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The AFC South made a big splash in the quarterback department in the recent NFL Draft.
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The division continues to be dominated by the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning is consistently among the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league. He never has a shortage of weapons, and even when they break down like Dallas Clark last year, someone else (Jacob Tamme) steps up. One thing that needed more than a temporary fix was their offensive line. The Colts walked away from the draft with tackle Anthony Castonzo and guard Ben Ijalana. With better protection look for Manning to turn in another impressive season. Would you expect anything less?
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Matt Schuab regressed a little statistically, but that can be expected when you have the NFL rushing leader.  He still threw for 4370 yards and 24 touchdowns (12 INTs). With Andre Johnson, one of the more physical receivers in the league, look for Schaub to remain a quality QB1. The team did not give him any new weapons in the NFL Draft, instead using their first five picks on defense.
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In Jacksonville David Garrard will hold down the fort until Blaine Gabbert is ready to take control of the team. Garrard had a solid year throwing for 2734 yards and 23 TDs (15 INTs) while adding another 279 yards and five scores on the ground. The Jags are limited in the playmaker department. Marcedes Lewis scored ten touchdowns, but had just seven scores in four seasons before busting out in a contract year. Mike Sims-Walker is a free agent that will likely have a new home in 2011. Garrard is a quarterback to use during the bye weeks and little more.
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The Titans turned heads by taking Jake Locker with the eight pick in the draft. He will likely start the year on the sidelines while a veteran (possibly Matt Hasselbeck) acts as a bridge. Despite the presence of Kenny Britt, this is not a great quarterback situation. We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out.
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The fantasy playoffs are underway in the majority of leagues as the Colts and Titans kicked off the action last night.
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Having players go in the Thursday night games gives you a little bit of advantage. If your players do good, you can perhaps be a little more cautions with your team. If your players failed to put up good numbers, perhaps you will want to take a bigger risk, hoping for a bigger reward to make up for it. You also get a feel for your match-up depending on how your opponents players did. Let’s take a look at how fantasy owners will be feeling about their players.
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Quarterbacks:   If you started Peyton Manning (319 yards, two TDs), which is roughly 99.9 percent of his owners, you are off to a great start. You can’t ask for much more than 300+ and a pair of scores without a pick. If you went with Kerry Collins (244 yards, three TDs) I want proof. Seriously though, heck of a call. You can’t be happier with your results.
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Running Backs: If you went with Chris Johnson (179 total yards, TD), which also is virtually everybody who owns him, you are off and running (pun intended). He came in with a juicy match-up, and he shrugged off his recent slump and delivered when you needed it the most. It does help to have a competent QB. If you rode the Javarris James (49 yards, TD) train, kudos to you. Donald Brown (62 total yards) had just enough total yardage to keep him from being a bust if he was in your lineup. continue reading »

Here we are. The fantasy football mother lode. The Colts have an offense that is nearly impossible to slow down. Their biggest concern is they are too good and shut it down early.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
They take on the Titans on the road, the Jags at home, and the Raiders on the road. Though the week 16 match-up with Oakland appears favorable, you can’t count on the Colts’ starters to play the whole game.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
Peyton Manning – Manning is consistently one of the top fantasy QBs. Everybody knows that.

 

Reggie Wayne – Though he has to share with the Colts’ plethora of other options, he still managed to average 1249 yards and 8.7 TDs over the past six years.

 

Dallas Clark – He’s so big and fast that it’s not fair he’s an excellent route runner with soft hands. He had 100 catches for 1106 yards and 10 TDs last year.

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
Joseph Addai – Everybody was ready to write him off because of Donald Brown’s arrival, but all Addai did was pick up 1164 total yards (828 rushing) and 13 TDs (10 rushing). He’s only 27 years old.

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Donald Brown – Brown has big play ability and the Colts would like to give him a larger role in the offense assuming he can stay healthy. The Colts have the ability to have two fantasy relevant RBs at the same time.

 

Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie – I like Garcon more than Collie (or Anthony Gonzalez). He took his game to a new level in last year’s playoff fun. Don’t think Manning didn’t notice. Collie has to have the upper hand for the slot position thanks to Gonzalez’s injury.

