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Fantasy Football 2017: Quarterback Preview and Position Rankings
Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com returns for his seventh season of Fantasy Football analysis on Seahawks.com. Scott is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association’s Hall of Fame and a former FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award Winner. He can be heard on FNTSY Radio every morning and seen on FNTSY Sports Network daily on CenturyLink’s sports package.
When mid-July rolls around, diehard pro football fans have thoughts that dominate their minds, and it’s not about the beach or sitting out in the sun. They begin to anticipate two prime moments: The beginning of training camp, and the approach of Fantasy Football draft day.
For savvy and experienced players, their initial draft strategy thoughts do not center around picking a quarterback first. The newer player may believe that he or she has to take a quarterback right away because that is widely regarded as the most important position in the NFL. But that’s not the case in Fantasy Football.
Sure, if you look at the leading scorers on NFL.com from 2016 you will see that the Top 3 overall point producers and five of the top six were quarterbacks. But you do not draft simply based on overall points. When you consider that quarterbacks comprise most of the Top 20 players, it’s apparent that you can get a viable starter even if you wait awhile to draft one. Putting it in proper perspective, Marcus Mariota was the 13th most productive passer on NFL.com in 2016. That means he finished as a high-end Fantasy backup. Yet he still was 15th overall in total points. So it’s not about getting the most total points out of the position when so many of them dominate the overall scoring anyhow.
You only have to start one quarterback in most Fantasy leagues, and many of them only award four points for a touchdown pass, which is less than other positions. It’s a nice feeling to have a superstar like Aaron Rodgers on your roster, but it’s not necessary when NFL.com Average Draft Positions dictate you can get a passer like Kirk Cousins in the ninth round. Last year, he was the fifth most productive QB on NFL.com. Experienced Fantasy players wait for their QB. When you have to start two running backs, three wide receivers and a flex in many formats, the other positions go off the board faster.
Of course, if you play in a league with two QBs, the approach changes, as you should get two QBs in the first four rounds in an ideal scenario. In that format, there is much higher demand for the passers, even seemingly more than other positions. In leagues that award six points for a TD pass, you can boost the position slightly, but the NFL.com default is four points for a TD pass and is widely accepted. Knowing your scoring system before your draft is a mandatory and initial basic directive in Fantasy Football.
Rodgers is the undisputed king of the position, having scored 380.02 points on NFL.com last year, and his current ADP puts him in the third round at 23.45. Rodgers led the league in TD passes last season and added four rushing scores. The Packers should engage in many more shootouts this season. No one will laugh at you for taking Rodgers early, because he is so safe for annually excellent production. But if you are going to make that aggressive move, be well-prepared to pick off values at other positions in the middle rounds of your draft. You will be likely passing on a prime running back or wide receiver to land Rodgers. And never draft a tight end early if you take a QB in the first few rounds. You will weaken your outlook at RB and WR significantly if you do.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees round out “The Big Three” at QB in Fantasy Football. Brady threw 28 TD passes against two interceptions last year despite missing the first four weeks. Brees threw for 5.208 yards last year, his highest total since 2011. These are two of the oldest QBs in the league, but both appear to be remaining in top-level form. Brady is going in the third round of NFL.com drafts, and Brees in the fifth. Brees scored 332.32 points last year, third best on NFL.com. If you can nab that kind of production in the fifth round it’s very reasonable to pass on Rodgers and Brady while building your RB and WR stables. This makes even more sense on NFL.com, where you are not required to start a third WR.
After those three are off the board, some opinions vary on who should be ranked or taken next. But the ADPs make sense in Matt Ryan being next, who is also being drafted later in the fifth round than Brees. He is coming off a career year in which he was the second-best QB on NFL.com, with 347.46 points. The Falcons offense should not change too drastically this year. Luck is going in the sixth round, but his ADP could rise soon with improved reports on his health.
Of course, as a dedicated reader of Seahawks.com, you are wondering where Russell Wilson fits into the mix of the top Fantasy passers. I have him firmly ranked as sixth overall, and he is the seventh QB off the board on NFL.com, right behind Dak Prescott. Both are being taken in the seventh round. Wilson finished 11th at QB last year with 268.06 points last season, but he is healthy heading into 2017, and has consistently been among the Top 5 or so Fantasy QBs throughout his pro career. With the Seahawks looking to re-establish a formidable ground game this year, he could revert back to the dangerous hybrid runner/passer he has been in the past, and the odds are very good that he will return top Fantasy value again. Wilson has shown he can be a 4,000 yard passer if needed, but look for the rushing numbers to rise again this season. He should certainly double last year’s rushing total of 259 yards.
Prescott finished sixth at the position with 286.88 points in his impressive rookie year, and he only had four interceptions and rushed for six scores, as he drew some comparisons to Wilson for poise and decision-making in the early stages of his career. Dallas is a run-first team, but could get involved in some high-scoring affairs, which could lead to more passing volume overall. Cousins is coming off an impressive season with 300.28 Fantasy points, and he is a fine pick in any league at his current ADP of 81.07. Washington figures to throw the ball a lot again this year. I would take Cousins over Prescott for more overall yardage and TDs, obviously given the nature of each team’s offense.
Cam Newton is also going off the board in the seventh, but that could be risky considering the Panthers may rein him in more as a runner this year and may start to make him lean more on his surrounding playmakers. Marcus Mariota is perceived to be on the rise and is going in the eighth round. His receiving corps can only improve this year with promising rookie Corey Davis, and a hopefully healthy Eric Decker. He also did add in 349 rushing yards and two TDs as a bonus last year.
Derek Carr is a fine value in the 10th, and he was the 10th best QB on NFL.com last year with 268.48 points in 15 games played and he should be steadier over a full season this year. Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston are all being taken in the 12th round. Roethlisberger has nifty weaponry and can still be a top-level Fantasy passer, while the ultra-efficient Stafford was the seventh-best passer on NFL.com with 279.78 points. Winston, however, is widely regarded as a player on the rise with outstanding targets. This season, he gets veteran playmaker DeSean Jackson and promising rookie TE O.J. Howard added to his arsenal. Winston could very well finish as a Top 10 or better Fantasy QB this year, and I would be aggressive on him once the Top 8 or so QBs are already taken.
Philip Rivers threw 33 TD passes last season, and has a very deep crew of pass-catchers. He can still be a very viable starter if you lurk and wait until much later to tab your starter. His current ADP has him going in the 14th round, but he will likely go earlier in some other leagues. In fact, be aware that ADPs are by no means a strict guideline as to where players may be picked. You could see the likes of Wilson and Prescott go two rounds later than we indicate here. Rodgers could go as soon as the first or second round in some leagues. Every draft is different. Be ready to adjust on the fly.
Tyrod Taylor (580 rush yards and six TDs last year) and Andy Dalton (12th with 260.64 points in 2016) are some of the better QB2 types who you could stream with another player if you wait until very late and don’t pick a surefire steady starter. Eli Manning has a deep receiving crew and may have a rebound year, and Carson Wentz had over 600 attempts last year and has an improved pass-catching group. He could be an excellent value selection very late. Blake Bortles may see less volume this season and Carson Palmer still has viable targets, including the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and a possibly renewed John Brown.
Here are my Top 15 Fantasy QBs for this season, with full ranks on RotoExperts.com (discount offer below).
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
7. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
9. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
10. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
13. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
14. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
15. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
For more rankings and insights from Scott Engel and his team, register now for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package right now at rotoexperts.com/discount. Seahawks.com readers get 10 dollars off with promocode “seahawks” at checkout. Read