Quarterbacks were the cream of the crop in 2009 fantasy leagues

For as long as I can remember, fantasy football has been all about the running back position. But in 2009, it was the quarterbacks who ruled the roost.

Top seven quarterbacks (2010)

  1. Tom Brady, NE
  1. Tony Romo, DAL

An NFL-single season record 10 signal-callers threw for at least 4,000 yards, and 12 quarterbacks passed for at least 25 touchdowns. That also set a new league record. On NFL.com, eight of the top 10 fantasy-point producers were quarterbacks, a list that included Aaron Rodgers (327 points), Drew Brees (280 points), Brett Favre (274 points) and Peyton Manning (272 points).

Chris Johnson (329 points) and Adrian Peterson (265 points) were the lone non-quarterbacks to break into the top 10.

That is no surprise, though, as the NFL has become more of a passing league in recent seasons. Sure, the likes of Rodgers, Brees and Peyton Manning have enjoyed success in the past in part because of their pass-laden offensive attacks.

But fantasy owners were also able to lean on quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, whose respective teams went away from the run and turned to more pass-heavy game plans.

In fact, Big Ben was the first quarterback in Steelers history to reach the 4,000-yard passing mark. Terry Bradshaw had held the previous high with 3,724 yards in 1979. Manning was only the third field general to hit that number in New York Giants history, following Phil Simms (1984) and Kerry Collins (2002).

Because of the increase of passing success around the league, the big-name quarterbacks weren't the lone players to record increased numbers.

Signal-callers taken late in fantasy drafts like Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell threw for 20 or more touchdowns. Alex Smith, who started just 10 of 16 games for the 49ers, finished with an impressive 18 scoring passes and turned into a solid option off the waiver wire.

While none of those four players established themselves as surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterbacks, all of them were solid matchup-based starters and likely helped countless owners to a league championship.

This newfound depth at the position is a major positive for future fantasy drafts.

Trying to land a featured running back, which has become a virtual dinosaur in the current National Football League, will be hard if you have a late first-round pick.

But at the quarterback spot, you'll be able to wait a round or two and still land a solid option to lead your fantasy team.

While Rodgers was the lone quarterback to score 300-plus points on NFL.com, a total of eight signal-callers finished with 250-plus points. Seven others scored 200-250 points.

And that's with a reward of just four points for passing touchdowns.

Compare that to the running back position, which had one player (Johnson) post 300-plus points and just five others (Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Thomas Jones) score 200 or more points, and it's easy to see how much of an impact quarterbacks made in 2009.

Looking ahead to next season, I wouldn't be shocked to see Rodgers, Brees and Peyton Manning all come off the board in the first round. That number could increase to four (Brady) in leagues that reward six points for touchdown passes.

I'd also expect to see the likes of Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub and Tony Romo to all come off the board in Rounds 2 and 3.

With more and more backfield committees popping up around the league, quarterbacks will be far more popular in the earlier rounds of 2010 fantasy drafts. No longer will it make sense to take a chance on an unproven or older running back ahead of an established quarterback.

The NFL has evolved into a passing league, and fantasy leaguers now need to alter their future draft strategies.

Here are my 2009 Guru Award winners for the quarterback position.

MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Rodgers was a fantasy monster, leading all quarterbacks in points and finishing 47 points ahead of his closest competitor (Brees, 280). He was also incredibly consistent, posting 20 or more points 12 times. Rodgers, who recorded a combined 35 touchdowns, will be a first-round pick in 2010 drafts.

Breakout player of the year

Matt Schaub, Texans: Schaub finally reached his fantasy and statistical potential in 2009, throwing for a league-high 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns on the season. A preseason breakout candidate on NFL.com, Schaub was able to avoid serious injuries and finished an impressive fifth in fantasy points at the position (269 points).

Sleeper of the year

Kyle Orton, Broncos: Quietly, Orton put up good fantasy numbers in his first season in the offense of coach Josh McDaniels. He set career highs in passing yards (3,802) and touchdown passes (21) and finished a mere four fantasy points behind Kurt Warner. He also scored 15 or more points 10 different times on the season.

Bust of the year

Jay Cutler, Bears: Cutler, a preseason bust candidate on NFL.com, was a turnover machine in his first season with the Bears. He finished with 26 interceptions and failed to throw for 4,000 yards. Had it not been for this eight touchdown passes in the last two weeks, Cutler's final numbers would have looked even worse.

Draft value of the year

Brett Favre, Vikings: Jake Delhomme, Shaun Hill and Kerry Collins were just a few of the quarterbacks that had a higher ADP (average draft position) than Favre. Of course, questions about whether he was coming back did affect that stat. But overall, it's hard to argue with Favre and his 340 fantasy points (fourth-best overall).

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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