Quarterback is a deep position. Waiting to draft quarterback has been a basic strategy in fantasy football in recent years. There is a reason for that. Yes, the position scores more points than any other. However, only 10-12 players start at the position in a standard league. More importantly, the disparity in production is not as stark as the drop off in other positions. Yet, there are still fantasy owners who feel they get a huge advantage by grabbing one of the top quarterbacks on draft day. They would be wrong. Keep that in mind as you peruse the quarterback rankings below.
Here is an example: Russell Wilson was the highest scoring quarterback in fantasy last season, averaging 22.2 points per game. Dak Prescott, on the other hand, averaged scoring 17.1 points per game. He was the 13th overall quarterback in fantasy. Why did I choose thirteen? That means he was the first quarterback not good enough to start in a standard fantasy football league. There was only a 23% difference in per-game production between Wilson and Prescott. Got it? Cool, moving on.
Now consider these other comparisons. Todd Gurley, the number one running back in fantasy football, outscored Frank Gore by 58.1%. Gore was the first running back not good enough to start in a standard league. Chris Hogan, the “first out” wide receiver, was outscored by Antonio Brown by 42.9%. It pays to wait for a quarterback because you simply can’t afford to wait at other positions. This does not mean you should wait until the end of the draft to pick up your QB1. After all, you still want to outscore your opponent in every way you can. However, it does mean that you should look for value at the position and refuse to reach.
So, who should you target in this year’s draft? Let’s take a look at the first iteration of our quarterback rankings for 2018 Fantasy Football.
For more rankings and great fantasy football analysis check out all of our 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep.
The Cream of the Crop
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The man deserves his own tier, and I gave him one. He is the one and only quarterback in Tier One. Why? He is the only quarterback (barring injury) that I would consider a guarantee to provide elite production. Aaron Rodgers in the best in the game, period.
However, this does not mean you should reach for him in drafts. The difference in taking Rodgers in the range he is likely to go (round 3 or 4) vs. a player like Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford is less than five fantasy points per game in standard leagues. It would be in your best interest to pass on Rodgers and invest your early picks on a skills player.
Russel Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russel Wilson has finished as a Top-3 quarterback in three of the last four seasons. That is exactly the kind of consistency you want out of a quarterback you would consider drafting this high. It is rare to be able to draft a high ceiling with considerable upside in any position, which makes Wilson a great draft pick in 2018. The good news for fantasy owners (and bad news for Seahawks fans) is that Wilson’s defense is going to be terrible. This should force him to be more aggressive throughout most games due to the game script.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson was the best quarterback in football last season. He only played in six games though. However, during those six games, he was hands down the fantasy MVP. Watson’s season was cut short when he tore his right ACL in November during practice. I am betting on a huge year for the Texans’ hybrid quarterback.
Sure, it was a small sample size. The fact remains that Watson averaged 28.3 fantasy points per game in his five starts (R.Wilson led the league with 21.7). He also did it while facing Seattle and New England, on the road. Those are arguably two of toughest places to place on the road in the NFL. The bottom line is that the quarterback position is hard to differentiate yourself from the competition. There simply is not a great deal of parody from top to bottom of the quarterback rankings like there is at other positions. Why not draft a guy who has the talent and shown the ability to rise above the field and help you win a fantasy championship? Watson may come with risk, but he also comes with the immense potential for reward.
— Viral Sports (@NotScTop10plays) August 10, 2017
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
It is a good thing the Panthers decided to stop wasting the talent of their number one player last season. After attempting to reduce Cam Newton’s rushing attempts in 2016, the Carolina quarterback ran for a career-high 754 yards in 2017. It is a good thing too, considering Newton would not hold much value without it.
Newton’s running ability may be the main reason he sits high in the quarterback rankings. However, the upgraded offense that surrounds him this year is the reason Newton is elite. Christian McCaffrey is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league and makes for a dangerous outlet option for a scrambling Cam Newton. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olson returns to the Carolina offense along with the addition of rookie wideout D.J Moore. These two options, paired with McCaffrey could make the entire field a danger zone for opposing defenses. They will also provide Newton with plenty of weapons to deal some damage in 2018.
Breakouts and Sleepers: Undervalued targets
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees had a down season in 2017. Did he? Maybe by fantasy standards, but did you know he set a record 72-percent completion percentage? No? Did you know that he also posted the lowest interception rate of his career(1.5%) last season? Oh, you didn’t know that either? What if I told you that Drew Brees also held his highest yards per pass attempt (8.1) since 2011?
I think you know where I am going with this. Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. He is due for positive regression in touchdown rate while remaining one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game. That alone should be enough to make him a tremendous fantasy football sleeper this year. However, the biggest change this season will be the return of his pass attempts. Last season the Saints enjoyed having one of the most efficient backfields in the NFL. This caused the Sean Payton-led offense to lean on the run far more than usual. I have a feeling that is unlikely to happen again.
Mark Ingram is suspended to start the year and Sean Payton loves to throw the football. Look for Drew Brees to have a huge bounce-back season. This should be great news for Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara owners as well.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Death. Taxes. Matthew Stafford finishing in the Top-10 of fantasy quarterback rankings. The Lions captain has finished as a Top-10 Fantasy option in each of the past three seasons and he should do so again this year. He may not be the best, but Stafford will never be the worst. Do not reach for Stafford, as his ceiling is limited (wait until Round 8 at least). However, if he falls in your draft make sure to scoop him up for some dependable production. Below is a chart showing the weekly finishes in fantasy football for Matthew Stafford and Russel Wilson since 2012. This should give you a solid idea just how consistent Stafford has been in his career.
