Welcome to QB List 3.0! Today I kick things off by ranking the top 32 quarterbacks for the 2019 fantasy football season.
These quarterback rankings reflect my strategy in a standard one quarterback league. I am a big proponent of waiting to take quarterbacks in the later rounds of drafts and streaming the position if necessary. Due to the replaceability of the position in most fantasy leagues, quarterbacks with risky profiles are more appealing to me and are ranked higher as a result. I would rather chase upside knowing I can stream if things don’t work out. In a two-quarterback league, the safer options should be ranked higher, and I will note that as needed.
Tier 1: The Reigning Champ
1. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) – The talk of the preseason in the fantasy community will be Mahomes’ upcoming regression, as he led the league with a touchdown on 8.6% of his passes in 2018 (Russell Wilson was the only other quarterback over 7%). History shows that Mahomes will throw less than his 50 touchdowns from last year, and coupled with Tyreek Hill‘s probable suspension and the loss of Kareem Hunt, drafters would be wise not to expect a repeat of his 2018 performance. Even with a drop in scoring, however, Mahomes remains in a tier by himself. His 417 points scored in his first year as a starter is the best fantasy season from a quarterback over the last three seasons, and it isn’t particularly close. He outscored the second-best season by a quarterback over that span by 37 fantasy points, and third place is a distant 62 fantasy points behind Mahomes. I won’t be drafting Mahomes due to my tendency to wait on the position, but Mahomes is the main beneficiary of Andy Reid‘s fantasy-friendly offense, and I don’t expect him to fall off a cliff in 2019.
Tier 2: Heavyweight Contenders
2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) – The former champion of the fantasy quarterback landscape, Rodgers has fallen on hard times over the last two seasons. His 2017 season was essentially over in week 6 due to a broken collarbone, and last year Rodgers suffered a tibial plateau fracture and an MCL sprain in week 1 that he played through all season. Rodgers still managed to limp his way to a quarterback six finish in 2018, but clearly was not himself. Head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy is out, with former Titans play-caller Matt LaFleur taking over as the new Packers head coach. It’s unclear how much this will improve the offense, but at least it will be different, as Rodgers clearly needed a change of scenery. One clear path to improvement is in the red zone, an area that Rodgers used to dominate. Only 28% of his fantasy points came from inside the 20, while Andrew Luck led the league at 46%. Rodgers carries higher injury risk than most at his position, but his 2016 season remains the second-best quarterback total over the past three years, giving him a ceiling worth chasing as the second quarterback off the board.
3. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) – Luck bounced back from his own injury issues by finishing as the QB5 last year, and looks to be surrounded by an excellent supporting cast going forward. As noted above, Luck was the quarterback most reliant on red zone scoring last year with 33 red zone touchdowns, including 19 scores coming from inside the 10-yard line. Luck was only QB12 when looking at points scored outside of the red zone in 2018, but another year removed from his shoulder injury should see his big-play ability return. And while Luck could see his red zone scoring regress, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be among the best red zone quarterbacks again this year. There’s a strong case to be made for Deshaun Watson here, but I’ll ultimately put my trust in the Colts strong coaching staff and their superior offensive line to get the most out of Luck.
4. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) – Last year Watson regressed from his torrid 2017 pace that saw him average 24 points per game in his rookie year, a number topped only by Mahomes over the past three seasons. Nevertheless, Watson still finished with the fourth most points at his position in 2018, an impressive finish considering the Texans subpar offensive line resulted in Watson taking a bus to a game due to not being medically cleared to fly on the team plane. The Texans attempted to fix the issue by drafting two small school offensive lineman in the first two rounds, so there is room for optimism. If the line is improved and wide receivers Will Fuller and Keke Coutee can stay healthy, Watson has a chance to push Mahomes for the top quarterback spot. But there’s also a world where the line struggles, Watson and the receivers continue to battle injuries, and the Texans find themselves looking for a new head coach in 2020.
5. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) – Ryan continues to be overlooked as a top tier fantasy option, but his numbers speak for themselves. Ryan finished as the QB2 last year with 355 fantasy points, with only Mahomes and Rodgers topping that single season total over the last three years. Ryan suffered a disappointing 2017 season, but was the QB2 in the 2016 season as well, showing his upside is no fluke. The Falcons spent two first-round draft picks on the offensive line this year, and return Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in what should continue to be an explosive offense. With a defense that allowed the fifth most yards in the league last year, Ryan will likely find himself in plenty of shootouts once again. If you insist on taking a quarterback early, my recommendation would be to hold off for a few extra rounds and grab Ryan around his sixth-round ADP.
Tier 3: The Once and Future Kings
6. Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) – The gap from tier two to tier three is a substantial one, and my strategy with this tier would be to grab whichever quarterback is the last available. But I do have to rank them, so in the spirit of swinging for the fences at quarterback, Baker leads the tier. The numbers won’t back this one up, as his 17 points per game last year put him at QB20. But Baker passed the eye test in his rookie year, looking confident in the pocket and making impressive throws down the stretch. Most importantly, I believe Odell Beckham Jr. will make a huge difference in this offense, as he is a fit in both the short passing game as a threat to take slants to the house, as well as in the deep passing game as a home run threat that draws constant double teams. Add in two good offensive coaches in Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken (the former Tampa Bay coordinator who produced a league-leading 5,125 passing yards with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick), and Baker finds himself with big-time fantasy upside. The two big questions that keep him from tier 2; will his offensive line protect him, and is he ready to make the jump?
7. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) – Frankly, there are a lot of reasons why Wilson should be ranked lower than this. He hasn’t been the running threat you likely think he has been, with only five rushing touchdowns in the last 4 years (with none last year). His 67 carries last year were a career low, and his 376 rushing yards were the second-lowest total of his career behind his 2016 season. Top wide receiver Doug Baldwin is now retired, after being a shell of his former self last year. And the Seahawks plan to be one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL, much like they were last year. So why the optimism? I think Wilson’s rushing numbers have nowhere to go but up. Also, Seattle faces a schedule full of good offenses, which could force their 534 rushing attempts from last year to regress toward the mean if they end up in more shootouts. And finally, with the league fully aware of the run-heavy nature of the Seahawks offense, the deep play action game should be dangerous with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf on the field. But most of all, I’m willing to bet on the most talented players, and at age 30, Wilson should be entering the prime of his career.
8. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) – Coming off of shoulder surgery that derailed the end of his 2018 season, Cam looks healthy and ready to build off of his first year under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I love Cam’s skill set, as well as his weapons in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel. Additionally, the Panthers face what looks to be one of the five easiest schedules in terms of opposing defenses, with some potential shootouts on the board. But in the end, Cam usually seems to be held back by either health or accuracy. As we get closer to the season I may move him above Wilson if he looks 100% healthy. But I worry his rushing could be limited if the Panthers try to protect his shoulder. And as a quarterback that hasn’t topped 4,000 yards passing since his rookie year with 4,051 yards, Newton is ultimately dependent on his rushing to be an elite option.
9. Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) – You could talk me into putting Murray at the top of this tier pretty easily, as he is the ultimate swing for the fences quarterback. Ultimately, I am showing some restraint by ranking him ninth. On the plus side, Murray will be in the Kliff Kingsbury air raid offense that could challenge for the most plays in the league. Murray may also be the closest comparison to Mike Vick in recent history, giving him tantalizing rushing upside. Combine potential elite passing volume, potential elite rushing ability, and a new offense that could catch the league off guard, and I’m ready to believe anything with Murray. On the negative side, Murray’s style may lead to increased injury risk, the offensive line could remain a big negative, and an offense still needs to produce first downs, regardless of the play style, in order to rack up high play volume. But one thing to note; athletic quarterbacks like Vick, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick have tended to peak early. After starting only two games his rookie year, Vick was a top three quarterback his first full year as a starter. It would be a very reasonable stance to pass on Murray this year to gather more information. But we may never get another chance at him this late in drafts if he has a successful rookie season.
10. Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles) – Wentz is towards the bottom of this tier, but this is a tightly packed tier, so he could just as easily be first in this group. Wentz has battled knee and back injuries in his short career, which has prevented him from putting together a complete upper echelon fantasy season thus far, the main blemish on his resume. Wentz posted a mediocre 17.61 fantasy points per game last year, ranking him seventeenth among quarterbacks. But his 2017 season was special, averaging 21.67 points per game, a number only topped by Mahomes, Watson, Rodgers, Ryan, and Wilson over the past three years. If healthy, his offense is absolutely loaded with weapons, and this could be a special unit. With a friendly schedule for the passing game and a favorable start, Wentz could challenge tier two if things go according to plan.
11. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) – The questions are clear with Roethlisberger, though the answers are unknown. In his age-36 season in 2018, Big Ben set career highs in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns. His massive, league-leading 675 attempts were the real drivers behind his QB3 finish last year. It looks like a massive outlier on his ledger, as Roethlisberger’s second most attempts in a season came in 2014 with 608 attempts. And the loss of Antonio Brown could also push the Steelers away from the passing game even further. However, the league is trending towards increased passing at a rapid rate, and we’ve seen Tom Brady and Drew Brees put up high volume years at advanced ages as well. If Roethlisberger replicates his volume from last year, he’s a steal in drafts. If he falls back to pre-2018 levels, he’s still a value at his current tenth or eleventh round ADP.
Tier 4: Fantasyland
12. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) – We’ve officially entered the bizarro world of fantasy quarterback rankings, in which one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks of all time shares a tier with six quarterbacks who, to varying degrees, are still enrolled in Quarterbacking 101 classes. But there are valid reasons to worry about Brees from a fantasy perspective. Brees attempted only 489 passes last year, his lowest total since 2004 while playing for San Diego. Brees also failed to top 4,000 yards passing for the first time as a Saint, and at age 40 it is safe to assume that Brees will never return to his 5,000 yard passing days. Of course, Brees is as efficient a quarterback as the league has ever seen, and in 2018 completed a career-best 74.4% of his passes while only throwing 5 interceptions, both of which are shocking numbers. But Brees could only turn that efficiency into a QB8 finish last year, which sounds like his ceiling this year as well. The Saints primary goal will be to get Brees back to the playoffs for one last shot at a second title, and that plan may leave fantasy owners disappointed from a statistical standpoint.
13. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) – Goff finished last year as the QB7 despite losing his security blanket in Cooper Kupp to an ACL injury in week 10. In 11 games before the Rams bye week, Goff averaged 2.4 touchdowns per game. After the bye, Goff saw that number halved in his final 5 starts, averaging only 1.2 touchdowns per game. Kupp may be limited throughout the preseason, but is expected to be ready for the season. And with Todd Gurley‘s knee putting the star running back’s effectiveness into doubt, it would make sense for coach Sean McVay to put more on Goff’s shoulders in his fourth NFL season. An added bonus for drafting Goff is his schedule, as his first eight games before the bye feature potential shootouts with Carolina, New Orleans, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Cincinnati.
14. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) – Jackson’s 18.6 points per game started last year would have put him right on the fringe of startable quarterbacks as the QB13 overall, making him a worthy gamble for late round quarterback drafters like myself. As we know, Jackson relied on his rushing ability as a rookie, averaging 17 rush attempts per game in his starts. The Ravens added interesting weapons around him, including rookie running back Justice Hill, rookie receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, and veteran running back Mark Ingram, giving them more creative options on offense. With a full offseason as the starter, the question will be if the Ravens can design a passing game to allow Jackson to flourish. Jackson gets the Dolphins, Cardinals, and Chiefs out of the gate, a promising start from a fantasy perspective. If Jackson can continue to be an asset on the ground while adding any semblance of value through the air, those who drafted him will easily return value on this investment.
15. Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears) – Trubisky takes heat for being limited as a passer, but his rushing ability is an asset in fantasy leagues. He finished as QB11 last year on a point per game basis, and his 421 yards rushing certainly helped. There are definitely safer options ranked lower than Trubisky that I wouldn’t fault you for drafting, but his 18.79 points per game from last year is better than any of Philip Rivers or Dak Prescott’s last three years. I like Matt Nagy’s creative offense, and the Bears may have to pass more if their defense can’t replicate last year’s dominance, giving Trubisky a shot at improving his numbers in his third year. Trubisky does have matchups against Denver and Minnesota in the first four weeks, so keep that in mind if relying on him early.
16. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – I came into my research thinking I would be higher on Winston, but this feels like the right spot. On the plus side, Winston is still just 25 years old, has good receiving talent around him, and gets to learn from downfield passing wizard Bruce Arians. Tampa Bay also has a schedule that should be conducive to passing. However, Winston was only QB15 last year on a per game basis with another highly respected offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, so how much of a boost will he really see in year one of a new offense? Winston certainly has upside, but we can’t forget that he was outplayed by Ryan Fitzpatrick last year either.
17. Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys) – Dak was the QB10 last year and has been extremely consistent from year to year in his three seasons in the league, scoring between 261 and 287 points each year. In two-quarterback leagues, Dak’s consistency should jump him up near the top of this tier, since the waiver wire lacks startable options in those leagues. Dak has rushed for six touchdowns in each of his three seasons, though his actual rushing yards are fairly pedestrian each year. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is saying all of the right things in the preseason, and if we get a more creative and pass-happy Cowboys offense, Dak could shoot up this list. But ultimately, I think the Cowboys still want to lean on their run game and defense, limiting Dak’s upside from a season-long perspective.
18. Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) – Allen had boom and bust weeks last year, with his two best fantasy weeks both coming against the Miami Dolphins. I prefer Lamar Jackson’s designed runs to Josh Allen’s scrambling as far as repeatability, thus the gap between the two. Allen averaged 7.1 yards per rush last year, which are Vick-like numbers, and while Allen is certainly a good athlete, I’m not sure he can replicate that feat. But he will make a high upside streaming option in the right matchups.
Tier 5: National Treasure Three
19. Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings) – Cousins has shockingly averaged the fifth most fantasy points of all quarterbacks over the past three years and finished as the QB 12 last year in a mess of a year. However, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer appears to have had enough of the high volume passing attack and is poised to run a ball-control offense in 2019. There is a chance that the plan doesn’t work, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen prove too talented to relegate to secondary roles. You could do worse than picking up Cousins at the end of drafts for his first three games against Atlanta, Green Bay, and Oakland, before moving on to streaming ahead of his week four matchup against Chicago. But Cousins will ultimately have his volume limited by his team’s overall philosophy, capping his upside.
20. Tom Brady (New England Patriots) – Brady presents the biggest gap between real life value and fantasy value. But from a fantasy perspective, Brady’s best days are behind him. He finished as the QB14 overall last year and dropped to QB18 on a point per game basis. He loses his major difference maker Rob Gronkowski, who is irreplaceable, and will be counting on rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry to provide some sort of spark outside of chain movers Julian Edelman and James White. Brady will turn 42 in August, and I expect the Patriots to lean on the run all year in order to get Brady to the playoffs in one piece. In a week division, Brady may find high volume passing games few and far between. In a two-quarterback league, Brady still has value, and he will still have his three and four touchdown weeks. But the Patriots’ team goals and our fantasy team’s goals do not align when it comes to Tom Brady’s 2019 season.
21. Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers) – Similar to Brady, Rivers ultimately has his eyes on the playoffs. And with an excellent defense and a good running game, Rivers isn’t likely to set fantasy leagues on fire in 2019. Rivers managed a QB11 finish last year in what was his best fantasy season over the last three years, and there isn’t much reason to see him getting significantly better from a fantasy perspective at age 37. In two-quarterback leagues, his dependability jumps him up towards the top of tier four, along with Brady and Cousins. But in a one quarterback league, you should be aiming higher than a back end starting quarterback.
Tier 6: Field of Streams
22. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) – The rest of the quarterbacks are somewhat pointless to rank, as they will likely go undrafted in most leagues. Garoppolo is clearly the best of the bunch, and if he were at full health he would be in a higher tier. Coming off of an ACL injury, however, I expect Garoppolo to show rust early, and coupled with a week four bye, I don’t see him being very useful until week five. After the bye week, however, I’ll have my eye on Jimmy G.
23. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) – Stafford has a good excuse for his disappointing 2018 season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been very good for fantasy purposes in any of his other years since his 2011 season. He’s actually a lot closer to Rivers on a year to year basis than most would realize, but with Stafford’s low ceiling impacted by his team’s commitment to the run, I’m not interested. In a two-quarterback league, however, he’s consistently on the field for all 16 games and is a poor man’s Rivers for those weak at the position.
