Last season, NFL.com introduced a new tool to help fantasy owners in their quest for a league title -- the fantasy points allowed (FPA) ratings. These ratings are based on the strength of a player's schedule using the average fantasy points their opponents allowed against the six major fantasy positions the previous season. For example, the Houston Texans allowed an average of 19.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2010. As a result, any signal-caller that faces the Texans in 2011 is rewarded 19.6 points. Peyton Manning, who faces them twice as an divisional opponent, is rewarded a combined 39.2 points. The larger the overall point total, the easier the schedule.
Of course, we all know that there is no fool-proof way to figure out which fantasy players will succeed and which ones will fail. Rosters and coaching personnel change, defenses will improve or falter from one season to the next, and the unpredictable nature of the NFL will continue to frustrate fantasy owners. But these FPA ratings can still be very useful when picking between players with similar value and looking for those ever-elusive sleeper candidates.
1. Tony Romo, Cowboys (240.3 points): Romo, who missed most of last season with a broken collarbone, could turn into a great draft bargain. He'll play seven games against teams that were in the top 10 in allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, including matchups against the Redskins (2) and Seahawks.
2. Chad Henne, Dolphins (240 points): Henne retained the top spot after the Dolphins failed to acquire Kyle Orton, and he has a very favorable slate ahead. Attractive matchups include games against the Patriots (2), Cowboys, Redskins, Eagles, Raiders, Broncos and Texans. Those teams all struggled to stop quarterbacks in 2010.
3. Michael Vick, Eagles (235.9 points): As if you need another reason to draft Vick! The leader in fantasy points per game average in 2010, Vick goes up against the Cowboys (2), Redskins (2), Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots and Bills among his more favorable opponents. He'll be a first-round pick in almost every fantasy football draft.
4. Eli Manning, Giants (232.4 points): Manning, who posted career highs in touchdowns and interceptions last season, faces some attractive games against the Cowboys (2), Redskins (2), Seahawks and 49ers. If he can cut down on the turnovers, Manning could be a nice value pick in the middle to late rounds on draft day.
5. John Beck, Redskins (232.4 points): Notice a trend with NFC East quarterbacks? Obviously, opponents within the division were clearly soft in 2010. Beck isn't going to turn many heads in fantasy land, nor should he, but he does have a great schedule including games against the Cowboys (2), Seahawks and 49ers.
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (231.2 points): Fitzpatrick finished just 19th in fantasy points at the position in 2010, but he still put up some nice stat lines against weaker opponents. He'll be a viable No. 2 signal-caller on draft day with games against the Patriots (2), Cowboys, Redskins, Broncos and Raiders.
7. Mark Sanchez, Jets (230.9 points): The third AFC East quarterback in the top seven, Sanchez faces favorable opponents like the Patriots (2), Bills (2), Cowboys, Redskins and Jaguars in 2011. The downfall with Sanchez is his inconsistent production, but he does have an attractive slate that could remedy that glaring fault.
8. Philip Rivers, Chargers (229.1 points): Rivers finished fifth in points at his position last season, and that was without Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates on the field for extended periods. With the offense at full strength and games against the Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Lions and Jaguars, Rivers could actually be even better in 2011.
T-9. Tom Brady, Patriots (227.5 points): The final AFC East quarterback in the top 10, Brady's already immense fantasy value increases with a favorable slate of games ahead. The reigning NFL MVP will face vulnerable teams like the Bills (2), Cowboys, Redskins, Broncos and Raiders. Brady could be a first rounder in larger leagues.
T-9. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (227.5 points): Kolb, the unquestioned starter for the Cardinals and coach Ken Whisenhunt after a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia, will have the advantage of a favorable schedule based on 2010 fantasy points. Attractive matchups include games against the Seahawks (2), 49ers (2), Cowboys and Redskins.
11. Matt Hasselbeck, Titans (226.6 points): Hasselbeck, the favorite to start for new Titans coach Mike Munchak for the 2011 season, will have a pretty nice slate of games based on fantasy points. Not only will he face two games against divisional foes like the Texans and Jaguars, but contests against the Broncos and Bills are also very attractive.
13. Peyton Manning, Colts (224.9 points): Manning, who's been a staple among the top fantasy quarterbacks for most of his illustrious career, is set up to post yet another productive season. He'll face the Texans (2), Jaguars (2) and Patriots among his favorable opponents. Manning will be a second rounder in most standard fantasy drafts.
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (224.5 points): Despite not playing a game until Week 6, Roethlisberger still finished with 3,200 passing yards and 19 total touchdowns in 2010. He should remain productive between the white lines next season with favorable games against the Seahawks, 49ers and Patriots (among others) on the slate.
15. Andy Dalton, Bengals (224 points): It looks like Carson Palmer's time in the Queen City is over and done, so the rookie Dalton will take over the reins of the offense for coach Marvin Lewis. He'll face the Seahawks, Bills and Broncos among his favorable opponents. He's no more than a No. 2 fantasy quarterback in 2011.
