CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30 · 31-40
Just how great is Drew Brees for Fantasy? He's posted 20-plus Fantasy points in 25 of his last 32 games, more than anyone else. He's missed one game since arriving in New Orleans and has attempted more than 650 passes in each of his past three seasons. When you shop for a Fantasy quarterback, Brees gives you everything you could possibly want in terms of production and consistency, which is why he's expected to be the top quarterback taken in drafts this summer. But because of the deluge of quarterbacks available, he figures to slip into Round 2 of most drafts. Don't hesitate to take him then knowing just how effective he should be. The plus side is in drafting Brees you won't need to take a backup, freeing up another roster spot for someone else.
Last year, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the ultimate "safe" pick to take in Round 1. This year he's still that guy, but you should be able to find him in Round 2 or later. His production took a small dip in 2012 -- most notably his yards per pass attempt dropped by about a yard and a half -- but he still finished as the second-best quarterback in Fantasy Football and had an incredible eight games with at least 30 Fantasy points. No one had more, but he also had some weak outings, recording five games with 16 or fewer points (this is in standard-scoring leagues). That's to be expected, but Rodgers -- a consensus must-start quarterback -- had just nine games with 20 or more points, fifth-best among all passers. For an elite talent a little more might be expected. Drew Brees was more consistent and produced more Fantasy points last year -- he's someone worth considering over Rodgers. And Rodgers has some issues with his offensive line (left tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for the year) and at receiver (Greg Jennings is gone and Jordy Nelson had knee surgery in August). Still, Rodgers should thrive, especially once Nelson returns, and he remains a Top 3 quarterback in all leagues. Look for him to be drafted in Round 2 at the earliest, and if he falls to Round 4 or later consider it a steal.
Peyton Manning proved everyone wrong in his comeback effort in 2012 after missing a season following neck surgery. And now he has the chance to build on that performance, especially with the addition of receiver Wes Welker. That could make Manning a candidate to be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year because he was impressive in his first year with the Broncos. Manning completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was the 12th time he passed for 4,000-plus yards (third time with 4,500 yards) and the seventh time he's thrown for 30-plus touchdowns. Manning will be 37 when the season starts, but he continues to play at a high level and defied all skeptics with his performance last year. He has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and now Welker to go with a solid running game behind a stout offensive line. We consider Manning a Top-5 Fantasy quarterback on Draft Day, and he's worth drafting with a pick toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all formats.
Tom Brady enters this season trying to remain among the elite quarterbacks. We expect that to happen. In 2012, Brady was a Top 3 Fantasy quarterback for the third year in a row. He had more than 4,800 passing yards for the second year in a row, more than 37 total touchdowns for the third year in a row and for the second time in his past three years he had fewer than 10 interceptions. At a time when running quarterbacks are all the rage, Brady continues to dominate. His receiving corps is in flux with Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Lloyd gone, and Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones now in. He also has standout tight end Rob Gronkowski coming off back surgery. But Brady should still be able to post quality stats. He's a volume passer -- he's been Top 5 in pass attempts in three of the past four seasons -- especially if Gronkowski is ready for Week 1. He remains a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues, and we expect him to be drafted beginning in Round 5 in most standard formats.
Fantasy owners are hoping a strong finish to 2012 will put Cam Newton in prime position to dominate in 2013. After a lousy start last season Newton had multiple touchdowns in seven of his final nine contests, boosting his Fantasy production from 17.0 Fantasy points per game to 25.3 points per game. A few tweaks in offensive philosophy and a reliance on the short-area passing game (and a good schedule) helped turn things around for Newton, but more tweaks are in store this offseason after the team lost offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland's head coaching job. Mike Shula will take over the Panthers' offense, which Newton is happy with, but his track record as an offensive coordinator and head coach is not very good. The plan in Carolina is to stick with what worked late in 2012. Luckily, Newton is a freak of nature and stands to continue putting up huge numbers even though they did little this offseason to improve the offense. Factor in Newton's goal-line prowess and there's not necessarily a lot to fear with Newton so long as he's taken with a pick after elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are taken. That could happen after the 30th overall pick.
