By David Sabino
September 10, 2010
Gridiron 11

They've all been in the league less than three years, but these signal-callers are among a select group who can ascend to the top of the quarterbacking position. While some of them are unavailable in most leagues at this point, a majority can be had, and have value especially in keeper leagues.

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1 Kevin Kolb, Eagles
Kevin Kolb, Eagles
The third-year man from the University of Houston faces a tough test this Sunday from the Packers in his first game as Philly's full-time starter, but don't be discouraged if he should falter against defensive coordinator Dom Capers' crew. He'll be the NFC's breakout quarterback this season and should flirt with 4,000 yards for the next few years.
2 Sam Bradford, Rams
Sam Bradford, Rams
Count me among those who believe the Rams climb back to respectability won't be as arduous or lengthy as many believe, and Bradford is the reason. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and first overall pick in the 2010 draft is fully recovered from shoulder surgery that cost him the second half of his junior season at Oklahoma, and showed great poise and arm strength in the preseason. His current receiving corps leaves something to be desired, but a great quarterback can make up for many of the shortcomings among his pass-catchers.
3 Matthew Stafford, Lions
Matthew Stafford, Lions
There's no doubt the top pick of the 2009 draft has the ability, having become the youngest quarterback to ever throw five touchdowns in a game when he lit up the Browns last November, a game in which he also set a league rookie record with 422 passing yards. In his first 10 NFL games, Stafford has either thrown a touchdown pass (eight games) or ran for a score himself (twice). One other major advantage Stafford has is the presence of Calvin Johnson, the best receiver at the disposal of any of the aforementioned youngsters.
4 Joe Flacco, Ravens
Joe Flacco, Ravens
Already in his third season as a starter, the former Delaware Blue Hen is ranked right in the middle of the stat pack for quarterbacks during that time, not too bad for an ex-FCS player who started the first NFL game he ever suited up for. Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are in the fold at receiver now, but it remains to be seen who'll be there in 2011.
5 Matt Ryan, Falcons
Matt Ryan, Falcons
It's taking longer for Ryan, the top overall pick in the '08 draft, to reach the stardom predicted for him. In 30 career games, Ryan has thrown for fewer than 200 yards 13 times and has been held without a touchdown pass seven times, not exactly what you're looking for from a top-flight fantasy quarterback. The jury's still out on whether Ryan isn't having big games because the Falcons are a run-first team or if the Falcons are a run-first team because Ryan is incapable of big games.
6 Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Unlike many of his over-hyped strong-armed quarterback brethren, Freeman appears to be the real deal, leading the Bucs to road wins in back-to-back weeks last season for the first time since 2005. Don't get me wrong, he's going to have many ups and downs like the game last season when he threw for 321 yards against Carolina while also adding five picks and no touchdowns. Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow provide solid targets this season, and with Tampa benefiting from Florida tax laws, free agents will be clamoring to join one of the league's up-and-coming talents.
7 Max Hall, Cardinals
Max Hall, Cardinals
One of the stars of the preseason, whose emergence led directly to Matt Leinart's release, Hall finds himself a couple of typical poor Derek Anderson performances away from being the man responsible for getting Larry Fitzgerald the ball. That's a great place to be for someone who came to camp undrafted out of BYU. That doesn't mean he'll be overmatched, because being an NFL quarterback is in his blood as the nephew of 20,000-yard passer, and longtime Cowboy, Danny White.
8 Chad Henne, Dolphins
Chad Henne, Dolphins
Last season as a starter Henne completed 61.1 percent of his throws. That was with Ted Ginn Jr. lining up outside. Now that an elite receiver such as Brandon Marshall has been added to the mix, Henne has a chance to move to the top of the second-tier fantasy quarterback list. And by next year when the Wildcat is slowly phased out, he could even jump into the top bunch.
9 Mark Sanchez, Jets
Mark Sanchez, Jets
New York's glamour boy showed on Hard Knocks the knocks against him. He's much more confident away from football than he is in the meeting rooms or on the field. That will ultimately have to be remedied, but for as long as Rex Ryan is the coach, the Jets will be a run-first, ball control team anyway. That isn't to say the "Sanchise" won't have some big fantasy days, but it's doubtful that he'll ever sniff the first found of fantasy drafts or even become a Top 10 passer.
10 Dennis Dixon, Steelers
Dennis Dixon, Steelers
Chances are the second-year man from Oregon will return to the bench after Ben Roethlisberger returns from his suspension, but the multitalented former baseball prospect (he was drafted by Atlanta and played one minor league season) has a grand opportunity to create value for himself while running Pittsburgh's attack. And in the (hopefully unlikely) event Big Ben finds himself in trouble again, Dixon, two years removed from suffering a torn ACL, would step into a much larger role.
11 Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tim Tebow, Broncos
The jury is certainly still out on one of the most debated quarterback prospects in the game. Many observers see Tebow as nothing more than a glorified H-back, but others, such as Denver coach Josh McDaniels, sees him as a potential NFL passing star. We're not sure if the ex-Gator's trademark jump-pass will translate to Sunday games, but he's been a success everywhere he has played to this point, leading his teams to the highest levels. With Kyle Orton ready to hit free agency before next season, a slow start by the Broncos could lead McDaniels to see what he has in Tebow sooner rather than later.

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