Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Quarterback Tiers and Rankings 2018
In 2018, the quarterback options seem like they are pretty solid. In many drafts, the advice is to wait on quarterback because the position is so deep. However, like all positions, some players are worth reaching for. Having a top quarterback makes setting a fantasy roster easy. Just put in the QB1 and worry about filling the rest of the roster. The quarterback group can be broken into tiers, where some fantasy owners are not going to have a quarterback from the first two tiers. Different strategies yield different results; do what works for your team.
And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2018 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.
The top tier of quarterbacks only contains two players. These two are guys who have proven themselves over years. They are typically not injury-prone and are consistent. When it comes to quarterback, plenty of options will be a viable QB1 each week, but Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson (right) are consistently going to be in the top five each week. Maybe they won’t be at the top each week, but consistency is undervalued when it comes to fantasy.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Trying to judge Rodgers on his 2017 season is unfair, as he missed half of it with a broken collarbone. His attempt to return at the end of the year was a joke. In the previous three seasons, when he was healthy, he averaged more than 4,200 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes. He ran for seven touchdowns in that span and averaged less than six interceptions a year. He’s consistent and protects the ball.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
In 2018, Wilson tied his career high for total touchdown passes, but he exceeded his total scores with 37. Even though the Seahawks are historically a run-first team, Wilson has made himself fantasy relevant with his ability to throw the ball as well as run. The offensive line needed improvement and the team has addressed that, which will only help Wilson’s value in 2018.
Fantasy owners will do just fine if they are able to acquire a quarterback in Tier 2. The only real difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is history. The two quarterbacks in Tier 1 don’t have as much risk potential as the quarterbacks in this tier. Whether it be age or injury, the Tier 2 quarterbacks have the potential to be top options each week and will likely finish the season in the top 10.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Sure, he may be 41 years old, but he also threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. He’s able to stay healthy, and he is on a team that wants to throw the ball, especially in the red zone. Brady (above, right) throws very few interceptions (eight in 2017), and he’s a top option, although his struggles toward the end of the season drop him into Tier 2.
4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson was having an amazing rookie season prior to tearing his ACL. The reports are that he will be ready to go for Week 1, and he has come back from an ACL tear before. While his rookie numbers were impressive, odds are he will not be able to put up numbers like that for an entire season. In seven games he had 1,699 yards, 21 total touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s a top-tier quarterback and will continue to be in 2018.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Like Brady, Brees is getting “old” for a quarterback. He’s 39, and his 2017 season was a down year for him. However, a down year still yielded 4,334 yards, 25 total touchdowns and eight interceptions. Historically, he hasn’t thrown for fewer than 30 touchdowns since 2007. His interceptions were the fewest since 2004, but his pass attempts also were the fewest in more than a decade. While this could be signs of Brees slowing down, fantasy owners should look at the history and deem 2017 an off year and hope he’ll return slinging the ball in '18.
6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
After throwing 35 touchdown passes and adding 10 more on the ground in 2015, Newton hasn’t been able to recapture that magic. He had 24 total touchdowns in 2016 and 28 last season. In looking at the numbers over his seven-year NFL career, he has averaged 28 total touchdowns in the six seasons not including 2015. Odds are that 2015 was an outlier, and Newton can be penciled in for about 3,500 yards and 25-30 touchdowns.
The quarterbacks in this tier are still QB1s. However, like the quarterbacks in the last tier, they each have flaws. These players will be at the helm for many fantasy teams, and will likely help lead those teams to victory each week. Ideally, fantasy owners should aim to grab a quarterback in this tier if they missed out on the players in the top two tiers.
7. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
In his rookie year, Wentz looked okay. In his second season he was excellent. He had 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. However, he tore his ACL, ending his season. The recovery timeline for ACL reconstructions is 9-12 months, and Wentz had surgery in mid-December. All along, he’s hoped to return for Week 1, but the timeline is on the low end. If he can bounce back from the injury, he should be a top QB option, but it’s not an easy injury to recover from and his backup is a Super Bowl MVP.
8. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Cousins’ performance in Washington earned him a big contract with a new team. The Minnesota Vikings have more weapons and arguably, a stronger offense than the Redskins. In the three years he was the starter in Washington, he threw more for than 4,000 yards while averaging 27 TD passes and four rushing scores. He also tossed double-digit interceptions during this span, but if that number comes down he'll be an elite fantasy option.
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
When healthy, Luck (above, right) has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback. He is in Tier 3 for now, but if he is healthy and returns this season looking like the Andrew Luck of 2014, he will be a steal for where he is going in drafts. However, fantasy owners that drafted him the past three years have dealt with injury and disappointment. He missed all of 2017, so he should be plenty rested. The shoulder injury is a concern, and the preseason will give keys to how well fantasy owners can expect Luck to play this season.
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford came into the league with a reputation of being made of glass. However, since 2011 he hasn’t missed a game, despite having minor injuries each year. He’s consistently thrown for more than 4,000 yards and at least 20 touchdowns. He’s cut down on turnovers over the past two years, and he plays for a throw-first offense. Stafford is a player who is consistent. He’s likely never going to be the No. 1 quarterback in a week, but he’s also not going to be the player on a fantasy roster that loses the week for the team.
The fourth tier of quarterbacks is players that are decent starters if you didn’t land one of the guys in the top three tiers. Ideally your roster is made up of stud RBs, WRs and a TE that you can count on for points. These quarterbacks will have big weeks, but they’ll also have plenty of duds. They all have flaws, which make them tough to trust as a top QB starting option. However, in 12-team leagues, at least two teams will have one of these players as their starting QB.
11. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
12. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
13. Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
16. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
The quarterbacks in this tier are excellent backups to have on a fantasy roster (or a second quarterback in a two-QB league). These players are likely going to have a good week or two, but predicting it would require a psychic. The quarterbacks in Tier 5 all have flaws, whether it be injury or a propensity to throw interceptions or just being unproven. These players may go late in drafts and may exceed their ADP, but ideally are not the Week 1 starting QB on fantasy teams.
17. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
18. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
19. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
20. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
21. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
22. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
In the last tier of quarterbacks are the remaining starters. These guys should not be a QB1 on most fantasy rosters. Perhaps a late-round pick can be used if anyone feels strongly about these players. Jameis Winston (right) makes this tier as opposed to the one above because of his three-game suspension. The rest either are prone to injury and likely won’t last the season or have not shown enough to warrant being ranked higher.
23. Case Keenum, Denver Broncos
24. Eli Manning, New York Giants
25. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
27. Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns
28. Josh McCown, New York Jets
29. Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals
30. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
31. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
32. AJ McCarron, Buffalo Bills
-- Tiers compiled by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.