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Anthony Gonzalez – After last year I am putting Gonzalez on “double secret probation”. A ton of fantasy owners got burned not so much by his injury, but by the fact that they wasted a roster spot for him for so long in anticipation of his return.

 

Colts Defense/Special Teams – The Colts face the Texans twice, the Titans twice, the Giants, Eagles, Bengals, Patriots, Chargers, and Cowboys. Their easiest match-up is against the Raiders when they could be resting starters like Dwight Freeney in Week 16.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

In the battle to see who will fill Anthony Gonzalez’s shoes for the Colts, Round 1 went to Pierre Garcon, who caught a 48-yard game-winning TD from Peyton Manning with 3:18 remaining.  Though Garco trumped Austin Collie 10.8 to 0.4, they both had just one reception.

This was not a typical game for the Colts as they were thoroughly dominated in time of possession by a 3:1 ratio.  It’s hard to get a good read on a situation when you only run 35 plays.

Garcon did earn Peyton’s trust by delivering in the clutch so he shouldn’t be afraid to call his number next week against Arizona.  Unfortunately with a limited workload it’s hard to endorse using Garcon next week.

Though Garcon outperformed Collie, the real winner in the Colts offense was Dallas Clark, who scored on a 80-yard TD in Indy’s first play en route to a seven catch, 183 yard performance.  Reggie Wayne was a letdown with just 3 catches for 37 yards.

Anthony Gonzalez
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Now that Marvin Harrison has moved on, Anthony Gonzalez takes over as the team’s #2 WR.  I believe the third-year WR out of Ohio State is ready to explode.  As a Rookie he had 37 receptions for 576 yards and 3 TDs.  Last year he had 57 receptions for 664 yards.  Not only do I think his reception total will increase again, I think his yards per catch will be closer to the 15.6 he averaged as a Rookie than the 11.6 he averaged last year.

Gonzalez showed some signs of what he could do in against Minnesota in Week 2 (9 catches for 137 yards), against the Patriots in Week 9 (2 TDs), and against San Diego in Week 12 (6, 95) and again in the playoffs (6, 97).  He’ll get more looks as the #2 and his numbers should increase dramatically.  I’m expecting 80 catches for 1100 yards and 6 TDs.  He is a decent WR2 and a great WR3.  He’s typically being drafted in the 5th round.

SPORT FOOTBALL
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Tony Dungy is gone, but I can’t think of a QB more equipped to make the transition than Peyton Manning.  He had so much freedom with Dungy that he was pretty much running the show on Offense anyway.  He lost a weapon in Marvin Harrison, but let’s face it, Mavin wasn’t the same anyways.  Reggie Wayne should bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season.  Anthony Gonzalez should take the next step becoming a weekly fantasy football starter.  Dallas Clark is a top five TE.  Joseph Addai should bounce back giving them balance running the ball (along with Donald Brown) and another weapon in the passing game. 

Manning simply produces.  He has 4000+ yards in all but two of his eleven seasons.  He has never thrown for less than 26 TDs with nine of the seasons having betwen 26-31 TDs.  He has never missed a start.  Is he always the top fantasy scoring QB?  No.  He’s always in the conversation though.  There isn’t a more reliable option in fantasy fotoball. 

He has some tough tests (Miami, Tennessee twice, New England, Baltimore, NY Jets) and some favorable matchups (Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Denver).  His fantasy playoffs schedule (Weeks 14-16) is decent as he faceds Denver, Jacksonville, and the Jets. 

He should be good for another 4200 yards with 30 TDs.  He’ll be drafted mid-second/mid-third round.  He may not put up the numbers Drew Brees or Tom Brady does, but he’ll consistently put up big numbers.

Tom Brady throwing
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There is a high risk/reward for drafting Tom Brady.  He is coming off a major knee injury that cost him virtually the entire 2008 season.  He set the fantasy world on fire though in 2007 and you can argue he has an even better supporting cast with the addition of Joey Galloway.  Randy Moss put together a solid season with Matt Cassel at the helm, and should return to elite status with Brady back.  Wes Welker just goes out there and catches pass after pass.  He should have no problem catching 100 balls for the third straight year.  He fits so nicely in their system.

