Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2011-12 NFL fantasy season is finally complete and in the books. For those of you who play fantasy basketball, hockey, baseball, golf or NASCAR, your attention is likely already on those sports, but for many fantasy players, its just the NFL and the off-season.
For them, we will begin our review of this year in hopes that a look backward will help to improve our performance as we head into next fall.
We start our positional reviews with the glamour position - quarterback.
1) Drew Brees, New Orleans (fantasyfootballnerd.com rank 19) - Other than reaching and winning the Super Bowl, Brees did everything that was asked of him. He led the Saints offense to 34.2 ppg by throwing for a record 5,476 yards along with 46 touchdowns. Five players caught 50 or more passes including his tight end with 99 receptions and a running back with 86 catches. His 410 fantasy points edged out Rodgers for the top spot. This season is "repeatable" in 2012.
2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (7) - In leading his team to 13 consecutive victories to start the season and a 15-1 regular season record, Rodgers was fantastic. He threw 45 touchdowns against just six interceptions in 15 games (he sat out the final week). Rodgers didn't use his backs as much as Brees, but ran for three times as many yards and three touchdowns. Though he won the NFL MVP award, he finished second in the fantasy world to Brees. In just his fourth season as a starter, he figures to get better in future seasons...a scary thought for defensive coordinators and those fantasy owners who don't select him next fall.
3) Tom Brady, New England (22) - The amazing thing about Brady's 370 fantasy points is that he did it without a deep threat. His two supposed deep threats were Chad Ochocinco and Deion Branch who didn't produce much. No, Brady's 5,235 yards primarily consisted of throws under 20 yards to Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They didn't have much of a running game either, with BenJarvis Green-Ellis leading the team in rushing with 667 yards. Though head coach Bill Belichick will likely go for defense in the draft, imagine if they select a burner to add to the receiving corps.
4) Cam Newton, Carolina (184) - Those fantasy owners who took a late-round chance on Newton were rewarded with an amazing season. A four-game improvement in the standings for Carolina, Newton turned a last-place offense (196 points in 2010) into the fifth-highest scoring team in the NFL with 406 points (25.4 ppg). Newton did it with his feet as much as his arm, rushing for a record 14 touchdowns while throwing for 4,051 yards. He exploded on the scene with two 400+ yard passing games right out of the gate and went from fantasy backup to star in those 120 minutes of playing time. As any second-year quarterback would, he still needs to improve on his reads and cutting down on interceptions, but you can't argue with 351 fantasy points in his first season.
5) Matthew Stafford, Detroit (76) - We always suspected that Stafford had this kind of talent, we just never saw it because he was always in the training room rehabbing from an injury. After playing just 13 games in his first two seasons, Stafford played in all 16 games this year and led his team to a playoff spot. He threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns while getting picked off just 16 times worth 343 fantasy points. If the Lions can just find another receiver to go along with Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, he could climb even higher on the quarterback rankings.
6) Eli Manning, New York Giants (79) - Can we finally put all the talk questioning Eli Manning's ability in the past? Manning erased any doubts with a stellar season in which he drastically cut down on the interception total (25-to-16) while still throwing for a career-high 4,933 yards and 290 fantasy points. He has two All-Pro receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz which should allow him to continue to improve next year though coach Tom Coughlin likes balance in his offense which is a limiting factor some of the higher- ranked quarterbacks don't have. On a personal note - thanks Eli for leading my team to the fantasy championship.
7) Matt Ryan, Atlanta (50) - Ryan is on the verge of joining the top fantasy quarterbacks. He has two excellent receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones and a future Hall of Fame tight end. He just needs to convince his coach to abandon the running game. Ryan threw for 4,177 yards and 29 scores versus just 12 interceptions. He's just 26-years-old and his best days are still in front of him. Like Manning, the balanced offense the Falcons run keeps him from fantasy stardom.
8) Tony Romo, Dallas (38) - Romo was not the reason the Cowboys finished the year 8-8 or the reason you didn't win your fantasy championship. He posted solid numbers across the board - 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions for 270 fantasy points. However, as a fourth-round draft choice you could have gotten better value with Stafford, Manning or Ryan. He'll drop to a fifth or sixth round next year and then he'll be a better value.
9) Philip Rivers, San Diego (23) - Rivers was the fifth quarterback off the board, but struggled to find his touch. He threw for a solid 4,624 yards but dropped from 30 to 27 touchdowns passes while throwing a career-high 20 interceptions. It doesn't bode well for his next year's fantasy value that Vincent Jackson seems destined for a different team and Antonio Gates limped through another season. Rivers figures to endure the largest drop of any top-10 quarterback next season.
10) Michael Vick, Philadelphia (12) - There were a few "experts" who touted Vick as the No.1 overall pick after his exciting 2010 season, but fortunately I wasn't one of them. That way I don't have to apologize for his bad 2011 season in which he threw for 3,303 yards and 18 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Even worse, he ran for just one touchdown all year, instead choosing to protect his injured body. As an end-of-the-first-round pick, his 220 fantasy points earns his the "Most Disappointing Award" for quarterbacks in 2011.