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Original Issue

Should Top QBs Be Taken Higher?

ON FANTASY DRAFTDAY, most elite quarterbacks take a backseat to even average running backs.Peyton Manning will usually last until late in the first round or early in thesecond, and other top QBs such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger and CarsonPalmer will often drift into the third. Owners are following the conventionalwisdom that running backs rule fantasy football. But is that wise? A look atthe last three seasons of fantasy production shows that elite quarterbacksdeserve more respect.

First, understandthis point: Top QBs outperform top RBs. Since 2004, 28 of the 50 highestsingle-season fantasy point totals have been by quarterbacks--compared with 20by RBs and two by WRs. Twelve of those 28 were tallied by Manning, Brees,Palmer, Brady and Bulger. LaDainian Tomlinson's astounding effort in '06 wasonly the third-best single season over the last three years.

But, the argumentgoes, aren't quality running backs harder to find, while quarterbacks are adime a dozen? Why blow a high pick on a QB when you can get a decent one later?Indeed, most fantasy league teams employ two or three running backs and onlyone quarterback, seemingly creating a glut of QBs and a shortage of runners.But shrewd fantasy owners know that quality is more important than quantity.Once you get past the quintet of passers mentioned above, you're left withless-than-inspiring choices such as Jon Kitna (inconsistent), Donovan McNabb(injury prone), Vince Young (weak supporting cast), Matt Hasselbeck and EliManning (inconsistent, and weak supporting cast), Philip Rivers (inexperienced)and more unproven options (see next page). One or two of those QBs could put upbig numbers in 2007, but not many more.

The second tier ofRBs--every starter not named LT, Steven Jackson or Larry Johnson (who has hisown issues)--includes 26 running backs who gained 1,000 rushing yards and/orscored 10 or more TDs last season, and at least three strong rookies. Thismeans you can make an aggressive move for a top quarterback and still land adecent second running back later on.

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

TOP FANTASYPERFORMERS, 2004-06

PLAYER, TEAM

TOTAL
YARDS

TOTAL
TDS

Peyton Manning, Colts

12,820

112

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

6,036

74

Tiki Barber, Giants

6,613

31

Larry Johnson, Chiefs

5,151

51

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

6,036

74

Tiki Barber, Giants

6,613

31

Larry Johnson, Chiefs

5,151

51

Drew Brees, Chargers/Saints

11,357

80

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

TOP FANTASYSEASONS, 2004-06

PLAYER, TEAM

SEASON

TOTAL
YARDS

TOTAL
TDS

Peyton Manning, Colts

2004

4,595

49

Daunte Culpepper, Vikings

2004

5,123

41

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

2006

2,343

33

Shaun Alexander, Seahawks

2005

1,959

28

Daunte Culpepper, Vikings

2004

5,123

41

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

2006

2,343

33

Shaun Alexander, Seahawks

2005

1,959

28

Peyton Manning, Colts

2006

4,433

35

TOTALS INCLUDEPASSING, RUSHING AND RECEIVING

AFTER PEYTON GOES, WHICH QB TO DRAFT?

THE CHOICE is among Tom Brady, Drew Brees and CarsonPalmer (with Marc Bulger and Donovan McNabb, in my view, not far behind them).All have their strong points. Brady can put up big numbers with just about anyreceiving corps, and now he's got Randy Moss, Donté Stallworth and Wes Walkerto throw to. Brees also has a strong receiving corps--plus Reggie Bush, who canturn a five-yard dump-off into a 50-yard gain. Then there's Palmer, who playswith one of the league's best one-two receiving punches in Chad Johnson andT.J. Houshmandzadeh. You can't go wrong with any of these quarterbacks, but Irank them in this order: Brees, Brady and then Palmer. I give Brees the slightedge because the weak Saints defense will give up points and keep the offensein situations in which New Orleans will still be throwing the ball late ingames; in New England, Brady (right) is more likely to be handing off in thefourth quarter to run down the clock. Palmer slips behind the two because ofthe lack of a strong third receiver in the first eight games of the seasonduring Chris Henry's (nine TDs in '06) suspension. ¬†Also note that whileManning is the clear No.¬†1 QB, the step down to these three really isn'tall that far.--James Quintong

PHOTO

DAVID BERGMAN (BREES)

 HighFive

Brees is the fifth-leading fantasy scorer of the past threeyears.

PHOTO

JOHN BIEVER (BRADY)