Written By: Jason Feiner
With the draft over and mandatory minicamp on the horizon, the season for fantasy football power rankings and mock drafts has begun. While this may be the slowest part of the offseason, fantasy heads are already gearing up for their seasons and a crack at their league’s coveted championship. Players are beginning to determine a draft order by player and position.
Many new names have been added to the rankings, and some rookies may look to make similar impacts as Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara or Deshaun Watson did last year. With players aging, all the new coaching moves, free agent signings, and draft selections, players will be rising and falling from their pedestals of previous seasons. It is up to the us fantasy players to determine their worth.
Fantasy football isn’t just a seasonal topic anymore, but a year round conversation. For those fantasy enthusiasts who are already thinking about their upcoming season, here are my top 10 quarterback rankings heading into the new year.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Let’s throw some numbers out here. Excluding his two broken clavicle years, Aaron Rodgers has thrown under 38 touchdowns in a regular season only once since 2011. Yes, you read that correctly… in 2011 he recorded 45 passing touchdowns. In 2012 the number was 39, and in 2014 he snagged 38. 2015 came with the low but still respectable 31, and in 2016 he lit teams up for 40. When healthy, Aaron Rodgers is the most physically gifted quarterback in the league. When watching him, playing QB seems almost effortless. He possesses an uncanny ability to make something out of nothing, evidenced by the magic act that ended the 2016 divisional round game in Dallas. Year in and year out, Aaron Rodgers leads the fantasy board for quarterbacks, and he rightfully deserves a spot at the top. In two of the three years in between his injury plagued seasons (2013–2017), Rogers ranked as the number 1 player overall. In 2016, he led Matt Ryan, the eventual MVP, by over two fantasy points per game. If you’re anything like me, winning two games by .01 and .02 points, those extra two points could mean the difference between a trophy and an ugly tattoo of Eli Manning on your backside (luckily, I ended up with the trophy). Aaron Rodgers is a superstar, and should be the first quarterback taken in every fantasy draft.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Entering his age 41 campaign, Tom Brady remains at the top of his game with no sign of a decline in his ability. Before trying to argue using Weeks 13–16 of 2017, a interception plagued portion of the season, rewatch the Super Bowl and come back to me. Tom Brady ended 2017 in an impressive fashion, all to see his 6th Lombardi Trophy slip through his fingers. Brady was the first quarterback to throw for 500 yards and three touchdowns in the Super Bowl and still lose. With Julian Edelman coming back from injury, Rob Gronkowski quieting retirement concerns, and a brass of role players ready to commit to the 2018 season, Brady is primed for another season in the MVP mix. Brady has placed within the top 5 of fantasy quarterbacks in each of the last three seasons placing second in 2015 and 2016. Throughout the past three seasons, he has yet to score under 18.7 average points, while recording point totals of 22.6 and 21.2 in 2015 and 2016. He is the greatest to ever play this game, and like his standing in the AFC (and league-wide), he will be in the mix atop the fantasy leaderboards, too.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
After a disappointing campaign that saw Seattle miss the playoffs for the first time since 2012, Russell Wilson looks to rebound, as he tries to drag a broken defense and Swiss cheese-like offensive line to the postseason. Russell Wilson was the most electric player in the league, last year, recording 87 percent of Seattle’s offensive yards and touchdowns. After placing himself in the Elite category for his play throughout the 2017 season, Wilson ran for his life behind the worst offensive line in the league, and an abysmal ground game didn’t help. Seattle has begun to rebuild the offense with Wilson as their centerpiece, adding a high ceiling right tackle and a bruising running back. Wilson is one of the ultimate dual threats in the NFL, possessing the ability to win utilizing either his arm or legs. Aside from throwing for a league-leading 34 touchdowns, he added 586 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. His play down the stretch of last season won many fantasy championship games, as he averaged 26.2 points per game through Weeks 6–13 and 23.1 points from Week 6 on. With Wilson on the team, no deficit was too big. He will be a weapon, once again, in the NFL, and should give fantasy owners a chance to win their league in 2018.
4. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
The heartbreak of the 2017 season came in Week 13 when Carson Wentz dove head first into the endzone, leaving his legs vulnerable for a defensive sandwich. His knee bent awkwardly, costing him his season. After a rough rookie year, Carson Wentz found his groove, improving in each statistical category and leading the league in touchdown passes. His 33 touchdowns after leaving Week 13 led the league until Russell Wilson threw his 34th in Week 17. Wentz was magical last season, as he led the MVP discussion throughout the year. Until his injury, he was the second highest scoring quarterback in fantasy with an average of 21.4 points per game, and he is sure to reach the same production with last season’s team completely intact. ACL injuries are also not as career threatening as they were in the past. Adrian Peterson returned from one with a 2,000-yard campaign. The methods of healing and rehabilitation have grown, allowing players to come back stronger than ever. Wentz’s goal is to be ready to roll Week 1, and with his rehab recently progressing to a running program, he is on track to do just that. There is a possibility he misses Week 1, and with the Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, still on the roster, the Eagles may elect to play it safe with their star quarterback.
