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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

Top 10 Dropouts - Quarterbacks
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

When FFToday asked me to author this piece a year ago, I figured it was a pretty low-risk proposition. I mean, yes, I was going to be sticking my neck out and projecting performance over an entire season (margin of error +/- 100%). But does anyone really go back and check this stuff? Would anyone actually be keeping score?

Thank God for Al Gore and his Internet, I always say! Turns out I’m pretty good at this prognostication business. That, or I’m just really lucky and the column you’re about to read isn’t going to be worth the pixels it’s displayed on in six months. Tell you what: I promise to keep it entertaining if you promise to conveniently forget these predictions next summer should they end up being completely off the mark. Deal?

Without further ado, let’s examine the Top10 quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers from 2011—along with those who dropped out from 2010—and see if we can identify some potential underachievers for the upcoming 2012 season.

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

  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
  Top 10 Quarterbacks - 2011
Rank Player
1 Drew Brees
2 Aaron Rodgers
3 Tom Brady
4 Cam Newton
5 Matthew Stafford
6 Eli Manning
7 Philip Rivers
8 Matt Ryan
9 Tony Romo
10 Mark Sanchez

Missed the Cut in 2011 (4 of 10): P. Manning, M. Vick, M. Schaub, J. Freeman

The extent of Peyton Manning’s injury hadn’t been determined—or at least publicly acknowledged—as of press time last year. The suspense actually continued into the first several weeks of the season, long after barely suspecting owners had gobbled him up in their respective drafts. Best case, you drafted late and he was a mid-round “value” pick with significant upside. Worst case? Well, use your imagination. The bottom line is he went from being the No. 1 fantasy signal caller in 2010 to literally not playing a down in 2011. Ouch.

Speaking of ouch…. Though Manning’s forced sabbatical was surely rough on fantasy GMs, most at least had enough time to troll for a competent stand-in. This was not the case for those of you who ignored my warnings (tsk, tsk) and put all your fantasy eggs in Michael Vick’s basket. It’s not that Vick was awful (he ranked 12th overall at the position) or even that he missed an unusual amount of games (just three). However, he wasn’t the dual-threat demon he had been in 2010, and I’m guessing Weeks 11 through 13 weren’t exactly the most ideal weeks to be without his services.

On the bright side, the Philly Phlash did return for the fantasy playoff stretch run. This is more than can be said for Matt Schaub who, following an absurdly efficient performance in Week 9, never returned to action for the rest of the season. Schaub wasn’t exactly tearing things up before his hiatus (ask me how I know this) but he was solid enough and playing in a solid enough offense to keep balanced contenders in the mix.

Josh Freeman, the last of our floundering four, was decidedly nonsolid for most of 2011, though plenty healthy. Despite throwing a whole bunch more passes and adding four rushing scores to his overall ledger (he had none in his breakout 2010 season), the developing field general managed only 16 passing touchdowns and flung a whopping 22 picks, just one fewer than league leader Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the same number erstwhile Tampa punchline Vinny Testaverde tossed in his third season with the Bucs. Like I said…ouch.

The Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top Ten This Year:

Cam Newton, CAR: The preceding trio notwithstanding, the Top 10 class of QBs in 2011 was, without question, the single most productive in fantasy history, evidenced by the fact that five of them easily surpassed the 400-point mark, young Mr. Newton included. To put that in perspective, only four QBs have bested that total in the previous 10 years combined! Just in case you needed further proof that the NFL has become primarily a passing league.

So, why am I so sure the wunderkind from Auburn will slump in this, his sophomore, season? Well, I’m not. In fact, I’m not at all convinced, though history suggests three of the Top 10 will fall from the ranks of the elite in 2012. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, here’s why he might.

Newton tallied a whole bunch of those 400+ points with his preternaturally powerful legs. His 14 rushing touchdowns, in fact, were second only to LeSean McCoy’s 17 on the season. If you don’t think defensive coordinators didn’t spend all offseason devising ways to keep the big fella in the pocket, you haven’t watched much NFL football. He’ll still be insanely dangerous when tucking and running (not to mention barrels of fun to watch), but 14 is a ton. I’d take the under for 2012.