Preseason predictions calling for a career year from Matt Ryan came to fruition in 2012 as he set personal bests in yardage (4,719), completion percentage (68.6), yards per attempt (7.67) and touchdowns (32). And he did it while setting career highs in pass attempts and completions, leading his team to home-field advantage in the playoffs. It all suggests that the Falcons' decision to move to a more pass-friendly system paid off, and there's no way that's going to change in 2013. Ryan was also one of four quarterbacks to post at least 10 games with at least 20 Fantasy points, suggesting he was one of the most consistent options in the game. All of these things should hold true as the Falcons reload for another Super Bowl run, but assuming the team does that Ryan steps up as not just a top-10 Fantasy quarterback but actually a great Draft Day value since he'll get picked after the cream of the crop at the position. Waiting until Round 4 or 5 for Ryan is one of the smartest moves you can make.
A slow start and a strange end-zone disconnect with Calvin Johnson tripped up Matthew Stafford's numbers last season. But it doesn't mean you should be scared to draft him. Throwing an NFL-record 727 pass attempts last year, Stafford completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 4,967 yards (6.83 yards per throw), adding 20 touchdowns to go with 17 interceptions. He also rushed for four scores. This doesn’t sound like the Stafford we came to know and love in 2011 when he surpassed 5,000 passing yards and threw 41 touchdowns. Last season defenses doubled-down on stopping Megatron and Stafford only connected with him on four scores and the rest of the Lions' passing game was depleted by injuries or bad behavior. Stafford finished with seven games over 20 Fantasy points, making him a quasi-bust based on his second-round average draft position. The good news is that he'll remain in the Lions' aggressive offense and his receiving corps should come back strong. The better news is that he'll be available even later in drafts this summer than last, making him a nice bargain choice. Stafford should get attention starting in Round 4 as a no-brainer top-10 Fantasy quarterback.
Robert Griffin III is starting to look better as the preseason goes on as he appears on track to be ready for Week 1 against the Eagles. He had surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in January and as a result is on a limited workout schedule through the month of August. He's not expected to participate in any preseason games but he's been practicing on a regular basis. There's no denying how awesome Griffin was last season, tallying 344 Fantasy points (seventh best among QBs) and averaging 22.9 Fantasy points per week. There is no indication the Redskins will alter their playbook and make RG3 a statuesque pocket passer, meaning it's very possible he remains as productive as he was in 2012. But he also could get hurt again, something Fantasy owners have to consider given what happened to him as a rookie. Your best bet is to consider him a solid No. 1 Fantasy quarterback worth a pick starting in Round 6. If you get him, aim to back him up with a capable passer a few rounds later. That's pretty much all the insurance you'll need to feel safe about owning Griffin in Fantasy play.
Andrew Luck began paying dividends right away for the Colts, though his Fantasy totals weren’t quite as impressive. Luck finished as a Top-12 Fantasy quarterback, but had just six games with 20-plus Fantasy points (standard-scoring leagues). That's half as many as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Luck's year really wasn't all that great. He threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns, running for another five touchdowns and 255 yards. That seems fine for a typical rookie but not for someone who had as much clout as Luck. Now consider that he completed just 54.1 percent of his passes and turned the ball over 23 times (18 interceptions, five fumbles) and it’s clear he wasn't the perfect quarterback you might have thought. But that was then and this is now – the Colts have beefed up their offensive line and expect Luck to have more time to throw. His coaches expect the game to slow down for him in his second season, plus a change in coordinators brings the scheme he used in college into the pros. Finally, he's got a heck of an arm. Luck still strikes us as a Top-12 quarterback and one that brings some decent value with a sixth-round pick.
Tony Romo got a nice raise this offseason when the Cowboys gave him a six-year, $108 million contract extension. Now, he has to raise his production to match his salary. Romo is coming off an inconsistent 2012. He set a career high with 4,903 passing yards and also managed 28 touchdowns on 66 percent completions. But he also had 19 interceptions and struggled to start the year. Romo had just one game with more than 14 Fantasy points in the first five weeks. But he closed the season with at least 20 Fantasy points in seven of his final 12 games. This year, Romo should pick up where last season left off. He has an elite receiver in Dez Bryant and solid complementary weapons in Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Romo should easily eclipse 4,000 passing yards if he can stay healthy -- he's reached 4,000 yards in four of the past six years -- along with at least 26 touchdowns, which he's done five times since 2007. The key is cutting down on the turnovers and being more consistent over the course of the season. We consider Romo a solid No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 5 or 6 in the majority of leagues.
