It’s the most important position in the NFL — some would say the most important in sports. The quarterback is the leader of the offense and the great ones are the captains of their entire team. In fantasy football, though, the outlook on QBs is a bit of a mixed bag. There are so many decent ones in today’s pass-happy league that many fantasy analysts will tell you to wait in drafts and avoid spending up at the position. We’re here to give some love to the best of the best, as we take a look at the top ten fantasy football quarterbacks.
Top 10 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It’s a bit counter-consensus to rank Tom Brady ahead of the No. 2 guy on this list, but it’s simply impossible to bet against the greatest of all time. Brady solidified himself as one of the most successful athletes in history with an incredible fifth Super Bowl victory in February. What gets lost in the G.O.A.T. hype and in the fact that Brady played only 12 games due to his Deflategate suspension is how good he was for fantasy.
After his return in Week 5, Brady posted 296 yards and 2.3 TDs per game, along with a historically low two interceptions. Projected to 16 games, that would have been 4,736 yards, 37 touchdowns and we’ll call it three picks — which would have made him No. 3 in fantasy behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
Then, the Patriots added Brandin Cooks and Dwayne Allen, regained a healthy Rob Gronkowski and established an incredibly capable pass-catching RB corps that includes James White, Rex Burkhead, and Dion Lewis. Even with the loss of Julian Edelman to a knee injury, Brady’s weaponry is stronger than it’s been in years. And so is he. The 40-year-old will defy all the ageist doubters in 2017 and sit atop the QB rankings by year’s end.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Viewed by most as the No. 1 overall, it’s impossible to go wrong with either of these top two guys, who form a super-elite tier of their own in fantasy and reality. Here are Rodgers’ finishes amongst fantasy QBs over the last nine years: second, first, second, first, second, 22nd (due to injury, fourth in points per game), first, seventh, first. He’s as close to a 100 percent lock as you can get in fantasy football.
Rodgers has never posted less than 3,800 yards or 28 passing touchdowns in a full season, numbers that form the ceiling for most of the league. He is the unquestioned leader of a perennial offensive juggernaut in the Packers and possesses pure playmaking talent that rivals any to ever play the position.
Three things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes, and Aaron Rodgers as a top fantasy football quarterback.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Again, we’re breaking from the mold a bit in taking Wilson over a couple of his NFC counterparts and a certain Colt you’ll be seeing shortly. Why, you ask? The answer is twofold.
First, necessity. Russell Wilson’s best fantasy season to date came in 2015 when he finished No. 3 at the position (ahead of a certain Mr. Rodgers). That was the year that Marshawn Lynch went down early in the season, leaving a sudden weakness in the Seahawks’ offensive firepower. Wilson stepped up big to the tune of 4,577 total yards and 35 total touchdowns. Heading into 2017, Seattle is faced with all kinds of question marks at the running back position and on their offensive line, which could put a new level of responsibility on Wilson’s shoulders to create offense himself.
Second, talent. Wilson will take that responsibility and translate it into elite performances. His play in the preseason was nothing short of spectacular. While consistently escaping pressure from opposing defenses, Wilson went 29-41 (70.7 completion percentage) for 447 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. He is fully healthy after battling through injury last season and looks more finely tuned than just about anyone at the position. With a higher rushing floor than most of the top 10 and a still-improving arm, Wilson is on his way back to the elite at QB.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Like Aaron Rodgers above, Drew Brees is literally a shoo-in to the top fantasy football quarterbacks list every single year. Over the last ten years, his lowest finish … is sixth. You heard me. Brees’ average QB rank over that span is 3.4, which essentially makes this rank of fourth an understatement.
The Saints have not finished outside the top four in total pass attempts since 2009 and Brees has been turning that volume into fantasy gold since most of us were in diapers (give or take a few years). Regardless of the talent around him at any position, Brees has repeatedly elevated the New Orleans offense to the upper echelon of the NFL. And more often than not, their defense is sub-standard, leading to a healthy slate of shootouts every year.
None of this figures to change in 2017 and at 38-years-old, Drew Brees still has at least a year or two of elite-level QB play left in the tank.
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Now, this one comes with a caveat, as Luck’s current health status is somewhat unclear. Reports are that he will not play in Week 1 as he continues recovery from shoulder surgery, but the Colts did take their franchise QB of the PUP list, which means they expect him back in the first third of the season. That said, they also trade for the Patriots’ third-stringer, Jacoby Brissett, which means they may fear more than a single missed game for Luck.
If he does return fully healthy, Luck has as much upside as anyone in fantasy, as evidenced by a 2014 season where he threw for 4,761 yards and 40 TDs. Once he sees the field, Luck will be a top five QB for the remainder of the season. Like Brees, he is a top-flight talent in an excellent offensive scheme, that leans heavily on the passing game to make up for poor defense.
The best part is, you can get Luck at an incredible bargain in drafts or possibly even on the trade market due to the health concerns, and stream a capable QB until he returns. One common recommendation is Carson Palmer, whose early season schedule is an absolute cakewalk. Don’t be afraid to steal Luck wherever you can and reap the benefits come fantasy playoffs.
6. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
While we don’t have as much of a track record with Cousins as we do with some of these other guys, we can look at his two seasons as the full-time starter and make some assumptions. Cousins was the No. 12 QB in 2015 and the No. 6 QB last year and is widely considered the next franchise QB in line for a big pay day. Last year, Cousins absolutely torched secondaries for 4,917 yards (third in the league) but was kept from greater glory by a relatively low 25 touchdowns.
His weaponry has seen quite the shake-up between 2016 and now, with the departure of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, the addition of Terrelle Pryor, and the (hopeful) return of Josh Doctson from IR. Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder are also still around, making the Washington pass-catching group one of the best in the NFL when healthy. This arsenal, combined with Cousins’ accurate arm and pass-heavy offense, set the expected outcomes for the 29-year-old right around his ’16 numbers. But if he takes the next step as a QB in the league, and Reed and Doctson stay healthy, there’s no reason Cousins can’t increase his touchdown rate, reduce his interception rate, and outplay this ranking.
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Honestly, I would prefer to rank Ryan lower, but fear the ire of the fantasy football community. Obviously, expectations for the Falcons’ veteran signal-caller are high following his massive MVP season and No. 2 QB finish. But does anyone remember when Cam Newton followed a No. 1 fantasy year with a Super Bowl loss and then an awful encore season? (Hint: it was last year).
Unlike Brady, Rodgers, and Brees, Ryan’s lengthy career has not been a bastion of consistency and fantasy excellence, but he did break out last year to the tune of 4,944 yards and 38 TDs. Those numbers are like unsustainable for Ryan, especially with the loss of offensive wizard, Kyle Shanahan, but the Falcons offense is still loaded with explosive weapons and Ryan has commonly finished in the QB7-QB12 range throughout his career, so he makes his way to No. 7 on our list without issue. His ADP is inflated by recency bias, but he also has a pretty great schedule in 2017. There is more value further down and more reliability higher up, but Ryan is a solid mix of both at the right price.
8. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Probably the most surprising name on this list is Andy Dalton. And by probably, I mean definitely, obviously, and without a doubt. FantasyFootballCalculator’s ADP numbers have Dalton at QB17, and most experts are only willing to bump him into the QB13-QB14 range.
The reality is, Dalton is incredibly undervalued, despite already showing the ability to be a top-tier fantasy QB (2013, he was the QB5, 2015 he was in the MVP consideration before succumbing to an unfortunate thumb injury). Last year, Dalton’s pass-catching corps was annihilated by injury, with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard all missing significant time. Coming into 2017, all three should have the green light and the Bengals doubled down in the NFL Draft, snagging speedster John Ross and highly-touted three-down back, Joe Mixon. Like the Redskins, the Bengals have an absolute wealth of offensive talent if everyone can remain healthy, and that will funnel straight into Dalton’s fantasy numbers.
If you’re into waiting on QB as mentioned in the intro, play in a 2QB league, just want a high-upside backup, or trust my rankings enough to go out on a limb in the single-digit rounds, draft Andy Dalton. You won’t regret it.
9. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Put Mariota in some of the passing systems we’ve covered already (Saints, Colts, etc.) and he would have top five potential. As it is, he plays for the Tennessee Titans, who ranked 28th in pass attempts last season and have preferred what some call an “exotic smashmouth” style of football but is essentially just one of the last ground-and-pound schemes left in the NFL. In other words, Mariota has not had the volume to break into the truly elite, despite impressively efficient play.
That may begin to change in 2017. The Titans invested heavily into their passing game in the offseason, adding Eric Decker in free agency and drafting Corey Davis fifth overall and Taywan Taylor in the third round. Tennessee still has an incredibly strong backfield in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but the upgraded passing weapons may finally allow the Titans to unlock Mariota’s arm. If he pushes up to even league-average pass attempts, with his rushing ability and passing efficiency, Mariota could break out in a big way. This is a guy with a 33-0 touchdown to interception ratio in the red zone over his career — give him the chance and he could challenge for the league lead in total touchdowns.
10. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Not to oversimplify, but see above. Obviously, Dak and Mariota are not the same players (they certainly weren’t drafted in the same stratosphere), but they do find themselves in similar situations. Both have been highly efficient in a small sample size and both have played in heavily run-centric offenses. For Prescott, a 67.8 completion percentage, 23-4 TD to INT ratio, and six rushing touchdowns catapulted him from offseason backup to the QB6 in fantasy, despite attempting the 23rd most passes in the league.
And like Mariota, Prescott may see an increase in opportunity in 2017, if the six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott stands to some degree. If Zeke isn’t around to carry the load, Prescott may be called upon to generate much more of the Cowboys’ offense. Improved chemistry with elite NFL receiver Dez Bryant, as well as reliable pass-catchers Cole Beasley and Jason Witten, will also help Prescott grow and mature as a quarterback in his second NFL season.
Dak will not likely lead the league in any single passing statistic, but his rushing ability and smart throws will set a high floor for the 24-year-old, making him consistent and reliable enough to finish as a QB1.