16. Sam Bradford, Rams (223.6 points): Bradford was impressive in his rookie season, and the addition of new OC Josh McDaniels has his value on the rise for 2011. His schedule won't increase or hinder his stock, with a mix of good and bad matchups ahead. Bradford does face the Seahawks (2) and the NFC East.
17. Colt McCoy, Browns (221.8 points): McCoy won't be worth much more than a late-round look in 2011 re-drafts, and his schedule won't sway his stock one way or the other. The Texas product has tough divisional matchups against the Steelers (2) and Ravens (2) but also faces weaker foes like the Seahawks and Raiders.
18. Jason Campbell, Raiders: (219.9 points) When was the last time the Raiders had a truly fantasy-relevant quarterback? Campbell finished 23rd at the position in 2010, and he's not likely to be more than a reserve next season. His more favorable 2011 opponents include the Broncos (2), Texans, Lions and Patriots.
19. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers (218.9 points): Did you know that Freeman scored just 10.76 fewer fantasy points than Drew Brees in 2010? His schedule for next season isn't favorable or unfavorable overall, but I still see him as a solid middle-round draft pick. His easier opponents include the Texans, Jaguars and Cowboys.
20. Joe Flacco, Ravens (218.8 points): Flacco is coming off the best fantasy season of his career, finishing 10th in points at his position. He'll remain a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback in 2011, but the schedule won't affect his stock. His division is obviously difficult, but his easier opponents include the Broncos, Raiders, Texans and Jaguars.
21. David Garrard, Jaguars (218.3 points): A veteran out of East Carolina, Garrard had a strong finish to last season before a finger ailment ultimately cost him the last two games. He'll remain a very respectable No. 2 fantasy quarterback in 2011, though matchups against the Saints, Steelers, Ravens and Chargers will be extremely tough.
22. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (218.3 points): Quietly, Cassell threw for an impressive 27 touchdowns last season. However, losing former OC Charlie Weis is going to hurt his value in 2011. What's more, Cassel's upcoming schedule includes games against tough opponents like the Chargers (2), Bears, Packers and Steelers.
23. Cam Newton, Panthers (217.9 points): Newton is clearly no lock to be Carolina's starter in 2011, but the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft sure looks like the early favorite. Regardless, the team's eventual quarterback faces tough games against the Saints (2), Falcons (2), Buccaneers (2), Bears and Packers.
24. Jay Cutler, Bears (217.6 points): In his first season in the offense of Mike Martz, Cutler finished a disappointing 16th in fantasy points among quarterbacks. If he wants to improve on that total in 2011, he'll do it against a tough schedule that includes games against the Packers (2), Saints, Falcons and Chargers.
25. Tarvaris Jackson Seahawks (216.8 points): Whether it's Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst under center, there won't be much value in the Seahawks quarterback spot based on the schedule. The eventual starter will face a number of tough teams in 2011, including the Rams (2), Steelers, Ravens, Falcons and Bears.
26. Drew Brees, Saints (216.6 points): Brees, who's coming off a "down" season after throwing a career-high 22 interceptions, has a difficult schedule for 2011 with games against the Falcons (2), Buccaneers (2), Bears, Packers and Rams. Still, a bad schedule isn't going to keep Brees from putting up huge numbers once again.
27. Matt Ryan, Falcons (216.4 points): One of the NFL's most talented young quarterbacks, Ryan finished 10th in fantasy points at the position last season. His 2011 schedule is tough, with games against the Saints (2), Buccaneers (2), Bears and Packers, but Ryan is still a low-end starter in the majority of fantasy leagues.
28. Matt Schaub, Texans (214 points): Schaub's passing numbers fell a bit last season compared to his 2009 totals, but he was still a top-10 fantasy quarterback. He does have some difficult matchups ahead, however, facing the Steelers, Ravens, Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers and Dolphins, so Schaub's numbers might not improve in 2011.
29. Kyle Orton, Broncos (213.8 points): Orton was solid in 2010, but the schedule isn't favorable for the Broncos' starting quarterback next season. The veteran out of Purdue will face the Chargers (2), Chiefs (2), Bears, Packers and Dolphins. In a best-case scenario, Orton should be drafted as a viable No. 2 fantasy option this year.
30. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (211.4 points): Let's face it, Rodgers could face the 1985 Chicago Bears defense 16 times and still be ranking in the top three at the quarterback spot. So despite the fact that he faces the third-most difficult slate of games based on our FPA rankings, don't be afraid to draft Rodgers in the first round.
31. Donovan McNabb, Vikings (208.9 points): The Vikings now have a surefire No. 1 quarterback after trading for McNabb, but the schedule won't do him any favors. Aside from tough divisional games against the Packers (2) and Bears (2), he'll also have to face the Saints, Falcons, Bucs, Chargers and Chiefs in 2011.
32. Matthew Stafford, Lions (208.7 points): I'm a huge fan of Stafford and love his statistical upside, but his shoulder issues and a tough schedule do make me a bit wary of labeling him a surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterback. The Georgia product faces the Packers (2), Bears (2), Saints, Falcons, Bucs, Chargers and Chiefs next season.