I believe Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady should be the first two players off the board, even in those weird leagues where passing TDs are only worth 4 points. I also believe Brees should go in the top 5, maybe even third overall. Those are the three safest players in fantasy football; least likely to get hurt, most likely to dominate. They have everything going in their favor: track record, supporting cast, elite talent, offensive system ... even Roger Goodell seems to be creating rules to benefit them. So as much as you might want Arian Foster or Ray Rice, my recommendation is take a QB in the top 3, and then spends rounds 2-10 stockpiling on RBs and WRs.
So, what happens if you are picking 12th, or 10th, and those guys are all gone? Even in the most old-fashioned leagues, all 3 quarterbacks will be gone in the top 10. So who else can you trust? And in what round? Are there any late-round bargains, or should you beat the rush and take the best QB available in the 2nd or 3rd round?
Here are my fantasy QB rankings:
4. Eli Manning.
Love Cam and Stafford's upside, but I think Eli is the safest QB outside of the top three. You can probably get him late 2nd or early 3rd round.
5. Tony Romo.
As Dallas evolves into a successful running team, Romo will become more efficient and probably more productive. He has always thrived in play-action, and now it'll work even better with a great RB. A potential bargain pick; everyone is shying away from Dallas because of the Dez Bryant drama.
6. Cam Newton.
Newly acquired Mike Tolbert will steal Cam's goal-line carries and prevent him from rushing for 14 scores again. But 4,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards again is reasonable, and at least 5 or 6 rushing TDs. However, keep in mind that if you want him you're really going to have to reach; he's going in the 2nd round, sometimes as early as 15th overall.
7. Matt Stafford.
Three years ago: "No where to go but up!"
Two years ago: "Stafford is unflappable!"
Last year: "Can Stafford stay healthy?"
This year's overarching question: "How will Stafford do without Calvin?"
I really have no idea what to expect from Stafford during the 6 or more games that Megatron misses. It will really suck, especially if the run game doesn't develop. I surely wouldn't want to rely on him for fantasy purposes during that time. That's why I have him ranked 7th; without the Madden Curse he would be 4th.
8. Phillip Rivers.
Losing Vincent Jackson will be tough, and Norv Turner vows to give Ryan Matthews a very heavy workload. But I still think PR will put up massive stats. He always does. Even during his bad year, he went for 4,600 yards and 27 TDs. He won't throw 20 INTs again. Plus, I think Eddie Royal can step into that Sproles-ish role as the safety-valve, slot-guy. He's a buy-low pick that you can rely on.
9. Peyton Manning.
The ultimate in risk-reward. He might not be fully recovered, and even if he is, he might be rusty. Plus he doesn't have any proven receivers, and he's playing home games outdoors for the first time ever. Worth a gamble in the 4th, maybe 3rd round - just make sure you get a reasonable backup QB somewhere around the 7th or 8th round.
10. Michael Vick.
The injury to Jason Peters is going to be directly responsible for at least 1 injury to Vick this year. Count on him to play between 7 and 10 games. So in other words, if you take him, you need to take a backup QB shortly after. But it might just be worth it. When the matchup is right, he'll rush for 150 yards and any passing stats he gets are gravy. Plus he gets easy yardage on McCoy's screen passes.
11. Jay Cutler.
Cutler is probably the last guy I would ever draft, even if he were available in the last round. I just can't stand him. But if you don't care about personal feelings, you might as well roll with him. Brandon Marshall is going to make Cutler relevant in fantasy world again. He's a buy-low bargain.
12. Matt Schaub.
Houston is clearly a run-first team, but Schaub will have plenty of chances in the red zone against their easy schedule. Another buy-low QB; nobody wants to touch him after the season-ending injury, but it was only a foot injury, not a knee, arm or shoulder.
13. Matt Ryan.
Going earlier than Vick, Cutler and Schaub, simply based on having a great duo of receivers. But those receivers can't do anything if Ryan can't get them the ball, and we've yet to see him throw 30 TDs or 4,200 yards. He really hasn't gotten better after four years in the league.
14. Ben Roethlisberger.
Improved offensive line, injured running back, new offensive coordinator ... everything points to Pittsburgh becoming a pass-happy team. Ben is a good bet to lead the NFL in sacks and INTs, but also rack up tons of yards on stupid hailmarys.
*This is where it gets tough. If you're still paying attention at this point, you're looking for a backup or a sleeper QB.
If you have Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Eli, Romo or Rivers, I would recommend standing pat and using the extra bench spot on a flier WR or a handcuff RB. Sleeper QBs can be exciting, but they'll just sit on your bench every week. Unless you want to grab one for potential trade bait.
If you have an injury-prone QB such as Cam, Peyton, Vick or Big Ben, I would draft a backup QB who is safe, reliable, and pretty mediocre. Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe Andy Dalton.
If you have Stafford, Cutler, Schaub, or Ryan, I would draft a backup who has a little more upside and potentially more downside. RG3 is the obvious name because of his potential to run for 1,000 yards, but I'd also look at Luck, Bradford, Freeman, and if you're feeling really adventurous, Ponder or Locker.
And if you want to be "that guy," take Tim Tebow.
If you don't have one of the top 14 guys, your season is pretty much screwed. So I'd recommend getting an early start on the QB run. Make someone else in your league rely on Vick, Schaub or Cutler; you'll feel much better when you're not playing the QB matchup every week.