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Fantasy Football: F&C's Can't Miss Quarterback Rankings & Projections

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The days of waiting on your quarterback in fantasy football are over. In today's pass-first NFL, quarterbacks carry more value than ever before and drafting one in the first or second round of your fantasy draft has become a smart move.

According to ESPN's average draft position (ADP) data, five quarterbacks are being taken in the first 17 picks. These are the elite quarterbacks that will have success, regardless of their match-up. With more teams moving away from featured backs and a more open offensive attack, an elite quarterback is the new must have in fantasy football.

The list below is projections based on standard scoring* fantasy leagues and risk and upside.

 

*Standard scoring:

  • 25 passing yards = 1pt.
  • 10 rushing yards = 1pt.
  • TD pass = 4 pts.
  • TD rush = 6 pts.

 

 

1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

After years of debating which running back to select first overall, next year draft a quarterback. Rodgers finished this fantasy season as the top scorer in standard leagues, despite playing in just 15 games. He also was the most consistent fantasy player, averaging more than 25 points per week. His low scoring week was in Week 14 when tallied 17 points. That type of dominance and consistency lands Rodgers a top the QB fantasy rankings. Projected fantasy points: 393  

 

2) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees was a statistical juggernaut this season, especially during the second half of the year. Brees will turn 33 this year, but is showing no signs of slowing down. Losing head coach Sean Payton to a yearlong suspension will impact the Saints as a team, but shouldn't hurt Brees' stats. Projected fantasy points: 374

 

3) Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Brady will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this season. The last time the duo collaborated, Brady finished the season with 50 touchdowns. The Patriots upgraded at wide receiver by adding Brandon Lloyd, which makes Brady even more valuable. One big concern for Brady is the Patriots offensive line, which could struggle this year. Projected fantasy points: 370

 

4) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Stafford stayed health for a full season and ended with 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. The scariest part of Stafford's stunningly good season, he got better as the season went on. And at just 24 years old, he's only going to get better. Watch out. Projected fantasy points: 369

 

5) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Newton went underrated in many fantasy leagues last year. This year, he should be a top 20 pick. His 35 total touchdowns (21 passing, 14 rushing) as a rookie made him an instant fantasy stud. Even if he regresses, he's still a top fantasy quarterback. I don't expect a sophomore slump for the Carolina QB. Projected fantasy points: 350

 

6) Eli Manning, New York Giants

If it weren't for his Super Bowl winning performance, I'm not sure many people would have noticed the great season Manning had in 2011. He finished with a career-high 4,933 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He also added another 1,219 yards passing and nine touchdowns in the playoffs. Manning has the confidence and now the weapons around him to be a fantasy star again in 2012. Projected fantasy points: 318

 

7) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Romo is coming off his most productive season in four years. His 31 touchdowns in 2011 were the second highest total of his career, and he also had more than 4,100 yards passing. The Cowboys are a pass-first team, especially near the goal line. In 2011, the Cowboys scored just five rushing touchdowns, which was second fewest in the league. Projected fantasy points: 296

 

8) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

With Roddy White and Julio Jones as his targets, Ryan should be able to throw 30 touchdown passes this season. Before getting embarrassed in the NFC playoffs by the Giants, Ryan had a strong finish in 2011. Twenty of Ryan's 29 touchdown passes came in the Falcons final nine games of the season. Projected fantasy points: 294

 

9) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

After missing 2011 with a neck injury, Manning is expected to be healthy enough to play again in 2012. The Broncos signed the four-time MVP to a lucrative deal after the Colts released him. Few people know what to expect out of Manning this season. Adapting to a new team, recovery from a delicate injury and a very challenging schedule could all make for a forgettable season for Manning. We should learn a lot more about Manning's future by watching his progress this offseason. Projected fantasy points: 293

 

10) Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Vick finished the season with three straight games with 20+ fantasy points and still has the ability to light up the stat sheet. If the Vick of old shows up this season, he's a steal at this position. Projected fantasy points: 292

 

11) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

Rivers denied that he played hurt last season, but clearly he wasn't himself. He threw career-high 20 interceptions and 27 touchdowns, which was a four-year low for the Chargers quarterback. Despite losing top targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert, Rivers should still be able to throw 27-30 touchdowns this season. Projected fantasy points: 291

 

12) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have become a pass first team and Roethlisberger's numbers show it. In 2011, Big Ben threw the ball 513 times, the most of his career. Look for that trend to continue in 2012, especially with Rashard Mendenhall likely out for a significant amount of time with a knee injury. Projected fantasy points: 273

 

13) Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Griffin is supremely gifted and has the athletic ability to make the extraordinary look effortless. Consider Griffin III a fringe QB1 in standard, 12-team fantasy leagues. His running ability alone makes him a valuable fantasy commodity. Projected fantasy points: 272

 

 

 

14t) Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Schaub was on his way to another solid season in 2011 until he broke his foot in Week 10. Schaub should be fully healed and ready for offseason workouts. Schaub's fantasy value is stifled slightly by the Texans commitment to the its running game. He could also benefit from having a better receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Projected fantasy points: 257

 

