1. Collin Klein, Sr., Kansas State
Klein came into 2011 under the radar as a first-year starter and former obscure recruit, but he no doubt won plenty of his owners league championships. He complemented his 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns passing with 1,141 yards on the ground, as well as 27 rushing touchdowns. What's amazing is that his year actually started slowly, as he scored just one touchdown in Week 1 against Eastern Kentucky, in theory the weakest opponent on the schedule. Durability is a worry after Klein averaged more than 24 carries per game last year, but at nearly 230 pounds he seems able to carry the load.
2. Ryan Aplin, Sr., Arkansas State
Aplin is not Cam Newton, but he might turn into the Sun Belt equivalent in 2012 with former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn taking over the Arkansas State program. Aplin is already one of the nation's most established dual-threat quarterbacks after averaging 3,261 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air with 533 yards and 10.5 rushing touchdowns the last two years, but Malzahn's scheme should help Aplin take his game to the next level in 2012. He has a good trio of receivers in Taylor Stockemer, Josh Jarboe and Allen Muse, and the Sun Belt schedule is always friendly.
3. Tyler Tettleton, Jr., Ohio
A Week 1 matchup with Penn State is not appealing, but Tettleton should post big numbers for fantasy owners in every other 2012 game. He was masterful in his first year as a starter for Ohio, throwing for 3,306 yards and 28 touchdowns and running for 621 yards and 10 more scores in 14 games last season. It will be disappointing if he doesn't show similar production in his second year. Although Ohio's relatively ball-control offense limits Tettleton's upside relative to some of the other top QB candidates (he topped 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing just twice each in 2011), his high floor makes him an ideal player to build around.
4. David Piland, So., Houston
After redshirting while Case Keenum led the way for Houston in 2011, Piland returns in 2012 to take over the offense. He did very well in 2010 after Keenum's season ended with a torn ACL, throwing for 2,641 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in eight games. With another year in the offense to prepare for 2012, he should cut those turnovers while remaining similarly productive with per-game totals in yardage (330) and touchdowns (three) -- even with Houston losing its top three pass catchers from a year ago. The Houston offense should average about 45 passes per game, in which case 3,800 yards and 35 touchdowns should be the minimal expectation for Piland, though something better than that is well within reach.
5. Matt Barkley, Sr., USC
If running quarterbacks worry you, then you might want to rank Barkley as the top quarterback. He won't take nearly as many hits as a pocket passer, but he should nonetheless make a push for 45 total touchdowns in 2012. Coach Lane Kiffin is not averse to running up the score, and the Pac-12 is full of weak defenses that have no prayer of keeping up with USC's best-in-the-nation receiver duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. In addition to being a good bet to hit 40 passing touchdowns, Barkley should added a couple of scores on the ground (he's had two rush TD each of the last three years).
6. Jeff Tuel, Sr., Washington State
After Connor Halliday threw for 494 yards and four touchdowns while Tuel (leg) sat against Arizona State last year, it seemed as if the latter had lost his role as Washington State's starter. But then Halliday suffered a lacerated liver, leaving Tuel the entire spring to win the starting role in new coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. Tuel dominated the spring and is the favorite to take over an offense that has one of the nation's absolute best receivers (Marquess Wilson) and should attempt more than 50 passes per game. Just make sure to verify that he did indeed beat Halliday for the job before you draft him.
7. Denard Robinson, Sr., Michigan
The fuss during the 2011 preseason over whether Robinson would still produce without the Rich Rodriguez offense turned out to be unwarranted, though Robinson's numbers did predictably decline slightly after his circus-like 2010 season. Still, he passed for 2,173 yards and 20 touchdowns while running for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns. The problem entering 2012 is that his schedule looks brutal – Alabama and Ohio State could both be shutdown defenses, while Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa are also historically good bets to rank among the nation's best. Robinson could single-handedly win weeks for his owners against opponents like Air Force, UMass, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern, but his hit-or-miss look gives him a lower floor than some of the other top candidates.
8. Jordan Lynch, Jr., Northern Illinois
Lynch is much like what Kansas State's Collin Klein was this time last year. Like Klein last season, Lynch has a starting role after previously showing huge upside as a running specialist. Lynch should post gigantic numbers in an offense that allowed Chandler Harnish (39 touchdowns in 2011) to dominate, particularly after running for 608 yards (8.0 YPC) and six touchdowns his first two years at Northern Illinois. There is some risk in making Lynch your top QB, but his rushing yardage alone should pay off for his owners.
