Fantasy Football: Quarterbacks Tiers

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Every season we go through the process of projecting the fantasy stars for the year to come. Unavoidably, certain names appear at the top of that list over and over again – Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and other notable gunslingers. It’s almost always a laundry list of prolific passers and why shouldn’t it be? Quarterbacks amass the most fantasy points and those are the best at the position, but does that mean they should be your early round targets in the draft?

Any look back at 2017 standings will show you all you need to know. The average point total from the #10-15 QB’s in fantasy last season was around 60-70 points below the average of the #1-5 fantasy signal callers. Meanwhile, the gap between the #1-5 running backs average point total and that of the #6-10 is 75 points, and it jumps to 130 points when you get down to #15-20. While your QB may be the most prolific point scorer on your team, it’s also the most easily replaceable source of production.

The average draft position for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady is inside the first three rounds, while Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger are going after the 10th round. It’s more than reasonable to expect the latter two to finish within 50 points of the first two at season’s end, so why spend your earlier draft capital there when you can invest in tougher positions to fill? I fully support drafting a Rodgers or a Brady, but optimizing your return on investment is key.

All of that said, let’s take a look at the QB tiers for the 2018 season and what to expect.

TIER 1 – The Elites

Brees, Brady, Rodgers, Russell Wilson

The first three guys on this list are here because their floors are as high as many quarterbacks ceilings. If Rodgers, Brees, and Brady are on the field, you’re going to get above average fantasy scores no matter what, and frequently you’ll get Top 5 scores each week.

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Wilson checks in as the only other name in this group. When you think of Wilson it’s not as one of the pure elite passers. His scrambling, make it up as you go style certainly diverges from the other three. In reality, if you dropped Rodgers, Brady and Brees onto just about any team they would be a playoff contender and the same may not be entirely true for Wilson, but this isn’t reality, it’s fantasy. Wilson is simply a fantasy machine due to his high TD production rate and the value he adds with his legs. Cam Newton is also on the edge of this list with the same profile, though Newton has proven to be slightly more dependent on the players around him in past seasons.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME TEAM PASS YD PASS TD INT RU YD RU TD POINTS
Aaron Rodgers GB 4070 35 9 335 2 365.3
Russell Wilson SEA 4075 30 11 450 3 354
Drew Brees NO 4735 33 11 30 2 347.4
Tom Brady NE 4450 30 7 20 316

 

TIER 2 – The Supremes

Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz

If I can’t make these guys Elites, I need them to be something better than just “Greats” because there’s very little gap here, if any at all.

My projections have Watson and Newton as Top 3 producers this year and the only reason Newton didn’t make the Elites is because of his abysmal 2016 season that still lingers as a warning of what can happen if things get derailed in Carolina. As for Watson, his lack of resume keeps him from being firmly in the top tier, though his profile certainly suggests he could make it there before the season is over. Watson’s willingness to take his shot as a passer and his contributions as a runner make him a special talent in the same mold as Wilson and Newton, and 2018 will be a defining season for him.

Wentz, similar to Watson, lacks sufficient history to validate a higher ranking but already he looks like a younger version of Rodgers. This will be a proving season for Wentz both from an injury and production standpoint. Cousins, on the other hand, has proved his consistency powering through some truly horrendous Washington offenses to muster great fantasy campaigns. Cousins finished #5 and #7 the last two years with virtually no legitimate weapons at his disposal and he moves to a far more appealing situation in Minnesota this year.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME TEAM PASS YD PASS TD INT RU YD RU TD POINTS
Deshaun Watson HOU 4025 28 13 715 5 376.5
Cam Newton CAR 4200 26 13 575 6 365.5
Carson Wentz PHI 4150 32 13 250 2 337
Kirk Cousins MIN 4200 29 12 125 3 319.5

 

TIER 3 – The Greats

Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan

Prescott has certainly emerged over the past two seasons and looks to be getting more comfortable each season. One issue for Prescott is that his production is decidedly impacted when Ezekiel Elliot is absent from the fold indicating that Dak is more a product of the sum of his parts than his own individual talent, but he has all his parts in 2018.

