State of the Quarterbacks
State of the Quarterbacks
By Ted Carlson, Senior Editor
January 5, 2005 5:00 AM ET
McNabb had an outstanding fantasy season.
Eight NFL teams are eagerly preparing for playoff games on Saturday and Sunday, and four more clubs are resting up and waiting for contests on January 15 and 16. What about the other 20 NFL clubs? For those franchises, the head coaches and general managers are currently reviewing the season that was, assessing their personnel, checking contract situations, planning for the offseason, and thinking ahead to 2005.
Well, folks, the fantasy football regular season is over as well. Sure, many people participate in playoff versions of fantasy football, but the core of our world remains the regular campaign. As such, we're in much the same situation as the coaches and general managers of those non-playoff clubs. Thus, now is the perfect time to take an overall assessment of the fantasy football world. A state of the union, if you will.
The Fanball crew selected me for the multiple-part assignment, and I can only assume that means I'm the president of fantasy football, right? Unlike when our nation's leader stands before Congress and addresses America, though, I won't expect my readers to stand up and clap every 15 seconds or so. But once every minute or two would be nice.
My assessment begins with the quarterback position, which featured a few record-breakers and more than a few heartbreakers.
What Went Right in 2004
After three straight sub-30-score campaigns, Peyton Manning captivated the football world by breaking Dan Marino's record and tossing 49 touchdowns. Much less talked about was the fact that Manning piled up a career-high 4,557 passing yards. He's now gone over 4,000 yards in six straight seasons, which extended a record he already held.
Class of '99 quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb also passed their way into the record books. Culpepper's 39 touchdown passes tied him for the fifth-best single-season mark in NFL history, and his league-leading 4,717 yards also ranked as the fifth-best single season in league history. Despite basically sitting out the last two games, McNabb smashed his previous career highs and finished with 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also became the first quarterback in history to throw more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions (eight) in a season.
Steadfast fantasy stud Brett Favre (a.k.a. "The Immortal" as dubbed by CBS broadcasters) hit the 30-touchdown mark for the eighth time in his career and passed for over 4,000 yards (4,088 to be exact) for the first time since 1999. The undervalued Trent Green shook off a slow start to produce a remarkable 4,591 yards and a solid 27 scores. In what is becoming a familiar seasonal stat line, Tom Brady churned out another strong (albeit a bit boring) campaign with 3,692 yards and 27 touchdowns.
We also received unexpected and sizable fantasy contributions from each coast, as Drew Brees and Jake Delhomme stepped into the fantasy spotlight. The San Diego slinger defied his franchise and nearly doubled his career total by throwing 27 touchdowns. Delhomme overcame the loss of his top receiver and an injury-riddled running game to generate 3,886 yards and 29 scores.
What Went Sorta Right in 2004
Jake Plummer charmed the fantasy world by throwing for 2,282 yards and 19 touchdowns over the first nine contests. The unpredictable Plummer then grew a beard and lost his moxie over the bye week and tossed only five touchdowns from weeks 11-15.
Marc Bulger was in contention for the yardage title when he succumbed to a right shoulder injury in week 13 and missed the next two contests. As a result, he finished with a subdued (but still very good) 21 touchdowns and 3,964 yards. Were it not for the injury, he would likely have posted stats closer to those of Trent Green.
I also have to give partial credit to Brian Griese, Billy Volek, and Kerry Collins, three quarterbacks who stepped into starting roles during the season and created more than a few very fantasy-friendly box scores.
What Went Wrong in 2004
Luckily, I took the "Do as I do" and not the "Do as I say" approach to fantasy quarterbacks in 2004. That statement becomes even more complicated when you consider that I was both the one doing and saying. Confused? Let me simplify it for you. Back in July and August, I was driving the Matt Hasselbeck bandwagon. More by chance than by choice, though, Hass did not land on any of my fantasy teams, and I'm thankful for it. I predicted 4,000 yards and 30 scores, and he fell way short by finishing with only 3,382 yards and 22 touchdowns.
However, I only mention Hasselbeck's decline first because it was personally the most disappointing. He did not have the hardest fall, though. I'm splitting that honor between Steve McNair and Brad Johnson. The 2003 NFL co-MVP turned into the fantasy co-LVP for his 1,343-yard, eight-touchdown campaign. Since injuries account for much of the dropoff, I can't get too down on McNair. That's why I'm handing half of the prize to Johnson. After throwing for 3,811 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2003, Brad came back this year and piled up 674 yards and three scores. Ouch.