9. Cody Fajardo, So., Nevada
Fajardo was predictably a bit up-and-down as a true freshman in 2011, but in general he was extremely promising, especially from a fantasy standpoint. Although he threw as many interceptions as touchdowns (six), he ran for 694 yards (5.4 YPC) and 11 scores despite sitting out or serving as backup in six games. He had a strong spring and should improve in 2012, but his rushing production alone made him a top fantasy quarterback in 2011. Even if he doesn't improve, he should still be one of the best.
10. Blaine Gautier, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
If durability weren't an issue for Gautier, he might be listed higher. He left two games early last season, and he's a good bet to miss a game or two this year. He was great in the full games he did play, though, totaling 2,553 yards and 21 touchdowns passing while running for 289 yards and a touchdown in the eight starts finished. That's an average of roughly 25 points per game in standard scoring, a mark that Gautier should meet in 2012 thanks to the return of his excellent wideout trio (Javone Lawson, Darryl Surgent and Harry Peoples.)
11. Kain Colter, Jr., Northwestern
Colter was simply spectacular in 2011, throwing for 669 yards and six touchdowns, running for 654 yards (4.8 YPC) and nine touchdowns and catching 43 passes for 458 yards and three scores. As good as he was on the field, Colter was even more valuable in fantasy football, where his ambiguous position resulted in WR eligibility in most leagues. Colter's value could be trending downward entering 2012, though, because he appears set as Northwestern's starting quarterback, which should limit his eligibility. Still, coach Pat Fitzgerald has as good a record as anyone when it comes to coaching up quarterbacks.
12. Seth Doege, Sr., Texas Tech
Doege was everything the Red Raiders could have hoped for in his first year as starter, throwing for 4,004 yards and 28 touchdowns while running for four more. This was despite dealing with a lot of injuries around him, resulting in a weak rushing attack and regular shakeups in the receiver rotation. Doege should throw for 30 touchdowns in 2012, and he could surpass that if his receivers and running backs have better injury luck.
13. Tajh Boyd, Jr., Clemson
Boyd didn't receive the most positive reviews this time last year, but when the games started he proved up to the task. Much more than that, in fact – he finished the year with 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns passing in 14 games while running for 218 yards and five more scores. He proved he's a top talent nationwide in 2011, and his receivers – particularly Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins – are among the best in the country. He's probably a justifiable top-eight selection among quarterbacks.
14. Riley Nelson, Sr., BYU
Initially written off as a running specialist at quarterback, Nelson replaced the disappointing five-star recruit Jake Heaps as a starter in 2011 and showed he had turned himself into a good passer, too. In addition to rushing for 392 yards (4.5 YPC), Nelson averaged 8.5 yards per pass as he threw for 1,717 yards and 19 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions. Combine Nelson's new skills with his elite receivers (Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo combined for 19 touchdowns in 2011), and you have a legitimate fantasy QB. It also helps that BYU's schedule isn't intimidating – Utah and Notre Dame are the only teams that seem capable of stopping Nelson from posting multiple touchdowns.
15. Geno Smith, Jr., West Virgina
The Dana Holgorsen Houston offense was a big hit in West Virginia last year as Smith threw for 31 touchdowns, just seven interceptions and 4,385 yards, the second-highest total of returning quarterbacks this season. He also ran for two touchdowns. It's easy to see Smith losing some ground this year, though, because West Virginia is moving to the Big-12 and could have a tougher schedule as a result. Still, Smith's wideout trio of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney might be as good as any in the country.
16. Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
Scott is a bit under the radar after redshirting in 2011, but in 2009 he actually beat out Nick Foles for the starting quarterback role in Arizona before being benched. Still, he was quite productive when replacing the injured Foles in 2010, throwing for 552 yards (9.5 YPA), three touchdowns and one interception while running for 136 yards against Washington and UCLA. He takes the starting role once again in 2012, and with Rich Rodriguez arriving, Arizona figures to take full advantage of Scott's rare running ability. He has big upside with Rodriguez, who oversaw the breakouts of Denard Robinson and Pat White.