The Patriots are usually pretty hush hush regarding injuries, but Brady may play a little more extensively in the preseason since he missed a full season.  So far Brady’s knee is not a cause for concern.

The Pats have a fairly strong schedule facing the Jets and Dolphins twice apiece, plus Baltimore, Tennessee, Carolina, and Jacksonville.  When their Offense is clicking, it doesn’t really matter who they face.  The key will be how Brady handles the pass rush.  He’s a pretty cool customer, but it’s hard to predict how he’ll react when he gets
knocked down a couple times.  My guess is he’ll be fine, but the human psyche is quite unpredictable.  For the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16) Brady faces Carolina, Buffalo, and Jacksonville.  Carolina and Jacksonville are home games so all three have the potential for inclement weather.  It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but something to keep in mind when you are weighing Brady against Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or holding off on a QB for a few rounds as Brady will likely go in the late first/early second round.

It’s hard to project numbers for Brady, but I’ll put him on a 4400, 30 TD season.  Those numbers are better than what I projected for Drew Brees, but I would still take Brees ahead of Brady because of the uncertainty of his knee.

Drew Brees
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Drew Brees has become the new Peyton Manning.  Not that Peyton isn’t a top tier QB anymore, but Brees has consistently delivered excellent fantasy football numbers the past three years.  He has thrown for 4400+ yards and 26+ TD the past three years.  Last year, he blew up throwing for 5069 yards and 34 TDs.  He had ten 300+ yard games (two 400+) and 11 multiple TD games.  He had only two games (vs. Washington & Carolina) where he failed to throw multiple TDs or for 250 yards.

Brees will once again be a top end fantasy QB.  He has a tough schedule facing Philadelphia, the Jets, the Giants, Miami, Carolina (twice), and New England.  His fantasy playoff schedule (Weeks 14-16) is relatively difficult as he faces Atlanta, Dallas, and Tampa Bay.  Regardless, Brees will still produce.  He should get better performances from Marques Colston and Reggie Bush in the passing game.  He will not only make due with the weapons he’s provided, but he’ll thrive. 

Drew Brees will likely be drafted in the late first/early second round of fantasy football drafts.  He will be one of the first three QBs taken along with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  He provides the least amount of risk of the big three as Brady is recovering from his knee injury and both MVP QBs had personnel changes as Tony Dungy retired and Josh McDaniels moved on to Denver.

I think he’ll take a step back this year with 4400 yards and 27 TDs.  Not quite last year, but still elite numbers.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees 
Brees is still top dog.  Although Tom Brady has answered some early questions, he still is more of a risk than Brees as the top gunslinger.
Previous Ranking:  #1

2. Tom Brady
Brady has answered some questions like I stated.  I moved him up a slot because now Manning has questions.  Brady and Bill will want to prove they are the reason for the explosive offense.
Previous Ranking:  #3

3. Peyton Manning
You have been able to pencil Manning for a solid 4000 yard, 25-28 TD season for forever, but without Dungy and Harrison, Manning doesn’t seem to be the lock he once was.
Previous Ranking:  #2

4.  Kurt Warner 
Boldin is still in town.  Warner’s fantasy football playoff schedule of  San Francisco, Detroit, and St. Louis in Weeks 14-16 solidify his high ranking.
Previous Ranking:  #4

5.  Aaron Rodgers
It’s been a quiet offseason for Rodgers and the Packers.  After last year’s fiasco, it must be very welcoming.  Rodgers can concentrate on playing football, something he did quite well last year despite the distractions.  I expect him to be even better in 2009.
Previous Ranking:  #5

 
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
They won’t throw as much, but Rivers has so many weapons (Gates, LT, Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Floyd, Sproles, etc.) that he’ll be just fine.
Previous Ranking:  #6

7.  Tony Romo
Romo is another one who has to be enjoying the relative quiet the departure of T.O. has created.  If Roy Williams can step up, Romo could be better by subtraction.
Previous Ranking:  #7

8.  Donovan McNabb
The addition of Jeremy Maclin, even if he’s similar to DeSean Jackson, is enough for me to move him up a couple of slots. 
Previous Ranking:  #10

9.  Matt Ryan
Ryan wasn’t in the first top ten group, but Atlanta has added Tony Gonzalez, the best pass-catching Tight End in NFL history.  With Gonzo, Roddy White, and Michael Jenkins, Ryan will have plenty of options.
Previous Ranking:  Unranked

10.  Carson Palmer
Palmer is still in my top ten, but he’s fading fast.  It appears that Ocho Cinco is going to be a problem again in 2009. 
Previous Ranking:  #9

*Jay Cutler was previous #8, but his move to Chicago and the lack of weapons moved him out of my top ten.

