When fantasy owners approach the draft, some like to draft a quarterback early and get the position out of the way. While it may be a solid strategy to make sure you have a player that you can count on week to week, also remember that some quarterbacks will still be there in the later rounds (see: Patrick Mahomes, 2018 drafts). These tiers provide a framework to guide you during your draft. A top quarterback certainly will help your team, but it may mean sacrificing at other positions.
The top tier of quarterbacks has four of the best in the game right now. Arguably, Patrick Mahomes may be in a league of his own, but after an amazing rookie year, it is safe to say he’ll come back to earth a bit. Finding himself among the company of Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers isn’t so terrible. These are solid QB1s week after week.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s hard to question Mahomes as the No. 1 overall quarterback. He was the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 and had one of the best first full seasons by a quarterback in some time. Mahomes actually played one game in 2017 (his “redshirt” season), but he really came into his own in 2018. He had 5,097 passing yards, 50 TD passes and two rushing scores. He only had 12 interceptions. While the odds are that he’s not going to have 52 total touchdowns again, he’s still the top QB option.
2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck is currently being drafted as the No. 2 quarterback; however, fantasy owners need to keep an eye on a nagging calf injury that has kept him out of minicamp and the start of training camp. Luck has a history of injuries (primarily shoulder), but when healthy, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He has a great set of wide receivers and should be an elite option, assuming health. [Editor's note: Luck unexpectedly announced on Saturday, Aug. 24 following the Colts preseason game against the Chicago Bears that he was retiring from football. Luck's former backup, Jacoby Brissett, will take over as Indianapolis' starting quarterback.]
3. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
In his rookie year, Watson ended what was a great season by tearing his ACL. He bounced back in 2018 and played all 16 games. He had 4,165 passing yards, 26 TD passes, five rushing touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ran for 551 yards and is showing that he not only has a solid arm, but can get fantasy owners yards on the ground as well.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers’ touchdown totals were down in 2018 (25 TD passes), but he admitted that he was playing hurt all season. Fantasy owners (and anyone watching him play) could see this, but it was almost a relief to have him admit this. Now fully healthy and heading into 2019, Rodgers should put up numbers similar to 2016: 4,400-plus yards and 44 total touchdowns.
The second tier of quarterbacks is another group of four that are clear QB1 options. However, they have a little bit more risk than the guys in the top tier. These players may be coming off injury, have a history of rough seasons, or just aren’t quite in the top tier. These players will likely be available in the middle rounds on draft day and, depending on your strategy, may be worth waiting for.
5. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
The Browns have their quarterback of the future, and fantasy owners can finally draft a Browns quarterback who will be relevant for fantasy. Mayfield, coming off his rookie season, now has Odell Beckham Jr. as a weapon, and he should take a step forward this year. In 2018, he had 3,725 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. He didn’t have many yards on the ground, but he can make up for it through the air. He’s a solid QB1.
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
After a "down" season in 2017, Ryan came back and put up numbers similar to his 2016 MVP campaign. In 2018, he had 4,924 yards, 35 TD passes and three rushing scores. Ryan is still surrounded by the same solid supporting cast, and should continue to remain a solid, but not spectacular, QB1.
7. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton is coming off shoulder surgery, but he should be healthy for Week 1. His 2018 season ended early, but likely should have ended even earlier as he kept playing through the injury. In 14 games, he still had better numbers than 16 games in 2017, though. He had 3,395 passing yards, 24 TD passes and four rushing touchdowns. His 13 interceptions were on par with his track record, but his rushing yards were down (488). He should bounce back in 2019 as a QB1.
8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Even without Doug Baldwin, Wilson is a solid quarterback for fantasy purposes. The Seahawks throw the ball enough to allow Wilson to accumulate nice stats through the air, and he's still capable of making things happen with his legs. His rushing totals were down in 2018 and he didn’t record a rushing touchdown, but his 35 TD passes and seven interceptions paved the way for a solid fantasy season. He’s not going to have huge games, but he’ll be a consistent option.
The four tier 3 quarterbacks round out what are fringe QB1s. These are players that will sometimes be a top-five option, depending on matchup. However, these players may just as easily be ranked outside of the top 10 in any given week. They are viable players to have as your starting quarterback, but you may want to consider drafting a solid backup.
9. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz has ended both of the past two seasons early (ACL and back), but he seems to be healthy heading into the 2019 season. His numbers in 2018 regressed a bit, but he also only played 11 games. He had just over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He didn’t have any rushing touchdowns and only had 93 rushing yards. If Wentz can add more yards on the ground and stay healthy, he will finish the season in the Tier 2 QB range.
10. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Goff took a leap forward in 2018, throwing for 4,688 yards. He had 34 total touchdowns; two of these were on the ground. He’s done well under Sean McVay, even though some reports of tension emerged earlier this year. Either way, Goff gets Cooper Kupp back, and he still has Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. With Todd Gurley likely to see fewer carries, the receivers are going to be the offense and Goff can easily be a QB1.
11. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Sometimes rookie quarterbacks enter the top tier and succeed; other times they falter. However, the buzz around Murray is that he could be something special. He’s the clear Week 1 starter, and the team seems to really like and respect him. Murray, at least in college, had the combination of being able to throw well and run the ball, similar to Mahomes. While fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a Mahomes-like season, Murray should be considered in the top group of quarterbacks.
12. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
At 40 years old, Brees is still a top quarterback. He threw for just under 4,000 yards in 2018, but his touchdowns increased after seeing a steep decline in 2017. He boosted that total from 23 to 32 in 2018, added four more scores on the ground and tossed just five interceptions all season. Brees has Michael Thomas, who is one of the best receivers in the game and Alvin Kamara, who operates as one of the best pass-catching running backs. With his supporting cast, Brees is still in the QB1 conversation.
The quarterbacks in tier 4 will have some big games, but are not strong enough to be considered a solid QB1 week after week. Tom Brady’s age puts him in this category. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t young anymore himself, and he lost Antonio Brown. For some reason or another, this group of quarterbacks are decent fantasy options to add as a backup or second quarterback, but ideally won’t be your every-week starter.
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
15. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
16. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
17. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
18. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
20. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
This tier of quarterbacks is made up of players that should be backups. However, these are signal-callers that shouldn’t be drafted to be a regular starter at all. The tier 4 options can help provide depth but only if your roster is good shape at other positions. Otherwise, these are more suited for fill-in duty due to minor injuries or bye weeks.
21. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
22. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
23. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
24. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
25. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
26. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
This group of quarterbacks is made up of those that should be avoided in one-quarterback formats. In 2-QB or super flex leagues, some of these guys will be drafted. But hopefully, you won't be counting on any of these as your starter, or even primary backup if you need just one QB for your lineup.
27. Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
28. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
29. Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
30. Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins
31. Eli Manning, New York Giants
32. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
33. Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins
34. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
35. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
— 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.