Never-Too-Early 2018 Quarterback Rankings

Never-Too-Early 2018 Quarterback Rankings

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Apr 12, 2018

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Below you'll find my second stab at 2018 rankings for the quarterback position. I've updated the rankings for personnel changes via free agency.

The rankings are based on PPR scoring systems. I’ve included 2017 points per game and two-year points per game (where applicable). I’ve also included the difference (DIFF) between my rank and the player’s current average draft position (ADP) in DRAFT 12-team best ball PPR drafts. A positive number means that I'm relatively high on the player while a negative number means -- you guessed it -- that I'm relatively low on the player.

Below the rankings you'll find some discussion about a few players that jump out as particularly good or bad values heading into the spring.


Other PositionsRB | WR | TE


The quarterback position continues to be loaded with productive players, so my usual approach won’t change: It pays to wait on the position. In 2016, six quarterbacks were drafted outside of the top 12 and subsequently finished in the top 12 in total scoring. In 2017, four quarterbacks – Alex Smith, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers and Jared Goff – accomplished the same feat. In addition, Deshaun Watson was on pace to finish as the No. 2 quarterback prior to his injury in Week 8.

Never-Too-Early QB Rankings (2018)
Rank  Name Team 2017 PPG 2-YR PPG DIFF
1 Aaron Rodgers GB 18.5 22.0 0
2 Russell Wilson SEA 21.5 19.1 1
3 Deshaun Watson HOU 23.6 - -1
4 Tom Brady NE 18.2 19.6 0
5 Cam Newton CAR 18.6 17.7 0
6 Matthew Stafford DET 17.0 17.2 5
7 Kirk Cousins MIN 17.4 18.1 2
8 Drew Brees NO 16.4 18.6 -1
9 Carson Wentz PHI 21.1 16.6 -3
10 Dak Prescott DAL 16.3 17.1 4
11 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 17.1 17.3 1
12 Jimmy Garoppolo SF 14.5 10.2 -4
13 Jared Goff LAR 17.0 13.4 -3
14 Philip Rivers LAC 17.0 16.7 2
15 Jameis Winston TB 15.4 15.5 4
16 Marcus Mariota TEN 14.0 15.7 2
17 Matt Ryan ATL 14.3 17.9 -2
18 Alex Smith WAS 19.7 17.2 2
19 Andrew Luck IND - - -6
20 Patrick Mahomes KC 10.4 - 1
21 Blake Bortles JAX 15.2 15.9 1
22 Derek Carr OAK 13.5 15.4 -5
23 Case Keenum DEN 15.7 13.9 0
24 Andy Dalton CIN 13.2 14.7 0
25 Eli Manning NYG 12.5 13.3 0
26 Tyrod Taylor CLE 14.8 16.3 0
27 Mitch Trubisky CHI 11.0 - -
28 Ryan Tannehill MIA - - -1
29 Joe Flacco BAL 11.4 13.0 -1
30 Sam Bradford ARI 13.5 14.6 1
31 Josh McCown NYJ 15.8 14.4 -
32 A.J. McCarron BUF - - -

Matthew Stafford

At his current 10th-round price, Stafford jumps out as a screaming value.

Stafford has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven seasons, including a No. 6 finish in 2016 and a No. 7 finish in 2017. So I have no idea why he’s the No. 16 quarterback off the board in early drafts. Maybe drafters don’t see him as a sexy pick since he only has one top 5 finish in his career, and that was back in 2011.

New head coach Matt Patricia elected to retain offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and that’s good news for Stafford. In 41 games since Cooter has taken over the play-calling duties, Stafford has completed 66.3% of his passes for a 7.51 yards per attempt. He has posted a 4.9% touchdown percentage and a 1.6% interception percentage in that span. Compare that to the 61.0% Cmp / 7.19 YPA / 4.3% TD / 2.5% INT that Stafford posted in his previous 71 games dating back to 2011.

Stafford endorsed the retention of Cooter, per MLive.com:

"Jim Bob* and I have a great relationship," Stafford said. "Ever since he's had the opportunity to take the reins, this offense has moved in the right direction in my opinion. I feel like I'm playing some of the best football in my career. So I would love to have the opportunity to keep working with him. He's been good for us, and good for me."

* I love that Stafford refers to his offensive coordinator as “Jim Bob.”

Moreover, Stafford hasn’t missed a game since 2010 and will have all of his weapons back, as Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and Kenny Golladay are all under contract in 2018.

