Several of our commenters have talked about how the list of this year’s Fantastic Four of Fantasy Football represents a changing of the guard from running backs like Larry Johnson or LaDanian Tomlinson to youngsters like Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Matt Forte.
We are seeing a similar change at quarterback. It seems like the debate atop the quarterback ratings for the last few years has been whether Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is the No. 1 choice. These two vets have exchanged the passing TD record and the fantasy-football crown.
But this year, a new name is moving to the top of the list — Drew Brees. Since arriving in New Orleans, Brees has put up big numbers, but last year it seemed like nothing could stop him. Brees approached the record for passing yards in a season and tossed 34 touchdowns. That happened despite a major injury that knocked out his best receiver, Marques Colston, for much of the year.
So the question is whether we rank Brees ahead of Brady and Manning this year. And I say that’s the right way to go. There are few questions on Brees. He has a deep stable of receivers, led by Colston and Lance Moore and Reggie Bush, and the entire group has proven it can produce. He has stayed healthy, and he has had five terrific years in a row.
Meanwhile, Manning is durable and productive, but with Marvin Harrison leaving, he’s depending on an inexperienced crew of receivers. Chances are that Anthony Gonzalez can move up to the No. 2 receiver level, but can rookie Austin Collie or anyone else emerge as a No. 3? And will the change of offensive coordinators affect Manning’s production? I smell a small drop in his production for Manning, but I expect that small drop to be enough to put Brees ahead of Manning.
The questions about Brady, meanwhile, are whether he is healthy enough returning from injury to come right back and produce at the same level. He still has all the weapons, starting with Randy Moss and Wes Welker and including additions like Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis. The offensive line is still strong, and even with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gone, you have to figure the Patriots offense is ready to go.
So has Brees passed Manning and Brady? I don’t think so. I’d put Manning third among this elite group, but right now my hunch is to put Brady just a hair above Brees. I’d be happy with either player, but as we begin our analysis Brady gets the pole position.