Last season, not one, but two quarterbacks broke Dan Marino’s 17-year NFL record for passing yards in a season. Even more amazing, is that four quarterbacks from last season now rank in the top six in NFL history in single-season passing yards. With that kind of production the 2012 fantasy quarterback rankings have never looked as strong as they are this year.
It’s very likely that you’re going to see two quarterbacks taken in the first round of your draft, and then potentially three more quarterbacks taken in the second. With a lot of uncertainty at the running back position, top-tier quarterbacks are filling up the early rounds more than they have in years past.
Draft Day Outlook
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees are our top three quarterback options and should be drafted in the first or second rounds of all drafts. Despite throwing for less yards than Brady and Brees last year, Rodgers is still our top QB as his running ability is the difference-maker. Worthy of second-round consideration is Cam Newton, following the most successful rookie campaign by a quarterback in NFL history, and Matthew Stafford, who was able to stay healthy long enough to throw for 5,058 yards.
After the first five QBs are off the board there is a slight drop in production, but still great QB1 options with Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Tony Romo. Vick was a first-round pick in most leagues last year and if he can stay healthy he could easily finish in the top-5 this season. Manning often gets overlooked, but after throwing for almost 5,000 yards last year he will definitely draw more attention. If Rivers can build on his strong 2011 finish he could return to elite status this season, and Romo should continue to be a nice consistent option.
Rounding out our top 10 is Peyton Manning. After missing all of last year he is definitely a risky pick, but the upside is there. If he stays healthy, he’s a safe bet for 4,000 yards and around 30 touchdowns, just be sure to get a solid backup if you draft him. Just after Manning are several serviceable QB1 options including Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Schaub.
Robert Griffin III is our top rookie fantasy quarterback for 2012, and while we don’t expect RG3 to do what Cam Newton did in his rookie season, he should still offer solid QB2 value. A few rounds later is where you’ll be able to target our next rookie Andrew Luck. He definitely is more appealing in a dynasty league and should only be considered a low-end No. 2 option in 2012.
Throughout the middle rounds of your draft you’ll be looking at several QBs that should be somewhere around 3,500 yards passing and 20 TDs. Players like Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco all fall into this category and should be considered No. 2 options for fantasy teams. Each of these players does have some upside, but with the amount of talent above them it’s hard to imagine any of them in the top 10 at the end of the season.
Unless you are in a league that starts two quarterbacks, you typically are not looking to add a third QB in the later rounds. Building depth at other positions like running back and wide receiver is more important, but Tim Tebow is an interesting speculative add late in your draft. He obviously is a risky pick since it is not clear how much playing time he’ll receive, but with his running ability he was a legit QB1 option when he was on the field last season.
Draft Day Advice
The quarterback position continues to be very deep, and as last year showed, having a top quarterback can be a difference maker for fantasy teams. You can still wait on a quarterback and get a quality option, but getting a top-five option will likely cost you a pick in the first or second round of your draft. As you are preparing for your draft check your league scoring for passing touchdowns and the penalty for interceptions. Some leagues can slightly favor quarterbacks by awarding six points for a passing touchdown instead of four. Knowing the scoring system can definitely help you determine when to target a quarterback in the draft.