Just ask anyone who drafted Lamar Jackson a year ago: Quarterbacks win fantasy football championships. Common draft strategy in recent years has been to wait on QB, and maybe that worked in 2019 when you drafted Jackson or the year before with Patrick Mahomes, but the odds of finding such a superstar sleeper aren’t very high, so there can be merit to reaching a bit to get the quarterback you want. By breaking the position into rankings tiers, you’ll know when you should your preferred passer in drafts.
If you like the shiniest toy, you won’t need to look past our top tier. That’s where you’ll find Jackson and Mahomes, the potential new faces of the NFL for years to come. After them, we have a tier of mobile quarterbacks you can get a few rounds later, then a tier of mostly veteran QBs who provide perhaps even more value in the middle rounds. Whatever you’re looking to find for that ever-important spot on your fantasy roster, we help you figure out the best way to get it.
There’s no perfect way to approach this position, but if quarterback is as important as it seems to be, then the wait-on-QB strategy certainly has the potential to backfire. That’s what our tiers below are designed to help you avoid.
2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200
It wasn’t a hard decision who should fit into our top tier of QBs. Patrick Mahomes was a revolutionary fantasy asset in 2018, and Lamar Jackson made his own mark in ’19. There’s nothing to suggest that either will regress in a way that would knock them out of the upper-most echelon of QBs. So, for anyone who’s looking to snag a top-notch quarterback, probably in the top two rounds of their fantasy draft, who would you rather have?
Jackson averaged seven fantasy points more per game in 2019 than Mahomes did. That almost directly correlates to Jackson’s rushing production. Over the course of the season, Jackson averaged 8.05 fantasy points more per game due to rushing statistics than Mahomes. So, Mahomes totaled slightly more fantasy points per game as a passer than Jackson, but Jackson’s rushing more than overcame that.
It feels like there’s risk in a rushing QB; at least, that’s what fantasy owners have been trained to believe. Injury risk? Maybe, but when Jackson is more elusive than any quarterback we’ve ever seen, that risk is lessened. He also shows a knowledge of when to hit the ground and how to fall, something not all rushers have. The freelancing Mahomes might be just as likely to take an injury-inducing hit as Jackson.
We all know why we like running quarterbacks: Whether rushing yards or rushing TDs, fantasy points pile up quicker than they do with passing or touchdowns (assuming a four-point per passing touchdown league). That gives Jackson an immense weekly floor because his rushing volume shouldn’t go anywhere.
So, our answer is Jackson…by a hair. Mahomes might have the superior weapons, but Jackson is the two best weapons in Baltimore’s offense all by himself. You can’t go wrong with either, and Jackson probably regresses just a bit from a historic 2019, but the dropdown from historic is still a superstar level. We generally advise waiting on QB, but both of these guys might be worth a top-25 pick.
2020 PPR RANKINGS:
Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Superflex | Top 200
Speaking of running quarterbacks, we could call our Tier 2 “mobile passers.” All five of these players have shown some willingness to run throughout their careers, gaining them potential added value for their fantasy owners.
With Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott, there’s a high level of confidence that we know what we’re getting. They’ve been consistently among the better fantasy quarterbacks for long stretches of their NFL careers, but they’re still young enough that their mobility and arm strength remain weapons. You could say those three are the three safest selections in this tier.
If you like risk with upside, Kyler Murray is your guy. In his second NFL season and now with DeAndre Hopkins in his receiver group, Murray could be fully unleashed by Kliff Kingsbury. We saw more Murray running down the stretch last year, and combined with the frequency of passing that happens in Arizona, 2020 could be his breakout into every-year stardom.
Josh Allen fits into this tier, too. His bona fides as an NFL quarterback still have a few question marks, but he’s an unquestioned fantasy asset. He has no qualms about running into defenders down near the goal line or chucking the ball 60 yards down field. He has a new No. 1 wideout in Stefon Diggs, too, so assuming that connection goes well, Allen should produce plenty for fantasy owners in 2020.
Due to week-to-week variance, there’s a solid case for targeting one of these guys in rounds three through six rather than Jackson or Mahomes. All it takes is a few huge weeks for one of our second-tier guys to outscore one of the guys above them. That said, you can arguably get better value waiting a few more rounds for one our third-tier QBs, so you don’t necessarily need to “reach” for one of these QBs until you really like them.
If you have a sharp eye, you’ll notice Daniel Jones stands out among our third-tier of QBs. Stylistically, he’s much more like the guys in the second tier, but he’s also even more of a wild card in terms of consistent production (though his upside is similar). Aside from Jones, pocket passers make up this group. Sure, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz can both pick up some yards on the ground, too, but that’s merely a bonus as opposed to a feature.
