From what I know and what I have learned, the absolute best way to optimize your fantasy draft and the players you pick is to create tiers. No matter the position, doing this will allow you to identify value in each round and focus your draft strategy. Break them down however you like and then try and order them into a numerical list (if you can!).
As you can imagine, each position is slightly different and is broken down further depending on what you value more. Do you value dependency over high risk/high reward? Do you prefer traditional running backs or a guy who can catch out the backfield? Do your wide receivers pile up the yardage or are they TD dependent? Are you playing standard or a PPR league? This where your tier system starts to show you who you like and where you rank those players.
The position rankings are based on my opinion and will go up and down where I see changes in rosters, or injuries or whatever. The draft board is ever fluid and should be constantly changing. I don’t think it moves so much for your favourite players, but it sure helps if your favourite guys get picked just before you and you have no idea who to pick next and the draft clock is ticking down.
There are 32 starting QB’s in the NFL. The reality in a 10 team fantasy league is you would only need to check up on 20 QB’s, tops. Some drafters may actually only draft one QB freeing up another spot for another skill player. I did initially rank all 32 teams but I don’t think you will need them. Spoiler alert, the Jets were the last ranked team, hell, I could have picked about 10 backups over anyone they have on their roster at the moment.
THE ELITE – First 4 off the board
1, Aaron Rodgers
2, Tom Brady
3, Drew Brees
4, Andrew Luck
Aaron Rodgers is obviously the consensus #1 guy on your board. If he is not, you are wrong. He was the highest scoring player in fantasy land in 2016 and is up there year after year. However, there is so much depth in the QB position and considering how many teams throw the ball in the modern NFL, more seasoned fantasy players wouldn’t consider a taking a QB in the early rounds at all. Preferring to pick up RB and WR depth before looking at the QB position. However, if you picked Rodgers in round 3 or hopefully round 4, I wouldn’t blame you. Next over is Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. I cannot really distinguish between these guys from a fantasy standpoint so it’s whoever you prefer. Brady is arguably the best of all time and will apparently play forever. Even at 39 he shows literally zero signs of slowing down although he had a few quiet games when the Patriot game plan had them running more. Brees produces big numbers each year even though he is closing on the big 4 0 himself and he throws all the time no matter what the score. They will all give you 35+ TD and 4000 yards easy. Luck is probably the one that has the highest risk/reward of the 4 which is why he is fourth on this list. He is over a decade younger than Brady and Brees and he has had miserable offensive line play yet he still somehow produces and drags his team along with him. He has had his fair share of injuries but get him average o-line and a stud running back in the draft and he can challenge for the top spot. In the QB rankings, Rodgers will go first and Brady would be gone by round 5, maybe Brees and Luck drop if you are lucky but honestly wouldn’t be surprised if all of them were gone by round 7.
Great QB’s – High Upside – Early Round Value
5, Derek Carr
6, Matt Ryan
7, Marcus Mariota
8, Philip Rivers
9, Russell Wilson
The next tier down for me is a mix of youth and experience but all have flashes of brilliance and high scoring capability. Although you may think that there are quite a few key players missing, these guys for me have the most to give you and can win you games by producing ridiculous week winning numbers and providing a safe yet high floor. Derek Carr is a guy I think needs to take the next step and I think he will this year which is why I probably have him a lot higher than most. He’s consistent, has great weapons and does not get sacked. Next up is another classic pocket passer, Matt Ryan. Now I posted a few weeks ago that he will regress from last years numbers but he still has the same weapons he did before and he would love to show everyone that their high octane offense was not all thanks to Kyle Shanahan. I have him higher than my gut tells me but for now my brain is saying that the MVP of the regular season deserves a bit of credit for all their recent success. Mariota is next up because he is growing as a passer but his fantasy value rockets up because of his ability to use his legs and score touchdowns on the ground. I would say that if you have a QB that adds on average 50 yards on the ground, odds are he would be more likely to have a high scoring fantasy week. Mariota did this constantly for a long stretch last year and is still young with ability to develop. Rivers is there because he is a great QB and he will have some great weapons to throw to. I love the combo of Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams to name just two guys he has but I can guarantee that he won’t get drafted till the double digit rounds so a great value pick. Next up is Russell Wilson, who I will never draft as a 49er fan but I cannot deny that his playmaking ability is second to none and if he reverts back to using his legs a bit more then he will be a top 10 QB. Of this tier, Carr, Wilson and Ryan are most likely to go in the single digit rounds, probably around 6-9. Mariota, depending on how successful you see the Titans being will be next and as I mentioned Rivers will still be available in to round 10 onwards.
