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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

Top 10 Dropouts
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

“Past performance does not guarantee future results.” No kidding, right? Football junkies such as myself have long comprehended the wisdom in that little caveat emptor, fastening our fantasy hopes and dreams to NFL players whose performance often fluctuates wildly from one year (or even one game) to the next. Nevertheless, this knowledge never stops us from bravely predicting the unpredictable come every August.

In that spirit, I’ve attempted to handicap the future performance of the game’s elite, fool’s errand though it may be. I’ll examine the reigning top 10 quarterbacks and take a stab at determining who is likely to maintain that status, and who is bound to disappoint, in 2011. I’ll use as my guide the lessons we may have learned from the dropout class of 2010. Sound like a plan? Let’s do this.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s default standard scoring.

  Top 10 Quarterbacks - 2009
Rank Player
1 Aaron Rodgers
2 Drew Brees
3 Matt Schaub
4 Peyton Manning
5 Tony Romo
6 Brett Favre
7 Tom Brady
8 Ben Roethlisberger
9 Philip Rivers
10 Eli Manning
  Top 10 Quarterbacks - 2010
Rank Player
1 Peyton Manning
2 Aaron Rodgers
3 Drew Brees
4 Philip Rivers
5 Michael Vick
6 Tom Brady
7 Eli Manning
8 Matt Schaub
9 Matt Ryan
10 Josh Freeman

Missed the Cut in 2010 (3 of 10): T. Romo, B. Favre, and B. Roethlisberger

This trio of top 10 dropouts included one surprise (Romo), one non-surprise (Roethlisberger), and one surprise that really shouldn’t have been (Favre). The Wisconsin-bred Romo managed to do something in 2010 his idol never did in sixteen professional seasons with the Pack: miss a game. Lots of them, actually. This, of course, is why Tony Romo toppled out of the ranks of the elite on the heels of a very impressive 2009. Tough break, for sure, but there’s no reason to think he won’t bounce back this season provided he’s fully healthy. After all, on a per-game basis, he was firmly entrenched in the top 10 and I fully expect, provided he plays more than six games, he’ll rejoin that select group in 2011.

Another guy who probably joins him barring injury or, um, further malfeasance is Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben also missed games in 2010 but not on account of his health. Rather, the Steelers’ main man ran afoul of the authorities and got the four-game boot from Commissioner Goodell to start the season. Like Romo, however, he was stellar in the games he did suit up and even managed, despite the late start, to lead his squad to the Super Bowl. Not too shabby, I should say. For all the emphasis Pittsburgh places on running the football and playing nasty defense, they’re truly a title contender when Roethlisberger’s slinging it all over the yard. Expect more of the same this coming year.

Only the dwindling faction of Favre fanatics and/or the incurably optimistic couldn’t have seen #4’s freefall coming. As a recovering devotee and near 40-year old, I should probably sympathize with a man succumbing to middle age. Nevertheless…well, let’s just say Favre makes it really difficult to wax nostalgic about those glory days in green and gold. Besides, we couldn’t really have expected him to continue performing like a man 10-15 years younger, could we? To wit, I’m instituting a new fantasy football golden rule for 2011. Call it the Brett Favre rule. If you’re older than me, you won’t be quarterbacking my fantasy squad. If only actual NFL teams would follow suit.

Most Likely to Fall in 2011:

Josh Freeman

Joseph, pickin' on the new guy.

Josh Freeman, TB: Sure, pick on the new guy, why don’t I? Freeman was certainly a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners in 2010, following up a supremely shaky freshman campaign (10 TDs v. 18 picks) with a superb sophomore season (25 TDs v. six INTs and 3,000+ yards). On top of that, he scampered for 364 more yards, trailing only Michael Vick amongst quarterbacks. In other words, he’s young, strong, accurate, and can make it happen with his legs when the pocket breaks down. What’s not to like, right? Well….

