Last season we saw a lot of great performances that led several teams to unexpected riches. This year the same thing will happen. The question is who will they be, and who can you count on to repeat their otherworldly numbers? The last thing you want at a fantasy draft is to get a rotator cuff injury reaching for a guy who's not going to do your team justice at the spot where you picked him.
One person you don't want to hang your season on is Arizona Cardinals' quarterback, Kurt Warner. The ageless wonder was lights out in 2008, leading his team to the Super Bowl and playing like a top 5 fantasy QB. It won't happen again. In football years he's practically on social security. He's already got a bum hip he'll have to play with all season. That doesn't bode well for a guy who likes to throw a lot of passes, and who has to make sharp turns to hand off balls. I can see too many fumbles in his future. My prediction is he won't play a full season. But even if he does, don't expect another 2008 performance. Most of the fantasy sites are slotting him as either 4th or 5th best QB option. Don't hurt yourself or your team making that reach. He should be drafted no earlier than the sixth round.
Tony Romo had a down year for the Dallas Cowboys last season; with a paltry 3450 passing yards and 26 TDs. But he still managed to eek into the top 10 at his position. This season he and the team are in a better place, and the dark cloud that was T.O. has moved to snowier climbs. I believe Romo will get back to 4000 yards and about 30 TDs this season and will end in the top 5-6 QB rankings. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he'll out-perform the gentleman listed below.
Another overrated signal caller this season will be the perennial top three QB, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. Don't misunderstand me. Peyton is a model of consistency as a QB, and a fairly safe pick. But not in the first or second round, and in 10 team leagues, not even in the early third round. He should be the 5th QB off the board after Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. I could even make an argument here for Romo ahead of him as well. Even Matt Cassell out performed him by a couple of fantasy points in 2008, depending on your scoring configuration. His passer rating has dropped every year since 2004 when it was 121, and last season marked his lowest TD total in seven years. He started the season with three games of one TD each, and a sub-100 passer rating. Down the stretch, which is playoff time for us fantasy fiends, he threw for one TD or less in three of his final five games, including a donut against Cleveland and a 1 TD performance against 0-16 Detroit.
Another QB I think will take forward strides this season is the Houston Texans', Matt Schaub. He's only played 11 games each of the last two seasons, but I'm going to count him in for 15 this year. I expect 25 TDs and about 3700 passing yards. He has a great pass receiving RB in Steve Slaton, and a solid receiving corp. led by Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniel. The Texans are an offensive explosion when Schaub stays healthy. He's worth an 8th round pick in standard leagues, and not much of a reach in the 7th round.
And while I was hoping not to have to mention his name this season, drafting Brett Favre as anything other than a back-up QB is just fantasy suicide. I don't know who should be more embarrassed, the Vikings for opening the door, or Favre for knocking on it. You're tarnishing your legend, Brett. Put down the pigskin and back away. No one has to get hurt. Especially not anyone's fantasy team. Did people not watch his putrid 2008 season? He had 22 TDs and 22 interceptions. The Vikings don't have any more weapons than the Jets did. And now he's another season older, and a missed training camp from season readiness. Pass on Brett the purple dinosaur.
I know big Ben Roethelisberger is not a fantasy production machine, so he's not a premium QB option. However, in 2009 the Pittsburgh Steelers have the fourth easiest strength of schedule, which should make him a bit more valuable than in previous years. I see him as a low end number one option you can pick up around the late 9th, early 10th round.
Matt Ryan had an unbelievable rookie season. He will be a solid QB for years to come, but don't expect a move forward from last year's performance. He'll be hard pressed not to fall backward a bit, statistically speaking. In 2008 he was aided by a very favorable schedule. This season he faces the fourth toughest. He should not be drafted ahead of Schaub, Carson Palmer or Jay Cutler, but his ADP says he is going only one pick behind Donovan McNabb. If you're in a keeper of dynasty league this might be okay, but in standard leagues it will be a mistake in 2009.
One guy who gets no love is Jacksonville Jaguars' QB, David Garrard. He managed to stay on the field for all 16 games last season and quietly put up 3942 total yards. Only 17 TDs, but many of his air targets took the low road by way of Maurice Jones-Drew. Expect some of those TDs to take the high road this season. Garrard still ended 2009 as the 9th best fantasy QB, ahead of Romo and Ryan. I predict about 3700 yards passing, 300+ rushing, and 24 TDs.
Finally, my risk pick as a low end number one QB option-- Matt Hassleback. Matt's back, and a healthy Hassleback with a healthy receiving corp., neither of which we saw in 2008, is good for 4000 yards and 28 TDs. He seems to be off most people's radar, so if you take a mid-round QB, back him up with Hassleback. He has the potential for a very fantasy productive season. You could have a worse number one, but he's definitely a worthy high-end QB2.
Kyle Orton - Denver Broncos: if I have to explain this one to you, it's time to stop playing fantasy football.