It seems that a new buzzword crops up every year around fantasy football time. Five years ago it was “X-Factor.” Then it became “explosive,” followed by “dual threat” and “football IQ.” So now, to effectively rank the top 10 quarterbacks for the upcoming fantasy season, I’ve decided on my own word: “upside.”
So much of fantasy is about accurately predicting the future and, as such, we’ve come to rely on a fairly limited number of factors. “Upside” is a catch-all phrase that takes into account more than just a player’s statistical performance from the previous season. It considers many other factors including the quality of the supporting cast (coaches, skill position players), individual durability and the quality of the offensive line.
Keeping all of these things in mind, here are the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks for the upcoming 2012-13 NFL season.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
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Brady is the unquestioned #1 overall QB based on both statistical and intangible qualities. He hasn’t missed a start in the last three years and threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 TDs and had 11 300-yard games last season. Furthermore, his supporting cast is both proven and top notch, from his coach (Belichick), to the skill positions (Hernandez, Grownkowski, Lloyd, Welker), to his offensive line (best in the NFL). Brady also looks the part. He stands at 6′ 5″, is the unquestioned leader of the Patriots on and off the field and breaks down defenses as well as anyone not named Peyton Manning. Bottom line: if Brady is available to you, no matter what pick you have in the first round… take him.
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2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Although he’s far more athletic than Brady, he falls to #2 in part because of where he plays. All other things being fairly equal here (supporting cast, coaches and physical intangibles), Rodgers will play every home game from late October to the end of the season in the freezing cold and snow while Brady will not. And that really does matter. I know that Boston gets cold, but let’s be real, it doesn’t even come close to Green Bay, Wisconsin cold.
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3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Despite leading the league in passing last year throwing for almost 5,500 yards and 46 TDs, the off-season turmoil surrounding the team diminishes his value slightly. His one drive in the first preseason game showed that he’s comfortable running the offense sans Sean Payton. But it’s unrealistic to expect that he (or any other quarterback for that matter), could possibly duplicate the historically ridiculous numbers from last season. A “regression” to around 5,100 yards and 35-40 TDs, combined with the “us against the world” mentality adopted by the team, means Drew Brees should be an elite first-round option this year and for several years to come (since he’s now a $100 million man.)
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4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
He’s the ultimate “upside” guy on this list: a young gunslinger who plays with the best receiver in the game (Calvin Johnson) and seemingly doesn’t know any better than to throw it up and let him come down with it. In actuality that’s a really, really great plan considering Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles are his other targets, The lack of an identifiable running game means that pretty much the only way that the Lions are going to score points this season is through the air. This bodes well for Stafford’s statistics and, by extension, his fantasy owners as well.
5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
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When I first started this list, I had him listed at #9, only to find myself moving him up slowly and steadily. I’ve been monitoring his progress carefully since he chose the Broncos and have seen only glowing reviews of his work both on and off the field. Yes, I know that he’s only played a little bit of football, and that anything can happen during the season. But most injury experts agree that his condition isn’t degenerative. And considering the strength of both his defense and his receivers (Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen), it’s hard for me to justify dropping him any further then here (just above his brother). He has such a long history of both durability and sustained success. While Peyton isn’t without risk, I just don’t think his risk is as severe as some of the others.