Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
6. Eli Manning, New York Giants
After what was possibly the quietest 4,900 yard season in NFL history, Eli Manning is once again poised to put up numbers. He has his top two receivers back (Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz), and the team added David Wilson (running back) and Rueben Randle (receiver) by way of the NFL draft, both of whom are expected to immediately compete for playing time and make an impact on the field. Eli will once again reach for the 5,000 mark while throwing both a lot of touchdowns and a lot of interceptions. If you’re in a league that doesn’t dock too many points for picks then he might be worth a higher pick than this. However, in most standard scoring leagues, it’s hard for me to even THINK about taking him earlier then the 4th round or so given his propensity for boneheaded turnovers.
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
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Romo has been sort of a forgotten man in fantasy circles, despite throwing for over 4,000 yards and 30 TDs last season. Furthermore, aside from a freak accident in 2010, he’s been durable, has a solid supporting cast (Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray) and plays in an offense designed to throw the ball. So…Why no love from fantasy pundits? Honestly, I think it’s because he’s boring. Although he has great stat potential, he’s in a sort of QB purgatory. He lacks the explosiveness of a Vick or a Newton and has not reached the 5,000 yard club like some of the guys listed above. Still though, there’s something to be said for knowing exactly what you’re going to get and not having to worry about the position from week to week (which is why he’s ranked above the two guys directly below him.)
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8. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick began last season at or near the top of just about every “expert” fantasy wishlist and ended it with them cursing him and writing him off. That, however, is not his biggest problem. If he’s healthy, Vick is absolutely a top 5 talent (both in fantasy as well as on the field), and all indications are that he’s worked on the technical aspects of the game more than ever this off-season. Unfortunately for him, that “IF” in front of “healthy” is a HUGE concern. Vick has missed more games than all the quarterbacks ranked in the top 10 except Matt Stafford and has never played in all 16 games since returning to the league. That being said, his ability to run with the ball, combined with a new-found emphasis on protecting his body and reading defenses properly, makes his upside high. Just be careful to temper your expectations and draft a backup fairly early on (RGIII maybe?). Otherwise, you might be in for a long season.
9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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You might be shocked to see how low I am on Cam here, but I just can’t see any way that he manages to duplicate his ridiculous numbers from his rookie campaign. Newton’s torrid start (averaging 346 yards passing over his first four games) was tempered severely by season’s end (when he averaged 188 yards passing over his last four games). Passing yardage doesn’t tell the whole story; it seems to me that Newton’s hot start was at least in part due to the extended off-season. Once teams had film and time to break down Cam, they were better able to contain him and limit his effectiveness. Could I be dead wrong here? Sure, it’s possible. Cam is a physical freak, unlike anything the NFL has seen at the position. Still, quarterback, more so then any other position in the NFL, requires far more than just athletic talent to succeed. And, while I’m not predicting Cam will crash and burn this season, the risk in selecting him any higher is too great for me.
10. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
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Cutler rounds out the top 10, narrowly edging several other qualified candidates, including Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub. Why? For me, it came down to… wait for it… upside. Rivers and Schaub have plateaued over the last few seasons, proving that they can be counted on for around 4,200 yards and 25-30 TDs a season when healthy, but not much more. And while Cutler’s stats over this same period aren’t nearly as impressive (3,500 yards and 25-28 TDs), the acquisition of Brandon Marshall in the off-season, combined with a healthy and happily signed Matt Forte, signal to me, a far greater potential for growth. Rivers and Schaub’s respective supporting casts only got worse. Realistically though, you can’t go wrong with any of them at this spot.
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Harrison Goo is a contributor to CBS Local and the founder of the blog SportsGooru.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @sportsgooru.