Other cheat sheets:
QB | WR | RB | TE
UPDATE: Favre's retirement changes the list a little bit. Do you think it was my cold, unforgiving commentary that convinced Favre to stay retired? Me too.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Brees probably won't match his numbers from last season, but in standard scoring leagues, he's still your number one option. Touchdowns are tough to predict, but you know for sure that the Saints will be passing a ton, and that Brees will rack up yards.
- Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - It's certainly possible that Brady or Rivers will score more points than Manning this year. When it comes to quarterback, though, reliability is as important as anything, and Manning is the one sure bet, every year. It'll be interesting to see how he operates with Marvin Harrison gone for good, but I don't doubt that Manning will still put up top-tier quarterback numbers.
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots - Last year was the first year ever that I didn't underestimate Brady, and it was the one year he really disappointed. The word is that he's fully recovered and will be able to step back in and get back to tossing touchdowns. With Matt Cassel being traded, I believe it's true.
- Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - Rivers quietly led the NFL in touchdown passes and passer rating last year. He was a little up-and-down, with four games of zero or one TD pass, but he'll win you plenty of games to make up for his slip-ups. Also, everyone after Rivers has some kind of question mark, so you should put a little star by his name as the end of a tier.
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers - Remember when Rodgers fell and fell in the first round of the draft a few years ago? Oops? Rodgers has a great WR corps and has been improving as he gets more playing experience. Maybe Greg Jennings is why Rodgers is good; maybe it's the other way around. Who cares as long as they're racking up yards?
- Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - I'm not so foolish as to think that Romo will be better without Terrell Owens; Owens makes any offense better. But if you look at last season, Romo's performance seems to be linked more strongly to the presence of Marion Barber than of Owens. If Barber can stay healthy (which should be easier with Felix Jones getting into the mix more), Romo should be just fine.
- Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals - I don't like Warner at all. This ranking is basically just me saying that any quarterback with Boldin and Fitzgerald on his team is a top 10 quarterback. Blah.
- Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles - Last season was the first time in five years that McNabb played in all 16 games, which doesn't exactly make you want to run out and grab him. He also doesn't really run anymore, which is more of a problem for Eagles fans than fantasy owners, but it's another factor. His receiving options are the best since T.O. left, but I'd still be wary of investing in such a question mark.
- Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals - He was hurt most of last year, and all it takes is half a year for people to forget about a very solid player (see Randy Moss). He's going to have to learn how to move the ball down the field without one of his favorite targets (T.J. Houshmandzadeh), but he's got the talent to succeed. A lot of his production will depend on how quickly he gets on the same page as #85.
- Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - On a general level, I think the Bears did okay by acquiring Cutler. He's a high caliber passer, and the Bears' passing attack was very weak last year. To me, though, Kyle Orton wasn't the problem. The utter lack of receiving threats was the issue, and that hasn't changed. Cutler should be decent, but I wouldn't expect many 300+ yard games.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan was one of the great stories of last year, coming into a difficult situation as a rookie QB and leading his team to the playoffs. He's got plenty of talent around him now, and he was a productive rookie. He'll only get better from here.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - I hate the Steelers. That said, they've become a much more balanced offensive team in recent years. Roethlisberger's production has been up and down, though. He's got only one season with 20 or more TDs, which is the same number of seasons in which he's accumulated 20 or more INTs. I expect him to rebound from last season, but he'll never be a top-tier option at quarterback.
- Matt Schaub, Houston Texans - Schaub is a moderately talented, injury-prone quarterback who happens to have one of the best wide receivers in the game to throw to in Andre Johnson. He can be plenty productive when healthy, but I don't really expect him to be healthy. Schaub is a good choice as an early backup QB, but I'd be wary of picking him to be your starter.
- Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - Hasselbeck was abysmal last year in seven games, but it wasn't so long ago that he had put together a nice little stretch of seasons. He's not ever going to be a superstar; his time for that has passed. But the addition of Houshmandzadeh will give him by far the surest hands he's ever had to throw to. Partner that with the emergence of John Carlson, and Hasselbeck is a top-flight backup, with starter potential.
- Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - I know, he may not have Brandon Marshall. I know, he was never very good in Chicago. But he's only 27, last year was his first full season as a starter (as well as the first season his coaches showed any confidence in him), and while he wasn't outstanding, he was fairly productive. Even without Marshall, I like Denver's receiving options better than the clowns Orton had in Chicago. And if Marshall ends up coming back, I like Orton as a late starter pick.
- Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs - Cassel's draft position is one of the more interesting stories this season. He excelled in New England last year, but there are questions as to whether that's a repeatable performance in Kansas City. He'll have vastly inferior receiving talent, and a suspect running game. I expect Cassel to be taken as a starter in a lot of leagues, but I wouldn't put my eggs in his basket...metaphorically.
- Eli Manning, New York Giants - Eli is a guy who goes higher in public leagues because people know the name and he's a Super Bowl champion, but he belongs right about here. He had only five multi-touchdown games, and only six games in which he threw for 200 or more yards. The previous three years he threw 17, 18, and 20 interceptions. He's a fine real-life quarterback, but for fantasy purposes, let someone else carry this dead weight.
- Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills - Edwards didn't show anything special last year, but the addition of Terrell Owens to any offense is a boon. Additionally, Edwards is still young, and showed definite improvement in his second season as quarterback. He's still got plenty he can improve upon, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't have his first 20-touchdown season in 2009.
- David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars - I've never been a big David Garrard fan, because I don't love guys who make their living on being just "good enough." He's a nice quarterback for his team, as he's able to avoid turnovers and generate first downs, but he's not a great fantasy player. The addition of Torry Holt should help some, but I don't expect it'll make enough of a difference for you to want Garrard as your starting QB.
- Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers - Delhomme is sort of like Matt Schaub Lite. His upside is lower, but he's also a slightly safer bet for a full, healthy season. He's nothing to get excited about, but should be a solid backup.
- Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins - Despite the Redskins being in talks to acquire Jay Cutler over the offseason, things seem to be looking up for Campbell. His passing yardage, rushing yardage, touchdowns, completion percentage, and passer rating went up for the third straight year. He's got a few good options to throw to (though no great ones), and a solid running game behind him. I look for improvement again.
- Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins - Pennington isn't going to make anyone excited, and he's not going to perform any better than he has in the past. But he's an efficient passer, and a fine backup. At the least, he won't kill your team when your starting QB has a bye week.
- Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams - I don't know why, but I just don't believe Bulger is as bad as his performance the past two years has indicated. The Rams are still a ways off from being a good team again, and all of his receivers are gone, but even a small bounce back by Bulger makes him a viable option week-to-week.
- Sage Rosenfels, Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings had been trying to trade for Rosenfels for a year, and with Brett Favre affirming his retirement, the path is fairly open for the Age of Sage to begin. The team can't be that happy with Tarvaris Jackson if they traded for someone to compete with him. If you're going to draft a Minnesota quarterback (which I'm not really recommending), I'd go with Rosenfels.
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - Flacco wasn't an embarrassment as a rookie, and he had his share of bright moments. I think he's generally over-valued, especially when you look at his supporting cast, but he could be okay. At #25, really, you can't expect a lot.
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