July 15, 2008

With Tom Brady coming off a record-breaking season in which he threw 50 TD passes, quarterbacks are getting a little more love in fantasy drafts these days, with Brady even going in the top 10 of most drafts. There are a handful of QBs this year who are head and shoulders above the rest, and the position will get an added boost if Brett Favre returns as a starting QB in Green Bay, or anywhere else, for that matter.

But one thing fantasy owners should be aware of this year is that the position isn't quite as deep as in years past. After the top seven or eight QBs are selected, there's a marginal dropoff and question marks surround every QB in that second tier. For that reason, QBs are going earlier than in past years, so decide if you need to secure one of this top tier QBs or not because if you do you won't be able to wait past the fourth or fifth round to get one.

Here then are the top 50 QBs ranked in order of preference on draft day:

Brady went from being a top 5 QB to the man last year when he threw for an NFL record 50 TDs and added a career-best 4,806 yards. The NFL's MVP had three or more TD passes in a game 12 times -- including a 6-TD performance in Week 7 at Miami -- and threw for more than 300 yards eight times. Sure, his team lost in the Super Bowl, but he's definitely a worthy top seven pick this year as he will approach 40 TD passes and 4,400-plus yards again in 2008.

Manning is one of the most dependable QBs in fantasy football and he's been a top three fantasy QB during each of the past six seasons. He finished third among QBs in scoring last year with 31 TD passes, 4,040 yards and three rushing TDs. He topped 30 TD passes for the second straight season even without WR Marvin Harrison and he will come through again this year with 32 TDs and 4,000-plus yards.

Romo was one of the best bargains of '07 as his Average Draft Position was around 80; yet he was the second-best QB in fantasy football last year. Along with dating Jessica Simpson, Romo threw for 4,211 yards and 36 TDs, while adding two rushing TDs. He also had seven 300-yard games and has enough star targets in Terrell Owens and Jason Witten to top those numbers this year. Even after the breakup with Simpson, Romo will still throw 35 TD passes and top 4,000 yards passing.

After a shaky start last year in which he failed to throw a TD pass in three of his first four games, Brees settled down and finished strong, throwing two or more TD passes in 10 of his last 12 games. He also finished with five 300-yard games as he posted a career-best 4,423 yards passing. He finished fourth among all QBs in scoring last year and has enough offensive weapons to repeat that performance again. Expect him to match last year's 28-TD passes and again top 4,200 yards passing.

Palmer's final numbers of 26 TD passes and 4,131 yards look good on paper, but it was the inconsistency of those stats that upset fantasy owners last year. He finished ninth among QBs in scoring as he had five 300-yard games, but he threw only two TD passes in the critical Weeks 13-16 and was held under 200 yards in two of those games. If he can finish stronger this year, Palmer will be a top 5 QB again in '08, so project accordingly.

Anderson went from being a third-string QB for the Browns entering camp to being one of the best fantasy players of '07. He was solid all year long as he passed for at least one TD in 14 games and finished with 29 TDs and 3,787 yards. The Browns responded by inking Anderson to a three-year contract extension, ensuring he will again keep first-round pick Brady Quinn on the bench. With the weapons the Browns have, Anderson will easily reach 26 TDs and 3,800 yards again.

After struggling with injuries and health issues in '06, Big Ben came through with a solid season, finishing fifth among QBs in '07. He threw a TD pass in 14 of 15 games and finished with a career-best 32 TDs and 3,154 yards. He was hit or miss on the yardage as he had seven games under 200 yards, but look for more consistency this year and a season of 28 TDs and 3,300-plus yards.

Despite the lack of a solid running game, Hasselbeck still finished with a career-best season, throwing for 3,966 yards and 28 TDs. He had at least one TD pass in 15 of 16 games and added three 300-yard games. Still, this year could be more difficult as the Seahawks have cut ties with RB Shaun Alexander and WR Deion Branch could be sidelined for much of this season. This is where the risk starts for the QBs, but if all goes well Hasselbeck will finish with 25 TDs and at least 3,800 yards.

