The discussion around the best strategies for winning fantasy football leagues is always changing. Not everyone agrees on the same strategies which is why the game works so well. As far as draft strategies go, a common theme over the last few seasons has been to wait to draft a quarterback. Especially in 1QB redraft leagues, there has been a surplus of strong options at the position with plenty of late-round quarterbacks to draft as starters. However, one of my biggest pieces of advice ahead of the 2023 season is: Don’t wait to draft a quarterback.
Should You Draft a Quarterback Early in 2023?
Why Managers Have Been Waiting on Quarterback
Let’s take a look back over the last few seasons as to why the strategy of waiting on a quarterback gained popularity. A good year to start with this trend is 2018. That’s the year Patrick Mahomes became the Kansas City Chiefs starter. That season, and over the next few, highly talented quarterbacks such as Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Joe Burrow all entered the league, as well.
In 2017, the year prior to Mahomes’ arrival and 2018 MVP season, just three quarterbacks averaged over 20.0 points per game in fantasy football; one of whom, Deshaun Watson, played in just seven games as a rookie before tearing his ACL. Then from 2018 to 2021, the number of quarterbacks averaging 20.0 or more points per game is as follows: 9, 8, 12, 10.
Two-thirds or more of the quarterbacks ranking inside the top-12 were averaging 20.0 points per game or better in each of these seasons. In 2021, every quarterback inside the top-12 averaged more than 20.0 points per game. The advantage of having a top-three-to-five quarterback averaging anywhere from 5.o to upwards of 8.0 points per game more than the back end of the QB1 pool has been completely watered down over the last few seasons compared to years prior.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Draft a Quarterback in 2023
After discussing the depth at the quarterback position, specifically from 2018 to 2021, let’s now take a look at the 2022 season. Over those previous four seasons, an average of 9.75 quarterbacks finished with 20.0 or more points per game. In 2022, just six quarterbacks averaged over 20.0 points per game. More specifically, the top-three, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen, averaged over 24.0 points per game. That’s happened just once (2020) in the last 10 seasons.
|Top-12 QBs by Season||Player||Team||Points Per Game Avg.|
|1||Jalen Hurts||Philadelphia Eagles||26.8|
|2||Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||25.8|
|3||Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||24.3|
|4||Joe Burrow||Cincinnati Bengals||22.3|
|5||Justin Fields||Chicago Bears||20.5|
|6||Lamar Jackson||Baltimore Ravens||20.3|
|7||Kyler Murray||Arizona Cardinals||18.9|
|8||Geno Smith||Seattle Seahawks||18.7|
|9||Dak Prescott||Dallas Cowboys||18.5|
|10||Daniel Jones||New York Giants||18.4|
|11||Tua Tagovailoa||Miami Dolphins||18.4|
|12||Trevor Lawrence||Jacksonville Jaguars||18.4|
|2021 Season Next Page|
|1||Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||24.6|
|2||Justin Herbert||Los Angeles Chargers||23|
|3||Tom Brady||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||22.6|
|4||Kyler Murray||Arizona Cardinals||22.6|
|5||Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||21.8|
|6||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||21.5|
|7||Jalen Hurts||Philadelphia Eagles||21.4|
|8||Lamar Jackson||Baltimore Ravens||21.1|
|9||Joe Burrow||Cincinnati Bengals||20.5|
|10||Matthew Stafford||Los Angeles Rams||20.5|
|11||Dak Prescott||Dallas Cowboys||19.9|
|12||Kirk Cousins||Minnesota Vikings||19|
|2020 Season Next Page|
|1||Dak Prescott||Dallas Cowboys||27.7|
|2||Marcus Mariota (1 game)||Las Vegas Raiders||26.8|
|3||Kyler Murray||Arizona Cardinals||25.8|
|4||Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||25.7|
|5||Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||25.4|
|6||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||24.1|
|7||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||23.6|
|8||Deshaun Watson||Houston Texans||23.3|
|9||Lamar Jackson||Baltimore Ravens||22.6|
|10||Justin Herbert||Los Angeles Chargers||22.1|
|11||Ryan Tannehill||Tennessee Titans||21.5|
|12||Tom Brady||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21.2|
|2019 Season Next Page|
|1||Lamar Jackson||Baltimore Ravens||28.1|
|2||Deshaun Watson||Houston Texans||22.1|
|3||Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||21.5|
|4||Matthew Stafford||Detroit Lions||21.4|
|5||Dak Prescott||Dallas Cowboys||21.3|
|6||Jameis Winston||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21.3|
|7||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||20.9|
|8||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||20.7|
|9||Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||19.8|
|10||Ryan Tannehill||Tennessee Titans||19.3|
|11||Matt Ryan||Atlanta Falcons||19.1|
|12||Kyler Murray||Arizona Cardinals||18.8|
|2018 Season Next Page|
|1||Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||26.6|
|2||Ben Roethelisberger||Pittsburgh Steelers||21.8|
|3||Matt Ryan||Atlanta Falcons||21.7|
|4||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||20.8|
|5||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20.7|
|6||Deshaun Watson||Houston Texans||20.6|
|7||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||20.3|
|8||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||20.3|
|9||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||20.2|
|10||Mitchell Trubisky||Chicago Bears||19.5|
|11||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||19.4|
|12||Jared Goff||Los Angeles Rams||19.1|
A big reason for the depth at quarterback in fantasy football over the last few seasons is the rise of talent overlapping with the tail end of certain Hall of Fame careers like Ben Roethelisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. On top of that, strong seasons from others such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Matt Ryan interspersed among them helped uphold the trend.
The average age of starting quarterbacks across the league has also dropped considerably in the last year. Using the AFC South as a sample size, by the end of the 2023 season, Trevor Lawrence (24), C.J. Stroud (22), Anthony Richardson (21), and Will Levis (24) would have a median age of 22.75-years old amongst the division’s starting quarterbacks.
This is not to say that young quarterbacks cannot succeed. However, a turnover of starting quarterbacks across the league on rebuilding and retooling franchises lessens the probability of having a large number of the position averaging 20.0 or more fantasy points per game. In 2023, there is a large gap between obvious studs who win fantasy matchups and starters you can get by with week-to-week. Don’t wait to draft a stud quarterback.
Which Early Quarterbacks To Target
There are three quarterbacks to draft the earliest and it’s the three who exceeded 24.0 points per game last season: Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. Consider, too, each of these three has finished at the top spot of the position in seasons prior. If you’re unable to secure either of those players in one of the first three rounds, there are still a handful of quarterbacks to target over the next few rounds.
Playing in a pass-heavy offense with elite weapons and opportunities to throw a high number of touchdowns is an obvious way to rise in the quarterback rankings. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert fit that mold in 2023. Another way is to rack up points with your legs. While Burrow and Herbert have that ability, Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields present far more upside running the ball.
Justin Fields’ 10.82 points per game average from rushing alone last season is the second-most all-time from a fantasy quarterback. The highest average in that category belongs to Lamar Jackson (10.84) from his 2019 MVP season. Fields (52.8%) and Lamar (38.3%) also rank in the top three in the percentage of 2022 fantasy points from strictly running the ball.
Hurts, Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Lamar, Fields, and Herbert are QBs I would draft early rather than wait to draft a quarterback. Sure, there will be players that naturally round out the top-12 and carry upside of their own. I’m certain in a fully healthy season, most, if not all of, of the quarterbacks discussed here will finish inside the top 10. They all have a shot to be the best at their position and that’s worth investing a high draft pick in.
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023