Published On: Tue, May 1st, 2018

Fantasy: 2018 Quarterback Primer

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Championship-caliber quarterbacks are an incredibly scarce commodity in the NFL, with some teams searching for years to find an answer at the position.

Fortunately, that’s not an issue for fantasy owners, who are given a plethora of high-end starting options to choose from each year. Even those who wait until the late rounds can easily employ a quarterback-by-committee or weekly-streamer approach.

Situations and supporting casts do change, however, and getting adjusted to the new landscape goes a long way toward helping you decide the right time to secure your fantasy QB1.

It’s important to remember that these primers are not intended to be tiers for drafting. You can view our complete quarterback rankings here.

Never in doubt

Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Rodgers has been a top-two fantasy quarterback six times in the last nine years, with injuries being the only thing capable of slowing down his fantasy production. A broken collarbone cost him most of the 2018 campaign, but if you take Rodgers’ numbers from the six full games he started, his on-pace stats would have left him second among fantasy passers.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Wilson led all QBs in fantasy points last season and has finished as a QB1 every year he’s been in the league. His passing attempts have also risen every season, and with the Seahawks’ defense likely taking a step back, Wilson could find himself in more shootouts – which is exactly what fantasy owners want to hear.

Injured stars

Deshaun Watson, Texans – No player was more exciting to own in 2018 than Watson, before a torn ACL ended his season in Week 8. To give some perspective on his uncanny streak, Watson threw for 18 scores in his final five games, which would work out to 57.6 touchdowns over a 16-game schedule. You shouldn’t draft Watson expecting that level of production, especially coming off the injury, but just knowing that stretches like that are within his range of outcomes makes him a highly-coveted fantasy asset.

Carson Wentz, Eagles – A torn ACL also brought the season to an abrupt end for Wentz, but the Eagles’ franchise quarterback suffered his injury six weeks later in mid-December. So while Watson could participate in OTAs, Wentz’s recovery timeline puts his Week 1 in doubt. This could make Wentz, who was an MVP candidate before his injury, a draft-day value for savvy owners willing to take the risk or stream QBs early in the year.

Andrew Luck, Colts – Each day that Luck fails to throw a football, his future becomes a little more uncertain, causing his fantasy stock to plummet. It’s hard to imagine the talented 28-year-old not returning to the field as an elite passer, but he hasn’t thrown a live pass in over 16 months. Still, it’s easy to forget that prior to missing the 2017 season, Luck had three top-five fantasy finishes in the previous four years. Come back to us Captain Luck.

Defying time

Tom Brady, Patriots – This is the second straight year this trio gets grouped together as the village elders. Despite what he says, if Tom versus Time showed us anything it’s that even Brady finally acknowledges his career can’t last forever. Brady will enter the season as a 41-year-old, but after throwing for 505 yards and three touchdowns in the Super Bowl, there’s no reason to bet against him yet.

Drew Brees, Saints – The Saints no longer need Brees to do it all himself, instead choosing to lean on their outstanding rushing duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. This shaved some of the elite upside off Brees’ stats in 2017, however, the 39-year-old remains a steady mid-range QB1 for fantasy owners who want to set it and forget it.

Philip Rivers, Chargers – Rivers is the young buck in this group at just 36 years old and is coming off his best fantasy finish since 2013. A big part of Rivers’ continued success is the team’s willingness to invest in top-notch targets. Few teams are as deep at receiver as the Chargers and the biggest beneficiaries are Rivers and his fantasy owners.

Steady starters

Cam Newton, Panthers – After a quiet 2016, Newton clawed his way back into the fantasy ranks, finishing second in scoring at the position behind only Wilson. With Devin Funchess’ breakout in 2017, Greg Olsen back to full health, and the additions of first-rounder D.J. Moore and veteran Torrey Smith, Newton is poised for another monster campaign.

Matthew Stafford, Lions – Stafford doesn’t seem to get the respect that other top quarterbacks draw. The Lions signal-caller hasn’t finished lower than 13th among fantasy quarterbacks dating back to 2011.

Risk vs. Reward

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – A brief offseason flirtation with retirement was classic Roethlisberger, creating drama where it need not be. The bigger issue with Ben is his injury history, which has caused him to miss seven games over the last three years. When he’s in the lineup, especially at home, he’s a high-level fantasy play.

Jared Goff, Rams – It’s tough to truly trust Goff as your starter. But with Sean McVay pulling his strings, the former first overall pick projects as a borderline QB1 once again. This, after finishing 12th overall at the position last year.

Change of scenery

Kirk Cousins, Vikings – Learning a new system is never easy, but joining a Super-Bowl caliber Vikings team with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook will make the transition much smoother for Cousins. Barring injury, Cousins will be an excellent target for fantasy owners in the middle rounds.

Alex Smith, Redskins – Traditionally, Smith was a risk-adverse quarterback in Kansas City, before the arrival of Patrick Mahomes forced him out of his shell. Now in Washington, in a new scheme with a weaker receiving corps, a new contract, and no one threatening his job, Smith will fade back into 2QB and streamer territory.

