Let me be clear — these are my 2020 fantasy football quarterback tiers. But I would strongly recommend using them for your draft prep because I usually have a pretty good feel for the QB position each fantasy year.
I'm not being vainglorious, either. For example, last year I was super high on Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill. The flip side, admittedly, is that I'm much weaker when it comes to predicting the success of running backs. But for now, let's focus on the 2020 quarterback tiers.
Of course, some will wait to take a quarterback. And wait. And wait. Others will feel the need to grab a quarterback nearly immediately. Regardless of which strategy you prefer, you need to know where the tier breaks are during your draft.
I've grouped the quarterbacks into tiers with a little bit of description about each tier and its members.
— Tiers by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
Tier 1 — "First Off the Board"
, Kansas City Chiefs
, Baltimore Ravens
I have yet to see a legitimate mock that does not have one of these two as the first quarterbacks drafted. Don't overthink how I listed them here. In a league where touchdown passes are worth two fewer points than rushing TDs, I like Jackson a little better. Jackson also is the more likely of the two to regress. And I'll say it now — Jackson will not contribute as much on the ground this year as he did last year. However, I think his passing stats actually improve, making him an even better quarterback than last year.
I also think Kansas City's defense takes a baby step backward and the Baltimore defense takes a baby step forward. Those baby steps, however, end up requiring Mahomes to do more this year, and he, too, improves on last year's numbers. Either way, I'll spend the draft capital to get the second of these studs, regardless of which one is selected first.
Tier 2 — "Arms and Legs That Will Cost an Arm and a Leg"
, Dallas Cowboys
, Arizona Cardinals
, Seattle Seahawks
, Houston Texans
Every one of these QBs is a stud. Quarterbacks rarely repeat as the top fantasy quarterback in back-to-back years. Therefore, any of these four options could easily be the most valuable fantasy QB in 2020. The reason is simple. Every one of them can run when necessary and run well. There are some other great scramblers in the league, but these four also have the arm to keep defensive backs honest.
Prescott now has an abundance of weapons at his disposal. His arsenal is greater than any of the other options in this tier. But Dallas will feed Ezekiel Elliott just enough to limit Prescott's upside. That reason alone is why I kept him outside of the Mahomes and Jackson tier. Yet any of these four options are more valuable than toilet paper and wipes during the height of the pandemic. And just like those two items, they certainly wipe away some of the mess elsewhere on your roster. And unless you are in a 2-QB league, you won't have to use a first-round pick to get any of them.
Tier 3 — "Glad to have as my starting QB1"
, Buffalo Bills
, Atlanta Falcons
, Philadephia Eagles
, New Orleans Saints
Speaking of first-round picks, true or false: all of the above quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the real draft? True, right?
The answer is false. The first three were all taken in the first round, but Brees was actually taken as the first pick of the second round in the 2001 draft. There's your trivia for the day. But the likely success of this quartet this year is far from trivial. I know I'm going to miss out on the sparkling half dozen of the first two tiers in at least one league this year. Yet I will still be very happy to have any of these as my QB1 if the rest of my starting roster is competitive.
Allen needs to prove he can be a legitimate passer, but the addition of Stefon Diggs should help. His scrambling ability gives him a shockingly high floor, too. Ryan needs more consistency, but with pass-happy OC Dirk Koetter back for his second year, that might be all Ryan needs. Wentz needs to prove he can stay healthy. If he can, he might be a top-five QB this year. And Brees needs one more great year. I'm not sure all of those things happen this year, but each one individually certainly can. Every one of these guys gives you a "set it and forget it" option at QB.
Tier 4 — "Time is-a-Ticking"
, Detroit Lions
, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
, Green Bay Packers
The Lions briefly placed Stafford on the COVID-19/Opted Out list, but he avoided a scare when it turned out to be a false positive. Health aspects aside, that's great news for fantasy players, since he was on pace for a record season before a back injury derailed him in 2019, and he's getting up there in age at 32. All three of these QBs have had fantastic fantasy football seasons. But their best is behind them. As long as you pay accordingly, and aren't in a keeper league, these guys might be the most valuable QBs this year.
Tier 5 — Not a QB1
, Cleveland Browns
, New York Giants
, Pittsburgh Steelers
, New England Patriots
, Tennessee Titans
, Los Angeles Rams
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
, San Francisco 49ers
, Minnesota Vikings
Each one of the options could be a worthwhile QB1. All of them have very high ceilings, but unfortunately, they have pretty low floors as well. Burrow could flop his first year, and every other option in this tier has had at least one year that might be described as "non-useful." Thus, if I leave the draft with any of them as my QB1, I am going to be quite miffed. However, you should be thrilled if any of them are your QB2.
(Photo courtesy of bengals.com)
Tier 6 — Questions, Questions, Questions
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
I love the quarterbacks in this tier. But let's be honest, each one comes with more questions than answers. Can Lock direct a high-octane offense? Does Rivers have anything left in the tank? Some of the quarterbacks in this tier might not even be drafted in your league due to some of those questions. But my answer is they absolutely should be drafted on upside alone.
(Photo courtesy of colts.com)
Tier 7 — "Magic 8-Ball Says..."
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers
Dwayne Haskins Jr., Washington Football Team
Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Jarrett Stidham, New England Patriots
Yes, I'm old, but I'm a lot younger than those Magic 8-Ball toys you shake up. Still, I'm like a little kid in my fascination with them. But if the question pertains to the success of any of the quarterbacks in this tier, any Magic 8-Ball answer could apply, ranging from "It is decidedly so" to "Don't count on it." However, I will stick with perhaps my favorite, "Better not tell you now." I really want to see what happens during training camps before I make any predictions on these guys.
Tier 8 — Most Popular Man in Town
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Marcus Mariota, Las Vegas Raiders
Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
Jacoby Brisset, Indianapolis Colts
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
There is an old truism that the backup QB is often the most popular man in town. Even if he hasn't had success, fans often think he can't be any worse than the current signal-caller. And if I'm going to draft someone I'm pretty sure starts the year as the backup, these are the ones I will draft first. Herbert is the most likely to get the starting nod. But another truism is "you never know..." Would it surprise me if Derek Carr flails or Carson Wentz ails and their backups see a ton of games? Not at all. The only thing that would surprise me is if none of these options see significant snaps this year.
(Photo by Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders, courtesy of raiders.com)
Tier 9 — Best of the Rest
Case Keenum, Cleveland Browns
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
Robert Griffin III, Baltimore Ravens
Kyle Allen, Washington Football Team
Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers
Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins
Jeff Driskel, Denver Broncos
This might actually be the most misnamed tier. Are these quarterbacks really the "best" of what's left? No. I can promise you that some quarterback not listed anywhere in this article will come out of nowhere and see major reps behind center. But these are likely to be the most popular candidates who will be drafted in your deeper 2-QB and Superflex leagues. Perhaps your draft board doesn't go this deep, but knowing the entire QB landscape certainly can't hurt!