The NFL Draft has come and gone, and rookie mini-camps are starting up all over the league. Meaning, it’s time to start churning out superfluous rankings that will likely be useless a month from now. My esteemed colleague, Joe DiTullio, released his rankings yesterday. He has convinced me to come to the dark side (away from talking DFS) and create my 2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings.
Quarterback Rankings: 1-10
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Despite missing most of the 2017 season, Rodgers is still the undisputed number one fantasy option at the quarterback position heading into 2018. Green Bay has added talent this offseason to support Rodgers via the draft and free agency. It’s also likely that Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams will start at running back, giving them a more traditional rusher in the backfield than Ty Montgomery. But the real reason Rodgers tops this year’s quarterback rankings is that the Packers will get to play a third-place schedule against the AFC East. That means three elite performances at a minimum against the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins.
2. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is quickly convincing me that he is the NFL’s version of LeBron James. He never gets hurt despite his usage, he makes everyone better, and he must play well for his team to have a chance to win. Wilson, amazingly, accounted for over 90% of his team’s touchdowns in 2018. While the selection of Rashaad Penny in the first round has been debated, he will be the most dynamic presence since Marshawn Lynch. Now, whether or not the offensive line will Penny or Wilson remains to be seen. However, I’m done doubting Russell Wilson as a top quarterback, especially in fantasy football.
3. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Tom Brady has been a staple at the top of fantasy quarterback rankings for years now, and 2018 will be no different. Given the departure of left tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, and wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, the Patriots will rely on Brady and this quick passing game to start the season. As new players like Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel get comfortable, they will likely start to transition to a more balanced attack. Until then, they will ask Brady to get the ball out quickly, so expect a higher volume of attempts in the early portion of the season.
4. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
In case you weren’t sure, Drew Brees reminded everyone in the NFC divisional game against the Vikings that he can still take over a game from the pocket. While the Saints have transitioned to a run-first offense, it will allow Brees to be even more efficient. The Saints also acquired Ben Watson in free agency. Meaning, that they have a legitimate threat at the tight end position since Jimmy Graham. Expect them to incorporate and target Watson in the red zone, as defenses will key heavily on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.
5. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
While he’s not the model of consistency, fantasy players everywhere know how dangerous Newton can be on any given Sunday. He’ll be playing in a different offensive system this season, which would usually be a downgrade. However, Norv Turner has an excellent offensive pedigree and will figure out the best ways to support Newton. Given this change, Newton may be susceptible to a slow start, but will likely progress positively in the new system as the season goes on.
6. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Last year was not kind to Matt Ryan. He saw decreases across the board compared to his MVP season. It’s likely he’ll produce a happy medium between his 2016 and 2017 campaigns. Another year in Sarkisian’s system, along with new weapon Calvin Ridley, Ryan could be a great value on draft day. Not to mention, that $30 million contract will loom over this organization if he does not get off to a fast start. Look for this offense as a whole to get back on track in 2018.
7. Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
This is where the rankings got tricky. There are three incredibly talented quarterbacks returning from injury in 2018. Of the group of Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and Carson Wentz, Watson got the nod at seven. If you could guarantee me that he would start for 16 games, I would have zero problems ranking him in the top three. Watson proved to everyone that he has elite upside on a weekly basis, and, his legs provide him with a stable floor. With weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Watson won’t hesitate to throw the ball deep, something all fantasy owners love.
8. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
So the tiebreaker between Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz came down to recency. Wentz tore both his ACL and MCL in December of last year, and with Nick Foles on the roster, the Eagles won’t rush him back. Also, we have to remember how great Andrew Luck was during his last full season. In 2014, Luck threw for over 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns, including three rushing touchdowns. In just 12 games in 2016, he threw for over 4,200 yards and 31 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers, that translates to 41 touchdowns and over 5,300 yards. Given his new offensive coach and upgraded offensive line, I won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Luck if the price is right.
9. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
All signs are pointing to Carson Wentz being available for week one. However, we can’t be so sure. This team proved to be capable with Nick Foles at the helm. So, the Eagles won’t look to mortgage their future franchise quarterback if he suffers any setbacks in the preseason. Injury aside, Wentz is in a great position. The Eagles are bringing all of their skill players back, and even upgraded Torrey Smith for Mike Wallace. They also added Dallas Goddard to replace Trey Burton in their two tight end sets. As we get more updates on his progress, Wentz could easily move up the quarterback rankings.
10. Jimmy Garropolo – San Francisco 49ers
“Jimmy Jesus” sneaks into the top ten for a few reasons. One, they will have to keep pace with Jared Goff and Russell Wilson twice a year. Two, Kyle Shanahan’s system is what propelled Matt Ryan to have an MVP season in 2016. And three, Garropolo produced at a high-level last year despite limited time to acclimate to the system and the mediocre offensive personnel. If you want Garropolo on your roster, you’ll likely have to reach for him, as last seasons hype train will no doubt skew his average draft position.
Quarterback Rankings: 11-20
11. Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins finally gets the long-term deal he was looking for, but it came with a new team. It’s not often that a quarterback with Cousins’ numbers becomes a true free agent. As a result, it’s hard to say how much this new system will impact his fantasy production. However, what’s clear is that he will be playing with a unit that is superior at every offensive position except for left tackle and right guard. Cousins played with a group that was depleted across the board last year in Washington and still managed to produce. Expect his overall volume to decrease, but, don’t expect his overall production to drop by much.
12. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Sean McVay took the NFL by storm. His scheme has rescued the career of Jared Goff and reestablished Todd Gurley as an elite running back. Smartly, the Rams were aggressive this offseason and acquired talent on both sides of the ball, including the dynamic Brandin Cooks. They also looked to reinforce some potential problem areas on their offensive line in the draft. However, this league will have had an entire year to catch up to McVay, and, the Rams will play a first place schedule. Taking Goff wouldn’t be a bad decision, just be sure to temper your expectations.
13. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
What makes Matthew Stafford an attractive option is that he’s a high volume passer. Since 2011, Stafford has finished in the top 10 in pass attempts, including five top-five finishes. But, that volume could decrease with a new head coach, Matt Patricia. Defensive head coaches tend to be less-risky on offense. However, he may have a different philosophy on that matter coming from New England. Stafford always seems to be a value on draft day, so selecting him at the right time should position your team nicely.
14. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
On a personal level, I’m done with Ben Roethlisberger. His insecurity about the drafting of third-round pick Mason Rudolph is laughable. From a fantasy perspective, he still has value. The Steelers will be one of, if not, the most prolific offense in the NFL in 2018. Players like Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Le’Veon Bell will provide Roethlisberger with a multitude of explosive options. Sadly, the home/road splits for Roethlisberger are more than just a narrative, and there’s always the possibility he misses a handful of games due to injury.
15. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans
Last year was such a disappointment for the former Oregon quarterback. In fairness, he dealt with a hamstring injury that immobilized him for most of the season. Unfortunately, that did not mean he improved as a pocket passer. I’m willing to give Mariota the benefit of the doubt, given his injury and another year to develop chemistry with Corey Davis.
16. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are committed to the development of Derek Carr. Jon Gruden’s offensive prowess should help this offense; however, his offenses had the quarterback under center for the majority of their snaps. Hopefully, he’ll adjust his scheme to fit Carr’s strengths, but forcing him to take more snaps under center could affect his timing with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and the newly acquired Martavis Bryant.
17. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers is continually one of the most undervalued players in all of fantasy football. He’s a high volume passer with good weapons like Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Melvin Gordon. Rivers finished last season second in pass attempts with 575 and tied for fifth in touchdowns with 28. With the upgrades on the offensive line and a fierce pass rush on defense, Rivers and company are prime for a run at the division title and another productive fantasy season.
18. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like Mariota, Winston had a disappointing season due to injuries. Also, his team had to deal with the effects of hurricane Harvey to start the year, as well as the entire team being collectively ill against the Vikings. Not all hope is lost though. Upon his return, Winston was one of the better quarterbacks in December and appeared to have put the injury behind him. Hopefully, Winston can rebound in 2018 and reestablish himself as a viable fantasy player.
19. Eli Manning – New York Giants
The ranking of Eli Manning this high is the result of his supporting cast. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez provide some much needed help on the offensive line. Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram round out a dynamic receiving core. And, the addition of Saquon Barkley elevates this entire offense’s production. Except for one other player, Manning’s supporting cast is superior to every quarterback the rest of the way.
20. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott will be better this year than he was in 2017. Ezekiel Elliott is slated to start for all 16 games, but, this offense will be without its two most targeted pass catchers, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Prescott’s legs provide him with a solid floor, but his perimeter talent will severely limit his upside.
Quarterback Rankings: 21-30
21. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton could rise through the quarterback rankings as we get closer to week one. He has an elite player in AJ Green, another year with Joe Mixon, and an upgraded offensive line. Dalton is always a reliable streaming option but could become a starter if his offensive line and running game improve.
22. Case Keenum – Denver Broncos
Case Keenum’s arrival to Denver has more impact on his supporting cast than his production. He’s going to take a step back regarding production, but he is undoubtedly an upgrade over Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. Keenum should not be drafted as a starter in one quarterback leagues.
23. Alex Smith – Washington Redskins
Just like how Cam Newton’s MVP season was an outlier, so was Alex Smith’s production last year. For the first time in his career, he threw the ball down the field. It’s possible that mindset will transfer to Washington; however, he’s playing with a significantly worse group of skill players. It’s likely that this is Smith’s last stint as an NFL starter.
24. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles, despite his sporadic moments of offensive production, is in a run-first system. The only way Bortles can become a back-end starting fantasy quarterback is if Jacksonville allows him to run the ball like he did during the playoffs. Even then, there may be better streaming options available.
25. Tyrod Taylor – Cleveland Browns
Like I said with Deshaun Watson, if I knew Tyrod Taylor was going to start the whole season, I’d have him much higher on the list. His rushing ability gives him a high floor and could have some high scoring games should he be able to connect with Josh Gordon deep.
26. Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is super talented and is in a quarterback-friendly system. He’s surrounded by great players like Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. However, I’m taking the wait and see approach with Mahomes.
27. Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears
While he wasn’t a failure in Chicago, there isn’t enough offensive talent to warrant drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe that’s different in 2019, but until then, he’s nothing more than a backup for fantasy purposes.
28. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco is coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history in terms of yards per attempt for a starting quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle him and Lamar Jackson but don’t expect Flacco to return to this Superbowl form.
29. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill should start week one after recovering from a season-ending injury last preseason. Tannehill wasn’t great to begin with, and Miami has shipped out almost all of its talent to rebuild team culture. The Dolphins could very well be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
30. AJ McCarron – Buffalo Bills
And finally, AJ McCarron will get his opportunity. Whether or not he keeps the starting job, the whole season is up for debate. But one thing we can all agree on is that you are in trouble if you are turning to McCarron as your starter.
Photo Courtesy of SI.com