Fantasy Football 2018: Not Too Early Top-10 Fantasy Quarterbacks
Now that the calendar has flipped to June, we are getting closer and closer to the 2018 fantasy football season. Our mock draft page is up and running, and our ADP page reflects the many drafts already conducted here on Fantrax. Quarterbacks are an important part of a roster, and deciding which of the fantasy quarterbacks is the best fit for your team is of great importance. It is never too early to talk rankings, so let’s take a look at my current top-10 fantasy quarterback rankings.
TOP-10 FANTASY QUARTERBACKS
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is still the cream of the crop when it comes to fantasy quarterbacks. He paced all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in 2016 and was on pace to finish second behind Russell Wilson before breaking his collarbone in Week 6 in Minnesota. For me, the signing of free agent tight end Jimmy Graham from Wilson and Seattle tips the scales ever so slightly in the direction of Rodgers. Graham and wide receiver Davante Adams are double-digit touchdown threats, and Rodgers can still make plenty of plays with his legs. Aaron Rodgers can easily have another 4,000-yard, 40-TD season in 2018, making him a great choice for this season’s overall QB1.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is more of a “1A” in my mind than a true No. 2. Wilson not only led all fantasy quarterbacks in scoring in 2017, but he did so by 48.44 total points, the largest such margin between the top two fantasy quarterbacks since 2009. Wilson does it all for Seattle. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and led all quarterbacks with 34 touchdown passes last year. He also ran for 586 yards and three scores. Though Seattle drafted running back Rashaad Penny in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, Wilson will be tasked to do the heavy lifting for Seattle this year. It is also possible that the Seahawks’ diminished defense may force Wilson to be more aggressive offensively. Russell Wilson will once again be an elite fantasy quarterback this season.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
2018 may be the last time Tom Brady will be in the top-five of fantasy quarterbacks, but his position is still warranted here for the time being. New England traded away second-leading receiver Brandin Cooks, but his production will essentially be replaced by the returning Julian Edelman. With Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Chris Hogan in tow as well as a versatile running back group, Brady has an excellent allotment of weapons at his disposal. Brady has averaged 293.2 passing yards and 2.2 touchdown passes per game over the last three year and should come close to those numbers once again in 2018.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees finished 2017 as fantasy’s ninth-best quarterback, as the Saints’ two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara carried the load on offense. Prior to last season, the last time Drew Brees finished outside of the top-four among quarterbacks in fantasy points was 2005! Brees will likely reclaim his spot among the elite fantasy quarterbacks this season. The four-game suspension of Ingram has a lot to do with that and will have a huge impact on Brees’ workload. For all of the praise heaped upon Kamara, he is simply not a three-down back. Kamara never exceeded 12 carries in any game last season and had more than 10 carries just three times. Ingram had more than 10 carries in each of the Saints’ last 14 games a season ago, averaging 15.43 carries during that stretch. Kamara’s workload will surely increase while Ingram is sidelined, but Sean Payton will not go out of his way to overexpose Kamara. That means more work and fantasy goodness for Brees. From 2010 through 2016, Brees averaged over 40 passing attempts per game in each season. Last year, he attempted just 33.5 passes per game. If Drew Brees approaches 40 attempts per game in 2018, expect him to post another top-five fantasy season.
5. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
When Deshaun Watson put up an Opening Day 5.68 fantasy point clunker against Jacksonville, most of us had not yet recognized Jacksonville as the league’s next elite defense. Instead, we viewed Watson as a typical rookie who was in over his head. Boy, were we ever wrong. Watson flashed his playmaking ability the following week with a 49-yard touchdown run, and from there went on to become a fantasy darling before tearing his ACL in October. Watson averaged an unheard of 29.10 fantasy points over his final five games last season, which has many analysts and fantasy players alike salivating over the numbers he might put up over a full season. However, during those five games, the Texans and their opponents combined to score at least 69 points four times. In the other 251 games played across the NFL last season, teams combined to score at least 69 points in a game just 10 times. The high-scoring affairs Watson was a part of are largely an anomaly and are not the norm on a weekly basis. Watson will not need to do as much as he did during that incredible stretch. While a 400+ point season is theoretically within Watson’s range of outcomes, it is not likely. We also cannot forget that Watson is recovering from a major injury. His participation in 7-on-7 drills suggests he should be fully healed by the time the season starts, but I am still not ready to anoint Watson one of the top 2-3 fantasy quarterbacks quite yet.
