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Fantasy Football 2017: Ranking the Quarterbacks

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Fantasy Football 2017: Ranking the Quarterbacks

Football season is rapidly approaching (applause), which means we’re right in midst of fantasy draft season. Everyone has different draft strategies, but the one thing most people can agree on is that quarterback is fantasy’s trickiest position. The quarterback will likely be the highest scoring player on most teams, and yet the smart play is to not covet them early. Why is this the case?

Aaron Rodgers was the highest scoring player in standard leagues last year, averaging approximately 23.75 points per game. Ryan, Brady, Brees, and Luck all averaged over 20 as well. TEN more quarterbacks averaged over 17 a game. In fact, the difference between Rodgers and Carson Palmer, who was 20th, was 7.2 points per game. While not insignificant, that number pales in comparison to the 10.7 point difference between the 1st and 20th running back. Since most leagues require one quarterback and a minimum of two running backs, it’s easy to see why targeting a quarterback early is not wise.

The optimal way to decide when to take a quarterback is to think of the opportunity cost. The most sought-after positions are first and foremost running back, and then wide receiver. Taking a quarterback early will mean that you delay taking a receiver or running back for at least one round. If you were to compare the combinations of 'Early round QB + RB/WR available in the next round' versus 'late round QB + RB/WR available in this round', the numbers would almost ALWAYS favor the latter.

With that in mind, here’s a look at my quarterback rankings and in what rounds I’d select them: (My rankings are based off a model I created that takes into account a player’s talent, situation, injury history, schedule, consistency, ceiling/floor, and possible regression).

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 21)*

Rodgers has been close to or above 20 points per game in each season of his career. The 33-year old has finished outside the top two at his position just twice; the first time was in 2013 when he missed seven games, and the second time was in 2015 when Jordy was out. Rodgers’ numbers with an athletic tight end on the field (I.e. Jermichael Finley or Jared Cook) are utterly ridiculous; and he now has two in Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. I expect Rodgers to post a season similar to that of 2011, when he totaled the second most fantasy points ever by a quarterback. The ideal range to select Rodgers is between picks 36 and 45.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (ADP: 31.5)

On one hand, Brady is 40 and father time is undefeated. On the other hand, he was superb last year and has more toys to play with this year. I’d start considering him between picks 41 and 50.

3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 59)

If you draft Ryan expecting a repeat of 2016, you might be disappointed. The loss of Kyle Shanahan could lead to some regression. That being said, if Ryan regresses and is still 85% of what he was last year, he’ll still finish as a high-end QB1. He’s a value pick after pick 65.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 43)

Brees is the model of consistency. The 38-year old has been a top-six fantasy quarterback throughout his entire tenure in New Orleans (for those counting at home, that’s 12 consecutive seasons). That shouldn’t change despite the loss of Brandin Cooks. Brees should go in the same range as Ryan (or earlier, if you prefer a safer pick).

5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 71.5)

When healthy, Luck is one of the most consistent fantasy quarterbacks (he scored under 17 in just 3 of the 15 games he played). He should be downgraded a few spots if it doesn’t appear that he’ll be ready for week 1. If he is ready to begin the season, I’d consider him after the 80th pick.

6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 61.5)

After back-to-back top 3 finishes, Wilson took a step back last year and finished 11th in scoring at his position. Wilson’s rushing stats took a hit last year due to multiple leg injuries, though he did manage to pick up his game for the second half of the season. Seattle’s offensive line is still worrisome, but a healthy Wilson is one of the safest picks in fantasy. He should be taken in the same range as Luck.

7. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 73)

Winston has finished 16th in scoring in each of his first two NFL seasons; so why is he ranked this high? He has the 5th easiest schedule amongst quarterbacks and his targets are Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries, and a whole bunch of running backs who catch the ball very well out of the backfield. Don’t expect a Matt Ryan-esque steal, since he has an ADP of 73. Select Winston in the 85-95 range and you’ve got yourself a real value pick.

8. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 100.5)

The additions of Eric Decker and Corey Davis are bound to elevate last year’s QB13 to a potent QB1. This revamped receiving corps should be all Mariota needs, as he was already playing behind one of the league’s better offensive lines. Tennessee is still a run-first team, so that caps his ceiling a bit; but he presents great value at his current ADP.

