I know what you're thinking. Another article ranking fantasy football players. They're about as common as "North West" jokes these days. Well don't worry, I agree. That's why my fantasy preview isn't your traditional list of things you already know, like that Tom Brady is a good quarterback and that Adrian Peterson is a robot. I'll give you stats, facts, historical data, and a few opinions. I'll drop one every Sunday from now until August - just in time for your draft. Quarterbacks are up first!
NEED TO KNOW NUMBERS:
Of the top 30 scoring leaders in 2012, 20 were quarterbacks (ESPN standard scoring). This includes the likes of Josh Freeman (#17), Carson Palmer (#23), and Ryan Fitzpatrick (#29). Yes, you read that correctly. Carson Palmer, a guy who I blew past in my drafts last year without a second thought, had more fantasy points than Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Ray Rice, and Dez Bryant.
However, the difference in point totals between Drew Brees - who was #1 in total scoring - and Ryan Fitzpatrick, was 136 points! If you average that out through a standard regular season (13 games), it translates to almost 10.5 more points a game from Brees. That translates to a lot more wins.
Not only was there a substantial drop from Brees to Fitz, but there was a 20 point drop in total scoring from the 3rd highest quarterback (A. Rodgers) to the 4th highest (C. Newton). There was also a 20 point drop from the 7th (M. Ryan) to the 8th (T. Romo). And again, a 20 point drop from 11th (R. Wilson) to the 12th (A. Dalton).
Don't expect a guy you've never heard of to make a big fantasy impact. That might happen with running backs and receivers, but not with quarterbacks. So identifying sleepers is kind of a waste of time. That said, there are guys who can make the fantasy leap. Look at Matt Ryan in 2012, or Matthew Stafford in 2011. If I had to pick a leaper in 2013 - other than the obvious Colin Kaepernick - it's Sam Bradford. The Rams added Jake Long to help the offensive line, and Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Jared Cook to give Bradford more weapons. This will also be Bradford's first NFL season with the same offensive coordinator from the year before.
Aaron Rodgers. He's been a top-three fantasy QB for five years in a row and is only 29 years old. Yes, the offensive line has problems, but that didn't stop him last year from putting up 39 TD's to only 8 INT's. And yes, there's no more Greg Jennings, but Jennings had a total of 57 fantasy points last season (with 34 of them coming in week 16 and 17). So needless to say, Rodgers didn't miss him last year. I'm sure he won't miss him this year either. If Rodgers is on the board, he's got to be yours.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Go back to the first stat from this post. Of the top 30 scorers in 2012, 20 were QB's. What does that mean? One word: depth. If you're picking early and Rodgers or Brees are there, my advice is to take them. The elite level of consistency they bring is too good to pass up. However, think of the guys you could get in rounds 2, 3, or even 4 that would be solid starters: Newton, RGIII, Wilson, Kaepernick, Luck, Ryan, Stafford, Romo. All of these guys averaged 16 points a game or more last season in ESPN scoring. And that list doesn't include Eli, Big Ben, or Joe Flacco (who would want to remind us that Cam Cameron is not his offensive coordinator anymore and he threw 15 TD's and 1 INT to close out last season's Super Bowl run). Are there drops from the "super-elite" group, to the "very very good" group, to the "random guy in the league" group? Of course. Like I said above, expect a 20 point dip from class to class, but if you average that 20 points out across 13 games, it's a point and a half difference a week. Maybe Carson Palmer isn't such a bad idea after all.