Sunday, September 2, 2018

2018 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings

Have (more) fantasy football drafts this weekend? We have updated our positional rankings and top-200 cheat sheets this morning.

Our 2018 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Bye: 7)

Since becoming the starter in 2008, Rodgers has missed roughly a half-season twice (2013 and 2017). In the other eight seasons, he has finished as either the QB1 or QB2 in fantasy football seven times. Assuming good health, Rodgers is a virtual lock for a top-two season. The only concern with Rodgers or any quarterback selected early is the lost opportunity to acquire an impact player at a position of greater scarcity/value. Outside of 2-QB or deep leagues, I'm unlikely to draft Rodgers before another owner.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Bye: 11)

Recently turning 41, Brady has yet to show signs of slowing down. Finishing as fantasy's QB4, Brady threw for a league-high 4,577 yards in 2017. That said, the Patriots traded away 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks and trusted slot receiver Julian Edelman returns from a torn ACL but not until Week 5 due to a PED suspension.

3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (Bye: 7)

A top-three fantasy quarterback in three of the past four seasons, Wilson has rushed for 2,777 yards and 20 touchdowns in his six NFL seasons. But he's also averaged over 4,000 passing yards over the past three seasons and threw a league-high 34 touchdowns in 2017. Despite his dual-threat abilities, Wilson has never missed an NFL game. So, in other words, he has tons of weekly upside with a solid floor.

4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (Bye: 10)

Offensive line woes and lack of experience did not slow Watson down as a rookie. Unfortunately, an ACL tear did. Before the injury, however, Watson finished with the most or second-most fantasy points in each of his final four games and eclipsed the 30-point mark in three of those four outings. Expectations are sky high entering season two and regression is inevitable, but he has legitimate QB1 upside if he can stay healthy for a full season.

5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (Bye: 4)

Since entering the league in 2011, Newton has finished as a top-four fantasy quarterback in all but two seasons (2014 and 2016). Of course, a huge part of his fantasy success is generated by his rushing production. Averaging 7.7 rushing scores per season, Newton has 100-plus rush attempts and 500-plus rushing yards every year except for 2016.

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Bye: 6)

After throwing more than 625 pass attempts in each of the previous seven seasons, Brees threw it only 536 times for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns, both of which were lows of his 12 seasons in New Orleans. Even so, his 4,334 passing yards still ranked fourth in the NFL behind Tom Brady (4,577), Philip Rivers (4,515) and Matthew Stafford (4,446).

7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (Bye: 9)

It will be more than 600 days in between regular-season games and it's been an up-and-down preseason for Luck. The good news, however, is that he's back on the field and he ended the preseason with a strong performance against the 49ers. There is some obvious risk with Luck but also plenty of upside going into 2018. In his past three full seasons, Luck has finished as fantasy's QB4 (2013), QB2 (2014) and QB4 (2016).

8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Bye: 6)

Interestingly enough, Stafford's lone Pro Bowl season (2014) was the last time that he finished outside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks. Not counting that QB15 finish in 2014, Stafford has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in the other six of the past seven seasons. Part of that consistent production is aided by his durability (no missed games over past seven seasons) and the team's reliance on the passing game, but he actually set a seven-year low in pass attempts (565) in 2017. Even so, Stafford threw for 4,446 yards, a four-year high, and 29 touchdowns, tied for the third-most in his career.

9. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 9)

Missing the final three (regular-season) games, Wentz avoided the active/PUP list, but it's possible that he misses "a week or two" to open the season. Before last year's injury, Wentz threw 33 touchdowns to only seven interceptions in 13 games and trailed only Russell Wilson in fantasy points scored (through Week 14).

10. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (Bye: 10)

Finishing as fantasy's QB8, QB5 and QB7 over the past three seasons, respectively, Cousins has thrown for 4,000-plus yards and 25-plus touchdowns in each of those seasons. In addition, he has rushed for at least four scores in three consecutive seasons. Now playing for a Super Bowl contender and a defensive-minded head coach, Cousins may not put up the same level of production he had in Washington, but he remains a top-12 fantasy option as he switches teams.

11. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye: 7)

Throwing for 3,800-plus yards in each of the past five seasons, Big Ben has thrown 28-plus touchdowns in four of those five seasons. Since being drafted 11th overall in 2004, however, Roethlisberger has played a 16-game season only three times in his career so there's certainly a strong chance that he'll miss a game or two in 2018. With the league's best RB/WR combo in Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger has weekly QB1 upside (especially at home), but he's finished as the yearly QB20, QB13 and QB10 over the past three seasons, respectively.

12. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (Bye: 8)

Except for 2012 (21st) and 2016 (14th), Rivers has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in the eight of his past 10 NFL seasons. On my list of 12 Undervalued Players Compared to Fantasy ADP, Rivers has thrown for at least 4,286 yards and 28 touchdowns in each of the past five seasons.