Michael Vick cleaned up his ugly campaign a little bit by rushing for 902 yards and three scores, but last I checked, a quarterback is supposed to be able to throw the ball, too. Vick threw for more than 220 yards only once this season and finished with more fumbles (16) than passing touchdowns (14). I hope the 2006 Madden game includes the ability to pass the ball way too hard and high for the Falcons' receivers to possibly catch it.
Along with Hasselbeck, McNair, and Vick, Chad Pennington held a place in my preseason top-10. The Jets' leader did an excellent job of lobbing swing passes to fullback Jerald Sowell this season, but that's about it. When you have talented, speedy receivers like Santana Moss and Justin McCareins, you are supposed to throw for more than 2,673 yards and 16 touchdowns. Pennington established a lush, permanent residence in my fantasy doghouse this season. Get comfy, Chad.
I also need to mention Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and David Carr. They were not huge disappointments like the players listed above, but I expected a more out this trio of quarterbacks. Alas, they are young, and I know I'll find it in my heart to forgive them in the seasons ahead.
Looking Ahead to 2005
We have another eight months until fantasy drafts and auctions are held next August and September, and I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that I make some changes to the following list between now and then. Little things like free agency and the NFL draft will undoubtedly alter my predictions. That being stated (and hopefully understood), it doesn't hurt to take a look at my fantasy quarterback rankings for 2005. Keep in mind that this is just one man's opinion, but like Max Kellerman...I'm right! Here's my current list:
1. Peyton Manning, Colts: No explanation needed.
2. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings: Same here.
3. Donovan McNabb, Eagles: Here too.
4. Brett Favre, Packers: Assuming he does not retire, of course.
5. Trent Green, Chiefs: Only Manning, Marino, and Dan Fouts have passed for 4,000 yards in three straight seasons, but I'll take my chances with Trent.
6. Marc Bulger, Rams: If head coach Mike Martz is canned, Bulger would drop behind Brady.
7. Tom Brady, Patriots: Unlike nearly all women and some men, I just have a tough time loving Brady.
8. Drew Brees, Chargers/FA: He's in limbo until we see where he lands in 2005. If Drew stays in San Diego, I'll have him right around here. If not, he'll drop.
9. Jake Delhomme, Panthers: If the Panthers re-sign Mushin Muhammed (which seems unlikely), Jake is a lock for a top-10 spot. If not, he probably drops a few spots.
10. David Carr, Texans: This is based on a gut feeling that the Texans will find another steady receiving option to compliment Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis.
11. Aaron Brooks, Saints: It's a rough ride, but I can still count on 3,600 yards and 22-25 scores.
12. Carson Palmer, Bengals: This is pending the Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh free agencies. Palmer looked good prior to injury.
13. Michael Vick, Falcons: He has to improve, right? Right?
14. Steve McNair, Titans: If Tyrone Calico is healthy and Ben Troupe continues to improve, the Titans' receiving corps will be pretty darn good.
15. Jake Plummer, Broncos: I'll never trust the Snake to be my every-week starter, but I'm comfortable with him right around here.
16. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks: Both Shaun Alexander and he are free agents, so who really knows where Matt will rank a few months from now?
17. Kerry Collins, Raiders: If Jerry Porter returns to Oak-town, I'll view Kerry as a solid backup option.
18. Joey Harrington, Lions: The touchdowns, yards, and completion percentages have all improved three straight seasons.
19. Chad Pennington, Jets: I might still be a bit too jaded by the 2004 experience.
20a. Brian Griese, Bucs/FA: It sounds like the Bucs won't be bringing Brian back, so we'll have to see where he lands.
20b. Byron Leftwich, Jaguars: The Jaguars will have a new offensive coordinator, and that adds a huge question mark.
Bust: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: If Plaxico Burress leaves town, Big Ben certainly won't be a top-20 fantasy quarterback.
Sleeper (1): Cardinals QB: Dennis Green has a tough time sticking with one quarterback, but I love the Boldin-Fitzgerald-Johnson receiving nucleus.
Sleeper (2): Patrick Ramsey, Redskins: When (or maybe that should be "if") the Redskins draft Mike Williams or Braylon Edwards, this inclusion will make much more sense.
That's it, folks - a quick review of the 2004 season and some thoughts about 2005. Tune in next week when Fanball allows me to address the State of the Running Backs. You can stand up and applaud now. Or not.