When keeping a fantasy quarterback, the decision can be easier at some times than others. The four most consistent players are exactly who you would expect. In the last six seasons, only Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning have reached the top 10 in standard scoring at least five times.
Brees is the lone standout with 6 years of top performance, but the competition isn’t exactly fair for that sixth season. Rodgers was still a backup in 2007, and even the least savvy of your football friends can tell you where Brady was in ’08, and Manning in ’11.
Chances are you’re not among the lucky few to own one of these elite studs. You could be crying, “That’s my quarterback,” before you leave here today.
The next two men might be more trustworthy in fantasy than their reputation would lead you to believe. While it may be a recurring theme in the NFL to cast doubt on Tony Romo and Philip Rivers, they have each achieved top 10 play four times in the past six years. Romo’s only two outlying seasons were his injury-shortened 2010, and a 12th-ranked 2008.
Rivers’ trajectory is pointing south, though, as his ranks have gone downward from 6 to 9 to 21 over the last three years. 2012 was his first time completing under 4,000 yards and 7.0 YPA since 2007. And Rivers has never thrown more interceptions over a two-year stretch as he did in 2011-12. It also cannot be ignored who will be calling plays in San Diego next year. Many questions loom over the future of the Chargers and their QB.
So what now? The rest of the pack lies in murkier waters, to say the least.
Matt Ryan is coming off three consecutive top 10 seasons with an offense in transformation. Atlanta may look very different in 2013, as there are some uncertainties surrounding Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has yet to announce his plans for next year, while Turner could very well remain the lead-back for the Falcons. Ryan just set career highs in completion percentage (68.6), yards (4719), TD passes (32), and passer rating (99.1).
Eli Manning has not finished below 15th in the past seven seasons, but he’s also only cracked the top 10 just once. This was his first year under 4,000 yards since 2008, and his first time completing less than 60 percent of his passes since 2007. Manning’s unimpressive 15 INTs is par for the course, however, as he’s thrown under 14 picks in only one of his full seasons.
The new wave of signal-callers is begging for your attention, especially in keeper leagues. The risk is certainly higher with an unproven ace, but the reward could bring you championships for years to come. Cam Newton began poorly in 2012; through week 8, he had thrown for 5 TDs and 8 INTs. He turned things around, though, passing for 14 TDs and 4 picks over the final nine games. Newton has finished 3rd and 4th in his only two years as a pro.
For the first time in NFL history, three rookie starting quarterbacks have reached the playoffs. All three also ended the year as top 10 fantasy options. Robert Griffin III was 2012′s fifth-best fantasy QB, while Andrew Luck placed 9th and Russell Wilson 10th.
RG3 threw fewer interceptions than any QB who played at least 10 games this year. That’s right; read it again. Griffin’s 5 picks over 15 games matched 9-game starter, Alex Smith, and was less than 10-game starter, Blaine Gabbert (6), and 13-game starter, Ben Roethlisberger (8). A 3,200/20/5 stat line would be quite impressive for any rookie, not to mention one who also rushed for 815 yards and 7 scores. RG3 is likely to be a top 15 overall pick in 2013 redraft leagues.
Luck became only the second rookie in NFL history to throw for over 4000 yards. When he surpassed Newton’s 2011 rookie record against Kansas City, Luck still had a game left to play. Luck even finished ahead of Rodgers with 4,374 yards, while leading his “Chuckstrong” team to the postseason.
Wilson will travel to Maryland Sunday to face fellow rookie, RG3. This will be only the second time in the Super Bowl era that two rookie starting QBs will meet in the postseason. If there’s still space in your head to comprehend another record, Wilson left a mark of his own this year when he tied Peyton Manning‘s rookie best 26 touchdown passes. Wilson ran for another 4 scores and 489 yards, while completing 64.1 percent of his passes. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t supposed to be the starter.
There’s plenty more work to do before the 2013 draft. Remember, whoever said, “nothing good happens after midnight,” probably lost their Wi-Fi, leaving them cold, shivering, and unable to look up fantasy stats anymore. Chin up.
Stats and player data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com