Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts
Consistency, consistency, consistency. This guy has not missed a start in 7 years. Peyton has thrown for over 4000 yards per season the past six seasons. Last year, Manning averaged over 300 yds per game and set the NFL touchdown record at 49 in 15 games. With the Colts offensive weapons and continued good health, look for Manning to have another near record year.
2004 Stats TDs – 49 Passing yards – 4557
Daunte Culpepper - Minnesota Vikings
Although Culpepper doesn't have Randy Moss to throw to this year, he still gets our nod in the elite class. Clearly, the Moss move to Oakland will affect Culpepper's numbers as was evident last year when Moss was limited. However, Daunte's arm and ability to run helps him keep his elite status. Don't expect Duante to throw for 4700 yards and 39 TDs again this year, but expect him to perform as a top NFL quarterback with a running threat that again produces close to 400 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
2004 Stats TDs – 39 Passing yards – 4717
Donovan McNabb – Philadelphia Eagles
During the 2003 season, I heard one fantasy analyst say he "wouldn't trade the actor who played Abraham Lincoln for Donovan McNabb…". Well, that was the first half of 2003. Donovan quickly made that analyst and Rush Limbaugh eat his words in 2004. McNabb's abysmal 4th quarter performance in the Superbowl and Terrell Owens' recent suspension may make you want to knock him out of the elite status, but don't. T.O. will definitely help McNabb if/when he comes to terms. But even if he doesn't, McNabb falls behind only Manning and Culpepper in passing numbers over the past three years (two without T.O.). Look for McNabb's poise and better utilized running ability to lock him into the top 3 QBs taken this year.
2004 Stats TDs – 31 Passing yards - 3875
Michael Vick – Atlanta Falcons
Vick runs like a gazelle and has a cannon for an arm. Vick is the most athletic QB on the board and is an absolute human highlight reel. The issue is that he hasn't learned to harness his talent. But, he's learning!...which is why we have him fourth on our fantasy list. Vick continues to be heavily coached and is responding well. We look for Mike Vick (Ron Mexico) to vastly improve his decision making skills, accuracy within the pocket, and again approach 1000 yards rushing with more of an emphasis in red zone situations. Vick's 902 rushing yards last year put him at 23rd overall of NFL rushers in 2004.
2004 Stats TDs – 14 Passing yards – 2313
Brett Favre – Green Bay Packers
Brett is a rock solid quarterback and has the numbers to support it. At 35, Favre has shown no signs of slowing down. Even though Favre will take a big goose egg in the rushing category, his passing stats will make up for the difference. Although the Packers lost their top two guards on the offensive line this offseason, it should still be an above average group. With Javon Walker coming into his prime and Brett's continued fortitude, we still have him ranked as one of the top fantasy QBs.
2004 Stats TDs – 30 Passing yards – 4088
Matt Hasselbeck – Seattle Seahawks
Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks believe in Hasselbeck and made him their long term leader by signing him to a huge six year contract. Shaun Alexander's return as RB will continue to open up Seattle's quarterback friendly passing game. Hasselbeck had decent numbers in 2004 over 14 games, but was a victim of numerous dropped passes. Better focus and a top offensive line make Hasselbeck a candidate to put up better numbers in 2005.
2004 Stats TDs – 22 Passing yards – 3382
Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Tom Brady is a winner. His NFL record is an astounding 57-14. Although Brady's passing and TD statistics don't match his superior W-L record, they are still worthy of a starting fantasy quarterback. With the departure of Charlie Weis, look for Bill Belichick to call most of the plays. The adjustment may mean slightly better numbers for Brady as New England's offensive scheme becomes a bit more conventional.
2004 Stats TDs – 28 Passing yards – 3692
Marc Bulger – St. Louis Rams
The Rams haven't been the same team since the Superbowl, but still have most of the offensive weapons in place. Bulger will again amass a ton of yards (~4000 in 13 games '04), but needs to get better in the red zone. Bulger will benefit from a soft schedule this year, which should boost the Rams and their passing game significantly. Fundamentally, Bulger has everything in place to be a top five fantasy QB in 2005. If he can find the answer in TD passing situations, he will be.
2004 Stats TDs - 21 Passing yards – 3964
Carson Palmer – Cincinnati Bengals
Palmer is on the edge of a breakout season. And he has the weapons to do it. After starting off poorly in 2004 and prior to being sidelined with a knee injury, he finished up his last six games looking like the heralded quarterback the Bengals have been touting. Palmer is worth drafting and may pay off big if he is able to play consistently for a complete season.
2004 Stats TDs – 18 Passing yards – 2897
Trent Green – Kansas City Chiefs
Trent had some amazing stats in 2004. He ranked third of all QBs with nearly 300 yards per start. Green was stellar. His passing performance was primarily because Priest Holmes missed the last half of the year with a knee injury. Don't look for Green to air it out quite as much this season if Holmes is able to stay healthy.
2004 Stats TDs – 27 Passing yards – 4591
Aaron Brooks – New Orleans Saints
Aaron Brooks has played okay for the Saints and put up numbers the past couple of years that are just okay…nothing great. The Saints haven't been to the playoffs since 2000 and Jim Haslett is ready to change course. Deuce McAllister will carry the load in 2005 like he did the last four games in December (the Saints won all four). The run first adjustment to the Saints' playbook may mean less for Brooks.
2004 Stats TDs – 21 Passing yards – 3810
Kerry Collins – Oakland Raiders
The addition of WR Randy Moss and RB Lamont Jordan should help Kerry Collins and the Raiders' offense significantly. Collins has always been a decent passer, but has been lousy at finding the endzone in critical situations. The new talent lessens the pressure on Collins and lends itself to multiple touchdown strikes to both Moss and Jerry Porter. If Jordan is able to take the pressure off the passing game, plan on Collins having his best year as an NFL starter.
2004 Stats TDs – 21 Passing yards – 3495
Chad Pennington – New York Jets
Chad Pennington may be the NFL's most undervalued quarterback. He has ranked third of all QBs over the past three years in passing rating. If healthy, Pennington should be able to take the Jets to the playoffs in 2005. However, Chad's shoulder and low overall fantasy stats in 2004 have knocked him from the top ten on many draft grids. Pennington is known for accuracy, not distance. But look for him to air it out under new coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Early preseason performance and camp news have indicated that Pennington has completely healed from shoulder surgery in January. If Pennington is available in the mid round of your draft, pick him up as a strong value pick.
2004 Stats TDs – 16 Passing yards - 2673