Manning had another frustrating season for his fantasy owners last year, but his playoff heroics give hope for the upcoming season. Manning finished 14th among QBs in scoring last year as he threw for 23 TDs and 3,336 yards, but also had 20 INTs. But in four postseason games, he finished with six TD passes and only one INT. He's a risky option for '07, but it's possible he learned enough last season to top last year's numbers.

It was a wasted season for Bulger and the Rams last year as they both dealt with numerous injuries and hard times. Bulger missed four games with a concussion and rib injury and finished with only 11 TDs and 2,392 yards in 12 games. He also had 15 INTs and only four games with more than 225 yards passing. He's a risky option this year, but hope for the best and project a season of 22 TDs and 3,800 yards.

McNabb struggled early last season while battling back from offseason knee surgery, but then he finished strong, throwing five TD passes for 816 yards in his last three games. He finished with 19 TDs and 3,324 yards in 14 starts, but there's no guarantee he will stay upright for all 16 games this year. There's more risk here but also more upside, so project a season of 20 TDs, 3,400-plus yards and hope for more.

Cutler failed to live up to the hype in his first full season as a starting QB, but he showed just enough potential to give fantasy owners hope for the future. Cutler was extremely inconsistent last year, but still finished with 20 TD passes and 3,497 yards. He had 11 games with just 1 or 0 TD passes and was held under 200 yards passing four times. He was diagnosed with diabetes in May, but should be healthy enough to reach 22 TDs and 3,500 yards this year.

In a season of unexpected fantasy contributors, Garrard's was one of the most surprising. He was given the starting job in Jacksonville on the eve of the opener and he led the Jaguars well into the playoffs as he threw 18 TD passes and topped 2,500 yards passing. He's not a glamorous QB as he had 200-plus yards passing in only seven games, but he also won't hurt you as he threw only three INTs. He's not a sexy pick, but you could do worse for a backup QB this year.

Rivers was extremely inconsistent last year as he had 10 games with less than 200 yards passing and wound up with lesser stats than the year before. He did lead the Chargers to the AFC Championship Game after throwing for 3,152 yards and 21 TDs, but he also suffered a torn MCL in his right knee in that game and will be hobbled to start this season. He's better used as a backup QB who will reach 23 TDs and 3,200-plus yards in '08.

Kitna was a hot sleeper pick last year and he got off to a great start with eight TD passes in his first four games. But then the wheels fell off as Kitna was held to just 1 or 0 TDs during nine of his last 12 games. He finished with more INTs (20) than TD passes (18), although he did top 4,000 yards for a second straight season.

Delhomme was headed toward a banner season before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in Week 3. He threw for 624 yards and eight TDs during his first three games, but then was lost with the elbow injury, as were the Panthers without Delhomme. He may go off as a backup QB in your fantasy drafts, but his upside is huge if he's healthy and he could be the best pickup of this "third tier" QBs.

Campbell showed flashes of promise last year, but his season ended with a knee injury in Week 14, and Todd Collins came in and led the Redskins into the playoffs. Campbell is still the starting QB, and we expect continued improvement even in this conservative offense. He finished last year with 12 TDs and 2,700 yards, but his 11 INTs were tough to handle as many came at inopportune times. He's not a QB1 yet, but as a backup he will still produce 18 TDs and 3,100-plus yards.

Rodgers had enough pressure on his shoulders before Brett Favre whined about unretiring and not being given his starting job back. If Rodgers can handle all of the pressure and the Favre legacy, he will be a solid backup fantasy QB in '08 because he has enough offensive weapons to succeed. The key is staying healthy, and so far Rodgers hasn't been able to do it, but project a season of 20 TDs and 3,200-plus yards if he can start all 16 games.

