A Winning Strategy and Guide: Top 25 Fantasy Quarterbacks 2018
The quarterback position is arguably the most important in all of sports. Considering that the QB touches the ball on virtually every offensive snap, they have the most significant impact on their team, for better or worse. Take the Green Bay Packers, for example. They’re discussed every year as a potential Super Bowl team. Is it because of their generational talent at running back? Or that swarming, stifling defense of theirs? No. They have neither of those things. What they have, however, is the best QB in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers, every game is winnable. Without him, this is a sub-500 squad that would no-doubt reside in the NFC North’s cellar. We saw this last year when he broke his collarbone toward the middle of the year, and the Packers’ subsequent mediocrity.
So, why am I going on about this? Droning on about a topic we’re surely already well-versed on; Rodgers’ greatness, Green Bay’s average roster, what happens when a future Hall of Famer isn’t piloting their offense... It’s because this concept applies to fantasy football more than you think. A lot of people will tell you to wait on a QB. “You can always find a good one in the 10th round,” they’ll say. But when you consider that your QB will be your top-scoring player, for me, it’s always made sense to go out and get a top-tier one. This is especially true if your league awards 6 points for passing TDs, as it should be.
Over the years, I can’t tell you how many games I’ve won or lost by just the difference of a passing TD. Sure, I suppose I could always be perfect at predicting which players will have the biggest performances this week. That would be nice. I’ll keep working on my psychic abilities. In the meantime, to have a quarterback you know has your back, a QB who can get you that little extra, just like in real football, is quite the edge to have over an opponent. And while I acknowledge that there is not a whole lot of difference in fantasy PPG between most QBs, if it’s the end of the second round and all the top RB1s and WR1s are taken, I’m snagging Rodgers, no question. Then, with my pick a few selections into the third round, I’ll take a shot on one of the next-tier-down skill positions players. But I am making sure to lock down the top QB first.
In selecting a top-tier QB like that (I have three I consider no-doubt weekly starters this year), you’re getting a player you can essentially set and forget at the QB position. They’re established, proven stat-machines at their position, will have many games where they go off, and assuming they remain healthy, should never have to leave your lineup aside from the bye week. It’s worth reaching a little bit, especially if you aren’t too high on any of the non-QBs available at a particular pick. Undrafted players and roster cast-offs will inevitably break out and become valuable waiver-wire pickups later in the season. Get as many blue-chip players as you can in the draft. Now, I’m not saying to reach on a QB in the first round or to reach too far for a QB outside of Tier 1. I would never advise that. Definitely grab a workhorse running back or star receiver in the first round. Different strategies for different people though.
Having said all of that, I present my Top 25 Fantasy Quarterbacks for 2018. I will explain why I have each player ranked where they are in 288 characters or less, the length of a tweet.
This tier consists of the three no-doubt weekly starters alluded to in the introduction. These guys are established, dominant players who perennially are among the top fantasy quarterbacks.
1. Aaron Rodgers, GB – I’ve already given my stance on Rodgers. Sure, he is returning after losing most of 2017 to a broken collarbone but the last time he was injured (2013), he returned the very next year to throw for 4400 yards and scored a combined 40 touchdowns. Bye: 7
2. Russell Wilson, SEA – This is a great QB who was a playoff berth away from winning the MVP trophy. No player does more for the success of his team than Wilson. From a fantasy standpoint, this is a vote of confidence he continues to produce at a 2015/2017 level, less like 2016. Bye: 7
3. Tom Brady, NE – Yeah, he’s getting old, but you can’t question the guy’s dedication. He won the MVP award at age 40. Time has to catch up to Brady eventually, right? He’s one of the greatest to ever put on a uniform and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Bye: 11
This next group consists of QBs I see as ones you will likely end up starting almost every week. The thing is, I have a hang-up or two on them all, whether it’s the aging superstar whose offense is undergoing a scheme change or the young superstar who is returning from a knee injury. You’ll want to keep a second QB you’d feel pretty good about starting some weeks on your roster if you decide to roll with one of these as your starter. Personally, I’m waiting until later to take Tier 3 QBs if I miss out on all of Tier 1.
4. Deshaun Watson, HOU – He was lighting the league on fire before a freak injury during an autumn practice. We’ve seen Watson recover from a torn ACL before, so I believe he will pick up where he left off. Some are saying Watson is the #1 fantasy QB. Let’s temper expectations just a little bit. Bye: 10
5. Carson Wentz, PHI – When I said Russell Wilson was a playoff berth away from the MVP award, I lied. He was a playoff berth and a Wentz ACL tear away. One of these two conditions happened IRL. Wentz was absolutely lights-out in 2017. He should be just fine going forward. Bye: 9
6. Cam Newton, CAR – Cam seemed a little off in 2017 as far as passing goes, throwing 22 TDs and 16 picks for only 3300 yards. But he picked up 750 yards and 6 TDs on the ground, an added bonus of about 111 fantasy points. I can see the passing numbers improving in 2018. Bye: 4
7. Drew Brees, NO – It was a ‘down’ year in 2017 where Brees threw less than 25 TDs for the first time since 2005. While I see Brees as a Top 4 QB in the NFL, it seems the Saints have gone toward a more run-heavy attack less reliant on him throwing 5000 yards and 30+ TDs. Bye: 6
If you’re going this route, get two of the QBs in this tier on your roster. Here, you will want to pay closer attention to matchups to get the best results. All of these QBs have question marks but are totally solid, with potential to have massive games and have shown consistency in putting together strong statistical seasons.
