Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings

With roughly half of the preseason now over, the regular season will soon be here. We will continue to update our rankings on a weekly (or more frequently) basis, but here are our 2017 Fantasy Football QB Rankings:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Posting an insane TD-INT ratio of 165 to 34 over the past five seasons combined, Rodgers led the league in passing touchdowns (40) last year while throwing for 4,428 yards, the third-most of his career. Since becoming a starter in 2008, Rodgers has finished as a top-two fantasy quarterback in seven of nine seasons (and one of those two outliers was his injury-shortened 2013 season). With good health, he's a virtual lock for a top-two fantasy season.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Now 40 years old, Brady has shown no signs of slowing down. In 12 games following his four-game suspension, Brady averaged 296.2 yards per game and 8.2 Y/A, a five-year high, while posting a 28-to-two TD-INT ratio. With the Patriots acquiring Brandin Cooks this offseason and Rob Gronkowski missing half of last season, Brady could post even better per-game numbers in 2017.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Tom Brady isn't the only quarterback that thinks he can play to 45. Regardless of how much longer he actually plays, Brees is a top-three fantasy QB for the 2017 season. Granted, passing statistics are generally inflated in historical terms, Brees has five career 5,000-yard seasons (including 5,208 last year) and 32-plus touchdowns in nine consecutive seasons. The last time Brees finished outside the top-six fantasy QBs was 2005 (QB9), his final season in San Diego.

4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Coming off an MVP-winning season, Ryan shattered previous career highs with 4,944 passing yards and 38 touchdowns while throwing a career-low seven interceptions. With Steve Sarkisian taking over as offensive coordinator, the plan is to not deviate from the team's current offensive scheme, but it won't be easy for Ryan to duplicate last year's career numbers.

5. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Finishing as fantasy's QB12 in 2016, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. An elite athlete, the dual-threat quarterback also ran a little more often (60/349/2). Given the team's offseason investments to put an improved supporting cast around Mariota, 2017 should be even better — perhaps much better — for this ascending quarterback.

6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

It was an uneven season for Wilson as he once again had a stronger second half than first half. Finishing as fantasy's QB11 in 2016, Wilson struggled running the ball with a career-low 3.6 YPC and 259 rushing yards with just one rushing score. Even though they used a second-round pick on LSU's Ethan Pocic, the offensive line remains one of the team's biggest concerns going into the 2017 season.

7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Even though he was less than 100 percent last year, Luck still scored the fourth-most fantasy points among QBs as he threw for 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Almost certainly out for the entire preseason, the potential risk of Luck (shoulder) not being ready for the season opener knocks him down a spot in my QB rankings from my previous update.

8. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A top-15 fantasy quarterback in each of his first two seasons, Winston has the potential to post his first top-10 fantasy season in 2017. The Buccaneers added DeSean Jackson, one of the league's best vertical threats, in free agency and O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin via the draft, all of whom should take some pressure off of Mike Evans and really open things up for the passing offense in general.

9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

After being named league MVP in 2015, Newton completed 52.9 percent of his pass attempts and averaged only 6.9 yards per attempt and 4.0 yards per carry, all of which set career lows, as he finished as fantasy's QB17 last year. The selection of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel with their first two draft picks should help to make things easier for Newton, but it's likely that Newton roars runs less in 2017.

10. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

One year after throwing for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns (and finishing as fantasy's QB8), Cousins threw for 4,917 yards and 25 scores (and finished as fantasy's QB5). In addition, he has a total of nine rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons combined. Even though the team lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, Washington signed 1,000-yard receiver Terrelle Pryor this offseason and they should get much more out of Josh Doctson, their 2016 first-round pick.

11. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Carr has thrown a total of 60 touchdown passes over the past two seasons combined and set a career low with six interceptions in 2016. Leading one of the league's most potent offenses, Carr could finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback (QB9 in 2016) once again.

12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Since 2010, Roethlisberger has missed multiple games in more seasons (four) than he has not (three) and has finished as fantasy's QB18 and QB20, respectively, over the past two seasons. Home-road splits are another concern -- (H) 8.66 Y/A, 59 TDs and 16 INTs and (A) 7.38 Y/A, 23 TDs and 22 INTs -- over past three seasons. Even so, Big Ben should finish as a top-12 fantasy QB on a per-game basis and is a must-start at home.

13. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

One of the biggest surprises of the 2016 season, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year threw 23 touchdowns to only four interceptions and rushed for six more scores. Excluding Week 17 when Prescott (and the starters) sat for the majority of the game, the rookie finished with 17-plus fantasy points in 12 of 15 games.

14. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

If the Chargers can keep (most of) their top pass-catchers healthy for a full season, Rivers will be a huge bargain as a late-round fantasy QB. Rivers has exceeded 4,200 passing yards in seven of eight seasons and he has thrown 30-plus touchdowns in three of four years.

15. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

No team threw the ball fewer times than the Bills (474) in 2016, but that didn't keep Taylor from finishing as a top-10 fantasy quarterback (QB8) last season. In his two seasons as a starter, Taylor has rushed for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns -- more than six fantasy points per game from his rushing stats alone. The trade of Sammy Watkins to the Rams hurts Taylor's outlook, but Watkins missed eight games and finished with just 430 yards and two touchdowns last season.

16. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton has finished as a mid-tier QB2 (QB16-18) in each of the past three seasons, but a part of that mediocrity has been the injuries to the team's pass-catchers. During that span, Tyler Eifert has played a total of 22 games and A.J. Green has missed three-plus games in two of three years including six missed games last season. While the offensive line has become a concern, the Bengals used their early picks -- John Ross (first round) and Joe Mixon (second round) -- to give Dalton and the offense more weapons.

17. Eli Manning, New York Giants

After back-to-back top-10 fantasy seasons, Manning finished as fantasy's QB21 in 2016. With the addition of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, Manning has never as talented of a group of pass-catchers in his career. The offensive line remains a concern, but Manning could flirt with top-10 fantasy production in 2017.

18. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

The QB7 in fantasy last year, Stafford threw for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while rushing for 207 yards and two more scores. Playing every game over the past six seasons, Stafford has a minimum of 4,200 passing yards in each of those seasons with an average of 28 touchdowns per year during that stretch.

19. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

One year after finishing as fantasy's QB5, Palmer had a disappointing season (QB19) although he played better in the second half. Averaging 17.57 fantasy points per game after Week 7 (compared to 14.19/G before that), Palmer is a bounce-back candidate in 2017. And only the Ravens and Saints threw the ball more often in 2016.

20. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Starting stronger (nine-to-three TD-INT ratio in first seven games) than he finished (seven-to-11 TD-INT ratio in final nine games), Wentz put together a solid rookie season overall. There are multiple reasons for optimism going into his sophomore campaign including the additions of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey.

21. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Only Drew Brees (673) threw more pass attempts than Flacco (672) last season, but the Ravens actually led the NFL in pass attempts in 2016. That said, Flacco was incredibly inefficient as he set or tied career lows in both Y/A (6.4) and TD% (3.0) in 2016. A back injury currently has him sidelined, but he appears likely to be ready for Week 1.

22. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Even though Smith rushed for a career-high five touchdowns, he finished outside the top-20 fantasy quarterbacks for the first time in his four seasons in Kansas City. Never finishing as a top-12 fantasy QB in 11 NFL seasons, Smith is a solid QB2 in a 2-QB league but remains nothing more than a streamer in standard leagues. And while the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, I'd expect Smith to start all 16 games this season barring injury.

23. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

Considering the circumstances, Bradford had a good season and finished as fantasy's QB23 last year. That said, Bradford is nothing more than a low-end QB2, at best, for 2017.

24. Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Coming out of "retirement," Cutler found a nearly perfect scenario given that he already knows Adam Gase's offense. In addition, he had one of the best seasons of his career when Gase was his offensive coordinator. Even if Ryan Tannehill did not tear (or re-tear) his ACL, the Dolphins would have been a run-first team as we saw with their evolution last season as Jay Ajayi became a workhorse. I'd expect that to continue with Cutler under center.

25. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Bortles took a step back in his third season -- 6.2 Y/A with a 23-to-16 TD-INT ratio in 2016 (vs. 7.3 Y/A and 35 TDs in 2015). Even so, Bortles still finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. In terms of fantasy production, Bortles' success has been fueled by his rushing stats (1,088 rushing yards in three seasons) and passing volume (his 626 pass attempts last year were third behind Drew Brees and Joe Flacco). The transition to a run-based attack led by rookie Leonard Fournette and an elite defense, however, means that Bortles could throw it several times less per game in 2017. In fact, there is a very real possibility that Bortles is not the Week 1 starter.

Here are the best of the rest:

26. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
27. Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers
28. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
29. Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears
30. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos
31. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Tom Savage, Houston Texans
33. DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
34. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
35. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
36. Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos
37. Brock Osweiler, Cleveland Browns
38. Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets
39. Josh McCown, New York Jets
40. Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
41. Colin Kaepernick, Free Agent
42. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
43. Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns
44. A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals

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Good luck in your 2017 fantasy football league(s)!