Pat Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes has a cannon for an arm and the mobility to give the opposing defense headaches. The best part is that Mahomes has more weapons to surround him in Kansas City that most quarterbacks in the league. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt are a scary group of skill players for a defense to track. I would expect Mahomes to take full advantage in 2018 and put up some big numbers.
The risk? He has started just one NFL game. There is massive potential here for a breakout, but only if the price is right. Mahomes is a trendy name, and that makes it possible for him to be over-drafted. If you can pick up Mahomes outside of the Top-12, I would. However, I would avoid reaching much higher than that though.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
2017 was a forgettable year for Carr. He finished the season as the 19th quarterback in fantasy and lost all of the momentum he had seemingly gained in his previous campaign. There are some that believe new head coach John Gruden and his promise to run the ball more will continue to depress Carr’s value. I am not one of those people.
Amari Cooper had a dreadful season in 2017, dropping easy catches and dragging Carr down with him. The number one receiver for the Raiders is due for a bounce-back in a big way this year and will be joined by newly acquired Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. It may be Gruden’s plan to run the ball, but this is a passing team. It is simply the way it is designed to function. Grab Carr as your second quarterback near the end of the draft and look for him to make a huge return on your investment.
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos
Everyone loved Case Keenum in Minnesota, but where has that love gone? I’m not sure. He makes the move to Denver where he will join Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Sounds good to me. Keenum tossed for over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns last season while allowing just seven interceptions. The talent surrounding him with the Broncos is just as potent as his Vikings team a year ago. It would not shock me if Keenum put up better numbers than his replacement Kirk Cousins.
QB Busts: Avoid these guys if you can
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It is only a matter of time before age catches up with Tom Brady. I believe 2018 will be that year. Last season Brady tossed only six touchdowns to five interceptions in his final five games. Now compare that to the first two-thirds of the season which had Brady throwing 26 touchdowns and three interceptions. What do you see? I think we have already seen the beginning of the end. Could this be a mistake? Should I doubt Tom Brady? Maybe not. The man loves to prove people wrong.
A big thing to consider here is that Tom Brady lost some major pieces in his offense this offseason. Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, along with running back Dion Lewis and left tackle Nate Solder are all playing for different teams in 2018. Those are not insignificant losses. Pair that with the suspension of Julian Edelman and Tom Brady is going to be in for some tough times to start the year. The bottom line here is that the quarterback rankings are so deep that it seems foolish to gamble on an aging player who is armed with the worst offense of his career.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz finished as the QB3 in 2017 despite going down with a season-ending ACL injury in week 14. He is expected to be ready for the tart of the season, but there has to be concern over his mobility following the knee injury. Wentz rushed for 299 yards last year and it would be a major blow for the Eagles quarterback if he were limited to a more stationary position.
The other major concern is a regression in touchdown production. Wentz’s league-leading 7.5 TD% was the fifth best mark in the past 10 seasons. Obviously, his touchdown production is going to fall back to earth, which could significantly cut into his perceived value. If healthy, Carson Wentz is still easily a QB1. Just make sure to bake in some regression and the chance for mobility issues in 2018.
Carson Wentz 6 months removed from reconstructive knee surgery: pic.twitter.com/INIzGtAD0E
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) June 13, 2018
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings! He now has Stefon Diggs, Adam Theilen, and Kyle Rudolph, so he has to be better right? Eh, I’m not so sure. The Vikings threw the ball just 526 times last season and are armed with one of the best defenses in the league. Minnesota also has one of the best young running backs in Dalvin Cook. Those two details, combined with the loss of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, make this a fuzzy situation for Cousins in year one. I think he will have a fine year, but he is not going to deliver on his draft day price tag.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
I’m not sure I would call Luck a “bust”, but I had to mention him and this seems like the best place to do so. There is only one man in the league that could challenge Aaron Rodgers for the number one pure quarterback in the game, and that is Andrew Luck. The problem is, do we really think he is healthy? He has been due to return for almost two years now after multiple setbacks in his recovery from a shoulder injury.
The “reports” are that the Colts captain is healthy and ready to play. He also would come in with the strongest offensive line of his career. It’s exciting, it really is. Excitement is not a fantasy category though. If I were drafting today I would not draft Luck outside of a flier at the end of the draft. At the very least you would need to be prepared to take another mid-round quarterback to cover the risk of rostering Luck. Is that worth it? Maybe, but it is a big risk. Things could easily change with a few positive reports from camp and a strong preseason. For now we will consider Luck nothing more than a dream.
Dearest mother —
I write with exuberance. Today, for the first time after many sunrises, I fired my sidearm in full view of onlookers. It was a sight, I admit. Some were startled. The unit has a grueling campaign that inches closer daily. I shall be ready. I love you.
— Capt. Andrew Luck (@CaptAndrewLuck) June 12, 2018
The Case For Streaming Quarterbacks
You may have read the example in the opening paragraph and thought, “Hey, maybe I should just stream a quarterback.” Well, you certainly could. If you do it right. The season-long difference from top waiver wire option to number one quarterback is not a make or break difference. However, you are then tasked with playing the matchup game, a game that may not always work in your favor.
If you want to try and stream quarterbacks, you should still draft one. Consider taking a safe late-round option like Alex Smith, Derek Carr, or Case Keenum (maybe even after you fill a few bench spots). The idea is to use them in most weeks to float you through on solid production, but to take advantage of strong matchups the waiver wire may produce. This strategy will allow you to be more aggressive in drafting skill players, while also allowing roster flexibility throughout the year.
Whether you want to join a league or start your own, Fantrax is the place to be. Fantrax can work with virtually any league configuration you can dream up, and you can draft a team 364 days a year.
2018 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings