NFL Draft Insiders Fantasy Football Pre-Season Power Rankings: The Quarterbacks
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees is the only signal caller in league history to toss for 5,000 or more yards in back to back seasons. After a year of mass confusion in the Big Easy, Brees' coach Sean Peyton returns to the sideline, which should provide more stability on the offensive side of the football. The Saints have led the NFL in pass to run ratio over the past few seasons, and there is no reason to believe that is going to change anytime soon. With targets such as tight end Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston continues to haul in scoring strikes, Brees is easily the best quarterback fantasy-wise heading into the 2013 season.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers struggled throwing the deep ball in 2012, but it wasn't his fault. Having an offensive line that has difficulty keeping their leader upright will often times lead to shorter to intermediate range passes. Rodgers did throw for 39 scores last season, so he's doing something right. The only reason he isn't at the top of this list, is because of the Packers losing long time targets Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. If players such as Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley can step up and fill those shoes, Rodgers with his single-digit interceptions, is the safest bet on the board under center.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Many around the league questioned whether or not Manning could produce after missing all of the 2011 season with multiple neck surgeries, along with playing half of his games in the frigid temperatures of Denver in November and January. He answered by almost bringing home another MVP trophy, tossing 37 touchdowns and passing for more than 4,600 yards. He has made Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker legitimate stars, and has a new weapon in Wes Welker. Unless Manning goes down with an injury, 40 touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards aren't out of the realm of possibility in 2013.
4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Some how, some way, Brady continues to find ways to put up excellent numbers each season. Unfortunately for Brady and his team, there will be no Wes Welker to be a safety valve and until tight end Rob Gronkowski appears on the field in pads, New England can't count on him either. Whether Rams import Danny Amendola will fill Welker's shoes, and if Aaron Hernandez can carry the full load underneath, remains to be seen. Brady is still an elite fantasy option, but this is the year his numbers tail off a bit.
5. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Arguably the best athlete playing quarterback in the league today, Kap almost brought the Niners back in last season's Super Bowl. Dangerous through the air or on the ground, his projected numbers for a 16-game season a year ago were: 3,675 passing yards, 544 rushing yards, 23 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns. Kap looks to improve on those numbers and help San Francisco take the final step. With a big arm, and an experienced receiver in Anquan Boldin, even without Michael Crabtree, he should take the next step towards the fantasy elite area in 2013.
6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Much like Kaepernick, Newton can beat teams with both his arm and his legs. The dual threat started 2012 slow, but then hit his stride to finish strong, posting over 4,000 yards passing and 700+ yards rushing. If the Panthers can play consistently on defense, and prevent Newton from having to play catch up the entire game, his numbers could skyrocket even further.
7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Given the fact that the former Georgia Bulldog threw for almost 5,000 yards last season, with only Calvin Johnson as a legitimate target, tells you all you need to know about the upside of Stafford. The receiving corps was a hodgepodge of players that were in and out of the lineup for various reasons, both on and off the field. While Stafford may not run like some of the other quarterbacks on this list, his arm and ability to put up huge numbers no matter who is on the receiving end of his throws, proves him to be a an elite signal caller in the NFL.
8. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Easily a top-5 quarterback on this list if he was healthy, RGIII is still a question mark about whether or not he will be ready to assume his starting duties opening week after tearing his knee up at the end of last season. Doctors say that his rehab is well ahead of schedule, and an Adrian Peterson-like recovery is what is expected of the second year former Heisman winner. Whether or not Skins' coach Mike Shanahan lets him continue to run wild remains to be seen, but if he does, 3,200/600 is not a pipe dream.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
When a quarterback has weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez to throw to, and also plays over half of his games inside of a dome (including a divisional matchup in New Orleans), owners of Ryan have to expect close to 4,500 yards and 30+ touchdowns. Steven Jackson coming into the fold to replace Michael Turner will improve the running game, opening up even more passing lanes for the precise throwing of Matty Ice, which could produce a slight bump in his numbers from the past two seasons.
10.Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are most likely to take the shackles off of Wilson in 2013, and allow him to increase his workload as a passer, by trading for Vikings wideout Percy Harvin. Another of the young guns that can make plays with his arm or his legs, Wilson is a special talent who can make something out of nothing fairly quickly. With the improved receiving corps in the Pacific Northwest, it bumps Wilson into the top-10 pre-season ranks of the game's elite. If Harvin and his crew can stay healthy, expect upwards of 3,600 passing yards, 25-30 touchdowns through the air, and another 600 or so rushing yards with 5-7 ground scores for the second year quarterback.
The next five: Andrew Luck-Indianapolis Colts, Eli Manning-New York Giants, Joe Flacco-Baltimore Ravens, Andy Dalton-Cincinnati Bengals, and Michael Vick-Philadelphia Eagles. Next week we will break down the top-10 pre-season power rankings for wide receivers!