Checking my Twitter feed on my lunch break has become common practice. I was creating yet another tweet about my dislike for banana flavored Runts when I noticed a post from @NinersNation. They were looking for someone to create fantasy football content for the site. The appropriate bribes were offered and I was trusted with the responsibility of covering fantasy football for Niners Nation this year.
I'm a child of the 80's. My love for San Francisco didn't come from their on-field achievements during this era. Rather, it came from my addiction to Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo. My friends always chose Walter Payton and the Chicago Bears, but I loved the passing plays. My inner Steve Spurrier wanted to air it out and Joe Montana was the man for the job. My passion carried over when I began to follow the real game of football and I haven't wavered a second.
Ever since I could pick up a joystick I've had a problem with using the athletic prowess of others for my personal gain. It started with Tecmo Bowl and 22 years later it continues with fantasy football. I'm not a fantasy football "expert". I'm just a Niner fan with about 10 years of fantasy experience who jumped at the opportunity to contribute to my favorite NFL website. While I will be offering advice, I want to use these posts to create discussions for fantasy related topics and examine each 49er game from a fantasy perspective.
We'll start with a look at the questions surrounding the top 10 quarterbacks and Alex Smith.
Draft Day Dilemmas: The Top 10 Quarterbacks
Running backs traditionally go fast on draft day, but this trend may be coming to an end. An increased emphasis on the passing attack and the growing popularity of "running back by committee" has moved QBs up the draft board. Aaron Rodgers led the way in 2011 followed by Drew Brees and Tom Brady. The biggest surprise was Cam Newton who made us all reconsider how we rank rookie quarterbacks. This year you can count on Rodgers to be taken in the first 8 picks. Brees and Brady will go late in the first or early in the second round. If you can't grab Rodgers I like Brady slightly better than Brees. The addition of Brandon Lloyd should make an already deadly aerial attack that more dangerous.
If you miss out on the three quarterbacks above you will find two guys who had stellar 2011 seasons. Cam Newton was a late pick in many drafts last year, but he will be gone by the end of round 2 this year. Matthew Stafford proved he wasn't a complete china doll and as long as he is throwing to Calvin Johnson he will be top tier QB. If you forgo these two you will be debating between three NFC East quarterbacks in Michael Vick, Eli Manning and America's punching bag Tony Romo.
Several former first round fantasy picks took steps backwards in 2011. Phillip Rivers actually had a respectable year and finished as the 8th best QB in fantasy leagues. However, he was an overall disappointment to owners who drafted him early. Then we have the peculiar case of Peyton Manning who didn't take a snap in the 2011. A year later he finds himself with a new team in Denver.
Rivers and Manning are currently ranked very close together so who will have the best chance of bouncing back big in 2012? Manning is as steady as they come and has viable weapons at his disposal, but a year off and a new team is not a recipe for certainty. Rivers failed to produce on a level fantasy owners expected and was frustrating start for most of the year. It is going to be difficult for him to regain his first round pick form as deep threat Vincent Jackson is now in Tampa Bay and early reports state that San Diego will lean more on Ryan Matthews this year.
It comes down to the supporting cast and Manning has the advantage. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker showed brief flashes of effectiveness with Kyle Orton barely holding on to a job. Imagine what they may be able to do if they can develop chemistry with Peyton Manning. If Antonio Gates could stay on the field this would be a closer call, but he can't, so it isn't.
What is Alex Smith's Fantasy Ceiling?
I am an Alex Smith fan/apologist/believer, but number 11 is currently a QB 2 with upside at best. Off-season additions Randy Moss and Mario Manningham create an ideal scenario for Smith to improve his fantasy stats, but he still commands an offense predicated on the run and ball control. Add Alex to your watch list early in the season. He will be a free agent in most leagues that start 1 quarterback and his new weapons could mean a breakout 2012 campaign.
If you plan to play in a league that starts two quarterbacks Smith's value goes up, but he is still a risky play. Picking Smith as a third quarterback in the final rounds is safe move. He has a better chance of helping your team than a sleeper wide receiver or tight end. Smith wasn't a phenomenal fantasy quarterback in 2011, but the new weapons and a full training camp have me interested in what he can do in 2012. Furthermore, his lack of turnovers make him a decent spot start on most weeks. A 4,000 yard /25 touchdown season is a high ceiling, but not out of the question.
So fantasy fans, what do you make of Manning and Rivers going into the draft? Also, where do you see Alex Smith ranked at the end of season on fantasy charts?