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Big Ben and Matt Ryan are pure passers, simple as that. Roethlisberger is almost always getting banged up through the season and his love for throwing the ball will lead to a game or two with some undesirable interception rates. That’s a two-edged sword though as a high penchant for passing will also produce excessive amounts of yardage and touchdowns. Ryan is more of a controlled passer who is also dependent on the pieces around him, but when he’s locked in he can roll with the best in the game. Atlanta replenished the cupboard for him heading into 2018 so all should be right with the world.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME TEAM PASS YD PASS TD INT RU YD RU TD POINTS
Dak Prescott DAL 3725 25 8 300 5 318
Matt Ryan ATL 4715 26 12 120 306.6
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 4550 30 15 45 306.5

 

TIER 4 – The Best of the Rest

Matt Stafford, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers

All of these guys have fairly high floors, even if their ceilings are lower than most. Stafford has threatened to be one of the Greats his entire career which is now entering its 10th season. He’s a threat to blow up and his brand of offense includes a heavy passing volume, which is similar to Eli Manning. The Derp Face is always fun to mock but he’s had several Top 10 fantasy seasons over his career making him a viable option and a possible steal. Manning isn’t afraid to try to force balls to his primary targets which is fine when Odell Beckham, Jr. is on the field and less great when you’re relying on Taverres King to win the battle. The good news here is Beckham is healthy. Rivers is also a volume guy who will rack up the yards and TD’s as long as his targets stay healthy.

Smith, Luck, and Carr all come with question marks. Smith is moving to a far less desirable offensive situation in Washington but his mobility and ball protection help keep him as a safe play in most fantasy formats. Luck is obviously trying to fight his way back after missing 2017 with his shoulder injury but when he’s healthy he’s as dangerous as any QB in fantasy. Carr looked poised to be in one of the higher tiers after 2015-2016 before a massive collapse in 2017 when he finished outside the Top 15. All three guys offer stout upside with risks but should have fairly high floors and be safe fantasy options.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME TEAM PASS YD PASS TD INT RU YD RU TD POINTS
Alex Smith KC 3995 26 10 325 1 308.3
Matt Stafford DET 4345 28 11 100 1 307.8
Philip Rivers LAC 4460 29 14 10 296.4
Derek Carr OAK 4100 30 15 60 1 296
Andrew Luck IND 3950 25 17 220 2 283
Eli Manning NYG 4200 28 15 20 280

 

TIER 5 – The Wild Bunch

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Pat Mahomes, Mitchel Trubisky, Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Case Keenum

If you can’t find someone in the first four tiers to start, or you want to stash a potential breakout star then this group of unpredictable young talents is for you.

Mahomes is an exciting gunslinger who has some fantastic weapons at his disposal and was obviously inspiring enough that Kansas City moved Alex Smith to make room for the youngster. He’s had a tough camp through throwing multiple interceptions every day which doesn’t really mean much. Mahomes is likely going to air the ball out which could be great or awful. The same holds true for Jimmy G who took the league by storm at the end of 2017. Garoppolo holds a lot of promise but you have to imagine the league will be more prepared for the 2nd year starter making him a big risk/reward play.

The Bears have built a solid position group around Trubisky which looks similar to what Philadelphia did for Wentz. It would be a bold leap to say Trubisky has all of Wentz upside, but there is talent here and he could be primed for a sneaky breakout season.

Mariota has yet to put it all together but as a dual-threat QB it helps his cause and perhaps this is the year he actually breaks out? Meanwhile, Keenum leaves a prime spot in Minnesota for a less complete Denver offense. The Broncos added some extra talent at receiver and this is Keenum’s first chance as the undisputed starter on a team so there is upside here.

Jared Goff rounds out this group and is kind of a man on his own island. Goff “broke out” in 2017 with 28 TD’s and only 7 INT’s but was fairly inconsistent all season, falling victim to game planning. Still, the young former first overall pick has weapons all around him and could finish as one the Supremes at years end. You could do far worse.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME TEAM PASS YD PASS TD INT RU YD RU TD POINTS
Marcus Mariota TEN 3835 25 12 350 4 313.4
Patrick Mahomes KC 3750 27 19 420 4 313
Case Keenum DEN 3990 25 7 145 1 291.1
Jared Goff LAR 4050 28 11 25 282.5
Mitchell Trubisky CHI 3750 22 15 300 2 272
Jimmy Garappolo SF 3825 24 14 30 1 254

 

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Ben Stecker

Ben Stecker

Author SportsTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
Writer, sports connoisseur, Pacific Northwesterner. Rarely met a sport I couldn't be great friends with. Follow me on twitter @Softball_Guy
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