Here’s my quarterbacks draft board for the 2010 fantasy football season, including a few guys just outside the top 10.
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Selecting Brees No. 1 amongst QBs is about as easy as decisions get. Super Bowl titles may not give us points in fantasyland, but they do give our players a heaping helping of confidence heading into the following season. Brees has that, plus a nice collection of offensive weapons at his disposal. And there is the matter of those 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and 20 sacks in ’09. He was even better in ’08, throwing for 5,069 yards with 34 TDs, and hasn’t dipped below 4,000 yards and 26 TDs since the 2005 season. No reason to think 2010 will be any different.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
It’s tough to go wrong with Peyton. Heck, the guy was even great on Saturday Night Live. Acting chops aside, this guy is about as consistent as they come in fantasy football. In 12 NFL seasons, he’s thrown for fewer than 4,000 yards only twice, and he’s never dipped below 26 touchdowns. Since throwing 28 picks as a rookie in 1998, Manning has thrown more than 15 INTs only three times. His ’09 numbers: 4,500 yards, 33 TDs, 16 INTs.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The former Brett Favre understudy has blossomed in two seasons at the helm, topping 4,000 yards and 28 TDs each year as a starter. In 2009, he progressed in every category, turning in 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns against just seven picks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rodgers out-produces Peyton Manning in 2010, but I gave Peyton the nod based on experience and a history of consistency. Rodgers, however, is looking very capable of overtaking the Colts star.
4. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Romo’s place at No. 4 on my list just goes to show how we separate real football from fantasy football. In real life, I’m not a Romo fan, and not for any one good reason. In fantasyland, I can’t ignore his production and the potential for a big-time 2010 season. He’s coming off a 4,483-yard, 26-touchdown, nine-interception campaign, and he’s got a bevy of talent lined up around him, including rookie Dez Bryant and ’09 breakout receiver Miles Austin. In fantasyland, this could be a good year to root for Romo.
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Many fantasy experts have Brady ranked below the Schaubs and Rivers of the world, but I had to seriously consider putting him ahead of Romo on my draft board. In the end, Romo got the nod over Brady because his arsenal is just a tad better, if only because the Pats’ Wes Welker is coming off ACL surgery and might not be ready to go when the season kicks off. But any time you’ve got a QB with Brady’s statistics (4,398 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs in ’09), and a guy named Randy Moss lined up out wide, there’s potential for big numbers. And don’t forget those 50 touchdown passes Brady threw in 2007, Moss’ first year with the team.
6. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
I feel like I can’t quite get a read on what Schaub’s gonna do, but there are two statistics I can’t ignore heading into 2010 – Schaub threw the ball 583 times in ’09 and for 4,770 yards, both tops in the NFL last season. So it would appear the Texans are committed to the throw, and it’s evident that, when given the chance, Schaub can deliver. He completed 396 of those attempts, with 29 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Here’s hoping history repeats itself.
7. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Rivers has had a sparkling two-year run, throwing for more touchdowns during that time (62) than any other QB. The Chargers like to throw the ball (Rivers has no fewer than 460 attempts each year since 2006), and Rivers has connected on 65 percent of his passes the last two seasons. In 2009, he threw for 4,254 yards and 28 TDs against just nine interceptions. There’s no reason to think he won’t top 4,000 yards and 25 TDs in 2010.
8. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
If you didn’t like Flacco before the 2009 offseason – 6,584 yards, 35 TDs, 24 INTs in two seasons in the league – consider that now he’s got Anquan Boldin lined up out wide. Sprinkle in Mark Clayton, Todd Heap, and Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in the backfield, and this is a pretty potent offense with potential for some big numbers. There’s a nice debate among NFL fans over who’s the better class of 2008 quarterback – Flacco or Matt Ryan. Flacco’s coming off a better season (3,613 yards, 21 TDs, 12 INTs), but their two-year totals are virtually identical (6,584 yards, 35 TDs, 24 INTs for Flacco; 6,356, 38 and 25 for Ryan). I’m going with Flacco in 2010 because I really, really like that supporting cast.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Prospecting is a huge part of fantasy sports, but when it comes to your starting quarterback, it’s difficult to pick a guy coming off a down season. Don’t be afraid with Ryan. For starters, the “slump” that everyone references wasn’t really that bad – he threw for 2,916 yards and 22 TDs against 14 interceptions in 2009, after having thrown for 3,440 yards, 16 TDs and 11 INTs as a rookie in 2008. As sophomore slumps go, that’s more than passable. And he did miss two games, and most of a third, with a turf toe injury in late November and early December. He’ll be good to go in 2010, and I expect a full return to his rookie numbers … or better.
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Little Brother topped 4,000 yards in 2009 for the first time in his six-year career, with a career-best 27 touchdowns. He’s settled into his role as one of the league’s top QBs nicely (a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP trophy certainly didn’t hurt that process). I’ll be mildly surprised if he tops 4,000 yards again in 2010, but 3,500 and 22 TDs wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
These guys just barely missed the top 10 cut:
Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles: As an Eagles fan, I’d love to stick this guy in my top 10, and as a Kolb owner in my keeper league, I’d love to witness a breakout season. But I’m going to need to see more before I can pick him that high. Still, the upside is enticing – in two starts early in the 2009 season, Kolb threw for 391 and 327 yards, with two TDs each time. I’m optimistic.
Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins: It was tough to see McNabb leave Philly, and even tougher to see him go to a division rival, but I suspect McNabb owners could be in for a nice treat in 2010. He’s coming off a 3,553-yard, 22-touchdown, 10-interception season, and now he’s got a nice, big chip on his shoulder. If he can stay healthy (always a question with McNabb), watch out.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: I’m not a huge Cutler fan, nor am I a huge fan of his receiving corps, but despite struggling at times in 2009 – his first season with the Bears – Cutler put up 3,666 yards and 27 touchdowns. Those 26 interceptions make you cringe a bit, though. I tend to think a full season in the system and with the receivers will cut that number back down under 20, at least.