Whether you play for money or not, fantasy football is an irresistible phenomenon. It starts fun rivalries with friends and makes a seemingly meaningless Browns/Bills game important.
Let's start with what may now be fantasy football's most important position: quarterback. Tailbacks have traditionally reigned supreme but four major words have changed that: running back by committee. Quarterbacks are the most reliable scorers now.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
For all the chatter that Rodgers hangs onto the ball too long and takes too many hits, the guy has played every game for two straight seasons. He was the top fantasy point getter in almost every scoring system last year; he racks up touchdowns, doesn't throw many picks and runs for plenty of yards and scores. Cross your fingers that he plays a full season again and he can lead to you a fantasy title.
2. Drew Brees, Saints
If not for Madden Cover Curse, Brees may be No. 1. He plays for the defending Super Bowl Champs in an offense that loves to throw. He's also been successful for longer than Rodgers. He's a rock-solid pick.
3. Tony Romo, Cowboys
It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Romo finished 2010 as the top fantasy quarterback and even won the league MVP. He has an amazing supporting cast that only got better when the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant this past spring. He ranks lower than Rodgers and Brees mainly because he turns over the ball a bit more than they do.
4. Peyton Manning, Colts
Manning is the safest quarterback on the board by far. In 12 seasons, he's never missed a game. He's thrown for at least 4,000 yards 10 times and 25 touchdowns every time. The only knock on Manning: the Colts often lock up the AFC South early and play him sparingly over the last week or two – also known as fantasy championship time.
5. Matt Schaub, Texans
Schaub is the most underrated of the elite quarterbacks. He led the NFL in passing yards last season and, more importantly, showed he could stay healthy for a full year. He should post great numbers again with Andre Johnson catching his passes.
6. Tom Brady, Patriots
While I've warned sports betting sharps that the Patriots could be a bust, Brady is still a safe bet for at least 3,800 yards and 25 touchdowns. Even if Randy Moss and Wes Welker are rickety, Brady never struggled in his old days when he had no elite targets.
7. Phillip Rivers, Chargers
If Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill weren't holding out, Rivers would jump at least one spot. But we should expect a regression without his top receiver and left tackle.
8. Jay Cutler, Bears
Under new offensive co-ordinator Mike Martz, Jay Cutler will take plenty of hits and throw plenty of picks. However, with his rocket of an arm, he could throw for 5,000 yards and 30 scores. He'll be both maddening and scintillating this year.
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Matty Ice would post bigger numbers if his team didn't run the ball so well. Still, even if Michael Turner has another big year, Matt Ryan should improve in his third season. He studied tape of elite signal callers like Peyton Manning during the offseason and that should only help him.
10. Joe Flacco, Ravens
Flacco may be my favorite sleeper of this group. His massive arm and the addition of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth give him big upside. But he's also shown in his first two NFL seasons that his floor is still pretty high. He's a very safe, low-end QB1. Low risk, high reward.
11. Kevin Kolb, Eagles
I believe in Andy Reid's system, so I believe he'll make Kevin Kolb a star in Philadelphia. But before we thrust Kolb into the top five, let's make him prove himself first. He has monstrous upside but he'll make his share of mistakes in his first season as a starter.
12. Eli Manning, Giants
Now that Manning has curbed his mistakes, he's a very reliable fantasy quarterback. He has room to grow with young guns like Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith at his disposal.
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben was an elite option last year but (a) he's suspended at least four games to open 2010 and (b) even when he comes back, Pittsburgh wants to commit more to its running game this season.
14. Brett Favre, Vikings
Obviously, our No. 14 quarterback comes with an asterisk. If he plays, bump him up five spots...at least.
15. Donovan McNabb, Redskins
McNabb is still a talented thrower and one of the best at avoiding turnovers in NFL history. But he rarely plays 16 games anymore and we've never really known if he was that good all these years or simply boosted by Andy Reid's offense. His new team makes him a risk.
16. Chad Henne, Dolphins
Henne is no sure thing but he showed a strong arm last season and he has an elite target now in Brandon Marshall. Could he break out this year?
17. David Garrard, Jaguars
Garrard struggled with turnovers last year but that may have been an anomaly, as he protected the ball well in seasons past. He has low upside since the Jags don't throw much but he's a safe QB2.
18. Carson Palmer, Bengals
It feels strange to slot Palmer this low when he has big names like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens in tow. But Palmer's arm strength has diminished and the Bengals love handing the rock off to Cedric Benson.
19. Matthew Stafford, Lions
Stafford is a work in progress but he's one of my favorite sleepers for 2010. He already had Calvin Johnson; now he has Nate Burleson and, more importantly, an exciting scatback in Jahvid Best.
20.Vince Young, Titans
If he duplicates his 2009 effort, he could be a top-15 quarterback option thanks to his scrambling ability. But can VY still perform and help the Titans at the sportsbook now that the pressure is back on?