Blame it on the Madden Curse as Young regressed during his second full season as an NFL starter, finishing 19th among all QBs in scoring. He threw only 9 TD passes while throwing 17 INTs and finished with only 2,546 yards passing and only three rushing TDs. He was picked as a starting fantasy QB last year and buried teams who had him. He's no better than a QB2 who will be lucky to top 14 TDs and 2,600 yards this year.

Schaub got off to a fine start during his first season as the Texans' QB, throwing for 1,558 yards and four TDs in his first six games. But then injuries hit and everything fell apart. A concussion and a shoulder injury limited him to 11 games as he finished with only 9 TDs, 2,241 yards and 9 INTs. He will return as the starting QB even though Sage Rosenfels had good success, but the leash will be short if problems arise again, so draft accordingly.

Smith has been horrendous during his first three seasons as the starting QB in the Bay, but the good news is that the Niners hired Mike Martz to be his offensive coordinator this year. Smith threw only 2 TD passes in seven games before being shut down with a shoulder injury. He is risky even as a QB2 in fantasy football, but the addition of Martz makes him a worthy gamble later on this draft day.

Garcia provided a winning touch for the Bucs last year, but he is injury-prone, and at 38 he offers very little upside. Sure, he finished with 13 TDs in 13 games and 2,440 yards, but he's strictly a bye week fill-in as he rarely puts up big weeks. He also missed three games last year with a back injury and his reckless style makes him a risk even as your backup QB. Project a season of 2,600 yards and 15 TDs as your QB2.

Edwards should open the season as the starting QB in Buffalo ahead of J.P. Losman, but that's not saying much. He played in 10 games last year and finished with 7 TDs, 8 INTs and 1,630 yards. He was held under 200 yards passing in seven of his nine starts and failed to throw a TD pass in seven games. He did bulk up this off-season and showed a good rapport with Lee Evans, but even with all that he will be fortunate to top 14 TDs and 2,600 yards passing.

Leinart was a bust in '07 and the last we saw of him was in a hot tub with a few girls. The Cardinals weren't very happy with that, and he's apparently on a short leash there. He fnished with only 2 TD passes and 4 INTs in five games last year before his season came to an end with an injury. He needs to get off to a fast start or Kurt Warner will take over this starting job and hold onto it the rest of the season.

The '07 No. 1 pick was limited to part-time duty in only four games last year and he looked unready to lead this offense. But a full offseason in Oakland has Russell ready to start this year and the Raiders believe he will improve the passing game. He's even risky as a QB2, so project conservatively (12 TDs, 2,500 yards) and hope for more.

The Vikings are a solid QB away from being a Super Bowl contender, but the Vikings insist that Jackson can perform well enough to lead them to a title in '08. Don't make the same mistake. Jackson had more INTs (12) than TD passes (9) in 12 games last year, although he did add three rushing TDs. He will be asked to just control games this year and not win them, so expect only slightly better numbers in '08.

Beck started five games late last season and didn't leave a strong impression on Bill Parcells as he finished with just one TD and three INTs in five games. The Dolphins then took Michigan QB Chad Henne in the second round and hope that he can become the starting QB very soon. Beck may not last the whole season as the starter, so project only 12 TDs and 2,400 yards in '08.

Clemens replaced Chad Pennington last year and finished with an unsightly 10 INTs and only 5 TDs in 10 games, throwing for only 1,529 yards. He'll likely enter the season as the starting QB, but this offense is in such a mess that there could be a QB controversy all year long. Clemens has the better arm and more upside, so grab him as your QB3 and hope for 11 TDs and 2,000-plus yards.

With Steve McNair retired, Boller is now the projected starting QB if he can hold off rookie Joe Flacco. Boller hasn't shown much the last three years as a fill-in and last year he had more INTs (10) than TDs (9) in 12 games. He doesn't scare any NFL defense and it won't take long for Ravens' fans to get their wish and see Flacco as the starter. Boller's time in Baltimore is limited and he may not be around by season's end.

