One thing is certain as I enter my third year of writing about fake football: it’s never too early for rankings. Never.We’re roughly six months away fromt he start of the 2013 NFL season, but for many, the season has already begun. Free agency started on Tuesday (March 12), and everyone’s rankings should be a bit jumbled. I guess that’s what I’m supposed to be here – to sort out the post-free agency mess that we have here. It’s time to get started on my 2013 fantasy football rankings.
Quarterbacks will be first, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends (in that order) will come in the coming days. I’ll be ranking 40 quarterbacks today, all will have at least some analysis on their 2013 status and some of my thoughts. I won’t rank rookies until they are drafted. Let’s get to it.
1. Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers finished as the third best quarterback in fantasy in 2012 after being drafted as the first quarterback in most leagues and he lost one of his targets in Greg Jennings, so why is he at No. 1 again? He’s the most consistent quarterback out there. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these first five (the elite fantasy quarterbacks), but if I’m taking a quarterback early, I’m looking for Rodgers.
2. Peyton Manning - Some experts are down on Manning because of his age, but how is that even possible? He has the hands down best receiving corps in the NFL with the addition of Wes Welker in free agency. He was the fifth highest scoring fantasy quarterback in 2012 coming off of back surgery. The Broncos also have the easiest schedule in the NFL by team’s records in 2012.
3. Cam Newton - He ran for eight touchdowns last year and got better as an all-around quarterback. In a weekly game, there’s not a quarterback who dominates his good matchups quite like Newton does. For Newton’s sake, let’s all hope they can bring in a WR via the draft to complete the duo with Steve Smith.
4. Drew Brees - Just like any of these other guys, you really can’t go wrong. I’ve always been a little weary on Brees (emphasis on little) because of his turnovers. He tends to throw more interceptions than any of these other guys.
5. Tom Brady - Brady was the second highest scoring fantasy quarterback in 2013, but he lost Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. their offense should be a bit different next year, especially if Danny Amendola is their No. 1 WR. Julian Edelman is also a free agent that they’d have to re-sign to get back.
6. Matt Ryan - Ryan is a sure-fire No. 6 for me, but he’s no where close to those elite five yet. Ryan played the best season of his career with some dynamic threats on his side of the ball, but still was only the seventh highest scoring QB in 2013. Expect around the same production out of Ryan.
7. Colin Kaepernick - Kaepernick averaged just over 20 points per game in his eight starts in 2012. Extend that over sixteen games and Kaepernick is the fourth best fantasy quarterback. Why can’t he do it again? Everything is in place for him to do so, in fact they added Aquan Boldin, and I might even be some what low on him. Don’t be scared to take Kaepernick or Newton just because they rely on their feet a lot of the time.
8. Robert Griffin III - He won’t be drafted as the seventh quarterback off the board, and you will be getting a steal. With the recovery timetable for knee restructures today, I don’t expect Griffin to be back later than Week 3, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he started the season at quarterback for the Redskins. They are going to need some wide receivers though. Fred Davis could be moving to Cleveland, as the Browns are interested in him, which leaves Logan Paulsen – who just signed a new deal with the team — at the tight end spot, and Paulsen isn’t a receiving tight end. They also released Santana Moss, so the depth chart drops off after Pierre Garcon. Griffin has some steep hills to overcome, but he can very likely finished 2013 as a top five quarterback.
9. Tony Romo - Tony Romo is Tony Romo. You know what you’re getting. He’s very consistent — he had no single digit games after the bye week in 2012, but threw 19 interceptions, tied for his career high.
10. Russell Wilson - Big cheer for Wilson, whose fantasy value scored big with the addition of Percy Harvin via trade with the Vikings. Wilson averaged 23 points per game in his final six games (after the bye) in 2012 then kept it going into the playoffs, where Seattle made it to the Divisional Round. The Seahawks are dangerous.
11. Andrew Luck - Luck will move forward with the same team he has in 2012 and will only get better. He’s not a big time touchdown thrower, but he’s going to get you 13-18 points on a regular basis. He’s a solid quarterback if you can get him late in drafts.
12. Matthew Stafford - Stafford also had a down year in 2012 and the Lions are lacking targets after Calvin Johnson. I’d look for them to go after another receiver in the draft. In the meantime, I’m expecting Stafford to bounce back. I’m comfortable if Stafford is my quarterback, and he should come at a low price.
13. Eli Manning - Manning struggled last season, and that’s an understatement. He had some major lows that really hurt fantasy owners, including a three-week touchdown drought in the middle of the season.
14. Michael Vick - So much upside. If you can get Vick as your back up once you have filled out your starting lineup and then some, go for it. This is the type of upside you want off of your bench.
15. Ben Roethlisberger - Threw a touchdown in every game he played. Still put up good numbers despite the rib injury, too. A solid, high-end backup. I wouldn’t mind him as a starter, either, to be honest. I don’t expect the loss of Mike Wallace to Miami to effect his value all that much.
16. Sam Bradford - Hmm. Bradford’s clock is ticking with the Rams. He played just averagely in 2012. If you plug him in your lineup, you can expect around 12 points. Jared Cook is now with the Rams, but Danny Amendola is gone. That could sting. Second-year receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens should have a bigger presence on the outside. He hasn’t been talked about much since his rookie season, so could this be his year? I think it very much can be and will be.
17. Matt Schaub - Schaub sure had a lot of unimpressive games in 2012. What’s new? Schaub isn’t going to impress you, but in good matchups he can get the job done. Texans should be looking for a No. 2 wide receiver (likely via the draft) after cutting Kevin Walter.
18. Josh Freeman - Freeman showed flashes in 2012 just as he does every year, but not enough to raise his value. He’s typically going to be a solid QB2, but certainly should not be relied on as a starter.
19. Joe Flacco - The Super Bowl champion is just a QB2, but a very solid choice for your QB2. The bad thing about Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense is that they were very sporadic. You never know what you’re going to get on a week-to-week basis, good matchup, bad matchup, rain, wind, shine — didn’t matter.
20. Carson Palmer - Still has a chance of being cut by Oakland. If he isn’t, however, you should depend on him as your QB2. He puts up fantasy numbers, that’s what counts. No matter how bad of a pure quarterback he is, he scores fantasy points and always has.
21. Andy Dalton - I’m still skeptical on Dalton. He hasn’t shown great flashes against either of his division rivals (Steelers and Ravens) with just 25 points in the four games against those two teams, and I’m not to confident in putting him in my lineup on a week-to-week basis. I could see him taking the next step forward, but he’s just a very good all-around quarterback.
22. Jay Cutler - Just as most quarterbacks at this point, Cutler is inconsistent as hell. I mean, he had two points against the Packers pass defense. His second highest scoring game was against Seattle. You just never know with this guy. I’d stay away.
23. Alex Smith - A new team fro Smith means new opportunity. The Chiefs still need more weapons,probably through the draft, but Anthony Fasano and the re-signing of Dwayne Bowe might just do the trick. I’m very excited to see this team under Andy Reid. Funny stat: Alex Smith outscored Mark Sanchez last season in just eight starts.
24. Jake Locker - I’m willing to have Locker as my QB2 if he’s taken in the last couple of rounds. He shows flashes of potential, and that’s what I want out of a QB2 who I can get very late. Expect him to start at quarterback fort he Titans with plenty of upside.
25. Philip Rivers - Rivers tanked in 2012, plain and simple. That being said, his receivers were lacking (and still are), and Antonio Gates’ career is waning. I’d rather take a few guys under Rivers (Tannehill or Dalton) in a draft before Rivers for their upside. I don’t expect his results to fluctuate much in 2012, although I don’t think he will slump as badly as he did last season.
26. Ryan Tannehill - Tannehill is an upside pick. He has a couple of good games last year with almost nothing at WR, now they have a trio of Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Davone Bess. That trio is going to help Tannehill out a lot. It’ll be a “show me” year for him, but I’m comfortable letting him fly at QB2 if I can get an elite QB1.
27. Christian Ponder - There’s this competition with Matt Cassell stuff — I don’t buy it. He’ll push Ponder in practice (maybe), but I don’t expect much more. Just like Flacco, Ponder is streaky and has a lot of bad games just out of the blue. For example: Against Detroit last season, in the first matchup he had four fantasy points, in the next he had 18. You just enver know. The departure of Percy Harvin is really going to sting to not just Ponder but to the whole team in 2013.
28. Brandon Weeden - I still believe Weeden will and should be the starter in Cleveland. They need to bring in some weapons around him (a little too late to do that in free agency) via the draft. Cleveland has been moving in the right direction, and I hope they don’t go and change all of it because of the new owner and GM, but it’s looking like it could.
29. Chad Henne - Henne should start over Blaine Gabbert.
30. Mark Sanchez - Who really knows if Mark Sanchez is going to start in 2013 or not? We know there are other options out there (Kevin Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, rookies), so the Jets will have opportunities to replace him. They’re also going to need some wide receiver help outside of the washed-up Santonio Holmes.
Quarterbacks to Watch
Ryan Mallett - I believe a trade is still on the table for Mallett. He would make an immediate impact for a team who needs a starting quarterback.
Tim Tebow - This sounds crazy, but we know Tebow won’t be a member of the Jets next season. He should wind up somewhere, and he if he gets playing time, he could make some waves fantasy wise if he gets on the field.
Matt Cassel - Should compete with Christian Ponder for the starting job.
Blaine Gabbert - Gabbert and Chad Henne is a toss up. Who knows who is going to start. Jaguars have remained consistent in that they will give Gabbert one more year to start. I think Henne will beat him too badly to not win the job. We’ll see.
Kirk Cousins - If Robert Griffin III’s knee recovery is delayed in any way, Cousins would immediately step up as the starter and will be a low-end QB2.