In an ideal world, quarterback is the position that should have the least movement in Fantasy Football rankings during the preseason. Position battles matter at every position, obviously, but generally speaking, the stakes are pretty low at QB – does it really matter if Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky is the starter for the Steelers, or Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold? Those guys are probably going to be bottom-12 options at the position no matter which one wins.
So there aren’t many notable movers in my latest update at QB. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford moved down a bit – Brady is away from the team dealing with a personal issue, while Stafford is nursing an elbow injury – but neither was a big move. Joe Burrow and Russell Wilson moved up a bit, but that was mostly a consequence of Brady and Stafford moving below them.
I did decide to move Trey Lance up to QB12 this time around, to the top of the fourth tier at the position. Nothing I’ve seen in training camp reports or the preseason inspired the move, I just want to make sure I have a better chance of ending up with him on my teams, and I’d rather take the gamble on his skill set than bet on Aaron Rodgers elevating a bad receiving corps. Rodgers probably has the higher floor of the two, but a best-case scenario for both probably sees Lance finish as a top-three QB, and I’m not sure I trust Rodgers to have that kind of upside without Davante Adams.
I’ve also taken Deshaun Watson out of the rankings entirely pending the appeal of his suspension. It sounds like a settlement that costs Watson most of the season is a realistic outcome, and if not, a full-season suspension is very much possible. Seeing as the best-case scenario still sees him missing the first month and a half of the season, I just don’t think Watson is worth the trouble at this point.
- Josh Allen* — If all you knew about Josh Allen was that he finished fourth in pass attempts and third in rush attempts among quarterbacks last year, you’d have a good case for him as the No. 1 option. The fact that he’s an efficient rusher who dominates near the goal line and an effective passer is what makes him the clear choice this season in a tier all his own.
- Patrick Mahomes — Mahomes looked positively mortal for stretches last season and yet still finished with 4,839 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. That’s what a “down” year looks like. He doesn’t run quite as effectively as some of the other high-end QBs and he’s playing without Tyreek Hill for the first time, so many have him third at the position. I think anywhere from second to fourth makes sense, but I’ll defer to his elite track record and legitimate 50-touchdown upside.
- Lamar Jackson — Jackson has stumbled a bit since his historic 2019 season, but he still has upside only a few other quarterbacks can touch. Justin Herbert might be a bit safer, but I don’t think he has 30-PPG upside; Jackson does. That’s enough to serve as a tiebreaker for me.
- Justin Herbert* — There was no sign of a sophomore slump from Herbert, who actually improved both his yards per attempt and touchdown rate. The problem, such as it is, is that he probably doesn’t have the rushing upside the rest of the elite quarterbacks have. He makes up for that by being an elite passer, but when the margins between players are as slim as they are at the top of the position, that’s just enough to hold him back ever so slightly.
- Kyler Murray — For the second season in a row, Murray looked like he was making a big leap before an injury slowed him down. In the first eight games of 2021, he was on pace for nearly 5,000 passing yards and 40-plus total touchdowns. An ankle injury cost him three games and he struggled upon his return. He’s one of those few QBs with 30-plus PPG upside, and I’m willing to bet on that and hope that injuries don’t slow him down again.
- Jalen Hurts — Hurts’ rushing upside is second only to Jackson, so if the addition of A.J. Brown makes him a more effective passer, he could absolutely challenge for the No. 1 overall spot. 4,000 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns plus upwards of 1,000 rushing yards is within the realm of possibility for Hurts if he takes a step forward.
- Dak Prescott — There isn’t a new tier here, technically, but this is where we get to the more traditional pocket passer portion of the proceedings. Prescott is coming off a career high in touchdowns, but there is probably a perception, rightly or wrongly, that he was a little bit disappointing. A full year removed from that ankle surgery should do him well, but questions about the receiving talent in Dallas are probably holding him back a bit.
- Joe Burrow — Burrow’s 8.9 yards per attempt and 6.5% touchdown rate from last year will be hard to repeat, but he’s another year removed from that torn ACL and should see an increase in passing volume to make up for whatever he loses in efficiency. I don’t love Burrow at his cost — he’s QB4 in NFC ADP at 59.5 — but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the player. I just wish he was a better bet to either run more or be in the top five in pass attempts.
- Russell Wilson — Denver’s receiving corps is less proven than Seattle’s, but that might mostly because one group got to play with Wilson these past few years and the other didn’t. It says something about how high Wilson has set the bar that a season that saw him average 7.8 yards per attempt with a 6.3% touchdown rate is viewed as a disappointment. He’s one of the most efficient quarterbacks we’ve ever seen and should be in to at least challenge his career-high in pass attempts (558, set in 2020). He might be too low here.
- Tom Brady — All Brady has done over the past two seasons is averaging 301.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game, finishing as QB7 and QB2 in his two seasons in Tampa. He’s lost a lot of receiving talent from last year’s team — and he’s away from the team during camp, which is strange, if not exactly a reason to panic — but he’s likely to remain a high-end Fantasy QB, even in his age-45 season.
- Matthew Stafford* — I dropped Stafford to the lower end of this tier due to concerns about his lingering elbow injury. Not that I think it’s likely to limit him much one of the regular season starts, or anything. It’s just that, the bar for a No. 1 QB is so high when you don’t run that any risk factor is going to get magnified. In all likelihood, you’ll be happy you have Stafford as your starting QB if you wait, but don’t let him be the reason you pass on a high-upside backup, either.