14t) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

With offensive coordinator Mike Martz out in Chicago, Cutler will be running a new offense this season. New offensive coordinator Mike Tice will likely run a much different offense than Martz, one that doesn't expose Cutler to as many hits. Protecting Cutler is a smart decision considering he's coming off season-ending thumb surgery last year. If the Bears can add a top-tier wide receiver in free agency, Cutler could be a 23-25 touchdown quarterback in 2012. Projected fantasy points: 257

 

16) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

While Flacco has proven he can win games for the Ravens, he’s hardly been a statistical juggernaut. During his four years as Baltimore’s starting quarterback, Flacco has never thrown for more than 3,700 yards or 25 touchdowns. However, with a potentially big payday hanging out there, this could be the year Flacco breaks out. Projected fantasy points: 248

 

17) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck will have a tremendous NFL career, but there will be plenty of bumps in the road along the way, starting with 2012. Projected fantasy points: 238

 

18) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills

Fitzpatrick started off hot in 2011, but fizzled late. Needs to be able to show more consistency before he moves into QB1 territory. Projected fantasy points: 237

 

19) Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Sanchez was a top 10 fantasy quarterback last season. He'll be asked to do more this year, but whether or not he can do more is the big question. The addition of Tim Tebow will give the Jets a different look in the red zone, which could impact Sanchez's fantasy stats. Projected fantasy points: 235

 

20) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton was one of the nice surprises last season. The second-round pick led the Bengals to the playoffs and displayed the poise of a veteran. A full offseason of work will help his development, but right now Dalton is more of a game manager than a stat rat. Projected fantasy points: 231 

 

21) Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

Cassel is just two seasons removed from throwing 27 touchdowns for the Chiefs. But after missing seven games last season with a hand injury, and only throwing for 10 touchdowns, Cassel's days may be numbered in KC. Not helping matters is Dwayne Bowe's holdout, which could lead to the star wide receiver missing significant time during training camp and perhaps the season. Projected fantasy points: 230

 

22) Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

Locker showed a lot of promise in his limited action in 2011 and he has a legitimate shot at winning the Titans starting job this year. Locker will compete with Matt Hasselbeck, who started all 16 games last season for Tennessee. Expect Locker's first-year as a starter to be filled with ups and downs. Projected fantasy points: 219   

 

23) Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After throwing 25 touchdown passes in 2010, Freeman flopped in 2011 tossing just 16 touchdowns. He also added 22 interceptions last year, which were 16 more than he had the previous season. He will have a new target in Vincent Jackson this year, but don't expect 25 touchdowns again any time soon. Projected fantasy points: 215

 

24) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Projected fantasy points: 212

 

25) Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

Ponder should improve in his second NFL season. He started 10 games for the Vikings as a rookie and will benefit from a full offseason. Also, the Vikings upgraded its horrid offensive line by adding first-round pick OT Matt Kalil. Ponder also gets a couple speedy receivers in Jerome Simpson and rookie Jarius Wright. Projected fantasy points: 210

 

26) Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders

Palmer threw the ball a lot last season, despite playing in just 10 games for the Raiders. He does several weapons around him, including Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, but his inconstancy and interceptions will hurt his fantasy value. Projected fantasy points: 208

 

27) John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals

After an injury to Kevin Kolb this preseason, Skelton has a great opportunity to be Arizona’s starting QB in Week 1. Last season, he led Arizona to a 6-2 record and consistently was able to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. From a fantasy perspective, Skelton winning the job helps Fitzgerald’s value the most. Projected fantasy points: 207

 

28) Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Smith will be asked to manage games, much like he did last season. Smith is an efficient passer, but won't light up the stat sheet. Smith has never thrown for more than 18 touchdowns in a season and the Niners throw the ball the least of any NFL team. Projected fantasy points: 205

 

29) Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Bradford is entering his third NFL season and is coming off an ankle injury that kept out for six games last season. He has the talent to be a very good quarterback, but needs a better supporting cast. A healthy Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson, along with the addition of rookie WR Brian Quick should help Bradford's numbers, but don't expect a big leap. Projected fantasy points: 203  

 

30) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

After an injury to David Garrard and an impressive performance in his first preseason game, Tannehill should be Miami’s starting QB. While last year’s starter Matt Moore is ahead of Tannehill on the depth chart, look for the first-rounder to take over at QB for Miami, sooner rather than later. Projected fantasy points: 200  

 

31) Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

Gabbert struggled last season as a rookie and never looked comfortable throwing the ball. He needs to show progress early this year or he may end up on the bench. The Jaguars added Justin Blackmon in the draft and Laurent Robinson in free agency, both are upgrades for Gabbert. Projected fantasy points: 177

 

32) Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

The 28-year-old former minor league baseball player was recently named the starting quarterback in Cleveland, taking over for Colt McCoy. It's hard to get too excited about any Browns quarterback, especially a rookie. Projected fantasy points: 158

Matt Lechner

Matt Lechner Bio

Football has always been a passion of mine. I played in high school and was a four-year letter winner at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. I also spent four years as a Minnesota Vikings ball boy and my grandfather spent a season with the New York Giants.

For 10 years, I worked as a television news reporter, covering several significant stories including presidential campaigns, September 11 attacks, opening day at Target Field and Vikings playoff games. I currently work for a Minneapolis-based health care provider managing the company’s digital content, including social media.

When I’m away from work, I’m searching for trends, stats and storylines to better help people understand the NFL and fantasy football.

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).