2013 NFL Power Rankings, Preseason Edition

I know that I'm telling you something that you already know, but the NFL has become a passing league.

As crazy as this might have seemed a few years ago, it appears more likely that we will next see a quarterback sling it 800 times in a season than we will see another 400-carry back.

The presence of a stud workhorse back like Adrian Peterson, while nice to have, is no longer something that a team needs.

For the first time in 50 years, there were zero running backs drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Based on my way-too-early (but it's never too early) 2014 NFL mock draft, there will no first-round running backs again next year.

[Then again, if I'm predicting there won't be any, that probably means there will be five first-round RBs.]

Since 2000, I compared the number of running backs with 300-plus carries to the number of quarterbacks with 600-plus pass attempts. [See chart to the right.]

Just 10 years ago in 2003, there were 13 rushers with 300-plus carries and zero quarterbacks with 600-plus pass attempts. For the second year in a row, there were more quarterbacks with 600 pass attempts (six) than running backs with 300 carries (five) last year.

Of course, the more a quarterback slings it all over the yard, the more likely he is to throw for gaudy statistics.

Not only has Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record been broken, but 5,000 passing yards no longer seems as impressive as it once did.

Two seasons ago, we saw three 5,000-yard passers in the same season. In fact, Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees has thrown for 5,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons and has a total of three of them in his career.

The odds of a third straight season with 5,000 yards are pretty good. The folks at Sportsbook.ag have set the over/under on Brees' passing yards at 5,125.5 for the 2013 season.

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With our power rankings each week, we answer a question in a roundtable fashion among our contributors.

This week's question: Will Drew Brees throw for 5,000-plus yards for a third straight season?

Kevin Hanson (follow on Twitter):

Brees could see his passing yardage decline for a third consecutive season and still be a winner for those that go with the over at Sportsbook — let alone a measly 5,000 yards. While I think the Saints will be more committed to the run in 2013 (than last year), Brees will have a healthier Jimmy Graham, who played through a wrist injury, and Darren Sproles, who missed three games last year. While I don't expect Brees to break his own record, I expect him to have, I feel weird saying writing this, a bounce-back season.

Drew Brees 2013 Stats?
In 2013, Saints QB Drew Brees will ... ?

Throw for 5,000-plus yards
Throw 40-plus TDs
Both of the above
Neither of the above

view results

John Trifone (follow on Twitter):

I'm going to pick against Brees throwing another 5,000 yard season. The league has certainly become much more pass-oriented than in previous years, but still, only he, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford have joined Dan Marino in the 5,000 yard club. I'm sure Brees will have a solid year, but I will predict a little more offensive balance, and Brees throwing for between 4,000 and 4,500 yards passing.

Sean Beazley (follow on Twitter):

There is no doubt in my mind that Brees will have another 5,000-yard season. He is my No. 1 rated fantasy QB (see Sean's rankings) as well ahead of the Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. With Sean Payton back as head coach, I believe Brees and the Saints offense will be lights out this season.

Dan Yanotchko (follow on Twitter):

Over the last two years, Brees has surpassed the 5,000-yard mark through the air, and I know for certain he will do it again this year. The Saints will have their air offense guru back in Sean Payton, and of course they did not do anything to bolster their 25th-ranked ground attack. The Saints make their living through the air, and Brees runs perhaps the most complex passing attack in the league. Brees will lead the league in yardage again, and I see him getting over the 5,000-yard mark for a third straight year.

For our initial 2013 NFL power rankings, the San Francisco 49ers are a unanimous choice as the No. 1 team and the Seattle Seahawks are either No. 2 or 3 for three of the four rankers.

As bad as the Jaguars are — and they are last in our power rankings, they are not a unanimous choice for that spot. Two rankers have them last, but the Jets and Raiders also received a 32nd ranking as well.

See our full power rankings here.

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