Case Keenum, Broncos – Keenum isn’t getting much attention in the fantasy community, but the Broncos’ offense could surprise this season. Denver added a pair of talented rookies (Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton) to receiving corps that already featured Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Keenum will be a useful streamer with his new club.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills – With all the attention being paid to the No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, people might be discounting Taylor’s history as a fantasy star. Playing in Buffalo, with a run-first offense and a subpar group of receivers, Taylor was still able to produce. With Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and the rest of the Browns weapons, Taylor is a streamer’s dream for as long as he holds the starting job.

Delayed launch

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers – Winston dealt with an injury to his throwing shoulder that hijacked part of his season, and the arrival of DeSean Jackson didn’t catapult the Bucs’ offense the way many expected. The emergence of Chris Godwin as another receiving threat helped Winston finish strong over the final month and gives hope that a fantasy breakout could be coming in 2018.

Marcus Mariota, Titans – No one needed a new coaching staff more than Mariota, who toiled under the previous regime. New OC Matt Lafleur says he wants the offense to be more aggressive, which bodes well for the 24-year-old Mariota, who has yet to crack 3,500 yards as a pro.

Derek Carr, Raiders – Carr’s performance fell off a cliff in 2017. Excuses range from a poor offensive system around him to a back injury that he fought through. Either way, Carr’s ascent to fantasy star isn’t as certain as we once thought. With Jon Gruden’s new scheme and several new pieces on offense, it may take time for Carr to adapt, resulting in a slow start to the year.

Breakout year

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers – Garoppolo was a top-10 fantasy quarterback over the final five games once he took over the starting role in San Francisco. With an offseason to familiarize himself with Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Garoppolo is a top-15 fantasy QB, with a solid chance at holding a spot in the top 10 for years to come.

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs – While Garoppolo lacks top-shelf talent at the skill positions, the Chiefs have surrounded Mahomes with one of the best supporting casts in the league. Mahomes is one of the highest upside picks late in drafts.

Mitch Trubisky, Bears – Everything is set up for Trubisky to be this year’s Jared Goff. Trubisky showed more as a rookie than Goff did, and the Bears brought in all the components to help him take the leap as a sophomore, including a new offensive-minded head coach (Matt Nagy) and improved receiving options (Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton). Trubisky will likely go undrafted, but could be a waiver-wire star early in the year.

On the rebound?

Matt Ryan, Falcons – Life comes at you fast. One year after a 38-touchdown MVP campaign and a Super Bowl appearance, Ryan barely reached 20 scores. Of the players in this section, Ryan has the best chance to bounce back, especially after the team invested a first-round pick in receiver Calvin Ridley. He’s an intriguing late-round option for owners who are streaming or going the committee route.

Eli Manning, Giants – The offensive playmakers around him are impressive. The offensive line in front of him, not so much. Eli’s demise has gone hand-in-hand with the line’s struggles to keep him clean. Saquon Barkley should help relieve some of the pressure by improving the running game, but Eli is still a long way off the path to being a fantasy starter.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – If you’re here in search of a good reason to draft Tannehill, you’ve come to the wrong place. The Dolphins were reportedly open to drafting a rookie QB if one had fallen to them in the first round, which tells you all you need to know about Tannehill.

Too hard to trust

Dak Prescott, Cowboys – Losing Dez Bryant isn’t as bad as some believe, but the Cowboys’ receiving corps has a lot to prove before we can put our faith in their passing attack. With so many quality fantasy options at quarterback, Dak isn’t as appealing in 2018.

Blake Bortles, Jaguars – At the end of every season, there seems to be a disconnect between Bortles’ overall fantasy numbers and how he actually performs in games. The Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship with dominating defense and a strong rushing attack, so there’s no reason to risk anything on Bortles’ questionable arm.

Andy Dalton, Bengals – A.J. Green is as elite as they come, but for Dalton to get back on the fantasy radar he’ll need Tyler Eifert to stay healthy and John Ross to emerge after a disappointing rookie campaign.

New kids on the block

Baker Mayfield, Browns – The Browns claim they plan to start Tyrod all season, letting Mayfield learn from the bench. It’s hard to imagine that plan will last long when the losing starts. When he does get the nod, Mayfield has an outstanding offensive roster around him, which will give him as good a chance as any to sneak into the fantasy conversation.

Josh Rosen, Cardinals – Rosen is the most pro-ready of this year’s quarterback class, and it’s unclear how long Sam Bradford’s knee will allow him to play. You should plan for Rosen to see action in Year 1, playing with a solid group of skill players, but behind an offensive line which will limit his production.

Lamar Jackson, Ravens – Of all the rookie quarterbacks, Jackson has the highest fantasy ceiling if he’s able to get on the field. Running quarterbacks are instantly fantasy relevant and if Joe Flacco continues his subpar play, it’s possible the Ravens turn to Jackson for a spark on offense.

Sam Darnold, Jets – After a surprisingly competent 2018 campaign, Josh McCown should start the year under center for the Jets. McCown hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout his career, which means it’s only a matter of time before we see Darnold, who is an exciting dynasty prospect, but isn’t likely to be a fantasy option at any point as a rookie.

Josh Allen, Bills – Due to the Bills’ thin QB depth chart, Allen might have the best chance of any rookie to start Week 1. That doesn’t mean he, or teammate AJ Mccarron, are worth considering in fantasy. Buffalo’s receiving corps is one of the worst in the league and the team’s offense will be built around the run once again.

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