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The first wave of Rotoballer's official 2018 fantasy football rankings is finally live! Before I dive in, we need to acknowledge the hard work of expert rankers Nick Mariano, Kyle Richardson, and Pierre Camus. Click here to check out the rankings and get a leg up on the rest of your leaguemates with some early research.

Many fantasy draft philosophies emphasize waiting until later in drafts to fill the quarterback position, but it is a common dilemma for fantasy owners to have to decide between taking the must-start passer early or build up depth at skill positions before addressing the guy under center. Who deserves to be a part of the elite category and who could be a late round value? For this article, I will be taking a look at Rotoballer's quarterback rankings and providing some analysis.

 

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Quarterback Rankings

Position Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 36 Aaron Rodgers
1 2 39 Russell Wilson
1 3 51 Deshaun Watson
2 4 52 Tom Brady
2 5 62 Kirk Cousins
2 6 63 Cam Newton
2 7 65 Drew Brees
2 8 67 Carson Wentz
3 9 78 Matthew Stafford
3 10 89 Andrew Luck
3 11 91 Ben Roethlisberger
4 12 95 Jimmy Garoppolo
4 13 98 Jared Goff
4 14 112 Philip Rivers
4 15 120 Marcus Mariota
5 16 122 Matt Ryan
5 17 124 Jameis Winston
5 18 129 Patrick Mahomes
5 19 138 Dak Prescott
6 20 146 Alex Smith
6 21 148 Derek Carr
6 22 150 Case Keenum
6 23 152 Tyrod Taylor
6 24 154 Andy Dalton
7 25 163 Blake Bortles
7 26 169 Eli Manning
7 27 175 Mitch Trubisky
8 28 180 Ryan Tannehill
8 29 210 Joe Flacco
9 30 215 Sam Bradford
9 31 233 Josh Rosen
9 32 262 Lamar Jackson
10 33 271 Josh Allen
10 34 276 Josh McCown
11 35 281 Teddy Bridgewater
11 36 283 Baker Mayfield
11 37 298 Sam Darnold

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson

There is a clear group of fantasy studs sitting at the top of our rankings headlined by Aaron Rodgers, who should remain a lock to finish in the top-five for his position barring any setbacks with his collarbone. Fantasy owners have certainly taken note of Russell Wilson, with him having scored 20-plus fantasy points in ten games last season on route to finishing as the QB-1. Rodgers's draft stock sits in the back-end of the third round while Wilson's sits in the late fifth, so owners will have a decision to make when it comes to the gap between our number one and two ranked fantasy quarterbacks.

DeShaun Watson's value has skyrocketed from last season, going from being a fourteenth round pick in fantasy drafts as a rookie to being the second quarterback off the board in the third round. Through seven games, Watson averaged 25.0 fantasy points per game, the eighth-most by any quarterback all time. However, owners should be cognizant of how impossible it will be for Watson to replicate his ludicrously high average of a touchdown pass on 9.31 percent of his attempts. That isn't to say he shouldn't be ranked highly on draft boards, but a quarterback who you need to select at the round three/four turn might be too rich for some owners' blood given his volatility.

Tier 2

Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz

Two of last season's top three fantasy quarterbacks find themselves in tier two of our rankings. Cam Newton and Tom Brady both have had notoriously productive fantasy seasons in the past (see Newton's 2015 and Tom Brady's 2007 QB-1 finishes), but their outlooks for 2018 could not be more divergent. While still a great fantasy option, Brady experienced noticeable decline near the end of last season. After throwing 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions in the first 11 games, Brady threw just six touchdowns with five interceptions over the final five games, and failed to top 15 fantasy points in any of them. Newton, on the other hand, will look to build off of his career-high 754 rushing yards from last year and continue to benefit from standard scoring favoring rushing quarterbacks. That the Carolina Panthers upgraded their wide receiver core with rookie D.J. Moore and tight end Greg Olsen is slated to be back to full health doesn't hurt either.

While the days of high passing volume offenses in New Orleans are likely over, Drew Brees should still be able to make an impact on fantasy rosters. In fact, the signing of former Chicago Bears wideout Cameron Meredith and running back Mark Ingram's four-game suspension might mean the team gets reacquainted with relying on Brees' arm early in 2018. Though the Philadelphia Eagles won't rush him back, Carson Wentz appears to be 'jogging without a hitch' in Eagles offseason activities after going down with an ACL injury in Week 14.

