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Mid-Tier QB Targets for Standard Leagues (Fantasy Football)

Jul 13, 2018

Matthew Stafford should have little trouble outproducing his ADP

In the last half a decade or so, many analysts sharper than I have gone into the details of why the depth of the quarterback position has necessitated drafting a late-round quarterback for value over the flashy top-tier options. This article won’t expand on that point; rather it will highlight two mid-tier quarterbacks I will be rostering on almost all of my teams. Recently, I updated my quarterback tiers using FantasyPros consensus projections, and you can check that out below.

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As you can see, there’s only approximately a 1.5 point per game difference between the top tier and the second tier. Additionally, there is only about a two-point per game difference projected between the second and third tier. The gap between the fourth and the 20th quarterback is less significant than almost every other fantasy position’s difference, including the other single roster slot positions.

What I’m looking for out of my quarterback in a single-quarterback league is volume, predictability, and durability. While I don’t want a top-tier quarterback, I also don’t want to be scrambling for streaming options and wasting waiver value only to lose ground to opponents that grabbed a solid mid-tier option. The two quarterbacks that fit the mold most closely this year are Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers. Neither is a sexy pick, but I’ll go into some detail about each quarterback’s history and situation for the 2018 season to expand on my thinking.

Matthew Stafford (QB – DET): ADP QB10
While there’s been a change at the top with Matt Patricia stepping into the head coaching role, the offense will remain mostly unchanged, which means there will still be a lot of passing. In 2015 through 2017, the Lions were 31st twice in rushing attempts and 30th in the other year. While Patricia has mentioned a more balanced attack, he isn’t referencing the run-pass ratio as much as he means passing and rushing out of less predictable formations in the vein of what the Patriots try to do. Stafford will once again see significant work in 2018.

Over the last three years, Stafford has increased his season passing total from 4,262 yards to 4,327 yards and most recently 4,446 yards which was third best in 2017. That’s an average of 4,345 yards accompanied with a respectable 28 passing touchdowns per season. In each of these seasons, Stafford played in 16 games and finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

Most of Stafford’s weapons return for this season except Eric Ebron. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay will play the outside while slot and YAC specialist Golden Tate will operate out of the slot. Additionally, Theo Riddick is still entrenched as the passing down back. He was targeted 71 times in 2017 with a completion percentage of 75%.

Golladay exploded on the scene last year, but fought hamstring injuries for much of the year. If healthy, he will provide a great red zone target at 6’4″ and nearly 215 pounds with above-average athleticism. On the offensive line, the Lions drafted Frank Ragnow to solidify an underperforming unit.

As of now, Stafford is being drafted as the 10th quarterback off the board around Jimmy Garoppolo and the oft-injured Andrew Luck. For me, it’s an obvious choice to go with the quarterback who has proven to be a strong option year in and year out. Ideally, Stafford falls to the eighth round for you to acquire him there.

Philip Rivers (QB – LAC): ADP QB16
Inexplicably underrated almost ever year, Rivers looks to enter the 2018 season with an ADP outside of the top-15 quarterbacks. In eight of the last 10 years and each of the last five years, Rivers finished as a QB1 (top 12). Perception just doesn’t match reality here.

Rivers now has thrown at least 570 passes four years in a row. He’s averaged 4,564 passing yards per season and finished as the second-leading passer in both 2015 and 2017. In 2016, his “down” year, he finished fifth in passing yardage. How’s that for consistency? Not to mention he hasn’t missed a start in over a decade.

Unlike Stafford, Rivers has experienced some turnover in his skill player corps as Antonio Gates retired and Hunter Henry will miss time due to injury. Rivers has utilized the TE effectively historically so this is somewhat concerning. On the other hand, Keenan Allen is coming off a near 1,400-yard season and is primed for another tremendous season. Tyrell Williams is still the clear number two option, but a healthy Mike Williams should pressure him from the start. Melvin Gordon continues to develop as a receiver each year and had 58 catches on 83 targets in 2017.

Rivers is being drafted as the 16th quarterback off the board around Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott. I plan to target him if he falls into the late 10th or early 11th round of drafts. My aggression at this point will depend on how the quarterback position as a whole stands in each draft and whether or not I acquired Stafford previously.

To wrap up my quarterback strategy in standard leagues, I believe both Stafford and Rivers provide a secure floor and dependability with significant upside on given weeks. I will actively target Stafford if he falls into the eighth round. Depending on whether or not I’m able to acquire Stafford, I will then either aggressively target Rivers in the 10th round or hope he falls to me in the 11th to back up Stafford. Until the next article, good luck with your drafts!

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David McDougald is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from David, check out his archive and follow him @DavidMcDou.

Correspondent, Draft Prep, Featured, NFL, Tiers