Stafford is an extremely safe pick in the 9th or 10th round. At his current price, owners can draft eight or nine players at other positions before adding a legit top 10 quarterback that has posted top 7 numbers in each of the last two seasons. At that point in the draft owners who have already drafted a quarterback will be prospecting at receiver or running back.

 

Dak Prescott

Prescott is also a terrific value in the 10th round, and if both ADPs hold, owners can be reasonably certain that they can nab either Stafford or Prescott in the 9th/10th round. He finished as the No. 9 quarterback last year after finishing No. 6 as a rookie.

Prescott struggled at times in 2018, but those struggles can be tied directly to the absence of Ezekiel Elliott (and tackle Tyron Smith, who missed a couple of games with a back injury). In 25 games over the past two seasons with Elliott in the lineup, Prescott has averaged 19.3 fantasy points compared to just 11.3 fantasy points in the seven games that Elliott missed.

Since his production seems to depend so heavily on Elliott’s presence in the lineup, Prescott does carry more risk than Stafford. His receiving corps also has more question marks, but it’s possible that the team will address this weakness in free agency and/or the draft. This is something to monitor this offseason.

 

A Few Random Thoughts

  • In last year’s iteration of this article, I noted that Russell Wilson’s rushing numbers were way down in 2016 (due to injuries) and predicted he would run the ball 80-90 times in 2017. He finished with 95 carries for 586 yards, which was his third highest rushing total in his seven-year career. He also threw 34 touchdowns, which helped to propel him to the No. 1 finish at his position.
  • Deshaun Watson was the No. 2 quarterback when he tore his ACL in the middle of the season. Assuming his rehab goes well, I suspect he’ll be going in the top 5 at his position.
  • Carson Wentz was also the No. 2 quarterback when he went down with an ACL tear in Week 14. Since he was injured later in the year, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready to play by Week 1, though the Eagles are reportedly "confident" that he will be. Losing an offseason early in his career is definitely a setback, but he was so productive in 2017 that he should bounce back quickly. Depending on Wentz’s ADP in August, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to a Wentz/Nick Foles committee on draft day.
  • Working backwards, Kirk Cousins has finished No. 5, No. 5 and No. 9 at his position in the last three years. With two very good receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings look like the ideal landing spot. I wouldn't shy away from Cousins just because he's changing teams. Quarterbacks drive their own fantasy value and Cousins is landing in a great spot.
  • In five 2017 starts, Jimmy Garoppolo averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game, and that was with a substandard receiving corps. The 49ers should get a healthy Pierre Garcon back, and may make other additions in the passing game. This all bodes well for Garoppolo, who completed 67.0% of his passes for an elite 8.76 yards per attempt in his final five games.
  • There is quite a bit of depth in my QB2 ranks, with Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Matt Ryan checking in in the 14-18 range. Rivers is getting older, but he has five straight finishes in the top 12. Smith is changing teams after finishing as the No. 4 quarterback last year. Ryan took a step back from his No. 2 finish in 2016 to finish No. 15 in 2017.
  • Working backwards, Blake Bortles has finished No. 13, No. 9 and No. 4 at his position. That's not a good trend, but he still has three straight seasons finishing in the top 13, and his new three-year contract is a vote of confidence from the organization. Allen Robinson's departure will sting, but the Jaguars re-signed Marqise Lee and signed Donte Moncrief as a Robinson replacement. Bortles still has a deep and talented receiving corps to throw to.
  • Patrick Mahomes is an interesting sleeper in the later rounds. He has shown quite a bit of promise in a few appearances, enough to convince the team to trade away Smith, who had a career year. Mahomes should thrive in Andy Reid’s offense, though the loss of Matt Nagy to the Bears may hurt the team as a whole.
  • Marcus Mariota was a dud in 2017, but I think he’s a post-hype sleeper with a change in coaching. New coordinator Matt LaFleur helped turn around the Rams’ offense last season and should be a great influence on Mariota. In early interviews, he said that he wants the offense to be more explosive and to create more chunk plays. This bodes well for Mariota, who was excellent on a per game basis in his first two seasons.
  • Derek Carr and Mitch Trubisky should also benefit from coaching changes. Jon Gruden returns to coaching after a nine-year hiatus and he’ll call the plays for the Raiders. Matt Nagy takes over as the lead man in Chicago, and that should help Trubisky develop in his sophomore season. Trubisky still lacks a good receiving corps, so that’s something to watch this offseason.
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