Warning sign #1: Freeman played, arguably, the weakest schedule of any QB in the top ten. Aside from the obligatory home-and-homes with playoff-caliber division mates, Atlanta and New Orleans, the Bucs faced only three other playoff teams, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and (cough) Seattle. He was crummy in losses to the Steelers (minus Big Ben) and the Ravens and below average in two losses to the Falcons. He was also just average in another loss to New Orleans. Granted, he was lights out in a Week 16 drubbing of the Seahawks and stellar in a season-concluding payback win over the Saints. Nevertheless, the young signal-caller was only 2-5 against playoff competition in 2010 and…

Warning sign #2: …there’s much more where that came from in 2011. Gone are the aforementioned opponents along with Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona, Washington, Detroit, and San Francisco. In their place are Green Bay, Indianapolis, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Jacksonville, and…Detroit and San Francisco (whew!) Only those final two doormats can be safely excluded from the playoff chatter. I guess there’s a reason Vegas is expecting a pullback (+/- eight wins at last check) from the Bucs this year.

Warning sign #3: Freeman amassed almost four bills on the ground in 2010, but he didn’t score a single touchdown with his feet. Heck, even Jon Kitna ran one in last year! It’s not that he isn’t capable, but why risk the franchise when you’ve got LGB to do the goal-line dirty work for you? (By the way, GO DUCKS!)

Matt Schaub, HOU: Raise your hand if you knew Matt Schaub threw for the fourth most yards in the NFL last season. Mine is still by my side because I owned him and remember precisely one transcendent performance (Week 2 vs. Washington) and a whole bunch of pedestrian 250-300 yard, single-TD outings. I also remember my record in that particular league, though I’m certainly trying to forget it (think sub-.500).

Schaub is a serviceable signal-caller who could and maybe should be spectacular. He’s accurate, durable (for the last two seasons, at least), and has at his disposal the game’s most lethal wideout, Andre Johnson. Still, where’s the wow factor? He failed to notch at least two TD passes in half his starts last year and has failed to throw for more than 30 TDs or fewer than 10 picks in any season thus far. Could you live with 29 and 15, his numbers in 2009? Sure you could, especially when he bests the 4,000-yard mark. It’s just that when a guy throws for more than 4,000 yards (he’s actually gone over 4,300 two years in a row), it would seem 30 TDs should be an easy benchmark to attain. His prodigious yardage output feels like so many empty calories, making him the fantasy football equivalent of a Hostess cupcake.

Add to the equation the sudden emergence of premier yardage-gobbler, Arian Foster, and you start to see why I’m bearish on Schaub’s chances of holding onto his spot in the top 10. I hope I’m wrong (the aforementioned league involves keepers, after all) but if I were a betting man—and I am—I’d bank on somebody replacing him in the ranks of the elite come 2011.

Michael Vick, PHI: I can already hear the boo-birds warming up. Trust me, people. I get it. I’ve historically been a sucker for the über-talented since I started participating in this wacky hobby. This guy might be the most “über” of them all. Nevertheless, consider the following facts. Vick has played all 16 games in just one of his six professional seasons. He routinely carries the ball 8-10 times per game. He’s been a top six-sack victim in each of his last four seasons as a full-time starter (non-consecutive, of course). See where I’m going with all of this? Throw in the fact he’s topped the 3,000-yard mark just once in his career (last year) and hit the twenty passing TD threshold twice, and the Vick portfolio starts to look rather risky.

To be fair, his legs are the primary reason Vick is such an otherworldly talent to begin with, even if they ensure he’ll take more punishment than most. How many non-NCAA QBs do you know of who are capable of tallying 600+ yards and nine touchdowns on the ground? Also, he’s coming off merely the single most impressive per-game performance in fantasy football history. Statistical outlier or not, the numbers are eye-popping and exceedingly difficult to ignore.

Still, from a risk/reward standpoint, you have to admit Michael Vick is the most volatile fantasy asset of them all. The potential reward is off the charts. The potential risk, based on where he’ll likely be drafted, is similarly chart-topping. Do you pass because of it? I sure wouldn’t but I’m not exactly risk-averse. I’m just saying (again) buyer beware.

Next: Running Backs