QB Primer: Is Aaron Rodgers the true king of the passer castle?


That's the best way to describe the swift evolution of the NFL over the past five years.

This isn't your father's or even your older brother's league. It's a new time, a new era. Spread schemes, once widely accepted gimmicks peddled by Don "Air" Coryell in the 80s and used sporadically during the 90s and early 2000s, are now ordered in bulk. Even the most conservative teams have embraced it in some way. Last year's 229.7 per team per game passing yards average, the highest in history, is a product of that.

No shock, the paradigm shift has greatly impacted how fantasy owners draft, manage and succeed in the virtual game. Not long ago, if you reached for Peyton Manning in Round 1, endless ridicule was bound to follow. Unless the beneficiary of an incredible stroke of luck, you were widely considered the "dead money" dude of the league. However, last year, three quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady, were cornerstones on championship rosters, each ranking inside the top-12 among Yahoo! MVPs. Saints rock Drew Brees and mid-draft marvel Matt Stafford were also indispensable.

Don't expect the bombardment to subside anytime soon.

Passers not named Tim Tebow are pretty accurate these days. Targets are bigger, stronger and more athletic. And defenses more taxed. As a result, most would argue QB floors are higher, increasing the position's overall depth and reliability. Research supports this belief. Since 2007 only 26.7-percent of passers drafted as QB1s failed to finish inside the position's top-15, a bust rate considerably lower compared to wide receivers (33.3-percent) and running backs (33.3). Don't roster an elite signal caller this year, many fanalysts argue, and long therapeutic consultations with The Captain are inevitable.

Bottoms up.

So, what's the best way to attack QB in drafts this year? Who's slated to surprise? What commodities are doomed to fail? Here are eight pressing questions at the forefront of our minds:

Because QBs are at an all-time high in terms of overall worth the position is deeper than ever before. With that in mind, what's the best way to approach passers in drafts this season? Obviously draft position is important, but, in general, should owners attack early or exercise patience?

Andy — We've entered an era where elite QBs are delivering 5,000-yard seasons, with 40 TDs. It's fine to like the depth at this spot, but the scoring difference between the top 2-3 players and the guys at 8-12 will be (and has been) massive.

Brandon — I always say that it's all about your cheat sheet. If you have your list nailed, then you use it as your draft day bible. If that means that you take Tom Brady because he fell much further than he should, you take him. If it's instead a free-falling Philip Rivers several rounds later, it's all good. I can pretty much guarantee that someone among my top 10 QBs is going to fall into my lap well below where I thought they would go, and I'll be ready to pounce. And, frankly, given the depth at the position, as long as I'm getting one of those top 10 guys at a discount, I'm all good with whoever I end up getting.

Scott — Take what the room gives you, and don't be married to any strategy before the exercise begins. You can win with an elite QB, you can win with a second tier QB, and you can strike gold with a cheaper approach. Envision different paths.

Cam Newton shattered rookie records left and right last year, disproving the traditional "Thou shall not draft a rookie QB" commandment. His unforeseen rise has many owners believing Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck could also achieve great success in their inaugural campaigns. Are you buying the hype?

Brandon — Newton's dual threat ability is what propelled him to lofty fantasy heights. That's what intrigues me about RGIII (yes, I'm buying the hype on him). He's a better passer than Newton was as a rookie, and I like him wrapped in a Mike Shanahan system. RGIII is unlikely to rush for double-digit touchdowns, but he's going to pile up a lot of rushing yards. I'm expecting him to push the top 10 fantasy QBs. As for Luck, there's just not that rushing upside, nor do I expect the Colts offense to be as potent as Washington's. Luck is a nice backup flyer, in my mind, but it's unlikely that I'll be the one that ends up with him in my fantasy drafts.

Scott — I'm buying it, sure. Luck is as pro-ready as any quarterback since Peyton Manning, and Griffin's athleticism and coachability are off the charts. Both will be fantasy factors in 2012.

Dalton — I am. Can't expect Newton type production, but QBs are more pro ready than ever before. Griffin has a ton of upside because of his rushing ability, and Luck might be best prospect since Peyton Manning.

Every year it seems a mid-round sleeper morphs into an elite producer. In 2008 that guy was Aaron Rodgers. Last year, it was Matthew Stafford. Who will be the steal of the QB class this year?

Scott— We've already seen stardom from Philip Rivers, but this year you might get Top-5 stats from him at a price outside the Top 10. Perfect time to buy in.

