Pretty much a coin flip here (always call tails). Most people have Rodgers as the No.1 fantasy quarterback -- helped by five rushing scores last year -- and that's certainly possible. But Brees and Manning seem to have a deeper receiving corps; plus, I see Minnesota having a disappointing year as Brett Favre's old body, bad decision making and absence of a true No. 1 wideout catch up with him. So don't be surprised if Manning and Rodgers are resting late in the season, their divisions locked up early, when you need them most. I don't see that happening with the Saints -- who are sure to fall back a little -- battling a very dangerous Atlanta team in the NFC South.
Look for a great season from Brady, who might even be Tier 1 material. The only worry is that he's more of a statue than ever now since the ACL thing, making him extremely vulnerable to another injury. Schaub can be elite, too, if he can play a full schedule. Romo had a nice bounceback year but has consistency issues. And with or without Vincent Jackson, Rivers is a stud with plenty of solid receiving weapons -- and he's got that AFC West bonus going for him. (AFC West teams play the weak NFC West this year, a great scheduling perk. But as always, don't read too much into strength of schedule. It's more important how hot/cold an opponent is when they come up on the schedule.)
If you miss out on the first two tiers of quarterbacks, you can't be fully confident in the guy you're starting. But I love Flacco, who has a monster arm and now a desperately needed weapon in Anquan Boldin. (Boldin also opens things up more in the passing game for Ray Rice.) Factor in that the Ravens' secondary is very pedestrian, and you could see more shootouts than you're used to in Baltimore. Kevin Kolb is my shocker in this tier. He's had a lousy preseason, but Andy Reid saw enough late last year to know what he was getting (the first QB in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards in his first two starts). Reid knows quarterbacks, and the Eagles are again a passing-dominated offense that features two kegs of dynamite in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Reid will throw till it hurts (and it just might). But the numbers will be there.
Ryan is over a bad turf-toe injury he played with last year, and he's a good bet to blossom after a disappointing second year. Problem is, Atlanta isn't really a vertical team. Favre is long overdue for an injury or performance drop-off; even he was surprised by what he did last year. Manning is solid but almost never spectacular, and the aging McNabb would still be in Tier 3 if he could stay healthy more consistently.
I guess you could argue that this is where fantasy titles are won -- gambling on guys like these. Better you than me. The laser-armed Cutler still has happy feet and accuracy issues, and has been moaning that the team's offensive scheme isn't daring enough even with Mike Martz on board. No real go-to receiver, either. Palmer has almost always underachieved in fantasy circles, and his accuracy has really been an issue the past couple years. Vince Young could turn out to be the best of them all in this tier, given his added running dimension and improvement under a great coach. But Justin Gage and/or Kenny Britt will have to emerge for Young to be consistently viable. Are you feeling that? Roethlisberger is a so-so option given his season-opening suspension, often questionable decision making on and off the field, and being in a run-heavy offense.
Strong guys for keeper leagues, and not bad options as your backup. But you don't want them starting; too unproven. On the other hand, they'll probably be trailing often in the fourth quarter, so there will be much throwing. Also a good number of INTs.
Sanchez falls this far mostly because of the run-first offense he's in. The big games will be there occasionally, but good luck betting correctly on when that will be. Hasselbeck is fading fast and can't stay healthy. Orton does have that AFC West thing going for him, but Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal don't scare anyone as No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts.
Cassel and Freeman have some intriguing young targets to throw to, and they'll be throwing a lot in the fourth quarter nearly every game. Maybe Campbell, too. I just don't see Anderson being viable, even with Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. He's too inaccurate, and the Cardinals are going to the run more this year.
Your fantasy theme song if you're looking for talent this low.
Thursday, September 2, 2010