- Trey Lance — Like, say, Trey Lance. Lance carries risk as a raw passer, but that is mitigated by a San Francisco offense that has made basically every QB look good over the past few years. He has elite weapons, a good system, and most importantly, game-breaking athletic abilities. I would prefer to pair Lance with a later-round passer with a high floor just in case he falters, but the overall package is so enticing, he could absolutely end up being one of the three best QBs in Fantasy this season.
- Aaron Rodgers — Asking Rodgers to remain a must-start Fantasy QB with the worst WR group of his career is a tall task, especially in an offense that didn’t throw a ton with Davante Adams there. Rodgers is one of the best QBs we’ve ever seen, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Pakcers became even more run-heavy and we saw a dip in his productioin. In fact, I’m expecting it.
- Kirk Cousins — There’s a lot of focus on what Cousins can’t do, or on his limitations, but the fact of the matter is, over the past three seasons, he’s put up a 6.2% touchdown rate and 7.9 yards per attempt — borderline elite numbers. The Vikings figure to modernize their offense, using 11 personnel as their base and increasing their throw rate, which could help push Cousins to another level. 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns isn’t outside the realm of possibility here.
- Derek Carr* — Carr could see a similar jump to Cousins thanks to the addition of Adams as his No. 1 receiver. Josh McDaniels figures to install an offensive system that puts Carr in position to take advantage of his weapons, and he’s already coming off a 4,800-yard season. The question will be whether the presence of a dominant red zone option like Adams can get Carr above a 5.5% touchdown rate for just the second time in his career.
- Justin Fields — Fields has similar skills to Lance but is just in a much worse situation. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are his top options, and I’m not sure either would even start for the 49ers. If Fields is going to break out, it’ll be because Matt Eberflus does a better job taking advantage of his athleticism than Matt Nagy did — Eberflus was the passing game coordinator for the Packers last season, where they ran 139 run/pass option plays, compared to just 64 by the Bears a year ago. They’ll have to get creative to get the most out of this offense, but Fields has the skills to be a Fantasy difference maker if they can manage it.
- Jameis Winston — Winston is dealing with a foot sprain in camp, so hopefully that isn’t going to limit him by the start of the season — it isn’t expected to. Winston was having a strange season before tearing his ACL, averaging 2.2 touchdowns with just 186 passing yards per game, as the Saints went with an ultra-conservative game plan that saw him attempted just 25.2 passes per game. The questions is whether that reflected a lack of faith in Winston or in the team’s weapons. With Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry making up the top weapons now, I’m expecting a bit more aggression, and Winston has shown he can take advantage of good weapons in the past.
- Tua Tagovailoa* — Tagovailoa hasn’t shown us much in two years in the NFL, but the Dolphins are certainly putting him in position to succeed after acquiring Tyreek Hill and hiring Mike McDaniel to implement a Kyle Shanahan-inspired offense. He’ll have to prove he can do more than just complete those layup RPO passes he leaned on so heavily last season, but Hill and Waddle gives him one of the most explosive receiving duos in the league.
- Daniel Jones — Jones has some talent around him, so the hope is that new coach Brian Daboll puts this offense in better position than the Jason Garrett/Joe Judge combo has the past few seasons. Jones’ athleticism makes him a sneaky-good Fantasy option if he can just be competent as a passer; that’s just been more than he has been capable of so fa.r
- Marcus Mariota — I’ve been higher on Mariota than the consensus all along, but I wonder if seeing him rush for a touchdown in the preseason might not get more people on my side. Mariota has been a better passer than you think — 7.5 yards per attempt for his career — and his rushing will probably be a pretty big part of Atlanta’s offense this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get benched at some point to see what Desmond Ridder can do, but I think he’ll be a viable QB2 until that happens.
- Trevor Lawrence — The Jaguars made a point of adding a ton of salary to try to help Lawrence out this offseason, and while I’m not convinced the players they added are necessarily difference makers, there’s no question he’s in a better position than he was a year ago. Lawrence has some skills as a rusher, so if he can take a (big) step forward as a passer, there could be top-12 upside here.
- Mitch Trubisky — Trubisky and Jones might be the Spider-Man meme at this point in their careers, because you’re hoping they can just be good enough as passers to make an impact as rushers. Jones has used his legs more consistently throughout his career, so I’ll give him the edge, but they have similar outlooks — including that both are fighting for their futures this season.
- Ryan Tannehill* — Despite being in a low-volume offense, Tannehill has been top-15 in points per game three seasons in a row. The loss of A.J. Brown hurts, but the combination of Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, and Austin Hooper might make this a better all-around group if Woods and Burks get up to speed quickly. He’s another guy whose rushing ability (seven touchdowns in consecutive seasons!) makes him a better Fantasy option than you think.
- Matt Ryan — Ryan is the QB2 you settle for, because there probably isn’t much upside in the Colts offense. They don’t have great weapons in the receiving game and they probably won’t throw the ball very much, so you’re hoping for efficient, mistake-free football to carry you to 18-22 points most weeks. He won’t be a difference maker even in a rosy outcome, but Ryan should be good enough as a QB2 that you won’t hate the experience.
- Carson Wentz
- Mac Jones
- Baker Mayfield
- Jared Goff
- Zach Wilson
- Davis Mills
- Drew Lock
- Jacoby Brissett*
*End of a tier