24. Sam Darnold (New York Jets) – I just don’t see the path to a high volume breakout year in 2019 for Darnold, and I don’t like the drama that seems to follow new coach Adam Gase wherever he goes. Lacking an elite supporting cast (unless Le’Veon Bell doesn’t miss a beat, and I’m skeptical), the Jets have a tough batch of opposing pass defenses over the first eight games, hurting his streaming appeal. I may give Darnold a look in week nine when his schedule lightens up, but I won’t be drafting him.
25. Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans) – A big-time injury risk, at this point the argument for Mariota is blind faith in his second overall draft pedigree from 2015. On his fifth offensive coordinator in five years, Mariota can’t catch a break. His rushing numbers aren’t even good enough to inspire hope, and you have to wonder how much he will be allowed to run going forward.
26. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders) – Carr has been a healthier version of Mariota or Andy Dalton the last two years, failing to average 14 points per game in that span. The additions of Antonio Brown and Josh Jacobs do inspire hope, but the schedule is a killer for fantasy purposes. Carr gets the Broncos at home week one, travels to Minnesota in week three, gets the Bears at home in week five, then has his bye in week six. If you want to roster him for two starts (against the Chiefs and Colts) in the first six weeks, you’ll need a deep roster. He’s another I’ll look to stream when his schedule softens.
27. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals) – 27 quarterbacks have had a better single season fantasy total over the past three years than Dalton, so his ranking at 27 feels perfect. You could talk yourself into a revival at the hands of new coach Zac Taylor if not for two things; the Bengals already lost their first-round pick offensive lineman for the season to an injury, and Dalton will face possibly the hardest schedule for a passing offense of any quarterback in the league. Opportunities to stream Dalton will be few and far between.
Tier 7: The Part-Time Players
28. Dwayne Haskins (Washington Redskins) – Haskins is at least an unknown, which by default gives him more upside than the rest of this tier. As a one year starter at Ohio State, however, Haskins is a raw prospect and joins a Redskins team with an unimpressive supporting cast. Haskins himself offers zero rushing ability with 1.9 yards per rush in college, so he will need volume to be a usable fantasy quarterback, and Washington will likely want to ease in their quarterback of the future. We still aren’t sure if Haskins will be the week one starter.
29. Nick Foles (Jacksonville Jaguars) – I don’t doubt the guts that Foles possesses, coming through in the clutch to bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. But I doubt Foles’s ability to be a season-long fantasy performer, especially in this Jaguars offense. Foles enters his age-30 season with only two years of double-digit starts, and a career-high of 11 starts back in 2015, in part due to his injury history. This Jaguars offense won’t fool anyone for the innovative offenses Foles has been a part of either, with two years each under Doug Pederson, Chip Kelly, and Andy Reid. Foles does face a friendly schedule of opposing pass defenses, however, for those looking to stream.
30. Joe Flacco (Denver Broncos) – After drafting quarterback Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s draft, the Broncos clearly aren’t committed to Flacco for the long haul. Not guaranteed a full season of starts on a ball control offense, I’m not excited about Flacco’s prospects in Denver. He has a streamable matchup in a two-quarterback league week one at Oakland, and potentially week three in Green Bay. But those matchups are surrounded by games against the Bears, Jaguars, and Chargers, limiting his usefulness early on, when he is most likely to be the Broncos starter.
31. Eli Manning (New York Giants) – Eli hasn’t been able to top 15 fantasy points per game throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. the last three years, so I don’t expect Eli to improve without one of the league’s best big-play threats. With the threat of the sixth overall pick Daniel Jones waiting in the wings, Eli may not be starting for much longer.
32. Josh Rosen (Miami Dolphins) – Rosen is competing with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will likely be the better fantasy quarterback on a per start basis, to be the Miami Dolphins week one starter. I find it hard to believe that Fitzpatrick will get more starts than Rosen on an obviously rebuilding Dolphins team, so Rosen likely has more fantasy relevance. The Dolphins start with the Ravens, Patriots, Cowboys, Chargers, and a week five bye, making it difficult to imagine rostering either to start the year.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)