In 2019, Jones averaged the same number of fantasy points per game as Tom Brady and was just behind Rodgers and Wentz. That’s while Jones was busy getting intercepted a few too many times. With the rookie jitters out of the way, Jones’ risk is more tolerable than it appears on the surface. Jones is also being drafted lower than any of the others in this tier, according to FantasyPros ADP data.
In a standard league, this is the tier from which owners who “wait” on quarterback will target, likely in the middle or late-middle rounds. Because of the years of production you can trust (and Jones’ stat-saving rushing ability), you can afford to go that route. Opting for a starting QB from a tier below is unnecessarily risky in single-QB leagues, and if you’re in a two-QB or Superflex league, your QB1 needs to come no later than these players.
2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team
Baker Mayfield spent much of the 2019 preseason as our No. 6 quarterback. Things went terribly wrong, and now he leads off our fourth tier at the position. There’s still so much to believe in: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are remarkable weapons. Mayfield has obvious talent as a former No. 1 overall pick; it just didn’t come together last year, and maybe the Browns will have learned their lesson for this season.
That sort of sums up this tier: There’s just a bit of a question mark next to every one of these names. Jared Goff will go out and throw for 400 yards one week and then stink the bed the next; Matthew Stafford doesn’t seem like he’s been fully healthy in half a decade; Cam Newton has too many questions to list; Joe Burrow’s a rookie; Ryan Tannehill will try to prove he’s more than a one-hit wonder.
Because of all those questions, these guys all shape up as fantasy backups coming out of your draft. Any of our top-14 quarterbacks are just a bit safer for production than these six guys. But everyone of this group also has immense upside if things break their way. For that reason, it might be worth paying a slight premium to grab a backup QB from this tier. Every season, one or two lower-half QBs become every-week starters. These are the quarterbacks with the best chance of doing just that.
If you’d prefer to wait as long as possible on a backup QB during your draft, you’ll end up with one of our fifth-tier passers. Honestly, it’s not a terrible place to be, especially in two-QB/Superflex leagues.
If you like safe, steady backups, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins should produce solid numbers most weeks and have the legit possibility of producing like a low-end starter. The same is probably true, maybe to a slightly lesser extent, of Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater in their new homes (and Derek Carr on his same team but also in a new home). Sam Darnold is somewhat similar to Bridgewater, but he just never pays off, so even with a few upgrades at receiver and TE, it’s tough to see him as anything more than waiver-wire fodder in single-QB leagues.
If you’d prefer upside, maybe second-year QB Drew Lock is for you. Denver is loaded with young offensive weapons, making Lock productive almost by default. As long as Tyrod Taylor holds the starting job for the Chargers (a big “if” with Justin Herbert waiting in the wings), he’ll be a borderline fantasy starter, too. He never seemed as good as his stats in Buffalo said he was, but it’s that great rushing equalizer that could make him useful.
Then, of course, there’s Gardner Minshew. Because of how he came onto the scene unexpectedly and grew into a meme, it’s hard to say just how much upside he has. But we know he likes to throw down field — and throw a lot. He has a good connection with a burgeoning star wideout in DJ Chark. Minshew also enjoys running around and picking up yards on the ground, too. The biggest thing for Minshew is to limit his turnovers, both to avoid those small negative points but also to have more chances of ending drives in touchdowns. If he can do that, you’ll probably find him in a higher tier next year.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dwayne Haskins, and Nick Foles are all watch-list worthy. Fitzpatrick’s been known to have huge weeks in the recent past; Haskins is only starting his second year and could make a major jump; Foles has solid skill players around him and has had stretches in his career where he looks impressive.
Don’t worry about drafting any of these players, but look for underlying trends early on. Are the Dolphins throwing way more than usual? Is Haskins limiting turnovers and completing a higher rate of his passes? Is Foles linking up consistently with Allen Robinson? Developments like those could make for interesting waiver-wire pickups.
Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa’s draft positions show us how highly regarded they are. They both have mobility and immense arm talent, making them potential fantasy stars in the future. Right now, they don’t have starting jobs, so they’re in the seventh tier. Unless you have larger-than-normal benches, they’re probably not worth stashing, but if they win a starting job, they could be worth a waiver claim.
Taysom Hill’s value totally depends on your league settings. On ESPN, he’s TE-eligible and probably worth a late-round flier. It’s harder to get excited about him anywhere that lists him as only a QB because he’s not even Drew Brees’ direct backup. Jalen Hurts might follow the Hill path of being used almost as a gadget player early on, and, again, if he only fits in your lineup as a quarterback, it’s probably safe to ignore him.
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