Although Carson Palmer led the fantasy world in final stats upon finish of the 2005 season, Palmer's knee injury had most everyone leaning toward Peyton Manning as the likely #1 fantasy QB for 2006. In fact, few fantasy experts had Palmer higher than 5th in preseason rankings. After Peyton, the general consensus of the experts was to rank Tom Brady at 2nd and Matt Hasselbeck at 3rd (neither of which finished in the final top 6 NFL QBs for 2006). Most experts then slotted Donovan McNabb, Marc Bulger, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, Jake Delhomme, and Trent Green as their picks to round out their top ten.
Manning was this author's obvious choice heading into preseason '06, but I dismissed Palmer's injury and believed his arm would carry his legs (which proved mostly correct...although I underestimated the negative effect coach Marvin Lewis' risky draft strategy would have on the entire Bengal team). And, unlike fellow FFL experts, I didn't believe Matt Hasselbeck was a top 3 QB (I ranked him 6th)...but we were all wrong as H-beck fell off the radar with an injury. With the loss of Terrell Owens and lack of a proven wide receiver, Donovan McNabb was another QB I didn't feel deserved a top 5 ranking (again going against the consensus of most other experts). I missed badly with Delhomme at 4th (as did everyone) and Warner / Leftwich at 8th & 9th.
The QB story in 2006 for all of us, however, were the surprise performances of Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Jon Kitna, and Philip Rivers. All finished in the top 8 of fantasy QBs, and none (other than maybe Vick) were ranked by any of the experts to finish in the top 10. Brees (recovering from serious shoulder surgery and moving to the chaos in New Orleans) and Rivers (1st year starting QB) played with poise all season and looked like world-beaters with passer ratings in the 90's to finish the season...and lead their teams to top playoff spots. Vick climbed to 4th overall with injury-free health and some amazing rushing numbers. Kitna's 4200+ yards and 23 TDs to finish at 6th, well....I can't explain it.
Compared to the majority of FFL experts, I compared pretty well with my '06 QB picks. I gave myself a B- based on how the quarterbacks finished when compared to my rankings...and found no other preseason documented expert picks that I would grade higher than a C.
*reprinted 2006 final Top Fantasy QB article below
1. Peyton Manning - Peyton Manning is an absolute fantasy STUD! Despite losing his last 4 road games, Manning continued to produce. In fact, Manning scored a TD in every game he played in 2006 - something no other QB has done. Manning's consistent performance made him dominant in fantasy leagues with 35 total TDs (7 more than any other QB). If Manning's TD performance wasn't enough...he threw for 4397 passing yards, had a QB rating of 101.0, and threw only 9 interceptions. Peyton Manning plays every game, produces consistently at the top of all QBs, and makes very few mistakes. Fantasy owners with Manning on their roster in 2006 had the best QB in the league...without arguement.
2. Drew Brees - All Drew Brees has done is taken a sub-500 team and made them a contender by reading defenses, throwing accurate passes for touchdowns, and given New Orleans fans a football spirit like the city has never seen. If you were lucky enough to "settle" for Drew Brees at QB in the mid rounds of your fantasy draft, then you likely won your division and made it into your fantasy playoffs. If there is a downside to the phenominal performance by Brees this season from a fantasy perspective, it is that he may have been too good!? With the division wrapped early by the Saints, Brees accumulated just 385 yards and 1 touchdown over his last 3 regular season games (during FFL playoffs - a killer for owners who rode his fantastic performances all season).
3. Carson Palmer - With a wealth of talent on offense, Carson Palmer came into 2006 as a huge question mark. Off-season knee surgery had many fantasy owners questioning Palmer's ability to recover from a major operation...and they appeared to be justified as Palmer got off to a slow start in his first 4 games. Carson threw for less than 200 yards and didn't score in 2 of his first 4 games. As Palmer became comfortable with his knee, he started to find key WR Chad Johnson and his fantasy numbers came online with 28 total TDs on the season (2nd to Manning). However, as Palmer gained poise...the Bengals didn't fare as well as they lost 7 of their final 12 and missed the playoffs (5 of the losses by less than a TD).
