2011 QB review, plus early 2012 rankings

There's little question the 2011 fantasy football season was mighty memorable for those who make their living throwing the pigskin. Two quarterbacks broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old record for passing yards, three topped 40 touchdown passes and another, a rookie quarterback no less, shattered the mark for rushing touchdowns in a season. Plus, who will ever forget the late-game heroics provided by Tim Tebow; the season-ending injuries that took away potential fantasy starters in Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Matt Cassel; or the fine work provided by replacements T.J. Yates, Caleb Hanie and Tyler Palko? OK, so some things were memorable for the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless, while running backs get most of the early attention in fantasy drafts, and for good reason, quarterbacks likely did more in the way of deciding fantasy championships this season. A season ago we gushed about rejuvenated Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and his outstanding return to relevance. Vick was certainly a hot topic as a first-rounder in ESPN live drafts but wasn't able to reproduce the magic of 2010, when he provided his lucky owners with 300 fantasy points, the most among quarterbacks. For perspective, in 2011, five quarterbacks amassed 333 or more points, and Vick wasn't one of them. Except for him, it was the year of the quarterback!

So with an eye on the future, let's analyze the ever-critical quarterback position for fantasy football, taking a look at the 2011 season and at 2012 and beyond.

Quarterback MVP: Green Bay Packers leader Aaron Rodgers was fantasy's best player, scoring 385 standard points in only 15 games. Sure, it would have been nice had he played Week 17, but that's not really his fault. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints finished a mere five points behind Rodgers, and his 389 passing yards and five touchdowns were helpful for those who cared in the final week. Rodgers averaged 25.6 fantasy points per game. Brees averaged 23.7. Vick averaged 23 fantasy points per game in 2010. Advantage, Rodgers. Sure, Cam Newton was unbelievable with his 14 rushing touchdowns -- only one running back had more! -- and a rookie record 4,051 passing yards, and he came 10 rounds later on draft day, but it's tough to pick against Rodgers.

Quarterback LVP: Vick certainly took a step backward statistically, and that was before broken ribs forced him to miss games. He still scored 222 fantasy points, good for 11th at the position, so it's tough call him a bust. Houston Texans quarterback Schaub went sixth at the position in ESPN live drafts (40th overall), underperformed a bit and didn't suit up the final six games. Still, there were lesser performances. Peyton Manning went 11th among QBs and didn't suit up at all. Josh Freeman went 10th among quarterbacks and tossed 22 interceptions. One touted player did worse. St. Louis Rams sophomore Sam Bradford, a former top real-life pick and popular in keeper formats, took a rather large step backward. Bradford, picked 14th at quarterback, scored fewer points than underwhelming Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert, two Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks and the Kansas City Chiefs' Cassel, who played only eight full games. Bradford missed six games with various injuries but reached double-digit fantasy points only three times. He threw six touchdown passes all season; Packers backup Matt Flynn did that in Week 17 alone!