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updated: 8/30/2012 2:59 PM

Fantasy forecast: Quarterbacks

With pass-happy NFL, quarterbacks will fly off the board in fantasy drafts

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  • Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Denver, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012.

      Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Denver, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012.

  • Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Denver, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012.

      Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Denver, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012.

  • In Peyton Manning's worst season, he still threw 26 touchdown passes. The question is, will he fare well enough in Denver to warrant being an every-week fantasy starter in 2012?

      In Peyton Manning's worst season, he still threw 26 touchdown passes. The question is, will he fare well enough in Denver to warrant being an every-week fantasy starter in 2012?
    Associated Press

  • Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick runs off the field following a win against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011, in Philadelphia.

      Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick runs off the field following a win against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011, in Philadelphia.

  • Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick throws a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in Philadelphia.

      Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick throws a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in Philadelphia.

 
 

Arian Foster's gone.

So is Ray Rice.

And LeSean McCoy.

Now the fourth fantasy football team is on the clock and they pick … Aaron Rodgers.

Next? Drew Brees.

Then? Matthew Stafford, followed by Tom Brady and Cam Newton.

Granted, this scenario won't play out exactly in many leagues (Rodgers could easily go in the first 3 picks, and Calvin Johnson figures to go in the top 8), but for those of you getting 6 points for passing touchdowns, I see no reason why it may not come close.

Look, just a year ago, five quarterbacks going in the first round (or let's say first 15 picks) would have been nuts. Heck, 10 years ago, more than one QB going in the first round was practically unheard of.

But times, they are a changin', as evidenced by this simple fact: The number of quarterbacks who have thrown for 4,000-plus yards in a season has skyrocketed over the past three-plus decades.

Check this out: From 1980-98, only 31 quarterbacks hit the 4,000-yard mark. But look at what's happened over just the past eight seasons. There were:

•5 in 2004

•2 in 2005

•5 in 2006

•7 in 2007

•6 in 2008

•10 in 2009

•5 in 2010

•10 in 2011.

That's 50 QBs who went over 4,000 yards in less than a decade. Amazing.

The five quarterbacks I listed come with little or no downside risk, and that's exactly how you should begin your draft.

I can see slipping Lions WR Johnson in there at about No. 7 or 8, but otherwise, making one of these QBs a cornerstone to your franchise will go a long way to ensuring at least a solid start on draft day.

Don't panic:

Let me give one other piece of advice to those who miss out on the top seven: Be patient. It doesn't make any sense to grab Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub or Peyton Manning in the fourth or fifth round when you could be loading up on stud receivers.

Those five QBs should all produce very similar numbers. So stock up on wideouts and take one of those QBs in the seventh, eighth -- or even ninth -- rounds.

Remember, your opponents already have their QB and probably won't be looking for a backup until Rounds 9-11.

Random thoughts:

•Last year, some analysts thought Michael Vick should be taken with the first pick. I disagreed, saying he was too risky to even be ranked the No. 1 quarterback and put Aaron Rodgers ahead of him.

This year, he's generally ranked anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8. Because he can flat-out win a game or two for you, I like him in the top 10, but you'd better be sure to get someone else in the top 15 as insurance.

•With the cosmic connection Jay Cutler has with Brandon Marshall, there's no reason not to think Cutler can't approach the 4,200-yard mark and his career high of 27 passing TDs.

•There are some out there who worry about the fact that Houston is a run-first offense, so they rank Matt Schaub in the 13-16 range. There also are concerns about his health, as well as Andre Johnson's. I get all that. But I'm staying optimistic and believe he should hit 4,000 yards and easily finish above 25 passing TDs.

•Perhaps the most intriguing story of 2012 is how Peyton Manning will fare in Denver. He's got a pair of very talented wideouts in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. He's still the smartest, most dedicated quarterback in football. And he brings a resume that includes 399 passing TDs and 11 4,000-yard seasons. He may have some off-games seeing that he's on a new team and coming off neck surgery, but Manning still should produce nice numbers in a nice offense -- just not the elite ones we're used to seeing.

•Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the first two players taken in the NFL draft, and for fantasy purposes I like Griffin more this year based on his running ability. If you're in a keeper league, however, I'd grab Luck because he should emerge as a top-flight QB in this league sooner rather than later.

•In Seattle, rookie Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and has looked impressive with his arm, but also his legs. If he can hold on to the job for an entire year, a top-15 finish in fantasy points is certainly a possibility. But it's a big if.

•If you're in a deep league, Tim Tebow wouldn't be the worst pick for a second, or even third, QB. In Weeks 7-16 last year, Tebow ranked ninth in fantasy points among quarterbacks mainly thanks to his 623 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. If Mark Sanchez were to get injured or just flat-out lose his job, Tebow could easily be a weekly starter in standard leagues.

Next: WRs/TEs

jdietz@dailyherald.com

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