Projected Fantasy Points: 342.8
Colin Kaepernick lost his No. 1 receiver in Michael Crabtree (Achilles) before the season started, but that doesn't mean his Fantasy value is sunk. Kaepernick should still play at a high level, and hopefully what he did last year in a small sample size will carry over to a big performance. He had five games with at least 18 Fantasy points in seven starts in the regular season, and he carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl with two standout playoff games. If you project Kaepernick's regular-season stats over a full 16-game season he would have finished with 4,146 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions and 948 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That's pretty awesome. He takes a hit with Crabtree out, but Kaepernick has the look of a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and we like him with a pick beginning in Round 6 in the majority of leagues. Since he's unproven, you'll still want to pair him with a quality backup option later (think anyone from Eli Manning to Jay Cutler), but Kaepernick should still be able to hold his own with a revamped receiving corps led by Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Remember, there aren't many quarterbacks who can run like Kaepernick, and that rushing prowess makes him a unique Fantasy commodity.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson came out of nowhere to surprise Seattle fans and Fantasy owners with a dynamic performance in his rookie campaign in 2012. He should continue to play at a high level in 2013 but the loss of prized offseason acquisition Percy Harvin for much of the regular season harpoons any upside he had coming into the year. Wilson managed to do just fine without Harvin a season ago, finishing as the No. 9 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues with at least 19 Fantasy points in nine of his final 11 games, including at least 27 points in his final three outings. That was helped by amassing surprising rushing totals, something that he might have to do again this season even though he said this offseason he doesn't like to run. Figure Wilson to be among the last starting Fantasy passers you'll see taken between Rounds 7 and 9 this season as owners shy away from him knowing he won't have Harvin around to enhance his stats further. You'll want to pair Wilson with a quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterback (think anyone from Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger to Andy Dalton), but until he proves you wrong he should be considered a starter from Week 1 at Carolina.
Eli Manning should be considered one of the leading bounce-back candidates this year. He struggled in 2012, which was a surprise, but he didn't have a healthy Hakeem Nicks and also was without former No. 3 receiver Mario Manningham, who left as a free agent for San Francisco. Manning's final stats in 2012 were respectable but misleading. He finished with 3,948 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, which gave him 276 Fantasy points in a standard league. But Manning needed 208 passing yards and five touchdowns -- 38 Fantasy points -- in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Eagles to save his production. He was brutal for most of the season (he had four games with five Fantasy points or fewer), and we predict a rebound year is in order. Getting Nicks back at 100 percent will help, and the Giants need to hope Rueben Randle can become a viable third receiver all season. The Giants also replaced the departed Martellus Bennett with Brandon Myers from Oakland. Before last year, Manning had consecutive seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns. It won't take him much to get back to that level, and he actually presents great value since he'll fall to a mid- to late-round pick in most leagues. We love getting Manning as a low-end starter or high-end backup in 2013.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick's career isn't over yet, but being the starter in 2013 is far from guaranteed. He has to compete for the starting job with Nick Foles and possibly rookie Matt Barkley, but we expect Vick to win the job. After being a star in 2010 he has faltered the past two years, and he has to rebuild his on-field reputation again in a new system for coach Chip Kelly. On the surface, Kelly's up-tempo offense suits Vick's style of play, but we have to find out if the two can mesh. Vick also has to deal with the loss of Jeremy Maclin (ACL) and hope DeSean Jackson can return to form. But Vick's problems remain the same: he's injury prone and prone to mistakes. If he starts 16 games we can still see him posting quality stats, but that's no guarantee since he hasn't finished a full season since 2006. He enters this season as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, and he's worth drafting with a late-round pick. If you have reasonable expectations for Vick then he'll be a good selection on Draft Day. But if you go in expecting Vick to play like 2010 again then you can expect to be disappointed because it's unlikely that quarterback will ever be seen again.
For a guy who's led his team to two consecutive playoff appearances and has one of the best receivers in football to throw to, Andy Dalton doesn't get much love from Fantasy owners. That's not to say he never gave a reason to be loved: He had 25-plus points in four of his first six games in 2012 and then went on a similar streak over three games from Week 10 to Week 12. Aside from those flashes, Dalton's numbers were pretty gross as he had seven games with at least two passing touchdowns but finished with four passing touchdowns in six games. Turnovers were also an issue as he had just five games without an interception over 17 matchups. The key for him last season was finding a reliable second receiver to go to opposite A.J. Green -- when he had one, particularly in Mohamed Sanu, his numbers were Brees-esque. Without one, well, he was more like himself. The Bengals will get Sanu back after he suffered a foot injury and also added rookie tight end Tyler Eifert, so those additions could help Dalton become a more consistent producer. There's serious potential for Dalton but he's not going to get picked any higher than as a reserve with a late-round choice in standard drafts.