Never-Too-Early 2018 Quarterback Rankings
Below you'll find my first stab at 2018 rankings for the quarterback position. I don't generally like to publish rankings prior to free agency and the draft, but I know that early mocks have already started up, best ball drafts will soon be underway, and 4for4 subscribers may be wondering where I stand on certain players heading into the offseason.
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) of 12-team PPR drafts at Fantasy Football Calculator. 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.
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.
|Rank||Name||Team||2017 PPG||2-YR PPG||DIFF|
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.”
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.
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. 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. He’s going to hit free agency and his landing spot will be key. If he signs with a team with a good receiving corps, he should be set up for another good fantasy season. With two very good receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings look like the ideal landing spot, but the Broncos, Jaguars and Cardinals are also intriguing contestants in the Cousins sweepstakes.
- 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 14-17 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. If Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee stay in Jacksonville, Bortles should have 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.