After landing a fresh contract to make him the highest paid player in the NFL, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins joins a superb supporting cast that features two top-20 fantasy wide receivers in Stefon Diggs (WR-19 last season in PPR) and Adam Thielen (WR-8 last season in PPR), a situation that is reminiscent of when he played with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in 2016. It's unclear how much Minnesota will need to throw considering their top-five defense and running attack that produced over 1,750 yards from running backs a year ago.

Tier 3

Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger

It might never be more true that the key to fantasy success is waiting to draft your starting passer. Our tier three quarterbacks in Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, and Andrew Luck are all going in the tenth and eleventh rounds of fantasy drafts, meaning owners will have an opportunity to build depth at their skill positions before having to focus on who will be throwing the football.

Stafford in particular could be a significant value, as his QB-9 rank has somehow translated to an eleventh round draft price despite little offensive turnover for a Detroit Lions team that threw the tenth-most in the league last season. With Luck supposedly really close to throwing after missing all of 2017 with a nagging shoulder injury, his draft capital is sure to rise given the thought of a return to 2014-form and 40 touchdown upside. Roethlisberger has finished as a top-10 option in two of the last four seasons and may now have the best wide receiver group he's ever had in Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and James Washington, but it will be hard to ever trust him as an every week starter given his frequent dud games in 2017.

Tier 4

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota

All of the offseason excitement for the San Francisco 49ers stems from one man: Jimmy Garoppolo. Over his five starts, the young signal-caller finished with a superb 5-0 record, 28.8 points per game, and 8.8 yards per attempt. Further, Garoppolo rests in the elite category of a 63.2-percent completion percentage of his passes in the intermediate range, a number that is encouraging for future fantasy success.

Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota both have significant fantasy concerns outside of their physical ability considering they have the 6th and 11th-worst schedules respectively for passers in 2018. Neither have displayed the promise to have top-10 upside, unlike Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers who has now finished as a top-12 quarterback in eight of the last 10 seasons. As a tenth round fantasy pick, Rivers could be an absolute steal considering the return of sophomore wide receiver Mike Williams and the Chargers having one of the better pass blocking offensive lines in the NFL.

Tier 5

Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott

The Atlanta Falcons decided to address the offensive side of the ball by drafting wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, meaning Matt Ryan will once again be surrounded by talent and have all the potential in the world. Still, outside of his stunning MVP campaign in 2016 where he finished as QB-2 in fantasy, Ryan sometimes needs to be elevated instead of doing the elevating himself.

Jameis Winston is the 16th best passer in our rankings, but currently going as the 22nd quarterback off the board in round fourteen of drafts. Many owners will be turned off by Winston's propensity for bad decisions and costly turnovers, but the possibility of getting a volume passer akin to the Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford is enticing. The Buccaneers threw the fourth-most passes in the NFL in 2017 and don't appear to be in a position to have that number regress significantly even with the team drafting rookie rusher Ronald Jones II. Many analysts project Winston to eclipse 4,000 yards for a third season (though not without his fair number of turnovers), so fantasy owners should be extremely happy with getting a starting caliber high-risk, high-reward passer in the later rounds of their fantasy draft.

With little tape to watch of Patrick Mahomes, it will certainly be interesting to see whether the young gunslinger can handle the reigns after a Kansas City Chiefs coach described how his progress played a role in trading Alex Smith. In order to make up for the loss of wide receiver Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott is going to have to return to rookie form all the while likely having a limited ceiling for pass attempts with running back Ezekiel Elliott representing the dominant identity of the Dallas Cowboys offense.

Tier 6

Alex Smith, Derek Carr, Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton

Alex Smith is coming off of a career year where he set personal highs in passer rating (104.7) and adjusted yards per attempt (8.59). Now in Washington, owners need to reflect on his body of work to date and remember that he has never finished as a top-12 quarterback in his eleven other seasons. Derek Carr acknowledged that the back injury he suffered in Week 4 of last season kept bothering him throughout the year, but the 26 year old quarterback will have his work cut out for him in 2018 working under a demanding new head coach in Jon Gruden and the loss of red zone threat Michael Crabtree.

