It's that time of the year again, and I'm sure many are buzzing in your classrooms and offices.
"Who do you like in fantasy football this season?"
"Have any new strategies for fantasy football this year?"
"How'd you do in fantasy football last season? Want to help me this year?"
Fantasy football. Fantasy football. Fantasy football. It's everywhere. I'm sitting around doing very little right now, so I figured I'd get my two cents in and provide some assistance. Let's start off at the quarterback position, and perhaps I'll get to RB's, WR's, TE's, and defenses in the coming days and weeks.
1. Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints
Do I think Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL?
No, absolutely not. Tom Brady's the premier QB in the world, and no one's convincing me otherwise. However, this is the world of fantasy, and Brady's season-ending injury is still a bit of a concern. Sure he's had surgery and the reports out of Patriots' camp are good, but why take the risk when someone as productive as Brees is out there?
It's just an unnecessary risk to take Brady over Brees. The latter is coming off one of the best seasons of his career (if not the best), he plays in a pass-happy offense commandeered by head coach Sean Payton, and his home games are on turf.
Turf makes it easier for wide receivers and tight ends to cut and run their patterns, and that makes it easier for them -- Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Jeremy Shockey, etc. -- to get open. More open targets equals more completions and touchdowns for Brees, a right-hander who has one of the quickest releases in the game. Don't forget about Pierre Thomas and his YAC (yards after catch) in the backfield.
2. Tom Brady-New England Patriots
3. Kurt Warner-Arizona Cardinals
Yes he's old, but he looks a helluva lot younger with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston out there catching passes for him. Fitzgerald is arguably the premier player in football, and Boldin (when he's right) is in the top five at his position. While Anquan was out with injury at times in '08, Breaston went to work, amassing over 1,000 yards on the season.
Kurt is still pretty accurate, but his greatest strength is his awareness of the opposition and its schemes. The old gunslinger is a very cerebral player, and his body may be aging, but his mind for the game remains sharp. Like New Orleans, Arizona features a pass-first offense.
4. Peyton Manning-Indianapolis Colts
"The guy is the reigning league MVP, and you have him fourth at his position?"
Why yes, I do...and I'm sticking to it. The Colts' offense that was the most explosive in the NFL four or five years ago, is no longer in the same league as the Patriots and Saints. It's probably not as explosive as Arizona's, either.
Indy's still good, but Joseph Addai has been injury-prone and inconsistent in the backfield, and that has hurt this team's overall balance. Marvin Harrison tapered off and is now out of the picture, so there's some pressure on Anthony Gonzalez to respond this year.
The good news for Peyton is, I think Gonzalez is going to be fine. Dallas Clark is one of the most prolific offensive tight ends, and Reggie Wayne is a reliable No. 1 receiver. The thing about Wayne, though, is that he's not an unstoppable force like the Larry Fitzgerald's and Andre Johnson's of the world. Wayne relies more on timing and intelligence, and that's not always the best-case for a quarterback.
I think Peyton's lost a little velocity as well.
5. Philip Rivers-San Diego Chargers
6. Matt Cassel-Kansas City Chiefs
I'm a believer. Do I think the Patriots' precise offensive system aided in Cassel's impressive production last year? Yes, without question. But I think the naysayers are being too critical of his individual skills.
What I love about Cassel is his ability to extend the play. He's mobile both in and outside of the pocket, and he's very adept at throwing on the run. Expect him to be reliant upon No. 1 WR Dwayne Bowe, and he'll need some contributions from Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram.
The X-factor for Cassel is his new head coach Todd Haley. Haley's an offensive-minded coach, and he'll put the ball in Matt's hands and allow him to make or break plays. I believe he'll be "making" them more often than "breaking" them.
7. Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers
The reviews are certainly mixed on this guy. The haters cite a disappointing 2008 season as evidence of Rodgers' supposed ineptitude, but was he really the reason for Green Bay's struggles?
When we look a little closer, the answer is unquestionably, "No." The Packers were decimated by injuries last year, and Rodgers (along with No. 1 WR Greg Jennings) was one of his team's most valuable players. His fantasy numbers were strong, and it's safe to assume even better production in '09. Last season was Rodgers' first as a starting quarterback, and from a fantasy standpoint it was a rousing success.
His incredible chemistry with Jennings is a recipe for even further success. Donald Driver is a consistent No. 2, too.
I'm bored and I don't feel like providing any explanations for the rest. Nonetheless, here they are...
8. Tony Romo-Dallas Cowboys
9. Donovan McNabb-Philadelphia Eagles
10. Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Matt Schaub-Houston Texans
12. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons
13. Carson Palmer-Cincinnati Bengals
14. Matt Hasselbeck-Seattle Seahawks
15. Jay Cutler-Chicago Bears
16. Jake Delhomme-Carolina Panthers
17. Eli Manning-New York Giants
18. Kyle Orton-Denver Broncos
19. Trent Edwards-Buffalo Bills
20. Kerry Collins-Tennessee Titans
Honorable Mention: David Garrard, Jason Campbell, Sage Rosenfels
That's all I can handle right now. I welcome comments and discussion.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)