5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is wildly inconsistent, and hasn’t looked like his fun-loving self since the Broncos throttled him in Super Bowl 50. It wasn’t until mid-2017 that a spark came out, and Newton began playing around again. Plain and simple, he was having fun! From Weeks 1 through 8, Cam Newton was scoring a lowly 16.6 points per game. But once mid-season hit, he turned it into second gear, averaging 21 points in each contest. Cam has placed first in fantasy scoring during his MVP run and second in scoring for quarterbacks last year thanks to his late season resurgence. However, he was the 15th ranked fantasy quarterback during his Super Bowl hangover. Newton is a high value fantasy weapon because of his ability to run the ball and score on the ground. Newton is not a great passer, but he is one of the premiere dual threat quarterbacks in the league. He’s only had more than 24 passing touchdowns once in his career (35 in 2015), and he has failed to throw for 4,000 yards since his 2011 rookie campaign. With that being said, Newton has never had less than five rushing touchdowns in any one season and just reached 754 yards on the ground during his 2017 campaign. Although his arm can’t always be counted on, his legs can, which is a valuable asset in fantasy. With the new additions added to the offense and the speedy and versatile DJ Moore entering his rookie season, Cam looks set to resume his role as Superman.
6. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson caught the league by storm during his rookie season, putting together what was looking like an MVP case. The 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft averaged a robust 31.2 points per game through weeks 3–8, but suffered a season ending knee injury following his stunning week 8 performance against Seattle that saw a high scoring affair. Watson totaled 32.8 points, just barely outdone by Wilson’s 35.1. What makes matters worse, a non-contact ACL tear occurring in practice ended his rookie of the year bid. It was an unfortunate outcome for one of the rising stars in the league, and although I would generally stay far from a sophomore quarterback, Watson’s production and resume give him a top 6 ranking. It is more than likely he regresses, but he still should prove to be an elite fantasy option heading into the 2018 season. If Watson is on the board when you need a quarterback, take the gamble– it is likely to pay off.
7. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
With the emergence of Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara, and the power and production of Mark Ingram, Drew Brees threw the least amount of passes in any given season since his 2009 Super Bowl winning campaign. He wasn’t needed to carry the load as in other seasons, and he was able to be more of a field general guiding the high flying Saints to their first postseason appearance in four years. Drew Brees is a first ballot Hall of Famer and maintains a consistent fantasy presence inside the top 10 at the position. With the Saints offense locked and loaded, Drew Brees remains an elite fantasy option heading into the 2018 season (even if his pass attempts stays down from previous years). With Brees’ touchdown total likely to increase from his 23 thrown in 2017, he remains an elite option at the position with high upside.
8. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck is possibly the riskiest pick in fantasy heading into 2018 but has one of the highest ceilings. He hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since January of 2016. But after a shoulder injury derailed his 2017 season, Luck looks ready to regain his former self and dominate the AFC South. It sounds as though he will be ready for preseason. However, be wary… until he throws a football, I am not one to gamble on his recovery. Many fantasy players who drafted Luck in hopes of a mid season return were struck with heartache and regret, but if you’re feeling up to gamble, Luck may just win you a championship this year. With his health in question, his stock will fall well below what he is worth. Snatching him up in a late round may be the steal of the draft, but draft a quality replacement, as he is not a sure thing. When healthy, Luck has proven to be a consistent top 5-fantasy quarterback, standing as one of the elite players in the league.
9. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Captain Kirk is leaving an underwhelming Washington offense for a group of excellent pass catchers and runners. Since Cousins took control of the Redskins offense, he has maintained a spot within the top 10 of fantasy quarterbacks, capturing the 4th most points in 2016 and the 6th this past season. Now in Minnesota with capable and durable playmakers in each area of the field, Cousins has a chance to take the next step in his career and lead the league in numerous passing categories. With Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook (returning from injury), and a defense that will keep the ball in his hands, Cousins possesses a chance to have a career year in his first season in Minnesota. Since 2015, Cousins has never averaged less than 18 fantasy points per game, and he is sure to keep this streak alive as he fights for a playoff spot on a Vikings team that came so close to the Super Bowl in 2017.
10. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Carr may be an interesting and unpopular pick, but stay with me. He possesses the talent to be an NFL MVP, but after battling a myriad of injuries during his 2017 season, his record and stats came crashing down to earth. I know names like Jimmy Garoppolo and Matt Stafford may be more intriguing for the 10th ranked quarterback, but in 2016 Derek Carr led a first place Raiders team to a 12–3 record and an average of 19.1 fantasy points per game through the first 13 weeks of the season. Carr battled injury after injury and suffered a broken leg that ultimately ended his 2016 campaign. Now healthy, Derek Carr has an excellent chance to lead a comeback resurgent season placing himself back in the fantasy elite. Possibly falling in most drafts, trust Carr to lead your team to the postseason — but pick a backup to be safe.