Top 12 Quarterbacks Fantasy Football Predictions

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Aug 9, 2018

Will this be the year Tom Brady slows down?

It will be best to think of this from a different lens than standard rankings. The purpose of this article is not to project the most establish the top 12 fantasy picks at the quarterback position, but rather to illustrate the volatility at the position which can be an exercise to help us manage expectations. First, I will show you the top 12 quarterbacks from the previous three seasons and where they were drafted. From there, I’ll dive right into my predictions (remember, different from projections) which will be more like an attempt at a perfect march madness bracket.

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2017 QB1s

  1. Russell Wilson (ADP #5)
  2. Cam Newton (ADP #9)
  3. Tom Brady (ADP #2)
  4. Alex Smith (ADP #22)
  5. Carson Wentz (ADP #18)
  6. Kirk Cousins (ADP #10)
  7. Matthew Stafford (ADP #15)
  8. Phillip Rivers (ADP #13)
  9. Drew Brees (ADP #3)
  10. Dak Prescott (ADP #14)
  11. Ben Roethlisberger (ADP #12)
  12. Jared Goff (ADP #27)

2016 QB1s

  1. Aaron Rodgers (ADP #2)
  2. Matt Ryan (ADP #16)
  3. Drew Brees (ADP #5)
  4. Andrew Luck (ADP #4)
  5. Kirk Cousins (ADP #12)
  6. Dak Prescott (ADP #22)
  7. Matthew Stafford (ADP #16)
  8. Tyrod Taylor (ADP #20)
  9. Blake Bortles (ADP #10)
  10. Derek Carr (ADP #15)
  11. Russell Wilson (ADP #3)
  12. Marcus Mariota (ADP #17)

2015 QB1s

  1. Cam Newton (ADP #11)
  2. Tom Brady (ADP #9)
  3. Russell Wilson (ADP #4)
  4. Blake Bortles (ADP #30)
  5. Carson Palmer (ADP #20)
  6. Drew Brees (ADP #5)
  7. Aaron Rodgers (ADP #2)
  8. Kirk Cousins (ADP #28)
  9. Matthew Stafford (ADP #10)
  10. Eli Manning (ADP #12)
  11. Ryan Fitzpatrick (ADP #32)
  12. Phillip Rivers (ADP #14)

We could do more of this, but you get the picture. It is virtually the same every year. About half of the actual QB1s were drafted as QB1s and the other half is a fine mix of respected QBs and total surprises. So as I build my list, don’t be alarmed, as that is precisely what I am going for.

Top 12 Fantasy Football QBs of 2018

QB #12: Jameis Winston (TB): ADP #26
Yes, I’m well aware he is suspended for three games and that he is a turnover machine. Perhaps you missed the fact that he morphed into a star last season? Here are his stats from the 11 healthy starts he made: 3,376 yards, 19 TDs, 11 INT, 128 rush yards and a rush TD. Pro-rate that out to a full season and he had over 4,900 yards! While he certainly isn’t worth drafting, you will want to add him before he comes back if you are in need of a quarterback. He’s got a chance to have a special 13 games if he remains healthy and out of trouble.

QB #11: Matthew Stafford (DET): ADP #11
Stafford is durable, having not missed a game in seven years, so it should come as no surprise that he is second to only Drew Brees in completions and passing yards over that time. Year in and year out, he throws for 25 touchdowns and 4,400 yards which is why he has finished as a top 11 QB in 6 of the past 7 seasons. Although it won’t be the sexiest production, we can expect more of the same in 2017.

QB #10: Matt Ryan (ATL): ADP#14
Try to remember that Ryan just put together one of the best seasons in NFL history for a quarterback in 2016. He hasn’t missed a game since 2009 and has finished as a top ten quarterback in five 5 of eight seasons. The reason he failed to do so last season was because of an oddly low 3.8% touchdown rate which is near-certain to see positive regression. If you bump that even halfway to his 7.1% rate in 2016, Ryan would have finished as the QB9 ahead of Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. That is about what I am expecting in 2018.

QB #9: Tom Brady (NE): ADP #3
It has to happen eventually, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m still projecting Brady to be among the best handful of quarterbacks in football as a 41-year-old, but real-life and fantasy points are two different things. First, Brady never runs, so that allows a head start for QBs like Mariota, Watson, Smith, Cam Cousins and even Rodgers. Second, the AFC East has three of the worst five teams in football this year. If Brady plays in Weeks 16 and 17, I’d be absolutely shocked.