Dalton — Carson Palmer, who got 8.6 YPA last season (second only to Aaron Rodgers) after sitting on his couch for the first half of the year. Lot of weapons in Oakland and should be a lot of shootouts in the AFC West.

Brad — RGIII definitely moves the meter. He's a perfect fit for Lucifer's bootleg offense, possesses better-than-advertised weapons, is crazy smart and can beat you in a variety of ways. Heart him. FF: 3,500-24-650-5

After the big five — Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Newton and Stafford — are off the board, who is the next man up?

Andy — I can build a strong case for Romo, Vick, both Mannings, Rivers, Ryan ... lots of guys. And for that reason, I'll almost never draft the sixth quarterback. If I miss the top-tier, I'll wait (and I'll still get my guy: Cutler).

Dalton — Michael Vick, and it's not particularly close. He still has the upside to finish as the No. 1 overall fantasy player.

Brad — No doubt, the Noise is down with the Vickness. Explosive offense, full off-season to prepare, healthy Maclin — he's undervalued at current 43.6 Y! ADP.

Sibling rivalry: Peyton versus Eli, who ya got?

Andy — I'm as high on Peyton as any of the Yahoo! experts — if he's ambulatory, I'm buying — but I'll still take Eli in this clash. He has a pair of excellent wideouts at his disposal in Nicks and Cruz, and he's coming off a 4,933-yard campaign.

Brandon — I'll take the guy who has averaged 30 TD passes and nearly 4,500 passing yards the past two years. The guy with two Super Bowl rings (which, I admit, is really meaningless outside the annual Manning family picnic). The guy without a surgically-fused neck. The guy who was born after Disco died, not the one that was born when "Turn the Beat Around" was the No. 1 dance single on the charts. I'll take Eli.

Scott — Eli Manning is a slam dunk: five years younger, better supporting case, no physical concerns or continuity issues.

What signal caller has the best shot of unseating Rodgers at No. 1 this year?

Andy — Drew Brees, no doubt. He's the NFL's most accurate passer, he never misses games, his receiving options are elite, and he just delivered the greatest single-season yardage total in league history.

Brad — It would come as no surprise if Vick once again donned the QB crown. He was the sixth-best QB in per game in '11, and he only rushed for one TD. And he's coming off the best offseason of his career.

Brandon — With the weapons that Tom Brady has at his command this season, he could take another serious run at 50 TD passes. He'd be my first choice to unseat Rodgers.

What quarterback are you willing to reach for in drafts this year?

Brandon — As I've already pointed out, my whole plan with the position is to not reach for a player. But there are a few QBs that I like more than the collective fantasy community. They are Tony Romo, RGIII, Matt Ryan and Jake Locker.

Scott — Put me down for Robert Griffin, along with everyone else. You're allowed to have fun in fantasy football, and this will be a fun offense.

Dalton — None, because I'm pretty stubborn on waiting for the position. If I were to take one early, however, it would be Cam Newton. I'm not sold his rushing TDs have to regress all that much with his ability inside the 10, and his passing will only get better.

What passer in your mind has the "cooties?"

Scott — Girls might be all tingly over Mark Sanchez, but he'll never match last year's 32 touchdowns (six rushing) with Tim Tebow around. The New York wideouts are radioactive as well.

Dalton — Based on ADP, I'd probably stay away from Peyton Manning. I'd rather his kid brother or Tony Romo.

Brad — This is more of a statement regarding the position as a whole, but A-Rod is one player I'll shy away from in standard 4-point/pass TD formats. Workhorse RBs, a rare breed, are worthier of a top-5 pick. Bigger fan of Stafford or Vick in Rounds 2 or 3.

Go deep. What late-round lottery ticket has the best odds to cash?

Andy — Carson Palmer is usually on the board around Pick 120, where there's not much risk. He averaged 8.4 yards per attempt last season, despite learning an offense on the fly. Love the young Oakland receivers, too.

Brad — Jake Locker is positively dreamy. His pass/run scoring upside is Vick-like. In what should be a much improved Titans offense, he's capable of top-12 numbers, with or without Bad News Britt.

Dalton — With his new weapons and a defense bound to regress, I wouldn't be shocked if Alex Smith turns into a sneaky play in deeper leagues. As for a home run, it's Tim Tebow. Although I'm sure he frowns on gambling.

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