Most fantasy experts agree that the top three fantasy quarterbacks heading into the 2012 season are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. However, I have noticed some different opinions about the fourth spot. I have found experts ranking Cam Newton next, while Matthew Stafford has been going higher in my recent mock drafts. I believe Stafford is the safer pick and will have more fantasy points in 2012.
In various 12-team mock drafts over the past month, Stafford has been consistently drafted late in the first round and early in the second. He had a great fantasy season in 2011, showing crucial improvement over his rookie season's performance. Stafford passed for 5,038 yards on 663 attempts, connecting for 41 touchdowns. Furthermore, his completion percentage of 63.5 was more than 10 points higher than his 2009 percentage of 53.3. The Lions will likely keep passing and allow Stafford to build upon the momentum he established last year, when he put himself into conversations concerning the league's top passers.
Newton had an excellent season as a rookie in 2011, throwing for 4,051 yards and completing 60 percent of his passes. However, he totaled only 21 touchdowns and threw 17 interceptions. Obviously, Newton's running ability adds to his fantasy value, after rushing for 706 yards and an additional 14 scores. In mock drafts I have seen, he is being selected in the second and third rounds.
NFL defenses may focus more on stopping Newton as a rusher and make him pass more often in short-yardage situations. Also, Newton may have to cut down on the rushing attempts and become more of a passer in order to stay healthy in the NFL.
Stafford has adjusted to the NFL and enters his fourth season having a great rapport with one of the game's best wide receivers in Calvin Johnson. While Newton does have Steve Smith as his top target, I expect him to encounter some growing pains in his second season.
The choice is easy to me, especially for non-keeper leagues. I think Stafford has the better chance to play all season, and he should be a more consistent fantasy scorer than Newton in 2012.
Mike Patton is a co-host on the Deep Sleeper Fantasy Football Podcast. He has been a fantasy enthusiast since 1997 and has won championships in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and pick 'em leagues.
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