The list of elite fantasy quarterbacks has grown to six, including Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and now our top-ranked QB Michael Vick. While these six players represent the safest picks among quarterbacks, all of the players on this list have the potential to produce at an elite level.
1. Michael Vick
Vick started last season behind Kevin Kolb, but finished the 2010 season with one of the most impressive fantasy performances in recent memory. Vick passed for 3,018 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also added 676 rushing yards and nine touchdowns with just three fumbles. More impressively is that he did this in just 12 games. Vick is prone to taking big hits and his rate of 9.1 sacks per 100 attempts was fourth-highest among QBs with at least 250 pass attempts. Because of the injury concerns, Vick is a risk/reward pick, but well worth the gamble in our opinion.
2. Aaron Rodgers
While we have Michael Vick at the number one spot, you could make a strong argument that Rodgers should top this list. While we like Vick’s upside despite the injury concerns, Rodgers consistency makes him one of the safest picks at any position. Rodgers has totaled at least 32 touchdowns in each of his last three seasons with an average of 4,131 passing yards in that span. Rodgers is a solid No. 1 fantasy QB but to land him you’ll likely need to use a first or second-round pick.
3. Philip Rivers
Even without Vincent Jackson for most of last season, Rivers threw a career-best 4,710 yards and posted career highs in attempts and yardage. Rivers enters this season looking for his fourth year in a row with at least 4,000 passing yards and at least 28 touchdowns. With Vincent Jackson back for a full year and a healthy Antonio Gates, Rivers should have another great fantasy season.
4. Tom Brady
Despite the departure of Randy Moss after Week 4, Brady still passed for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns, and a career-low four interceptions which resulted in the NFL’s first unanimous MVP award. Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are Brady’s top targets heading into 2011, but he has shown he can be effective regardless of his receiving corps. Brady is a safe bet to finish among the top five fantasy QBs again this season.
5. Peyton Manning
With a poor rushing attack, the Colts relied heavily on Manning in 2010 resulting in career highs in attempts, completions and passing yards. With 4,700 yards passing last year, Manning has passed for at least 4,000 yards in 12 of his 13 NFL seasons. As the 35-year-old Manning enters his 14th season, there are not many signs of him slowing down and with a talented young receiving corps and a healthy Dallas Clark, we expect another Manning-like performance in 2011.
6. Drew Brees
Brees threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2010, but he did prolong his streak of 30-plus-touchdowns season to three while throwing for more than 4,000 yards for the fifth consecutive year. The Saints drafted RB Mark Ingram with an acquired first-round pick to try and add more consistency to their backfield, but Brees should still air it out quite often. With the Saints high-powered offense, Brees should be good for another 4,000 yard 30 TD season.
7. Tony Romo
Romo is expected to return at 100 percent from a fractured clavicle that limited him to just five full games in 2010. In the full games he played, he was averaging over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns and overall recorded nearly a 70 percent completion rate. There are still some questions regarding the Cowboys backfield, but he has an outstanding receiving corps in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten along with a pass-happy play caller in Jason Garrett. If the top tier QBs are off the board, Romo is a great value pick.
8. Matt Schaub
Schaub’s passing and TDs totals declined in 2010 compared to his 2009 totals, but much of that can be attributed to the breakout season of Arian Foster. Despite the drop-off, he still passed for 4,370 yards and 24 TDs and ended last season on a positive note throwing for over 300 yards in four out of the last five games. Schaub has the league’s best receiver in Andre Johnson, and TE Owen Daniels finally looked healthy by the end of last season. Schaub is a top 10 fantasy QB option and worth targeting if you don’t like taking your quarterbacks early in drafts.
9. Ben Roethlisberger
Despite a four-game suspension to start the 2010 season, Big Ben ended the year with 3,200 yards passing, 17 TDs, and only five interceptions. Roethlisberger also added a nice bonus for fantasy owners rushing for 176 yards and two scores. The Steelers are still a run-heavy offense, which may limit Roethlisberger’s elite fantasy QB status, but with receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown joining Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns is not out of the question in 2011.
10. Josh Freeman
Freeman’s breakout sophomore season was a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners as he totaled 25 touchdowns and nine turnovers last season while throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and running for more than 350. The Bucs suddenly have a nice group of young skill-position weapons with running back LeGarrette Blount, and wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. There are high expectation for the Bucs offense this season making Freeman one of the most popular sleeper picks of 2011.