13. Alex Smith, Washington Redskins (Bye: 4)

Setting career highs, Smith threw for 4,042 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 355 rushing yards last season. Not only was 2017 the first time he finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback, Smith finished as fantasy's QB3 last season. Now in Washington, he takes over for Kirk Cousins, who has finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback in each of the past three seasons. Since Gruden coached Andy Dalton (QB5) in 2013 as well, he's now coached a QB to a top-eight fantasy finish in four of the past five seasons.

14. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (Bye: 8)

Over the past six seasons, Ryan has finished as fantasy's QB7, QB15, QB7, QB17, QB2 and QB15, respectively. (So, perhaps he's due to finish as a top-seven fantasy QB this year?) In the first season with Steve Sarkisian calling the plays, Ryan threw for 4,095 yards, a seven-year low, and 20 touchdowns, a nine-year low. On a positive note, the addition of Calvin Ridley in the first round gives a boost to an already talented group of pass-catchers and I expect better year-over-year numbers.

15. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers (Bye: 11)

Starting Weeks 12 to 17, Garoppolo scored the 12th-most fantasy points (17th-most on a per-game basis, 14.5) during that stretch. His mediocre fantasy production was limited by the lack of touchdowns -- seven passing touchdowns in six games -- although he was efficient in terms of completion percentage (67.4) and yards per attempt (8.8). With a full offseason in Kyle Shanahan's offense and better/healthier weapons, there is plenty of upside in 2018.

16. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (Bye: 12)

Playing well in one start as a rookie, Mahomes enters the 2018 season as the starter with Alex Smith traded to Washington this offseason. With a gunslinger mentality a la Brett Favre, Mahomes may be more prone to turnovers than Smith, but he also possesses the ability to push the ball down the field. Adding Sammy Watkins to the receiving corps, the Chiefs have their most talented group of pass-catchers during the Andy Reid era and Smith finished as a top-three fantasy quarterback last season.

17. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (Bye: 8)

After throwing 45 touchdowns to 19 interceptions in his first two seasons combined, Mariota threw more interceptions (career-high 15) than touchdowns (career-low 13). On a positive note, the dual-threat quarterback ran for 300-plus yards once again and set a career high with five rushing scores. With a new coaching staff in place, I expect better things for Mariota in 2018.

18. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (Bye: 12)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Goff made huge strides in his second NFL season. A new coaching regime led the Rams from a worst-to-first improvement in scoring offense as Goff exceeded preseason expectations with a top-12 fantasy performance. Assuming the Rams get more production from new addition Brandin Cooks than they got from Sammy Watkins last season, Goff has the potential to build upon last year's success.

19. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Bye: 8)

Through his first two NFL seasons, Prescott has finished as fantasy's QB6 and QB9, respectively. Even though Prescott and Dez Bryant never seemed to get on the same page, the Dez-less Cowboys seriously lack talent amongst their group of pass-catchers. Rushing for 12 touchdowns in two seasons, Prescott's dual-threat abilities help to raise his floor, but it's likely he finishes outside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks for the first time in his young career.

20. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye: 9)

In an ideal world (according to Doug Marrone), Bortles may not throw a single pass all season. In his first full season as head coach, however, the Jags were perfectly balanced -- 527 pass attempts and 527 rush attempts -- with Bortles throwing it more than 100 times less in 2017 than 2016. Despite five interceptions in the last two regular-season games, Bortles played extremely well down the stretch with multiple passing scores and 300-plus yards in three of the four games through Week 16. Over the past three seasons, Bortles has finished as the QB4 (2015), QB10 (2016) and QB13 (2017) and he has the potential to once again outperform his ADP.

21. Case Keenum, Denver Broncos (Bye: 10)

Following a breakout season with the Vikings, Keenum signed a free-agent deal with the Broncos to give them their most stable quarterback situation since Peyton Manning. More than anything, however, the presence of Keenum is a boost to the fantasy value of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders although Keenum is a viable streaming option who should have a handful of solid performances in 2018.

22. Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears (Bye: 5)

There is plenty of reason for optimism going into Trubisky's second NFL season. Upgrading their pass-catchers and offensive line in free agency and the draft, the Bears also signed ex-Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as head coach. Even if we don't see the same type of second-year jump we saw from Jared Goff, we have seen the difference better coaching and an improved supporting cast can make going into a quarterback's second season.

23. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (Bye: 7)

A disappointing season for Carr (and the Raiders in general), he threw for 3,496 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017. Before last season, he threw for 3,900-plus yards in each of the previous two seasons with a total of 60 touchdowns.

24. Eli Manning, New York Giants (Bye: 9)

Passing on Sam Darnold (or another first-round quarterback) in the draft, the Giants will surround Manning with better (and healthier) talent in 2018. The Giants lacked (the threat of) a running game, had one of the league's worst offensive lines and their receiving corps was decimated by injuries. With healthy receivers, a stud rookie running back and an improved offensive line, Eli could become a useful streaming option in 2018.

25. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (Bye: 11)

Missing 19 games over the past two seasons including all of 2017, Tannehill (ACL) could be a productive volume-based QB2 play as the Dolphins were one of four teams to throw it 600-plus times last season.

26. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye: 9)

Many of Dalton's 2017 numbers were the lowest of his career or since his rookie season -- completion percentage (59.9), Y/A (6.7), YPG (207.5) and number of 300-yard games (one). If Tyler Eifert and John Ross are healthy, however, Dalton could perform as a high-end QB2 with Bill Lazor having a full offseason to install his offense. (In fact, Dalton has finished as the QB18 -- or better -- every season of his career.)

27. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye: 5)

Going into his fourth NFL season, Winston will miss (at least) the first three games due to league suspension. The Bucs begin the season with games against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers, who combined for a 37-11 record last season. Due to his suspension, Winston is not draftable in standard-sized (one-QB) leagues.

28. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (Bye: 10)

The starter for 2018, it's possible/likely that Flacco doesn't see the end of his existing contract given the team's first-round investment in Lamar Jackson. While Flacco averaged a career-low 5.7 Y/A and was 0-for-16 in 300-yard games, Flacco has had a good training camp and preseason.

29. Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns (Bye: 11)

Taylor will be the Week 1 starter, but will he also be the starter in Week 17? The Browns should be better (then again, they can't be much worse -- 1-31 over past two seasons), but will those incremental gains keep No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield off the field for the entire season? Due to his rushing production and upgrade in receiving corps (compared to Buffalo's), Taylor could be a top-12 fantasy quarterback on a per-game basis for as long as he's the starter and is an elite option for streamers.

30. Sam Darnold, New York Jets (Bye: 11)

While his second preseason game was less impressive than the first, it's been a good preseason for Darnold, who remains the favorite to begin the season as the starter. As is the case with any rookie quarterback, there's bound to be many ups and downs but the Jets should find themselves playing from behind most weeks, which could lead to higher passing volume than a coaching staff would prefer to give a rookie.

31. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (Bye: 11)

While there are more important attributes in quarterback play, few, if any, quarterbacks in the league have a stronger arm than Allen, the seventh-overall pick in this year's draft. At one point this preseason, Allen appeared to be the favorite -- although not necessarily a "lock" -- to start heading into the season. Unfortunately, the team lacks playmakers on offense and neither Allen nor Nathan Peterman are attractive options even in 2-QB formats.

32. Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals (Bye: 9)

Playing for his fourth team in five years, Bradford played just two games last season and durability has obviously been his biggest problem. With the Cardinals trading up to No. 10 for rookie Josh Rosen, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the team transitions to Rosen following their Week 9 bye, if not sooner, especially if the Cards find themselves lagging the other three teams in the division.

33. Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals (Bye: 9)

Some believe Rosen was the best quarterback prospect in the draft (including Rosen himself). Given the durability history of Bradford and the potential for the Cardinals to trail the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers, all of whom have better Super Bowl 52 odds than the Cardinals, a switch to Rosen seems possible at some point within the 2018 season.

34. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (Bye: 11)

Unless you're in a 2-QB league, Mayfield is not on the re-draft radar. Whenever he becomes the starter, which seems likely to occur at some point this season (post-bye based on my projections), he will become worth a look as a streaming option.

35. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye: 5)

Given Winston's three-game suspension, it's possible (not necessarily likely) that Fitzpatrick plays more than the first three games if the team gets off to a good start. Given the difficult matchups, it's more likely that the Bucs instead start 0-3 to begin the season.

36. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 9)

Despite losing Wentz, the Eagles did not miss a beat when Foles stepped in to lead the team. If Wentz misses a game or two to open the season, Foles is worth a look as a quarterback to stream.

37. Josh McCown, New York Jets (Bye: 11)

Before getting hurt in Week 14, McCown finished as a top-seven weekly fantasy quarterback in five of his previous seven starts. The ideal bridge quarterback, McCown appears likely to enter the season as the backup to top-three pick Sam Darnold even though he threw twice as many touchdowns (18) as interceptions (nine) last season and added five rushing scores.

38. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (Bye: 10)

Compared to Michael Vick due to his rare athletic gifts and big-play ability, Jackson has the potential to be an elite fantasy quarterback once he becomes the starter. Even though the Ravens will find a way to get Jackson on the field some in his rookie season, Flacco will likely start for all of 2018 and perhaps RG3 would still become the starter if Flacco were to miss a game or two. If he does become a spot starter at some point during the season, however, he'd be an instant streaming option.

39. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills (Bye: 11)

If Allen starts (and struggles), Peterman could get some relief duty and a start or two. Either way, he's not worth drafting outside of deep 2-QB leagues.

40. A.J. McCarron, Oakland Raiders (Bye: 7)

At one point expected to start for the Bills this season, McCarron was acquired by the Raiders for a fifth-round pick and will back up Derek Carr.

More Fantasy Football Rankings: