Onto the quarterbacks! Last week, I came to you with tight end rankings, and expressed the sneaky importance of landing a stud early at the position.
Quarterbacks are a little different — you usually can find studs all throughout the draft, and though I’m not the guy who will set a hard line and tell you to never take a quarterback early, it’s important to understand the opportunity cost if you do so. (If you play in a Superflex or two-QB league, you must take at least one QB in your first two picks, but assume we’re talking about standard format when ADP is involved.)
Josh Allen was the QB1 last year, but he cost a third or fourth-round pick. Justin Herbert and Tom Brady — QBs 2 and 3, respectively — both averaged fewer than two points less per game, and could have been had in the seventh or eighth. With that Allen pick, you could have gotten D’Andre Swift, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin or Mark Andrews. Though you could have landed Deebo Samuel with the Herbert/Brady pick, you were likely deciding between guys such as Chase Claypool, Kenny Golladay, Melvin Gordon or Ronald Jones.
Of course, Samuel and Leonard Fournette-level sleepers come out of those later rounds every year, but your chances of hitting on RBs and WRs become much slimmer the later you get in the draft. Conversely, you still can get viable QB1s as late as Round 12 — though the Kirk Cousinses of the world won’t have the same weekly upside as the Lamar Jacksons.
Like with every position in fantasy football, the draft is a case-by-case situation. So, let’s go through some of those cases.
1. Josh Allen, Bills (ADP: 21.7)
A lethal passer and willing, physical runner who has scored at least six rushing touchdowns in all four of his professional seasons. He also broke the curse of QB1 regression set by Patrick Mahomes (QB1 in 2018, QB8 in 2019) and Lamar Jackson (QB1 in 2019, QB10 in 2020) by repeating as the top scorer in 2021. The question you have to ask yourself: Is the late second or early third round too rich for your blood? A non-comprehensive list of players I would draft before Allen: Tee Higgins, Keenan Allen, Michael Pittman, Kyle Pitts.
2. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (ADP: 48)
As I said while discussing tight ends, I am pretty injury-agnostic when it comes to fantasy football (with obvious exceptions). Going into Week 10, Jackson was QB2 on the season in points. A rough game against Miami and a season-derailing injury soon after made his end-of-year numbers look poor, but he was on pace to set a career-high in pass attempts before that. Marquise Brown was a sizable loss, but Jackson is arguably the least reliant of any QB on his receivers, and Rashod Bateman has breakout potential. Oh, and he also is the best running quarterback in the league, which is always what you want for fantasy regardless of format.
3. Justin Herbert, Chargers (ADP: 35.7)
Herbert is the favorite (+700) to lead the NFL in passing yards and has the highest Over/Under total for passing touchdowns (36.5), per Caesars. He is entering Year 3, meaning he could take another leap — if that’s even possible, considering the ridiculous production he put forth his first two seasons (9,350 yards and 69 touchdowns, nice). He also will give you some value with his legs, averaging 3.7 rush attempts per game in his career. You can’t go wrong with Herbert, though I would still prefer to wait a round or two and draft Jackson.
4. Patrick Mahomes (ADP: 33.7)
I want to say the collective fading of Patrick Mahomes is going to come back to bite all of us, but the since-departed Tyreek Hill has accounted for 43 of Mahomes’ 151 career touchdowns (just under 30 percent), and 24 of those came from 20-plus yards. Hill has an ability to score from anywhere on the field that Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Skyy Moore can’t replicate, and the loss will hurt Mahomes’ fantasy value — even if he is still the best player in the league.
5. Kyler Murray (ADP: 59.5)
Before you draft Kyler Murray to your fantasy team, make sure he signs a clause in his contract that requires him to watch four hours of film each week. (Jokes aside, Murray is a legitimate threat for 4,000 pass yards and 1,000 rush yards, provided he doesn’t suffer another midseason injury and Kliff Kingsbury can make his offense less predictable.)
6. Tom Brady (ADP: 81.3)
Consensus QB9? Threatening the eighth round? Some of you must be expecting Tom Brady to suddenly fall off at the ripe age of 45. I am not. He led the NFL in pass attempts in 2021, and the Buccaneers will run back the same coordinator (Byron Leftwich) and largely the same skill-position group (minus Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, plus Julio Jones and Russell Gage). Center Ryan Jensen’s knee injury will hurt, but Tampa Bay is too serious of a contender to not make a roster move if he is indeed out for the season. Considering Brady’s pass volume, even a drop in efficiency would lead to great numbers in 2022.
7. Russell Wilson (ADP: 81.5)
New Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett helped author a late-career resurgence for Aaron Rodgers, and I’m willing to bet he can do the same for Wilson. An offensive-minded head coach should do wonders for Wilson, who has solid receivers in Denver and a possibly elite running game with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. It assuredly is a better situation than in Seattle, where he threw for 30-plus touchdowns for four straight seasons until injuries hampered him in 2021 (and he still managed 25 last year). If you can get Brady or Wilson in the eighth, don’t walk, run.
8. Jalen Hurts (ADP: 66.2)
Hurts had 10 rushing touchdowns last year, which is great, but possibly unsustainable — especially if the Eagles try to open up the passing game in year two under Nick Sirianni. Hurts is probably a better passer than he gets credit for, but he still hovers around 60 percent completion, and if pass volume goes up, that will take away from his excellent rushing totals. I still like Hurts plenty for fantasy, and adding A.J. Brown may lead to a Josh Allen-style third-year leap and make me look stupid. But at ADP, I would prefer waiting a round or two to get one of the guys above.
9. Dak Prescott (ADP: 78.7)
Prescott was one of the most efficient and high-volume passers in the NFL before suffering his brutal ankle injury in 2020. In his comeback season, the volume remained (37.25 attempts per game) but the efficiency took a hit (7.5 yards per attempt). A closer look, however, tells the tale of two halves for Prescott, who averaged well over 8 yards per attempt before a calf injury hampered his second half. The Cowboys didn’t do him any favors by trading Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup may not be ready Week 1 while he recovers from an ACL injury. But if Prescott is healthy, I trust the track record — and this offense could start to cook down the stretch.
10. Trey Lance (ADP: 104)
Lance is this year’s version of Jalen Hurts — hope he plays well enough to not get benched, and watch as the rushing totals stack up in your lineup. Hey, it worked for Hurts! I’m not sold on Lance being an all-world quarterback yet — he clearly showed limitations as a passer in limited 2021 action — but he ran 24 times in his two starts, giving him an amazing floor as long as he’s on the field. And if he takes a leap as a passer, the upside is tremendous. He’s a top QB target for me and a great choice if you wait at the position. Just make sure you handcuff him with a guy like Kirk Cousins or Derek Carr in case he totally flops.
11. Joe Burrow: I am the low guy on Burrow. He is an amazing quarterback, but his outrageous efficiency from 2021 (8.9 yards per attempt, 70.4 percent completion, five 50-plus-yard TDs to Ja’Marr Chase) should come back down to Earth a bit.
12. Matthew Stafford: I would wait until we get some more promising news about his elbow before confidently drafting him as your only QB.
13. Aaron Rodgers: No Davante Adams, possibly some problems?
14. Kirk Cousins: The ultimate safe QB. Could see a bump if Kevin O’Connell is the real deal.
15. Daniel Jones: Fantasy QB does not always equal real life QB. Jones provides rushing upside, if he doesn’t get benched.
16. Derek Carr: I have Carr projected to be third in pass yards — and 16th in fantasy points. The value of rushing. He could win MVP and still finish behind Jones.
17. Justin Fields: Offensive line and pass catchers are concerning, but Fields rushed for 420 yards last year (nice).
18. Trevor Lawrence: A monster leap is possible for Lawrence now that Urban Meyer’s stench is far from the team. Great breakout candidate.
19. Matt Ryan: Should still be a run-first team, but if Ryan has one more vintage year in him, would you really be surprised?
20. Ryan Tannehill: His days of being a fantasy star, however brief, are probably over.
21. Marcus Mariota
22. Carson Wentz
23. Tua Tagovailoa
24. Jameis Winston
25. Jared Goff
26. Davis Mills
27. Mac Jones
28. Baker Mayfield
29. Zach Wilson
30. Jacoby Brissett