4. Michael Vick - Is he a running back or a quarterback? I think he's both. Although Vick's total TDs amounts to only 20, he has a whopping 1039 rushing yards!...which is huge in any fantasy league. Vick's passing rating is a mere 75.7. But most fantasy owners don't care too much if he doesn't thread the needle to a group of below average Falcon wide receivers...it's Vick's rushing yards that put the exclamation point on his average quarterback passing stats and made him the number 4 fantasy QB in 2006. The knock on Mike Vick is that he is hit or miss. In three of Vick's games (weeks 3, 14, &16), he failed to score...and didn't have combined yardage totals (passing + rushing) of 200 yards in any of those three games. On the other hand, 8 of Vick's 20 TD throws came in just two games (4 passing TDs in weeks 7 & 15).
5. Marc Bulger - Same 'ol consistent Marc Bulger in 2006. Bulger's 4300+ passing yards with only 8 INTs show why Bulger can continue to counted upon despite coaching and personnel changes in the Rams organization. The only downside to Bulger's stats this past season may be his TD production...which amount to 24 (good, but not great given his yardage and accuracy).
6. Jon Kitna - Surprisingly, with just 2 wins on the season...Jon Kitna threw for over 4200 yards and totaled 23 TDs! Kitna had only 3 games where he didn't score. But maybe not surprisingly, Kitna threw 22 INTs (most in the league) and had only 3 games where he didn't throw a pick. For the simple fact that Kitna was fairly consistent on the season with a decent number of total touchdowns and huge yardage, he ranks 6th overall for fantasy QBs (largely because many leagues count only positive points and don't detract for INTs).
7. Tom Brady - Tom Brady scored 14 of his 24 TDs in his first 7 games of '06 (scoring in every game and winning 6 of them). But in Brady's next 6 games, he scored in just 3 - resulting in 3 losses. Bottom line however is that Tom Brady continues to be one of the great QBs of our time, but TB doesn't have any quality wide receivers to mention and has had to make the most of supporting cast.
8. Philip Rivers - Young Philip Rivers threw 22 TDs with just 9 INTs while leading the San Diego Chargers to the top seed in the AFC with 14 wins. Rivers was a blessing to his fantasy owners who likely got him cheap. Consistency was the forte' of the young QB as he scored in all but 3 of his 16 games and put up a passer rating of 92.0. The production of stud RB LaDainian Tomlinson may have been numbers that weren't put up by Rivers, but LT obviously helped keep defenses from focusing on Rivers with every offensive snap.
9. Eli Manning - Brother Eli is still considered as a decent QB capable of great things, but he's still throwing to the wrong color jersey. After compiling 17 INTs last season, Eli topped that mark by 1 and threw 18 this year. On a more positive note, the potential is there and Manning has demonstrated he has the ability with his 24 passing touchdowns. Key targets Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey are Manning's bread and butter and produced down the stretch as the Giants eeked out an NFL playoff berth.
10. Rex Grossman - Grossman may be the 10th rated fantasy QB, but only because he's pass happy - often using extremely poor judgement. A benefactor of the Bears tenacious D, Grossman has been given good field position and plenty of clock time, ultimately deciding to throw the ball in situations where the Bears would be better off running and giving their defense a rest (think Kyle Orton and the 10 wins last season followed by an early playoff loss where Grossman started and basically threw away the game on 1st and 2nd downs). Grossman has thrown for 23 TDs this season, but the 20 INTs are wearing out the Bears defense and fantasy owners who have interceptions counted against them. Rex Grossman is not that good of a quarterback, but a top-notch Chicago Bears defense allowed Rex to stay in the game and complete 23 TDs for fantasy owners brave enough to stick with him (in leagues where INTs aren't a problem).
11. Vince Young - This rookie certainly isn't on the list because of his 66.9 passer rating. It's because of his 19 total TDs and 553 rushing yards. Once Vince took the reigns (week 4), he scored in every remaining Titans game except one (week 15).
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Analyzing the QBs...Looking Back at 2006
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