QB #8: Marcus Mariota (TEN): ADP #18
If you watched Mariota last season, this might seem unrealistic to you, but keep in mind two things: they replaced the coaching staff that had Mariota out of his comfort zone, and Mariota was the #1 fantasy QB for half of 2016. That’s right, from Weeks 5 to 12, Mariota outscored Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady with 193.5 fantasy points, or 24.2 per game. He has that kind of upside and may demonstrate it at times again in 2018 now that they made it a point to improve their offensive line and change their scheme.

QB #7: Deshaun Watson (HOU): ADP #2
Sure, he’s got a higher ceiling, as demonstrated through a small sample size with an unbelievably high touchdown-rate, but he also comes with a fair amount of risk as well. The Texans have a dreadful offensive line, Watson is coming off a major injury and may not run the ball quite as well this season because of it. If you regress his TD-rate to even Tom Brady‘s career average, Watson would have merely been a mid-range QB1 last season. I’m betting on the same this season, but with a much more realistic rate over 16 games.

QB #6: Dak Prescott (DAL): ADP #17
This one might turn your head, but hear me out. Before Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension, Dak was the QB3 through nine weeks ahead of Tom Brady, Cam Newton and even Aaron Rodgers in points per game. That is a large enough sample size to suggest his QB6 season as a rookie in 2016 was likely not a fluke. Granted, both Zeke and Tyron Smith will need to stay on the field, but if they do, Dak can succeed even with a marginal receiver core as we’ve seen before.

QB #5: Alex Smith (KC): ADP #20
Don’t look now, but Alex Smith played like an MVP candidate last season. He finished fourth among fantasy quarterbacks despite throwing just 505 passes on the year. Now that he is in a different offense that has thrown the ball 563 times per season over the past three years, he may further breakout. Remember, Rich Gannon did virtually nothing in the NFL until he was 34 years old. Eventually, he was let loose on the league to throw 618 passes and won the MVP while carrying his team to the Super Bowl. Based on what we saw last season, Smith can do just that to go along with a steady stream of 300+ rushing yards.

QB #4: Drew Brees (NO): ADP #7
You may think Brees took a big step backward last year, but he actually led the league and set his career mark in both yards per attempt and completion percentage. There is a reason he has been a top-nine fantasy QB every single year since 2004. He is durable and reliable as you will ever find in a quarterback. Last season, however, we saw his lowest touchdown rate since 2007. That will surely rebound, and if it were at his career 5.3% rate, he would have finished s the QB5 instead of the QB9.

QB #3: Russell Wilson (SEA): ADP #4
It looks as though we have a future Hall-of-Famer on our hands here and 2017 was his best season yet. There is concern that the receiver core is lousy and Doug Baldwin is hurt, plus the offensive line is among the worst units in the league. On the plus side, the defense also took a significant step back which may mean more passing than ever before from Wilson. He has been a top three QB in three of the past four seasons, thanks partially to the floor his 500+ rushing yards guarantees.

QB #2: Andrew Luck (IND): ADP #10
We all know this has a 30 to 40% chance of happening. In his last healthy season, after all, Luck posted an absurd 356 fantasy points. That would have been the QB1 last season and 57 points better than Cam Newton, who was the QB2. Now, his receiving core isn’t as strong, but Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle will all be sufficient help, and an all-world talent like Luck makes special players so don’t be surprised if Ryan Grant or Dion Cain breaks out as a result. This is a lottery ticket without question, and one well worth purchasing at his current ADP.

QB #1: Aaron Rodgers (GB): ADP #1
As long as he doesn’t break a collarbone or lose Devante Adams for the season, history tells us that Rodgers is a lock to finish as a top two fantasy QB since he has in all seven seasons where neither of those calamities fell on him. Not only that, but Rodgers has 400-point upside which would make him a top three, if not the number one highest VBD player in all of fantasy football. Yes, it makes sense to wait on quarterbacks, but Rodgers is a clear exception to the rule.

Notable Exclusions

Cam Newton (CAR) – Has been a top 4 fantasy QB every season he has been healthy, but the other two were disasters. Their offensive line is a wreck right now.

Carson Wentz (PHI) – Being held out from the pre-season and was propped up by unsustainable touchdown-rate numbers last season.

Kirk Cousins (MIN) – This pass protection unit is a disaster and Cousins has always been shaky under pressure. He will also throw less with the defense being top-tier.

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) – He only managed to be the QB9 last season when he started despite a cupcake schedule. His receiving core is mediocre at best.

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – Has only finished as a top 12 quarterback 5 times in 14 seasons. Has missed plenty of games in that time and is now 36 years old.

Thanks for reading. If you haven’t already, please check out the FantasyPros Football Podcast (below) that I co-host with Mike Tagliere. Good luck this season.

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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

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