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IF YOU REMEMBER ONLY ONE thing after reading this magazine, let it be this: The NFL has become a quarterback's game, and therefore fantasy football has become a quarterback's game too. It didn't used to be like this. Running backs who carried the ball 300 times a season ran wild, and the phrase "backfield by committee" rarely was uttered. Fantasy owners could go well into the second round of a draft before a non-running back was taken. But in 2004 a football revolution was set in motion. In an attempt to inject passing back into the game, the NFL began strictly enforcing existing rules that prevented defenders from making contact with receivers more than five yards from the line of scrimmage. In ensuing years the league also shrank the so-called "strike zone" on quarterbacks, outlawing hits below the knees, and instructed officials to call roughing-the-passer penalties more tightly. The changes have had a dramatic effect. Since the start of 2007 quarterbacks have thrown for 4,000 yards 23 times. That represents more than a quarter (27.4%) of the 4,000-yard seasons in NFL history. Last year a league-record 10 signal-callers threw for 4,000 yards. Consider: Drew Brees had as many 4,000-yard seasons (four) in the last four years as Dan Fouts (three) and John Elway (one) combined for over their entire careers. The increased production of quarterbacks in addition to the proliferation of running back time-shares have made the men under center much more valuable fantasy commodities.
Don't get us wrong. If you are lucky enough to secure one of the current faces on the Mount Rushmore of running backs—Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and the newest man on the mountain, Ray Rice—then do it. With the paucity at the position, a sure-thing running back is still fantasy's golden ticket.
Quarterbacks, however, are only getting more productive, and they deserve a closer look in the early rounds.
THE FANTASY INFIRMARY
MONITOR THE health status of each of these injured big-name players before deciding on whether to add them to your roster.
Ronnie BROWN, DOLPHINS RB FOOT
HE HAS returned to football activities following a Lisfranc fracture and is on track to make training camp.
Owen DANIELS, TEXANS TE KNEE
TOP 10 tight end will be limited in camp after surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Brett FAVRE, VIKINGS QB ANKLE