17. Braxton Miller, So., Ohio State
Miller entirely lived up to his five-star recruit status as a true freshman last year, throwing for 13 touchdowns and four interceptions at 7.4 yards per attempt as well as running for 715 yards and seven touchdowns. This was despite dealing with suspensions and general dysfunction around him at Ohio State. Adding coach Urban Meyer to the mix – the passing guru who oversaw quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow – it appears 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air is within reach with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. His rare speed and shiftiness are big problems for Big Ten defenses.
18. Alex Carder, Jr., Western Michigan
The fact that Carder's top three receivers from 2011 (Jordan White, Chleb Ravenell and Robert Arnheim) graduated and took 269 catches for 3,452 yards and 30 touchdowns with them is concerning, to say the least. But Carder should remain a top QB in 2012 because two of his returning wideouts – Eric Monette and Josh Schaffer – showed promise last season, and Western Michigan should find a third immediate contributor in its 2012 recruiting class. Carder proved his worth last season, throwing for 3,873 yards and 31 touchdowns to 14 interceptions while running for 270 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. In standard scoring, that's roughly 23 points per game.
19. Nate Scheelhaase, Jr., Illinois
Scheelhaase started strong in 2011, passing for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions while running for 347 yards and four touchdowns in the first six weeks. But the entire Illinois program collapsed from that point, and Scheelhaase's numbers tanked with it. New coach Tim Beckman ran a productive offense for Toledo in recent years, so Scheelhaase could be a nice bargain in most leagues as he bounces back this year. The loss of star wideout A.J. Jenkins is a major concern, though, after Jenkins provided more than half of Illinois' receiving yardage and touchdowns last year.
20. Connor Shaw, Jr., South Carolina
Shaw was effective after replacing Stephen Garcia as South Carolina's starter last year, totaling 1,419 yards (8.0 YPA), 14 touchdowns and six interceptions passing while running for 485 yards and eight touchdowns in the final eight weeks of the season. That averages to roughly 25 points per game in standard scoring. The only reason he isn't ranked higher is South Carolina is short on receivers now that Alshon Jeffery is gone. Shaw also didn't show much ability to produce against good defenses last season, which makes him too a bit too hit-or-miss.
21. B.J. Daniels, Sr., South Florida
Although he still probably wasn't as good as his redshirt freshman year in 2009, Daniels bounced back from a disastrous 2010 last season by throwing for 2,604 yards (7.1 YPA), 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games as he ran for 587 yards (4.4 YPC) and six scores. He's nowhere near as effective in the real game, but Daniels'standout running ability gives him quite a bit of fantasy utility and an advantage over non-running quarterbacks. And Daniels could have a career year as a passer in 2012 because he has a good group of receivers, headlined by Sterling Griffin, Andre Davis and Deonte Welch.
22. Brett Smith, So., Wyoming
Smith is the entire Wyoming offense (31 touchdowns in an offense that scored 46), so his owners need to prepare for down weeks against good defenses. But his owners can also expect big numbers when he faces vulnerable defenses, and his 2012 schedule, fortunately, has plenty of opportunities as far as that goes. Outside of a Week 1 match against Texas, Smith's opponents are manageable, so he has a good chance to surpass last year's numbers of 710 yards, 10 touchdowns rushing and 2,622 yards (6.3 YPA) and 20 touchdowns passing.
23. Logan Thomas, Jr., Virginia Tech
Thomas is a huge quarterback (6-6, 254) with rare running ability who looked good in his first year as starter for the Hokies, throwing for 3,013 yards (7.7 YPA), 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while adding 469 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in 14 games last season. His upside is rather limited since the Virginia Tech offense is so consistently run-heavy, but he also has a high enough floor to be a fantasy starter. He could see more pass and rush attempts than he did last year, in fact, because the Hokies have a big void to fill at running back now that David Wilson is gone.
24. Nick Florence, Sr., Baylor
While replacing Robert Griffin isn't necessarily an enviable task, Florence shouldn't have much trouble holding his own for Baylor in 2012. He has a great grasp of the Baylor offense after backing up Griffin the last three years and is more polished than most first-year starters after starting some games when Griffin sat with a torn ACL two years ago. With Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson returning to Baylor's high-flying offense, Florence will have ideal conditions for displaying his own skills and should provide solid fantasy value.