The Falcons officially moved out of the Michael Vick era and into the Matt Ryan era when they used the third overall pick in this year's draft on the Boston College QB. Ryan was 25-7 in 32 starts at BC and last year he threw for 4,507 yards and 31 TDs as he became the ACC's Player of the Year. He may not start the season as the starting QB, but he definitely will finish in that role.

The Bears are foolishly heading into the season with Grossman as their starting QB, even though he was brutal in his brief time in that role last year. In eight starts, he threw 7 INTs and 4 TD passes, while finishing with only 1,411 yards. He was held under 200 yards in six of eight starts and his season ended in Week 14 with a knee injury. There's more risk than upside here, so steer clear on draft day.

The Chiefs would love for Croyle to take the starting job and run with it, but he showed last year that he's still too inexperienced to get the job done. In nine appearances, he threw 6 TD passes and 6 INTs, while throwing for only 1,227 yards. He's a work-in-progress and won't be of much help to your fantasy team in '08.

Warner is the top backup QB to target on draft day because he definitely could start more games in Arizona than Leinart. If Leinart gets off to a slow start, Warner will get the call and won't let go of this starting job. Last year in 14 games, he finished with 27 TD passes, 3,417 yards and one rushing TD. He has more upside than some of the other starting NFL QBs ahead of him, so don't be afraid to grab him on draft day.

Pennington returns to the Jets in a backup role, but he could regain the starting job if Clemens gets off to a slow start. Pennington lost his job last year after he threw 7 INTs and only 5 TDs during Weeks 4-8 and he didn't get another start until Week 16. He has minimal upside, however, and could be a wasted pick even as your QB3.

Henne will compete for the backup job this season and could eventually challenge Beck for the starting job. He started every game during his four-year career at Michigan and set school records in all of the major categories. He has a good arm and a good touch on the ball, but he lacks mobility and is prone to bad decisions under pressure. He won't start the season as the starter, but don't be surprised if this is his team by season's end.

Redman finished '07 with a flurry and should enter this season as the starting QB. In seven games, he threw for 1,079 yards and 10 TDs, with only 5INTs. He topped it off with a 4-TD performance in Week 17. But even if Redman opens the season as the starter, you know that soon enough Matt Ryan will get the call to lead this team.

Frerotte was signed during the off-season as a free agent and he will back up Jackson in '08. He saw action in eight games with St. Louis last year and finished with 12 INTs and only 7 TDs. He won't compete for the starting job, so stay away on draft day.

The Ravens traded up to the 19th pick to select Flacco and will make him their starting QB at some point this season. He had a solid senior season at Delaware, throwing for 3,300 yards and 18 TDs with only 5INTs. At 6-6, 232 pounds, he's one of the biggest QBs in NFL history and before season's end he will be the starting QB in Baltimore.

Stanton didn't see any playing time as a rookie last season, but if Kitna falters again this year Stanton will step in. He was a fan favorite at Michigan State, but he lacks the big arm needed to shine in the NFL. He's not a worthy draft pick, but if he replaces Kitna at some point this season he may become a waiver wire favorite.

The Bills have run out of patience with Losman and will start Trent Edwards in '08. Losman has requested a trade, but for now he's stuck in a backup role. Leave him alone on draft day as it's unlikely that he will have any value in '08.

Other QBs to consider on draft day:

41. Trent Green, St. Louis42. Sage Rosenfels, Houston43. Brian Griese, Tampa Bay44. Todd Collins, Washington45. Tyler Thigpen, Kansas City46. Troy Smith, Baltimore47. Joey Harrington, Atlanta48. Kyle Orton, Chicago49. Brady Quinn, Cleveland50. Matt Moore, Carolina51. Josh McCown, Miami52. Byron Leftwich, Free Agent53. Daunte Culpepper, Free Agent54. Kerry Collins, Tennessee55. Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh56. Patrick Ramsey, Denver57. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia58. Billy Volek, San Diego59. David Carr, NY Giants60. Brian Brohm, Green Bay

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