Summary: Tier-one signal callers are rare weekly difference makers at fantasy football’s most replaceable position. Waiting for the double-digit rounds is optimal in start-one-quarterback leagues, but members of this elite group warrant single-digit reaches as high-floor, high-upside scorers with dominant track records. Rodgers has finished as a top-two fantasy passer in seven of the last eight seasons in which he’s played at least 15 games and added touchdown machine Jimmy Graham to his arsenal. Brady has been a top-four QB in five of his last seven full years. Wilson led the NFL in touchdown passes (34) in 2017 and has averaged 34.8 rushing yards per game over the past four seasons. Seattle’s defense is falling apart, enhancing Wilson’s shootout-game probability.
Summary: Tier-two quarterbacks have shown weekly difference-making upside but have more question marks than tier-one passers. Newton has been a top-four quarterback scorer in 5-of-7 seasons, but it’s fair to wonder whether old-school OC Norv Turner will effectively design an offense to suit Cam’s strengths. Although Brees stayed highly efficient with league bests in completion rate (72%) and yards per attempt (8.1) last season, New Orleans’ defensive and run-game improvement limited his ceiling; Brees’ 33.5 pass attempts per game were the fewest of his 12-year Saints career. Facing a tougher schedule and with Mark Ingram on suspension, I’m expecting regression back toward the mean for Brees’ 2018 volume. Watson was the QB1 by six (!) fantasy points per game from Weeks 2-8, then tore his ACL for the second time since 2014. Early drafters have been very aggressive on Watson, often selecting him in the tier-one range with Rodgers, Brady, and Wilson. Wentz was last year’s overall QB2 before tearing his ACL and LCL in Week 14. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1, but medical experts believe Wentz won’t have full mobility until midseason. Running is a huge part of both Watson and Wentz’s real-life and fantasy games.
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Matthew Stafford (QB8) > Marcus Mariota (QB9) > Kirk Cousins (QB10) > Matt Ryan (QB11) > Ben Roethlisberger (QB12) > Pat Mahomes (QB13) > Jimmy Garoppolo (QB14) > Philip Rivers (QB15) > Jared Goff (QB16) > Jameis Winston (QB17)
Summary: This is my favorite tier to target; my goal is to emerge from best-ball drafts with two members of this group. These are job-secure starters who can score in the first- and second-tier range but don’t cost nearly as much. Stafford is a super-safe investment with top-12 finishes in six of the last seven years, including five top-ten seasons. I’m taking an early stand on Mariota under new OC Matt LaFleur, who helped engineer Jared Goff’s 2017 breakout in Los Angeles. Mariota’s dual-threat ability raises his floor and ceiling, and he is a prime positive-touchdown regression candidate after managing a career-worst 2.9% TD rate last year. (Mariota’s previous career TD rate was 5.5%, same as Tom Brady’s career TD rate.) Minnesota was Cousins’ ideal landing spot, playing indoors with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook. After a down 2017, Ryan should rebound into the top-12 range, where he’s finished for most of his career. Ryan and Mariota are my highest-owned quarterbacks in early drafts. Garoppolo was the overall QB7 last Weeks 13-17 and now enters his first full year with Kyle Shanahan. Rivers and Goff are safe if lower-ceiling picks. Big Ben (health/age), Mahomes (unproven), and Winston (inconsistency) are riskier with higher ceilings. I have no hesitation ranking Mahomes aggressively due to his explosive weaponry and rushing TD upside.
Summary: If I can’t get two third-tier quarterbacks in best-ball drafts, I want to pair one third-tier passer with a member of this group. Smith is easily my preferred target, and I strongly considered ranking him in tier three. Smith’s 2017 season was his first inside the top-12 fantasy passers during a 12-year career, however, and he is sure to regress with worse weapons in Washington. Nevertheless, he is a safe choice. Carr’s average fantasy finish through four NFL seasons is QB16. I do view Carr as another positive-touchdown-regression candidate and worthy fantasy backup, but I’m also skeptical of how the Jon Gruden experiment will go. Prescott opened his career with back-to-back top-ten finishes, but his 2017 second-half fade was worrisome, and his pass-catcher corps is the worst in the league. Trubisky was up and down as a rookie, but he offers plus-rushing value and received several supporting-cast upgrades in the coaching staff and pass-catcher corps. Quietly, Bortles was last year’s QB1 in Weeks 12-16. The Jaguars embraced using him more as a runner as the season progressed, then passed on early-round quarterbacks in the draft. Dalton has hovered in the QB16-18 range for the last four years.
Summary: Luck would be ranked atop tier three if we knew for sure he’d be ready for Week 1. His supporting cast is ugly right now with suspect pass-catching talent (Eric Ebron/Chester Rogers/Ryan Grant) behind T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle, however, and Luck has made no tangible progress after missing all of 2017 with a severe throwing-shoulder injury. Luck will rise in these rankings if he shows positive signs. Keenum (one-year wonder?/new offense) and Tannehill (ACL) are risky but have job security after their teams passed on quarterbacks in the draft. Manning’s weapons are impressive, but the Giants have the NFL’s most difficult schedule in Weeks 1-7. If they start say, 2-5, I worry they’ll consider inserting Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta. The Ravens likely have no plans to play Jackson at the moment, but that will change if Joe Flacco struggles to move the offense in September. And he has struggled to move the offense for the last five-plus years. There are no guarantees Jackson plays soon, but his ceiling is easily the highest in this rookie quarterback class. Tyrod’s rushing value and weapons upgrade going from Buffalo (Kelvin Benjamin–Zay Jones–Charles Clay) to Cleveland (Jarvis Landry–Josh Gordon–David Njoku) give him near-term appeal, but it’s only a matter of time before Baker Mayfield takes over.
Summary: The rest of the quarterbacks expected to start to begin the season, likely to make 2018 appearances, or backups behind starters with injury concerns.
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