Roethlisberger now a No. 2 fantasy quarterback

Remember how good Ben Roethlisberger was for your fantasy team last season? Well, it’s time to leave the past behind and start looking at the future.

Roethlisberger has been suspended six games for for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy, though the suspension could be reduced or extended based on Roethlisberger’s progess. If we assume that he’ll miss six games, the veteran quarterback will be unavailable for half of the fantasy regular season.

Based on his 2009 totals, Roethlisberger would project to finish the 2010 campaign with around 2,885 passing yards and 19 total touchdowns. I think those numbers are inflated, however, as two major factors are going against Roethlisberger in his quest to duplicate that level of success.

First, he lost one of his top options in the passing game when the Steelers dealt Santonio Holmes to the Jets. I like Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, but there isn’t much behind them on the depth chart.

Roethlisberger also faces one of the toughest schedules of any quarterback in the league, with games against the Bengals (2), Ravens, Patriots, Bills, Jets and Panthers.

Based on these factors and the loss of significant playing time, Roethlisberger now projects as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback. In fact, I’ve moved him down to 16th at his position behind Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Vince Young.

With Big Ben out of action, the fantasy appeal of Dennis Dixon will rise across the board. I’m not saying he’s going to become a fantasy superstar, but he could be a temporary sleeper based on the fact that five of the team’s first six games are against favorable opponents.

As long as he can hold off Byron Leftwich in training camp, Dixon will face the Falcons, Titans, Buccaneers, Browns and Dolphins in the first seven weeks (the Steelers have a bye in Week 6). Those teams allowed an average of at least 17.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last season.

Dixon’s other start would come against the Ravens.

Ironically, that’s the team he made his first NFL start against last season. Despite the tough matchup in a hostile environment, Dixon still scored a very solid 17 fantasy points in the contest.

That’s something to think about if you need a quarterback in the late rounds of larger leagues.

I also think the value of Rashard Mendenhall will rise as a result of the Roethlisberger suspension, as the Steelers will no doubt lean on the run with Dixon under center. I already had Mendenahll ranked in the top 10 among running backs on my board, and now I can easily see him being taken in the late first round on draft day.

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