25. Aaron Murray, Jr., Georgia
Star wideout A.J. Green left for the NFL after the 2010 season, but Murray still took his game to a new level last year, throwing for 3,149 yards (7.8 YPA), 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 games to complement 111 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Although his receivers don't seem to be anything special and the loss of tight end Orson Charles is a concern, Murray should find the passing lanes a bit more inviting as five-star 2011 running back recruit Isaiah Crowell improves. Despite playing in the SEC, Murray has a surprisingly easy schedule in 2012 with games against Buffalo, Missouri, Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
26. Derek Carr, Jr., Fresno State
Fresno State is switching from a pro-style offense to more of a spread system, but it shouldn't change much for Carr, who has the passing ability to be a good fit for either offense. He showed promise in his first year as a starter in 2011, throwing for 3,544 yards (7.9 YPA), 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions while running for three more touchdowns. His upside, though, is limited by the departure of star receiver Jalen Saunders, who transferred to Oklahoma after totaling 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 50 catches (21.3 YPC) in 2011. Still, with standout talent and a favorable schedule, Carr should post big numbers this year.
27. Zac Dysert, Sr., Miami (OH)
After a shaky 2010, Dysert came on strong last year, surpassing 3,000 yards for the first time while throwing more than twice as many touchdowns (23) as interceptions (11) after passing for 25 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in his first two years. He also showed good mobility, running for four touchdowns. Dysert has one of the nation's absolute best receivers in Nick Harwell serving as a go-to workhorse, while Dawan Scott and Andrew Cruse should serve as good second and third options, respectively. His Week 1 match against Ohio State is a no-go, but Dysert should be a consistent fantasy play thereafter.
28. Tyler Bray, Jr., Tennessee
If he lives up to his skills in 2012, Bray will rival USC's Matt Barkley to be the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. A thumb injury knocked him out of five games last season and limited him in the final two, but Bray still finished with 1,983 yards passing (8.0 YPA), 17 touchdowns and six interceptions after throwing for 1,546 yards (8.7 YPA), 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in five starts as a true freshman in 2010. That gives him 3,529 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his first 12 college starts. With two of the nation's best receivers in Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, Bray will have two dangerous targets at his disposal.
29. Landry Jones, Sr., Oklahoma
A year ago it would have been madness to rank Jones this low, but based on how he finished 2011, it might be madness to rank him this high. After throwing 28 touchdowns to nine interceptions the first nine games last season, Landry had one touchdown and six interceptions in his last four games (despite averaging 43 attempts per game in those weeks). Ryan Broyles's season-ending ACL injury was a big factor in Jones' demise, as was the emergence of backup Blake Bell (13 TD) as a goal-line specialist, which took Jones off the field. Jones still passed for 4,463 yards, the most of any returning quarterback this season, but his passing touchdowns dropped by nine from the previous year, and he enters 2012 as a major boom-or-bust prospect.
30. Keith Price, Jr., Washington
Washington was fairly run-heavy in 2011 and so Price's pass attempt volume (27.8 per game) was fairly limited, but he posted a gigantic touchdown total (33) that made him one of the nation's best quarterbacks anyway. He won't thrown 33 touchdowns on just 362 pass attempts this year, though, so his owners should prepare for a decline – or Washington should call more pass plays. With the loss of star running back Chris Polk but the emergence of receivers like Kasen Williams, James Johnson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a more pass-heavy look just might be in store for Price in 2012.
31. E.J. Manuel, Sr., Florida State
Manuel has bloomed into a very good quarterback for Florida State and heads into 2012 as a player who should be owned in most or all leagues. His upside is a bit limited by Florida State's run-heavy offense, but his excellent passing efficiency (8.6 YPA in 2011) and extremely deep and talented receivers help him make up for the limitation. His standout running abilities (156 yards and four touchdowns last year) certainly help, too. Manuel is an ideal fantasy backup in deeper leagues.
32. Tevin Washington, Sr., Georgia Tech
Entering his second year as the Yellow Jackets' starting quarterback, Washington doesn't figure to post reliable passing numbers, as he averaged only 11.5 passing attempts per game last season in the triple-option offense. But he could rush for 1,000 yards if he stays healthy all season. Washington's main concern heading into 2012 is the departure of leading receiver Stephen Hill, who made up 44.3 percent of the receiving yardage last season. Washington will probably have to find a new favorite receiver, but luckily for him and his fantasy owners, his value is almost completely predicated on his legs and not his arm.
