Before last season, I took my first shot at making a set of fantasy football guidelines – I hate calling them rankings, even though I technically ranked players – in which I offered my humble advice for the average football fan taking his first dip in the fake sports pool. The results were 6 readers who claimed they won their leagues drafting with just my guidelines, which is impressive because only 5 people typically read my posts, and I won one league, finished third in another and missed the playoffs in the third (it’s my auction league, so it really doesn’t count).
The point is, I trust my gut when it comes to fantasy football because I have faith in my common sense. Obviously, some of you have probably already drafted – I drafted 2 of my 5 leagues (ugh) this past Monday – but I believe that in this time of holdouts and no-shows it’s best to wait. If you share that philosophy, and your draft is still ahead of us – I still have 2 more (ugh) – then this is for you. If you have already drafted, then you can at least offer your insight into why I’m wrong. Lord knows you guys love doing that.
That said, I give you the first installment of the 2012 With Leather Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Knowing Your Quarterbacks.
The Top Tier
My personal theory on winning your fantasy football league suggests that the ideal lineup would feature a top tier QB/RB/WR. Obviously, that’s not always possible, because there are only so many to go around. Consider these your “can’t-miss” quarterbacks (like this is any shocking revelation):
Aaron Rodgers – Everybody has ol’ photobomber ranked No. 1 and I can’t necessarily argue it. He’s an awesome QB and the Miami Dolphins could have had him, but they’re run by sock puppets, so he keeps the Green Bay Packers relevant every season with a huge passing attack.
Drew Brees – I feel like Drew Brees might have the best statistical passing season (translating to bigger fantasy numbers) because I assume every game is going to be a shootout. I could be wrong. I often am. But between the chip on the shoulder from “Bountygate” and all those receivers, I feel like it’s a safe bet.
Tom Brady – Every time someone mentions that Tom Brady is 35, I say: “Wait, what?” For some reason it never sinks in. It has to sink in with his skills eventually, but I think he’s safe for at least one more season with all of those guys who catch things well. Football.
The Next Best
These are guys who should be great, and they will probably give you awesome numbers, but the tiniest little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering, “Dude, watch them be terrible.” Basically, I need to see them repeat last season before I crown them.
Matt Stafford – I love Calvin Johnson. I love Titus Young. I love Brandon Pettigrew. I even love Kevin Smith if his paper ankles stay healthy. So Stafford should be awesome this season and this is just me being paranoid. (I spent $54 on him in my auction league, so my paranoia is warranted.)
Cam Newton – I have a rule about never using an early pick on rookies or guys who are coming off their first big seasons. I call it my “Miles Austin Rule”. This isn’t a knock on Newton’s talent, and I’m sure he’ll put up good numbers, but will he be consistent? I’m comfortable letting someone else take that chance.
The Safety Nets
These are the guys who could be great if they have the right people helping them. Some of them do, so it’s really just a matter of “Will they do it?” But they still have a tendency to inexplicably let us down.
Matt Ryan – Since being drafted, it seems like we’ve been offered every reason under the sun as to why Ryan hasn’t fulfilled his destiny yet. Now, he has absolutely no reason on this planet to not be a top tier guy. He has Roddy White and Julio Jones, so pending their health I have confidence in the guy that I hate calling Matty Ice.
Peyton Manning – I took Eli’s older brother in my main league, in which I had the No. 1 pick. I got him with my 4/5 swing and paired him with Eric Decker as my third WR (as well as Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson, but we’ll get to that later) because I have gigantic testicles that I wanted to let swing in the wind. Those balls may end up crushing me, but we shall see.
Ben Roethlisberger – With Mike Wallace back – and praying that he doesn’t get a visit from the Bad Hammy Holdout Fairy – and Antonio Brown looking fantastic, Ben should be a serviceable fantasy QB. He’ll probably still throw a bunch of picks, but he’ll also be good for plenty of TDs. (He’s also my leading “Grab this guy as a backup just in case you take Matt Ryan and he sucks” candidate.)
Eli Manning – Pretty much the same as Ben. He has receivers, but he’s also done it before. Eli will win you more games than he loses you.
The Last Hopes
These are the quarterbacks that’ll flash some sexy here and there, but they’ll also make you feel like you should have picked someone better. However, if they’re all you’ve got, then they’re better than what’s left after them.
Philip Rivers – Rivers used to be on the cusp of joining the elite QBs and then last season happened. I still can’t figure out how the hell he sucked so much. He killed so many fantasy teams last season. If you’re staring at him on your draft list, you have to ask yourself: “Am I prepared to die?”
Tony Romo – I’ve never ever wanted to draft Romo. He’s a plague guy as far as I’m concerned. But he’s still not as bad as the guys that I have in my next batch. And he’s just as good as the guys in this group, so I guess it just works out.
Jay Cutler – I have a feeling about my boy J-Cutty this year. I think he feels like he’s got a lot to prove, and he’s excited to have Brandon Marshall back in his arsenal. That said, is there a more apathetic person in professional sports? (I took him as my backup for Peyton in case the worst happens, so I may already be dead in the water.)
Matt Schaub – I don’t think Schaub is ever going to be as good as we once thought, and that’s obviously not much of a bold statement. That said, homeboy has two jobs: hand the ball off to Arian Foster and throw the ball to Andre Johnson. If he does that and stays healthy, he will probably be good for 15-20 points per week.
Joe Flacco – Some people call this guy elite. Hell, Flacco calls himself elite. Until he finally puts up Rodgers or Brady numbers, I won’t consider this guy much more than a bye week replacement, and that’s only if he’s playing against a terrible defense.
The Don’t Bothers
I wouldn’t touch these guys with your **euphemism for penis and draft pick**.
Michael Vick – Forget the dog killing thing, that’s in the past (as far as fantasy football is concerned, naturally). I don’t want this dude on my team because he’s one of the most frustrating athletes on the planet to watch. I can’t even imagine being an Eagles fan.
Josh Freeman – People keep saying, “This dude is poised to break out.” Forget proving it once. He needs to do it two seasons in a row before I’ll even give him backup consideration.
Alex Smith – Even with all of the receiving help the 49ers have given him, I have no faith in Smith. He had 18 TD and 6 INT last season, which is great for what the 49ers needed to accomplish, but not for you to defeat your bro’s 69ers.
Matt Cassel – Ugh, no thanks. I can’t wait until the Chiefs are done with this miserable experiment, for the sake of fantasy drafts and their fans.
Mark Sanchez – Or Tim Tebow. Both of them. Fire them into the sun already.
The Jail Bait
These are young guys with a lot of potential, but if you touch them now, you’re going to pay dearly.
Jake Locker – A lot of my friends have invested in Locker as a backup. That’s still pretty bold, but I think he could be the best of the young guys this season.
Andy Dalton – While I see a breakout season for Jermaine Gresham and AJ Green elevating to elite WR status, I’m not sure that means Dalton is ready. He should be great eventually. Should. (I have him as my backup to Matt Ryan in my keeper league, so fingers crossed.)
Christian Ponder – If his name isn’t Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin, there’s not a Vikings player that I want on my fantasy team. That said, I could see Ponder emerging as a quality real QB this season before becoming a good fantasy option next season.
Robert Griffin III – If you think he’s going to be this year’s Cam Newton, you’re probably high. But I want him to be awesome (despite playing for the Redskins, YUCK) so I simply hope for the best.
Andrew Luck – Not yet. Soon. But not yet.