Antonio Gates on track to be healthy, we expect great things from Rivers in 2011.

5. Drew Brees, Saints

He could easily be ranked higher, but then again, we haven’t gotten to Manning yet, so we could push him lower, too! Brees is in a contract year and he has a lot of healthy targets to toss the rock to. We see a typical performance, which means he is an elite option in all fantasy formats. Draft him with confidence.

6. Peyton Manning, Colts

This is the lowest he’s been ranked in years. While we fully expect Manning to be ready for the opener, we want better information on his neck before we move him up. Besides, after Vick we have what amounts to a five-way tie. The top six players in our rankings are all elite and that is perhaps the biggest story. There is solid quarterback depth in fantasy football in most years, but 2011 is just crazy. With Manning, apart from his neck issue, the only real question is how healthy his targets are. Austin Collie and Dallas Clark are both reportedly healthy, but Collie, in particular, is a player where we need to see it to believe it. It’s not totally clear how free he is from concussion symptoms or how susceptible to them he remains. If Manning has his full complement of targets, he is going to have a big year. We’ll keep you up to date on this as we move through August.

7. Tony Romo, Cowboys

How can a guy with this kind of fantasy potential be ranked this far down? Welcome to the new NFL. It’s a quarterback’s league. Romo is a great way to fill your QB spot without taking a guy early. Yes, he is coming off of an injury, but all accounts are that he is healthy, and his weaponry is absolutely top flight. The trio of Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten is absurd, and he has very versatile backs who all make nice yardage after the grab. Romo is a very safe play in 2011.

8. Matt Schaub, Texans

Though he is a good notch below the top six, we love Schaub for fantasy, as we have for a few years now. He throws a good ball and he has phenomenal talent at his disposal with Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels leading the way.  The Texans’ signal caller also has a solid ground attack to keep the defense honest, though we are somewhat concerned that the Texans may lose fullback Vonta Leach, who was a very underrated player for them in 2010. Leach’s potential departure may be even more concerning for Arian Foster owners, and we’ll be keeping tabs on that. The bottom line with Schaub is that he’ll be a solid option as your starter.

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

He missed time last year sitting out his suspension, but upon his return we saw the same old Roethlisberger. His fantasy value is enhanced by his size and mobility as he usually gives you some “foot points” in addition to all the passing production. Big Ben is usually good for two rushing scores and a hundred or so yards rushing. That’s an extra point or two each week. His talents are well established and he’s healthy, plus he has an elite target in Mike Wallace, so the big play is always out there to be had. If you miss out on our top eight, you will be in good hands with Roethlisberger, and he’ll be a great value to boot.

10. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers

Like Roethlisberger, Freeman gives you a few bonus points by using his mobility. We love athletic quarterbacks, and it helps when they have the all-around game to make their skill set work. Freeman has game. He was a top 10 fantasy quarterback in 2010 and it’s only the mad depth at quarterback that keeps him from being bumped up even higher this year. Tampa has done a good job giving him the tools to succeed as well. He has a solid top target in Mike Williams plus some emerging players like Arrelious Benn. Throw in Kellen Winslow and a LeGarrette Blount-led ground assault and you have nice balance. We love Freeman’s prospects in 2011. He is yet another reason to wait out the quarterback run as you pile up quality at the shallower positions.

11. Matt Ryan, Falcons

It’s hard not like Matty Ice for 2011. When you look at what he did last year with basically no option opposite Roddy White, you have to wonder what he can do with rookie Julio Jones in the fold. We think it takes him up a notch and establishes him as a weekly starter in 12-team leagues. He should tease the 300-point level in 2011. We see him as a very nice value option at quarterback, but there’s great depth behind him, so don’t reach. If you wait out the studs, you can wait quite a while to fill your starting slot. We’ve already landed Ryan twice in round 10 in mock drafts, just to give you an idea. He’s a very solid option at that point.

12. Eli Manning, Giants

We could have given this spot to a few guys, but Manning’s solidity won the day. He’s established in the Giants’ system, and he should have plenty of places to throw the ball even with Steve Smith’s presence somewhat in doubt … both health-wise and contractually. Manning will have solid ground support, and he has a serious talent in his No. 1 receiver, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, when paired with Mario Manningham, gives Peyton’s little brother some serious big-play potential. He’s a good way to fill your quarterback position late in a draft. If you go that way, be sure to draft another QB or two for depth and upside.

Honorable mentions: Right on the heels of Ryan and Manning are a deep group of quality options led by Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Kevin Kolb. Then, you still have some upside options like Tim Tebow and Matt Stafford. It is almost impossible to get shut out at quarterback in 2011 drafts. For this reason, we suggest pushing the envelope and not going after your QB in the early rounds.

For those of you looking for our breakdown of all the quarterbacks, Rotobahn has released its initial player rankings, and you can check them out at Rotobahn.com. We’ll be back Tuesday with a look at this year’s top receivers.

Read More: 2011 Fantasy Football, aaron rodgers, Michael Vick, Tom Brady Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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