If you've ever played fantasy football, you know how unpredictable it can be from one season to the next. That was especially evident at the quarterback position in 2008, as Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers broke out to have monster seasons and the likes of Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen came out of nowhere to become fantasy starters.
Of course, now the big question about these quarterbacks is whether or not that same level of statistical success can be achieved in 2009. Since there's no crystal balls and ultimately no sure things in fantasy football (just ask someone who drafted Tom Brady), sometimes the best way to determine the future is to look at the past.
Since 2004, a number of quarterbacks have had breakout seasons and experienced a drastic increase in fantasy value the following season. Unfortunately, most of those signal-callers failed to meet their heightened expectations. The poster boy for these rags-to-riches and back to rags quarterbacks has to be Cleveland's Derek Anderson.
A relative unknown in fantasy circles, Anderson opened the 2007 season behind Charlie Frye on the Browns' depth chart. He went on to throw for 3,787 yards and finished with a total of 31 touchdowns. Those numbers helped him finish sixth in fantasy points at the position on NFL.com and made him a surefire No. 1 fantasy option in 2008 drafts.
Anderson wasn't the lone quarterback to see a decrease in production after a breakout season. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger might have been an even bigger disappointment in fantasy land. A top-five quarterback in 2007 after throwing for 3,154 yards, rushing for 204 yards and scoring a total of 34 touchdowns, Big Ben was a big bust in 2008. He recorded more turnovers (22) than total touchdowns (19) and finished the season as a fantasy starter in a mere 40 percent of NFL.com leagues.
In 2006, fantasy leaguers saw Marc Bulger and Vince Young have tremendous seasons. Bulger finished fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks, while Young showed flashes of immense potential in 13 starts as a rookie. Both were ranked among the top players at their position the following season, and both went into the statistical tank.
Bulger was limited to 12 starts due to injuries and finished with 174 fewer fantasy points, while Young recorded a decrease in rushing yards with 12 total touchdowns and 20 turnovers. Neither Bulger nor Young has been able to produce the same sort of numbers again. In fact, Young lost his starting role to an aging Kerry Collins.
The list of breakout quarterbacks to falter doesn't end there.
Believe it or not, but Eli Manning finished fourth in fantasy points on NFL.com (just 30 points behind his brother Peyton) among quarterbacks in 2005. Because of one solid season, not to mention a pretty famous bloodline, Eli Manning was seen as a surefire starter in fantasy circles. While he did have a decent 2006 season, he faltered down the stretch. Furthermore, he has now failed to finish in the top 12 in fantasy points among quarterbacks the past two seasons. He'll be no more than a No. 2 fantasy option in 2009.
The 2004 season was a successful one for two Jakes, Plummer and Delhomme.
After a long and mostly difficult tenure with the Cardinals, Plummer went to Denver and became a fantasy star in his second season under coach Mike Shanahan. The Snake threw for 4,089 yards, rushed for 202 yards and finished with 28 total touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to finish fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks. Plummer went on to see his fantasy-point production decrease in each of the next two seasons. He was traded to the Buccaneers in the 2007 offseason but decided to retire instead.
Delhomme, who finished in the top 10 in fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2004, did put together a nice follow-up season despite posting decreased numbers in yards and touchdowns. But after what was a mediocre 2006 campaign and a surgical procedure on his right elbow in 2007, Delhomme has now lost much of his fantasy luster.
The failures of the aforementioned players shouldn't be considered a definitive indication that all breakout quarterbacks are destined to fall. In fact, Tom Brady, Trent Green, Carson Palmer and Tony Romo found continued statistical success after their individual coming out parties in the past decade. But remember that one solid season never guarantees that a quarterback will make the same sort of impact moving forward, so be sure to temper your expectations.
As much as fantasy leaguers loved the likes of Rodgers, Rivers, Cassel and Thigpen last season, there's no guarantee they won't break your heart in 2009.