6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton finished second among fantasy quarterbacks in total points last season. Yes, that was in part due to the injuries suffered by other high-profile quarterbacks, but oftentimes a player’s best ability is availability, and Newton was up to the task in 2017. Rumors of a decreased role in Carolina’s rushing attack turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Newton paced the Panthers with 754 rushing yards and added six rushing touchdowns. The addition of free agent running back C.J. Anderson may cause a slight dip in those rushing totals, but Carolina also bolstered their receiving corps in the offseason, which should buoy Newton’s fantasy production. Rookie D.J. Moore and veteran Torrey Smith provide Newton with additional weapons in the passing game, and Newton’s safety blanket, tight end Greg Olsen, should also be back. Newton may not have ideal weekly consistency, but he should be a solid QB1 in 2018.
7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford has displayed remarkable consistency throughout the majority of his career. Stafford hasn’t missed a game since 2010, which was the last time he finished a season outside of the top-12 quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. Despite this, Stafford continues to be undervalued on draft day on a seemingly yearly basis. Stafford is being taken as just the overall QB11 according to our ADP data. Stafford averaged a career-high 7.9 yards per passing attempt last season and has thrown just 20 interceptions over the last two years. Detroit still has an outstanding one-two receiving punch in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. While many owners reach for a Jimmy Garoppolo or Jared Goff, I will happily draft Matthew Stafford as my fantasy starter if I miss out on the elite tier of quarterbacks.
8. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
The Kirk Cousins-Washington Redskins saga finally came to its long-awaited conclusion when Washington traded for former Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith and let Cousins sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins has finished as a top-seven fantasy quarterback in three straight seasons, the only quarterback in the NFL who can make that claim. He should have plenty of weapons in Minnesota. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen finished as top-17 fantasy wideouts last season, and Kyle Rudolph is an upper-echelon tight end. However, I don’t believe an improvement from a fantasy perspective is a given for Cousins. Minnesota is a solid team with an excellent defense, influences that don’t always equate to increased fantasy production for quarterbacks. Cousins also has rushed for at least four touchdowns in each of the last three years. That number feels unsustainable for a player who has averaged 6.1 rushing yards per game in his career. I project Kirk Cousins as a solid mid-tier QB1 this season, but I do not expect him to join the elite group of fantasy quarterbacks.
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger has consistently performed as a fantasy QB1 on a per-game basis over the past several seasons, and this season should be no different. Roethlisberger has the luxury of suiting up alongside one of the best running back/wide receiver duos in NFL history in Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The tandem has combined for a ridiculous 195 receiving yards per game since 2014. Not Surprisingly, Big Ben has averaged a whopping 297.7 passing yards per game during that same stretch. Juju Smith-Schuster also figures to improve on his impressive rookie campaign. We tend to ignore home and road splits in football, but it is worth noting that Roethlisberger averaged 20.46 fantasy points per home game last year, a pace reserved for the very best of the best among the fantasy quarterback landscape. That number is even more impressive considering it includes a 2.58 Week 5 stinker against Jacksonville. Big Ben has weekly blowup potential with the elite weapons around him, making him an ideal value pick in Round 11 of 12-team fantasy drafts.
10. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite missing the final three games of the 2017 season, Carson Wentz still finished fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. However, there are a couple of factors that make a repeat performance much less likely in 2018. First, there is the torn ACL Wentz suffered last season that he is still in the process of recovering from. While he is jogging during OTAs without any noticeable issues, the injury was suffered just six short months ago. There is no guarantee Wentz will be ready Week 1. Even if he is, I really doubt Wentz approaches the 23 rushing yards per game he averaged in 2017, especially early on in the year as he rounds into shape. The fact that his injury occurred while trying to scramble for a touchdown may cause Wentz to shy away from making plays with his legs. The other issue that concerns me is that, despite last season’s fantasy production, Wentz finished just 19th among quarterbacks in passing yards. Most of Wentz’s 2017 fantasy value was a result of a high number (33 to be exact) of touchdown passes. On a year-to-year basis, I tend to believe that yards are a more reliable forecasting tool than touchdowns. I still believe Wentz is a solid QB1 when healthy, but I do not see another top-five fantasy performance on the horizon this season.