8. Matt Stafford, DET – Stafford has been on a tear for three years running now, putting up the best numbers of his career. If your fantasy QB is getting you close to 4300 yards and 30 touchdowns a year, you’re doing alright. He was a top 10 fantasy QB in 2017. Bye: 6
9. Philip Rivers, LAC – Perennially underappreciated in the fantasy world, Rivers continues to put up huge numbers. He’s thrown for over 4200 yards and 28 touchdowns five years in a row now. This ranking is a result of that level of consistency. Bye: 8
10. Matt Ryan, ATL – The 2016 MVP took a huge step back in 2017. Blame it on Steve Sarkisian’s offense or whatever else. Look at his career stats. Is it 2016’s or 2017’s numbers that look closer to what we have historically seen from Ryan? Hint: 2016 is the outlier. Bye: 8
11. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Big Ben probably shouldn’t be your weekly starter if you’re trying to build a Super Bowl fantasy squad. He regularly puts up around 4000 yards with 28 TDs in a season, but he has off-weeks and tends to get beaten up, either missing a few weeks or playing hurt. Bye: 7
12. Kirk Cousins, MIN – How will Cousins adjust to his new team and new system? To me, he’s still a borderline QB1 either way. In Washington, Jamison Crowder was the biggest name he had at WR. In Minnesota, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are massive upgrades. Bye: 10
13. Andrew Luck, IND – Lucky 13, pun intended. A total boom-or-bust pick. Will Luck return to form as one of the game’s best QBs after being away from the game with an injury for so long? Bye: 9
14. Jared Goff, LAR – Sean McVay is some kind of QB whisperer, helping Goff go from talk of being a bust to talk of being a legit franchise QB in a single year. Even if he takes a bit of a step back in 2018, he’s still a viable fantasy option with an arsenal of weapons to throw to. Bye: 12
15. Dak Prescott, DAL – Despite his sophomore year not being as great as his rookie year, I still see a good QB in Prescott. The lack of proven receivers after the release of Dez Bryant and retirement of Jason Witten is alarming. My favorite to become Dak’s #1: Michael Gallup. Bye: 8
This is basically the tier consisting of the bench QB’s I’m targeting if I went with a starter from Tier 2. These are signal callers with a lot of questions but the potential to turn in massive seasons. If you need a spot-starter for some reason, I’d feel pretty confident with anyone listed here.
16. Alex Smith, WAS – Here’s a QB coming off his best statistical season yet and was traded to a new team in the offseason where he no longer has a supporting cast of the same caliber as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. Not even a Sammy Watkins. He was a top 5 fantasy QB in 2017. Bye: 4
17. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF – Can we really pump the brakes on the Jimmy G train, please? So, the guy studied under Tom Brady and hasn’t lost yet. That’s cool and all but does it help you win fantasy games? Extended over 16 games, his stats are quite ‘meh’: 4100 YDs, 18 TDs, 13 INTs. Bye: 11
18. Marcus Mariota, TEN – He took a major step back in 2017 after being hyped up to take a major leap forward. I’m playing it safe with the injury-prone QB and selecting him strictly as a QB2. Still he’s a good player to stash on your bench to wait and see what happens. Bye: 8
19. Derek Carr, OAK – Another promising QB who’s been derailed by injuries. Carr looked like he was on his way to the upper echelon of the position, then 2017 happened. Same as with Mariota, draft him as a QB2 and hope he returns to form. Bye: 7
This final level of fantasy QB value is populated with names of players I see being worth drafting late as a flyer. Ideally, I’m not going into the season with any of these players as my primary option, but these guys are all lottery tickets with somewhat decent winning odds. They’re listed in descending order.
20. Patrick Mahomes, KC – He’s unproven but looked good in the single game he started in 2017. The supporting cast is nice, especially after the addition of Sammy Watkins at receiver. Mahomes is one of my favorite draft-and-wait players for 2018. Bye: 12
21. Tyrod Taylor, CLE – I’ve always been a Taylor advocate and would have him rated higher, but he will have to play better than I think he’s capable of to hold off the chants for Baker Mayfield the whole year. He looked good in training camp and preseason. But, so did Mayfield. Bye: 11
22. Case Keenum, DEN – Was last year the real Case Keenum, and will that success transfer over to a less talented squad in Denver? Or was he merely 2017’s version of 2015 Ryan Fitzpatrick – a journeyman QB who had one great season before crashing back to Earth? Bye: 10
23. Blake Bortles, JAX – Yeah, he's been the punchline of a lot of jokes and is seen as a player that could hold the Jaguars back but he's actually been passable as an occasional starting fantasy QB. Bye: 9
24. Jameis Winston, TB – Anyone else totally underwhelmed by Winston? Sure, he was dealing with injuries last year, but he regressed a bit too. Now, he’s suspended to start 2018 and is potentially in danger of losing his starting job. Bye: 5
25. Eli Manning, NYG – I didn’t want to include Manning but to justify where I have Giants skill position players ranked, he will have to play marginally well. Let’s face it, if Manning is playing like garbage, OBJ and Evan Engram aren’t eating enough, and Saquon Barkley is facing eight-man fronts. Bye: 9
**The above rankings are a representation of my personal draft strategy and where I value each player in 2018.