The biggest enigma from this tier might be Case Keenum, who threw for over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in a Minnesota Vikings uniform. It's arguable that in heading to Denver, the talent surrounding him hasn't decreased with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at the wideout spots, albeit the offensive line is not nearly as strong. Expecting Keenum to post solid QB2 numbers isn't outside of the realm of possibility for 2018 even though offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave hasn't generated many fantasy studs in the past.

The ultra conservative Tyrod Taylor and highly volatile Andy Dalton can't be said to be too appealing to fantasy owners. Taylor's rookie backup in Baker Mayfield (found in tier 11 of our rankings) is certainly a major risk to supplant him and Dalton took a step back from his overall average passing numbers last season, averaging 207.5 yards per attempt. Even as fantasy backups, neither will draw rave reviews from the fantasy community.

Tier 7

Blake Bortles, Eli Manning, Mitch Trubisky

As fourteenth round picks, each tier seven quarterback has a reason to think they could breakthrough in 2018. Blake Bortles gets the easiest fantasy schedule for passers, Eli Manning has a talented group of pass-catchers around him supplemented by second-overall pick Saquon Barkley, and Mitch Trubisky will get the chance to have a resurgent sophomore season under former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and the addition of Allen Robinson on the outside. The projections for this group's fantasy production next season might be the most unpredictable, with starting to streaming to bust potential across all three.

Tier 8

Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill

Any Joe Flacco truther hast to be considered with Baltimore's decision to trade up for rookie Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.  It's undeniable that Flacco is on shaky ground for the future, considering how he is coming off back-to-back seasons averaging less than 6.5 yards per pass attempt and he has non-guaranteed base salaries of $18.5 million for 2019 and $20.25 million for 2020. While his Week 1 starter status is unlikely to be contested, Flacco will have to fight to keep his starting spot with a dynamic playmaker nipping at his heels.

Tier 9

Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson

It's funny that two Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks find themselves in tier 9 of our rankings, as the equivalent of Glass Joe in Sam Bradford and the rookie whose draft stock fell in Josh Rosen are simply not surrounded by enough talent to make them worth drafting. By this point, owners should know that Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson will be the predominant fantasy relevant options in the desert.

While the Baltimore Ravens get the 10th worst schedule for a passer, they get the 12th best for rushers. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson sits ranked as QB-33 in our rankings mostly because he is not expected to see the field in 2018. However, he might be the perfect stash if he looks to be beating out incumbent starter Joe Flacco given his round fifteen draft capital. Many owners are aware of the benefits to rushing quarterbacks in fantasy, with rushing yards being worth 2.5 times as much as passing yards and rushing touchdowns being worth 1.5 times as much as passing touchdowns. To quote a Rich Hribar article from numberFire.com, there have been 43 quarterbacks that have had 60 or more rushing attempts in a season from 2001 to 2013. 35 of these signal-callers (81-percent) finished as a QB1 in their respective season. Monitor Jackson closely in training camp and preseason, it will be worth it.

Tier 10

Josh Allen, Josh McCown

"The Joshes" shouldn't be relied upon in 2018. Josh Allen has an incredibly strong throwing arm, but his 56.3 completion percentage in college and lack of high-end success against weak competition raised a lot of questions during the draft process. While he will have a shot at the starting gig right away if he looks better than A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman in training camp, the Buffalo Bills look to be fantasy graveyard overall and shouldn't be relied upon. Josh McCown figures to take the first-team snaps when training camp begins, but he has two younger projects in Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater vying for their fair share of opportunities. The risk of taking McCown who is on a team largely devoid of talent could end up biting fantasy owners come mid-season.

Tier 11

Teddy Bridgewater, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold

The final tier features the aforementioned New York Jets quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold who simply don't have enough of a market share in their offense yet to rate them any higher. If Baker Mayfield manages to win the starting job in Cleveland, expectations for the rookie could skyrocket given the bevy of offseason moves the Browns made to surround their man under center with options in the passing game. Mayfield was also just as dominant when under pressure. He led all Power-5 quarterbacks in passer rating when kept clean in the pocket and under pressure in each of the past three seasons, a metric that has translated notoriously well to NFL production. While he may not be worth picking right now in redraft leagues, keep Mayfield on your sleeper list for 2018.

 

Updated Tiered Rankings and Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.