Good QB’s With Question Marks
10, Kirk Cousins
11, Ben Roethlisberger
12, Cam Newton
13, Jamies Winston
14, Dak Prescott
15, Andy Dalton
So here is where people will say that a few of these guys should be ranked higher. Most would say, I would technically agree, that a few of these guys are better than the guys listed above them. However, for me, all of these guys come with huge question marks. Cousins had the big yardage numbers but didn’t hit 30 TDs. His offensive coordinator is gone and although the Redskins actually upgraded their WR core, that organisation is a mess and stuff like that tends to wear on players more than you would think. Big Ben is aging and although he was never going to retire, it does raise questions about how long he will be with the Steelers. He has great skill players around him who are literally at the top of their respective positions but his home/away splits are too wide apart to ignore. If you draft him, you need to draft or stream another guy for the 8 games he plays outside of Heinz Field. Cam Newton had a miserable year and although I do think his MVP year was more likely his ceiling and never to be repeated, he is up here from a fantasy side over other guys because of his running ability. Winston is having a great off season so far getting DeSean Jackson to pair alongside Mike Evans. If he steps up then they will be dangerous in the NFC South. His numbers last year were great and if he improves his accuracy and reduces his mistakes then he could push into the tier above this one. Dak Prescott had a great year and you can’t take that away from him but I see a sophomore slump coming and hitting the Cowboys HARD. All the success they had, overblown expectations, can’t you just see it? Add that defensive coordinators have a full year of tape on him and trust me, the NFL catches up more often than not with these younger guys. The best ones adapt though and if you’re a Cowboys fan, you obviously hope for the latter scenario. Rounding up the group, believe it or not, is Andy Dalton. He has been under the radar the past few years and is actually an extremely decent fantasy performer. Add a healthy AJ Green and Tyler Eifert and you would get ridiculous value from him. However, an unknown situation with their offensive line and potential injury to either Green or Eifert and Dalton would struggle as he is not a guy that can simply will his team to victory. Of this group I can bet that Prescott and Roethlisberger go in the earlier rounds after the top elite guys. Those 2 and Matt Ryan will be massively overdrafted in my opinion so you can see why plugging your guys into tiers starts to pay off. All these big brand names will fly off the board but you might have a Derek Carr or Philip Rivers still there in the double digit rounds and you would snap them up quite happily.
16, Matthew Stafford
17, Tyrod Taylor
18, Eli Manning
19, Carson Wentz
20, Blake Bortles
Ok so there are more guys that you could stream on a weekly favourable matchup. Guys like Joe Flacco or Alex Smith can produce but if you are picking these guys as your QB1, then you are in trouble no matter how many wide receivers or running backs you have. Key with streaming guys is the defense that they are playing. San Francisco or Cleveland last year are the obvious and most accurate examples of that. Hell Sam Bradford helped WR Adam Thielen to a 200 yard game against the woeful Packers secondary so if that can happen, anything can. However, you can make the case for any of these guys to be a viable QB2 or stream. Stafford is a great example of a QB being a leader and willing his team to victory You saw it all last year as the Lions trailed in the 4th quarter in virtually every game and Stafford pulled out some remarkable plays. However, injuries depleted the offense and his numbers, despite the team being successful, were just terrible. Tyrod Taylor is a great pick in the last rounds as he uses his legs as well as anyone but Buffalo management just can’t seem to surround him with decent players. Eli Manning is sadly here because of his pretty poor season last year. I don’t really see the addition of Brandon Marshall really changing anything because they have no running game and a crappy offensive line. Of the guys in this tier however, frustratingly he probably has the best chance to jump into the top 10 if a few things swing their way in the draft. Carson Wentz flashed some brilliance but overall had a typical rookie season. His team however managed to seriously upgrade his wide receivers so one would hope for some serious improvements. I would be surprised if he gets drafted at all but I am sure that he will be a good waiver wire pick up once the team starts gelling. Finally, the guy that I am sure no one will draft but will be a top 10 scoring QB is Blake Bortles. The one player that truly proves that Fantasy Football bears NO resemblance whatsoever to the real game itself. Garbage time points and a horrible golf like throwing motion derailed the entire Jaguars season but at least Blake got his touchdowns and ended up a top 10 guy. Ridiculous. As I said, unless you like creating misery for yourself then you are not waiting THAT long that these guys are the only ones available but if all the teams pick up two QB’s then you need at least 20 of them on your board. There are guys like Joe Flacco and Alex Smith that again would be a weekly match up. Guys like Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hoyer are also around but realistically anyone outside your top 20 are not worth looking at.
You will note, if you have seen any NFL coverage over the last few months that no one is particularly high on this years QB draft class. So it would be impossible for me to even contemplate putting them on a list or even ranking them in the top 20. Especially seeing as none of them are viewed in the top 30 players amongst their rookie piers. That being said, injuries do happen so keep an eye out for guys that you like and adjust your boards accordingly. Moments like Tony Romo hurting his back though do happen which opens doors for guys like Dak Prescott to step in and make their mark.
If you have any opinions on this or just want to chat about it, check out my twitter feed, would love to bounce ideas and stuff off you guys. If you have a guy higher or lower or know something I don’t, shout out!