9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 108.3)

If you exclude the two games against the Giants, Prescott scored 17 or more points in all but one game last season. Dallas did lose two starters along their offensive line, but they still boast one of the better units in the NFL. The Cowboys might have to lean some more on Prescott if and when Elliot gets suspended. I’d be very comfortable taking the second-year quarterback at his current ADP.

10. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 92.8)

Newton is the ultimate swing-for-the-fences pick at the quarterback position. It’s not often that you get to see a player’s ceiling and floor in back-to-back seasons, but Newton has done that twice in the past four seasons. The Panthers revitalized their offense in the draft with the additions of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, but they still have plenty of question marks along their offensive line. Newton is worth a look right around the 90th overall pick because of his upside, but don’t be surprised if he busts.

11. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 80.3)

I don’t buy the Carr hype. The fourth-year quarterback is currently being drafted at his uppermost ceiling. Carr had six games last year where he scored 12 or less, and just four where he scored more than 20. It seems counterintuitive to take a quarterback so high despite the fact that he struggles against top-ranked defenses and faces the toughest schedule of any quarterback. I wouldn’t take him before the 10th round in a 12-team league.

12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 102.3)

If you draft Big Ben, pair him with another quarterback who you can start when the Steelers are on the road. Ben’s home/road splits are no joke. He’s awful on the road and it's best if he's left on your bench for those games. The return of Martavis Bryant should be enough of a boost for him to finish inside the top 12. I’d start considering him in the 12th round of a 12-team league.

13. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (ADP: 89.3)

Cousins has been a top-10 quarterback in each of the last two seasons, and I expect him to finish somewhere in the 8 and 13 range this year. His receiving corps is very different than it was a year ago and he has the third toughest schedule amongst quarterbacks; accordingly, I’m bumping him down a few spots. That being said, if I wanted to load up on other positions in the earlier rounds, I’d be comfortable drafting him as my starter in the 11th or 12th round of a 12-teamer.

14. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 141.8)

Dalton is one of my favorite picks at the position based on his ADP. The Bengals are satiated with talent at the skill-positions. He has a legitimate chance to match his 2013 output of 308 points. He’s a steal at his ADP.

15. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (ADP: 113.3)

Stafford hovered in the 11 to 17 point range after scoring over 26 in two of his first three starts. The Lions don’t really have any receivers that will keep defensive coordinators up at night, and he’ll be without Taylor Decker for a good chunk of the season. He should be drafted closer to Dalton’s ADP.

16. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 137.3)

If you’re looking for a high-floor, low-ceiling quarterback in the later rounds, Taylor’s your man.

17. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 116.5)

I don’t expect there to be a huge between the 10th and 17th quarterbacks this year. Rivers might finish closer to the top 10 but he’s highly inconsistent. His skills appear to be deteriorating, but he should still have some value due to the weapons around him. There’s no need to reach for him before the 13th round.

The following players should be selected closer to the end of your drafts

18. Eli Manning, New York Giants (ADP: 127.3)

19. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 148.3)

20. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 189.7)

21. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 137.3)

22. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 204)

23. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 190.3)

24. Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 241)

25. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (ADP: 174.8)

26. Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 186.7)

27. Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears (ADP: 264)

28. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (ADP: 249.5)

29. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 190.0)

30. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 249.5)

31. Brock Osweiler, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 286)



*The Average Draft Position is the Fantasypros coomposite of 4 major fantasy sources.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

hodge555's picture

I know this isn't the way you are supposed to make your Fantasy team but I'll be honest, I ran three teams last year and the only player I actually wanted on the team was Rodgers, and I was bummed that I failed to get him on one of those teams. The other players are interesting for the game of course but I just wanted Rodgers on my team.
(I managed made the playoffs with all 3 teams.)

Elisha Twerski's picture

Rodgers is the best QB in fantasy, but in some leagues the cost is too high (especially if you're doing leagues with Packer fans).

Dzehren's picture

Love the JETS comment lol

PatrickGB's picture

I don't like fantasy football. For me the amended waterboy quote fits. "Fantasy football is de debel" . However, I love the work that goes into researching the players. Good job!

PatrickGB's picture

dang dp

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