We hear it all the time: The NFL is more of a quarterback-driven league than ever before. And we point to ever-increasing yardage and touchdowns as the main reason for this.
"Holy Tebow! Did you see how many QBs threw for 4,000 yards this year?" But it goes much deeper than that. Not only is there a reason why you should draft an elite QB with your first pick in your fantasy draft, but you should make sure you back it up later on with another pretty good signal-caller. Why? Because it's not just the best-of-the-best (cue Eric Roberts) quarterbacks whose value is rising. It's about how the rest of the quarterbacks in the league are getting the same chance to succeed as the elite ones.
Let's take a look back at the last seven years in the NFL and take two-year samples on QB pass attempts.
2005: Seven quarterbacks had more than 500 pass attempts, and one (Brett Favre) had more than 600.
2007: 10 quarterbacks threw the ball more than 500 times, and one (Tom Brady) had more than 600.
2009: 14 quarterbacks had more than 500 pass attempts.
2011: 16 quarterbacks flung it more than 500 times, and three more than 600 (Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tom Brady).
So in seven seasons, the number of QBs with more than 500 pass attempts has more than doubled, and number of quarterbacks with more than 600 pass attempts tripled. Everyone is throwing the football. Matt Hasselbeck, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman and even Mark Sanchez threw more than 500 times last season, when you'd normally see their names and expect teams they're piloting to run it more because they're not as good as some of the other quarterbacks I've already mentioned.
(Just because I can't let it go without pointing out again why he's the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy -- Aaron Rodgers was 16th on the list of pass attempts in 2011, but first in yards per pass (9.2) and completion percentage (68.3). I'm so glad he's not on the "Madden" cover.)
It doesn't matter if you're the Super Bowl champion New York Giants or the 6-10 Buffalo Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 19 fewer passes than Eli Manning, or roughly one less pass per game. This is why the QB position is so valuable in fantasy. You can not only get a great one early on, but you can get a pretty darn good one late. And depending on how your season goes with injuries and trades, the more value you have at that position the better off you'll be, because as I said, everyone is throwing the football. You can flip your backup if you need to, or deal your starter for a need position if you have to because your backup will still give you a ton of points.
Gone are the days where you'd get your No. 1 QB and wait nine rounds to get your backup. You tell me who a better Round 7 draft selection is for your team: Ben Roethlisberger or DeAngelo Williams? Who are you more than likely to need down the stretch as either an active member of your lineup or as trade bait?
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Raise your hand if you started Matt Moore in your playoffs last year because he had phenomenal matchups and instead sat someone like Philip Rivers. OK, hands down now. There's more value at the QB position than there is anywhere else in the league. My one word of caution is don't walk away from this and think "I don't need to get a QB early, because there's lots of good ones I can grab later on." The point difference between Rodgers, who was the top QB point-getter of 2011 (397 in standard leagues) far outweighs the guy in the 10th slot (Sanchez -- I know I was surprised as anyone else -- with 237). Make sure you get the star first and then the very good No. 2.
This is the fantasy football era of the NFL. We love points. We hate defense. Fans aren't flocking to the game because they like how the Ravens defense turns Carson Palmer into silly putty. We like that we can see Matt Flynn fill in during Week 17 and put up nearly 500 yards and six TDs. We like that new rules favor offensive players, and we'd want to see the football in the air on every play if we could. And we're just about there.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download his weekly Cover Two podcast with Steve Wyche at NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.