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Top Ten QB Rankings #1

This is my preseason top ten.Click here for my Midseason revised rankings.

Click here for my Second Half rankings.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees
All he did was pass for 5069 yards and 34 TDs last year despite having his top wideout, Marques Colston, miss five games.  In his three years with New Orleans Drew is averaging 4637 yards and 29 TDs.  To put it into perspective, Peyton Manning has never thrown for 4600 yards in a season.
2. Peyton Manning
Old reliable.  He has never thrown less that 26 TD passes in a season.  Only twice has his passing yardage dipped below the 4000 yard mark.  You can pretty much pencil him in for 4200 yards and 28 TDs.  Others may finish ahead of him, but the come at a higher risk.  For example, in 2006 the top five QBs were Manning, Brees, Bulger, Palmer, and Kitna.  In 2007 it was Brady, Romo, Manning, Big Ben, and Brees.  Last year it was Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Culter, and Warner (Manning was sixth).  The two constants are Brees and Manning, who happen to be my top two fantasy QBs for 2009,

3. Tom Brady
I know he’s coming off a major injury, but he’s had far more time than Carson Palmer had to rehab when he tore his knee.  Brady had 4806 yards and 50 TDs in 2007.  50 TDs.  Randy Moss and Wes Welker are still there.  Plus, don’t you get the feeling Bill Belichick wants Brady to put up huge numbers to discredit Josh McDaniels’ influence?  Matt Cassel was seventh in QB scoring last year, and with all due respect to Mr. Cassel, he is no Tom Brady.

4.  Kurt Warner
QB is the one position where players can maintain their excellence well into their thirties.  As long as Anquan Boldin is with the Cardinals, Warner remains one of the top QBs.  Even if he holds out or forces a trade, Warner has great weapons in Fitz, Steve Breaston, and Jerheme Urban.

5.  Aaron Rodgers
Rogers impressed me last year.  He was the second highest scoring QB despite having to deal with the Brett Favre circus and expectations.  With a year under his belt and a training camp in which he can just focus on football, I expect Rodgers to be the top young QB next year.  He has plenty of weapons and his ability to add points with his feet are a huge help.
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
I would rank Rivers higher, but I think he’ll have a couple of factors working against him next year.  First and foremost, I believe the Chargers Defense will be better in 2009.  They won’t be in as many shootouts next year.  Second, as their D improves, their reliance on the ground game will increase.  LT should be healthy and Sproles will get more carries.  Rivers’ yardage will remain around 4000, but the TD number (34) will take a hit.
7.  Tony Romo
Romo will miss T.O. on the field.  It’s had to replace a double-digit TD guy.  Roy Williams is solid, but he’s not T.O.  Defenses will be able to key in on Jason Witten more, meaning is go-to-guy could have more difficulty getting open.  Plus, with a trio of backs in MB3, Felix Jones, and Choice, the Cowboys could get back to more smashmouth football.
8.  Jay Cutler
In a perfect world Jay Cutler would probably be the third guy on my list.  Unfortunately there are several strikes against him.  Namely the ongoing drama with his new Coach and the potential four-game suspension of his top target Brandon Marshall.  He has the ability to climb this list, but as of now I’m a little leery of his situation.
9.  Carson Palmer
A healthy Palmer should easily be able to crack the Top 10.  Laveranues Coles is no T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he’s a solid wideout.  As long as Chad Ocho Cinco doesn’t force his way out of Cincinnati, Palmer should be able to throw for 4000 and 25 TDs.
10.  Donovan McNabb
Even if his team won’t give him the tools he needs to do his job, McNabb will find a way to make it work.  He always does.  Kevin Curtis should be healthy and DeSean Jackson has a year of experience.

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