Even if Newton continues to be a terror on the ground, I suspect he’ll never be a polished professional passer. I remember watching him struggle in the 2011 BCS chip against my Ducks (GO DUCKS!), and my opinion of him as a thrower hasn’t changed: He looks pretty chucking it, yet the results are sometimes anything but. Indeed, his quarterly yardage splits from last year support this observation and tell a pretty troubling tale. Despite averaging 346.5 passing yards per game through his first four starts, Newton’s average dropped to 251.75 in his next four, and then to 226.0 and 188.5, respectively, in the successive four-game sets to finish out the year. In other words, he ended the season averaging almost 150 yards per game fewer than he had in the beginning. If that’s not a downward trend, I’m not sure what is.

Eli Manning

Which Manning would you prefer?

Eli Manning, NYG: First Newton and now the reigning Super Bowl MVP? Shall I have my head examined? Manning’s about as solid as they come these days. He’s topped the 4000-yard mark three years running. He’s won two of the last five Super Bowls. He’s handled himself with aplomb in the sport’s biggest fishbowl. In short, what’s not to like?

For starters, there’s his 82.1 career passer rating. That’s worse than all of the following quarterbacks, none of whom will be threatening to crack the Top 10 anytime soon: Jason Campbell, Matt Cassel, David Garrard (does he still play?), and Joe Flacco (yawn). Sure, there are more important things than passer rating when it comes to fantasy calculations, but I’m of the belief a more comprehensive measuring stick for overall production at the position has yet to be found.

Additionally (and this explains the aforementioned passer rating), the younger Manning continues to be, after eight professional seasons, habitually turnover-prone. Even during his eminently successful 2011 campaign, he managed to throw 16 passes to the bad guys. In fact, he’s only kept his pick total under 14 once as a full-time, full-year starter. For the sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the respective gold standards at the position, haven’t gone over that number in 14 combined seasons as the main men.

Finally, Manning’s heading into the 2012 season with a lot of new pieces around him. Gone are Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard, and Brandon Jacobs. MIA for training camp is his No. 1 target, Hakeem Nicks. Is it really so hard to imagine the G-Men suffering a post-Super Bowl hangover and getting off to a sluggish start? Put it this way: if I were forced to draft a Manning this upcoming season, it wouldn’t be this one.

Mark Sanchez, NYJ: OK, so I’m not exactly going out on a limb here with guys like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick champing at the bit to reclaim Top 10 status. I’m aware. Here’s what I absolutely wasn’t aware of: Gotham’s other quarterback, the much maligned Mark Sanchez, actually ended up being a Top 10 QB in 2011! How in the world did that happen?

For starters, The Sanchise didn’t miss a single game. In fact, he’s only missed one start in three full seasons as the Jets’ field general. Half the battle of attaining Top 10 status (and maybe more than half) is staying upright. Also, for a guy who will never be confused with the aforementioned Vick or the soon-to-be-mentioned Tim Tebow (spoiler alert!), Sanchez has turned into a super-sneaky source of rushing touchdowns these past three years. Despite averaging just 100 yards per season (and a pedestrian 3.0 yds per carry), he’s already tallied 12 touchdowns on the ground in his brief career, six of them in 2011 alone.

Alas, the wildly popular Tebow now brings his hugely unorthodox talents to the Big Apple, clouding Mr. Sanchez’s immediate future. How ironic that the latter, a surprisingly productive scorer on the ground, should be crowded up by one of the game’s most prolific running quarterbacks. The former Trojan may have nothing to fear in the long term, but there’s no question Tebow Time will impinge upon this particular aspect of his game. Forced to fall back on a 73.2 career passer rating (yuck), the Top 10 is probably going to be a distant memory for Mark Sanchez come 2013.

Next: Running Backs