33. Cody Green, Jr., Tulsa
Green is a Nebraska transfer and former high-ranking recruit who makes for an interesting fantasy prospect as Tulsa's starting quarterback this year. It would be very surprising if he's as good as G.J. Kinne was, but with good running skills Green should at the least make an impact on the ground right away. He should be drafted in most or all leagues due to the upside he has, but given that he never averaged better than 5.7 yards per pass at Nebraska, there's not much reason to expect big passing numbers from Green.
34. Taylor Martinez, Jr., Nebraska
It sure is ugly when he throws the ball, but Martinez a standout runner who does just enough to hide his passing limitations to be an effective starter in Nebraska's system. He threw for 2,089 yards (7.3 YPC), 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2011, and he ran for 874 yards (4.6 YPC) and nine touchdowns. He's only useful against defenses that are vulnerable to his running ability, but he has huge upside on those weeks. He should be a good play in games against Southern Mississippi, UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota, but he's probably not a wise start against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State.
35. MarQueis Gray, Sr., Minnesota
Gray is an unpolished passer and plays in an offense that doesn't give him much help at all, but he nonetheless should be drafted in almost all league types because he's a rare athlete with dominant rushing potential. Gray ran for 966 yards (4.9 YPC) and six touchdowns in just 11 games last year, even with defenses locking on to him all along. With a little luck, Gray could push for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
36. Jonathan Perry, Jr., UAB
Perry came off the bench to replace the badly struggling Bryan Ellis last year, and he turned into a late-season fantasy factor in the process. He wasn't terribly impressive as a passer, averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt and only throwing two more touchdowns (10) than interceptions (eight), but he emerged as a consistent running threat as he ran for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He showed improvement as the season progressed, throwing for all 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in the final six weeks, running for 204 yards and two scores over that same span. He should be a bit better yet as a junior in 2012.
37. Colby Cameron, Sr., Louisiana Tech
Keep an eye on the Louisiana Tech quarterback situation as the season approaches, as Cameron opened 2011 as a backup to Nick Isham. Cameron was far better than Isham once he got on the field, throwing for 1,649 yards (7.7 YPA), 13 touchdowns and three interceptions compared to Isham's 1,457 yards (5.7 YPA), eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Cameron (4.2 YPC) is a much better runner than Isham, too. With a solid group of receivers led by star Quinton Patton, Cameron has enough targets to excel again in 2012.
38. Bryn Renner, Jr., North Carolina
Renner was predictably quite shaky at times for North Carolina in 2011, his first as a starter, but he was promising more often than not as he finished with 3,086 yards (8.8 YPA), 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 13 games. Even with the loss of star wideout Dwight Jones, it's reasonable to expect improvement from Renner as new coach Larry Fedora takes over. Previously at Southern Mississippi, Fedora turned Austin Davis into one of the nation's best fantasy quarterbacks the last few years and, while Renner's skill set is quite different (he's less mobile but a better passer), Fedora's creativity should find a way to make the most of the situation.
39. Tyler Wilson, Sr., Arkansas
Wilson had no trouble making everyone forget about Ryan Mallett in his first year as a starter in 2011, finishing the year with 3,638 yards (8.3 YPA), 24 touchdowns and six interceptions with four rushing touchdowns in 13 games. He wasn't quite as good of a fantasy quarterback as Mallett, though, because he couldn't match Mallett's downfield passing skills and thus netted less yardage. Last year might be Wilson's ceiling, in fact, as three of his top wideouts (Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs) are gone, and the return of star running back Knile Davis could mean a more run-heavy game in 2012.
40. Bryan Bennett, So., Oregon
Oregon's starting quarterback will be decided in camp, but Bennett looks to have the edge on rival Marcus Mariota. Bennett was the bigger recruit and was highly productive as a freshman in 2011, but Mariota impressed in spring. Still, given that Bennett has an extra year of experience and had such great 2011 numbers (369 yards passing with no interceptions while running for 200 yards at 8.7 yards per carry), he should be the favorite to start. With LaMichael James (NFL) and Tra Carson (transfer) gone, the Ducks are thinner at running back than most years, so Bennett's experience should pay off as Oregon perhaps leans on the quarterback more than usual.