This is an exciting time of the year. Preseason games signal fantasy football drafting season. So, let’s talk fantasy quarterbacks.
Some folks plan on snagging one of the top quarterbacks as early as possible. Others drafters would rather stack their rosters with playmakers and wait as long as possible to take lower-end quarterback capable of putting up decent fantasy points most weeks.
Of course, muddying up the waters a bit there are the inbetweeners who can be reliable QB1s some weeks. Then they leave their owners completely high and dry the next week.
One quarterback we are not including here in our list of top 20 fantasy quarterbacks is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. As of Tuesday, his timetable to return was STILL unclear. When 100 percent however, Luck is easily a favorable fantasy option.
With that unfortunate disclaimer out of the way it’s time to count down the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks heading into 2017.
20. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Father Time is catching up with Palmer. Those who drafted him based off his No. 5 fantasy finish in 2015 got burned in 2016 after a 19th-place finish. Lesson learned. There won’t be too many folks that will go reaching for the 37 year-old quarterback this time around. At this point, Palmer should be drafted only as a backup, or as a second starter in two-quarterback leagues. Thankfully, Larry Fitzgerald is still going strong, and the ultra-versatile David Johnson is Palmer’s BFF.
19. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz is a promising quarterback we would love to see finish better than 19th this year. At least we are upgrading him from his 24th place rookie fantasy ranking. The young quarterback will need to improve drastically on the 14 meager touchdowns he passed for last year. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith should be game-changers here. Wentz is not a recommended starter now but worth a late-round stash as a backup with tons of upside.
18. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Manning can usually be drafted on the cheap because of his propensity to throw interceptions at the worst times. His 16 picks compared to just 26 passing touchdowns were not a pretty sight for fantasy owners last season. We would like to think Manning will surprise and rise from last year’s 21st-place ranking. The addition of Brandon Marshall playing opposite Odell Beckham Jr. might just salvage Manning’s fantasy career. But don’t hold your breath.
17. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
Taylor will only teplicate last year’s fantasy success if he keeps on his feet in 2017. The mobile quarterback risked injury when he made 95 rushing attempts for a total of 580 yards and six touchdowns last year. Durability has been an issue, so it would be risky to go all-in with Taylor based on last year’s plays. He’ll also need to improve his passing game, which consisted of just 3,023 yards and 17 touchdowns. Perhaps Taylor will surprise with veteran Anquan Boldin and rookie Zay Jones now on the roster.
16. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles is a dicey fantasy pick despite his ninth-place finish last year. The fourth-year quarterback has already been warned about throwing interceptions, like the 16 he committed in 2016. Also, don’t look for Bortles to match the 39 passes he threw on average per game. The garbage time yards were glorious to fantasy football owners but weren’t winning games for the Jags. Running back Leonard Fournette will be the focal point on offense, lessening Bortles’ fantasy production in 2017.
15. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton is another name that sinks low in drafts, but he has the potential to earn QB1 numbers on any given Sunfay. If he didn’t spend so much time on the ground (sacked 41 times last year) we might rank him higher. Wide receiver A.J. Green staying healthy is also huge for Dalton’s success. The 18 passing touchdowns Dalton earned his fantasy owners marked a career low for him in a full season. Luckily, the Red Rifle rewarded with 4,206 passing yards. He makes a serviceable late-round QB2 pick due to all of the aforementioned variables.
14. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We would enjoy seeing Winston evolve into a top-10 fantasy quarterback this year. So would those who wait until later rounds to pick up the third-year signal caller. But there’s a lot of tough fantasy quarterback competition that could drive Winston down the ranks. Fortunately, he has red-zone viper Mike Evans to boost his fantasy value. DeSean Jackson should help Winston make a case as a reliable starter too. It is Winston’s 28:18 touchdown-to-interception ratio from last year that gives us reason to rank him this low.
13. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers is the king of garbage-time yards, which always provides fantasy upside. Unfortunately, he was also king of interceptions with the ghastly 21 picks he threw last year. Finishing in the top five in passing yards with 4,386 and 33 touchdowns landed him a 14th place fantasy ranking. Rivers typically falls to late rounds in drafts because he is difficult to trust. He’s armed with tremendous talent across the board and makes a decent QB2 or spot play against friendlier defenses.
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Those who draft Big Ben will be fortunate if he can finish the whole season in one piece. Fantasy expectations should be tempered after Roethlisberger missed games his last two years. If healthy, Roethlisberger can be a stud. He also works wonders with Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell, who combined on 181 catches and 1,900 receiving yards last year. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger tossed 13 interceptions in the 14 games he played. Drafting Roethlisberger is a high-risk, high-reward move in 2017.
11. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota has all the keys necessary to launch him into elite fantasy quarterback status. His inability to outplay the next several quarterbacks following him on this list has us pumping the brakes just a bit. Mariota will look to build on last year’s 3,426 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. That could easily be done now that veteran wideout Eric Decker and rookie Corey Davis have joined the offense. Decker staying healthy, as well as running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, will play into Mariota’s fantasy success.
10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Launching our top-10 fantasy quarterbacks is this pint-sized stud from Seattle. Hopefully, he has shrugged off all of those little lingering ailments that hampered his production last season. A healthy running game led by Eddie Lacy should help Wilson avoid some of the pressure he faced last year. We would also like to think that Wilson will improve on the mere 21 passing touchdowns he threw. Fingers crossed Wilson’s offensive line helps keep him producing as a high-end QB2 all season.
9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Realistically speaking, we wonder if Prescott can keep pace with last year’s fantasy numbers. Impressively, Prescott ended the year as the sixth-ranked fantasy quarterback. The value came from Prescott adding six rushing touchdowns to his 23 touchdown passes. He also threw for only four picks. He stands to come back down to reality just a tad in our book, keeping in mind he averaged just 236 passing yards per game. The elephant in the room and guy stealing the fantasy show will be running back Ezekiel Elliott (pending a potential suspension.)
8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford is highly underrated in mock drafts, despite the fact he finished seventh in fantasy points last year. He has an arm like a cannon, which should keep him averaging right around the 270 passing yards per game he accomplished in 2016. Throwing more than last year’s 24 passing touchdowns would of course be ideal. Keep in mind also that Stafford’s 10 interceptions marked an all-time career low. There is plenty of upside to be had for those who wait and draft Stafford way lower than he should be picked.
7. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton was a colossal fantasy train wreck for those who blew an early-round draft pick on him last year. He finished 17th in fantasy points after his numbers across the board tanked. Returning a leaner man, Newton should be on course to rebound up the ranks in 2017. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey will make an immediate impact. Rookie receiver Curtis Samuel and a weight-conscious Kelvin Benjamin will also be difference-makers on offense. We might have ranked Newton just a bit higher if he wasn’t still experiencing some shoulder soreness in training camp.
6. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Cousins sneaked in as the No. 5 fantasy quarterback in 2016 after being drafted quite lower than his end-of-season numbers reflected. He passed for a career-best 4,917 yards accompanied by 25 touchdowns. Cousins is minus veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but he still has Jamison Crowder, who scored what the two departed receivers tallied together all by himself. Newbie Terrelle Pryor and sophomore Josh Doctson are already making early waves, paving the path for Cousins to have another strong fantasy finish.
5. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Carr evolved from a backup-caliber fantasy quarterback in 2015 to a legitimate fantasy must-start in 2016. We are catapulting him even further up the ranks, projecting a top-five finish this year. Carr missed one game in 2016 after passing for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and tossing only six interceptions. Third-year wideout Amari Cooper is bound to keep breaking out, and the additions of Beast Mode and tight end Jared Cook should be huge for Carr’s value.
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Those who picked Ryan in late draft rounds last year struck solid gold. Ryan shocked the fantasy world when he passed for a career-high 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. Can he reward with the same production in 2017, or will he come back to down to earth? Somewhere in between with QB1 finishes more often than not is likely the case. Ryan has a slew of awesome pass-catchers, including Julio Jones, who finished No. 2 with 1,409 receiving yards last year.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Saints aren’t the most successful of teams as of recent seasons, but in fantasy football, we don’t care. This keeps Brees chucking the ball to put points on the board. The Saints offense ranked No. 1 last year as a result of Brees passing for a league-high 5,208 yards along with 37 touchdowns. It was just those pesky interceptions, 15 of which, that caused Brees to slip to No. 3 in our 2017 rankings. But, he’s still a no-brainer fantasy QB1 in all formats.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Some may argue that Brady deserves to be ranked No. 1., but he physically lacks the mobility that separates him from our top fantasy pick. At 40, Brady is defying all odds, and until we see any hint of a setback, he is a solid QB1. Last year despite missing four games, Brady still hauled in 28 touchdowns and committed only two interceptions. The sky will be the limit for Brady in 2017 with a healthy Rob Gronkowski back and an intriguing new target in Brandin Cooks on hand.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Without a doubt, Rodgers enters 2017 as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback. Last year, the 33-year-old mobile passer threw for 4,428 yards and ran for another 369. Along the way came a total of 44 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions. Armed with an excellent receiving corps, including last year’s top-scoring wideout Jordy Nelson, Rodgers is a slam-dunk to finish No. 1 in 2017.