Saturday, July 2, 2022

2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Quarterback rankings highlight how high the bar has gotten for stardom

2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Quarterback rankings highlight how high the bar has gotten for stardom

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The bar for a great QB season in Fantasy is higher than ever these days and that has an impact on how you should approach the position for Fantasy Football. Even as recently as five years ago, only three players averaged more than 23.0 Fantasy points per game in six-point-per-pass-TD scoring, and that was pretty typical; in 2016, only three managed it, while a whopping four did so in 2015. 

That has all changed over the past few seasons. In 2020, 12 averaged at least 23 points per game, while the top four each topped 29 points per game; in 2021, the top three were all north of 26 points per game while nine averaged 23.81 per game or better. The bar for being a starting-caliber Fantasy quarterback is higher than ever, and your chances of finding a starting-caliber Fantasy QB late in the drafts are lower, as a result. 

Of those nine who averaged 23.81 points per game or more in 2021, they were all drafted among the first 13 quarterbacks based on Average Draft Position from NFFC drafts last season. Kirk Cousins and Jameis Winston were the only quarterbacks drafted outside of the top 13 at the position who averaged 20 points per game, so if you weren’t taking a QB early, you were getting left behind. 

Of course, plenty of quarterbacks are intriguing enough that you don’t necessarily have to draft one early this year. Just know that if you are going to wait on the position, recent history suggests you’re taking a risk. And, given how good the high-end options have been lately, it’s a risk that could set you back more than you think.

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Here are my updated rankings for QB for the 2022 season:

  1. Josh Allen
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Lamar Jackson
  4. Justin Herbert
  5. Jalen Hurts
  6. Kyler Murray
  7. Tom Brady
  8. Matthew Stafford
  9. Dak Prescott
  10. Joe Burrow
  11. Russell Wilson
  12. Aaron Rodgers
  13. Kirk Cousins
  14. Deshaun Watson
  15. Justin Fields
  16. Derek Carr
  17. Trey Lance
  18. Tua Tagovailoa
  19. Ryan Tannehill
  20. Jameis Winston
  21. Marcus Mariota
  22. Daniel Jones
  23. Mitch Trubisky
  24. Trevor Lawrence
  25. Mac Jones
  26. Carson Wentz
  27. Jared Goff
  28. Zach Wilson
  29. Sam Darnold
  30. Matt Ryan
  31. Davis Mills
  32. Drew Lock

And here are some of my thoughts on where the position stands this offseason:

  • I think there are a few distinct tiers at the QB position this season – one between No. 4 and 5, another between No. 8 and 9, and another one that might run as far down as No. 17. Which is to say, I’m either taking one of the top four, one of the next three, or I’m probably waiting and taking two of my No. 8- through 16th-ranked as late as I can. You can think of the tiers like this: The first tier presents the players with the best chance of hitting the 30-point-per-game mark in six-point-per-pass-TD leagues, the true difference makers; the second tier probably don’t have the 30-PPG upside (though Hurts and Murray could get there thanks to their dual-threat abilities) but they seem like good bets for 25; the third tier is a combination of high upside (Watson, Fields, Lance) with higher floor pocket passer types. 
  • Allen seems likely to be the consensus No. 1 QB this season, and he’ll be that for me. It’s as much about the leap Allen has made over the past few seasons as it is about the concerns about Mahomes stemming from the loss of Tyreek Hill and the issues he had completing the deep ball last season. It’s still Patrick Mahomes and it’s still an Andy Reid-led offense, so I can’t rank him too low, but teams took away the deep ball and it made Mahomes look mortal last season. Maybe the combination of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling can help make up for the loss of Hill, and Mahomes’ ceiling remains as high as anyone’s on a weekly and yearly basis, but Allen’s is right there and he seems safer. 
  • I’m giving Jackson the benefit of the doubt after a couple of somewhat disappointing seasons since his MVP in 2019 — his combination of high-volume rushing and an increase in pass volume puts his upside right there with Allen and Mahomes’. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to put Herbert above Jackson – he’s been pretty tremendous in his first two seasons – but I think in their respective best-case scenarios, Jackson is the better player. If Herbert unlocks more rushing potential – if he could have an eight-touchdown season after combining for that many in his first two – that’s the path to him unlocking that 30-point-per-game upside. 
  • Hurts and Murray have both shown that difference-making upside but not consistently enough. The addition of A.J. Brown gives Hurts No. 1 overall QB upside, as Heath Cummings has written, if he can sustain his 800-yard, 10-touchdown rushing production from last season with a leap as a passer. I expect the Brown acquisition means we’ll see more throwing from the Eagles, and Brown’s after-the-catch ability should be a boon for the offense. If he tops the 3,500-yard mark and pushes for 30 touchdowns, Hurts will be in the conversation for the top QB spot.
  • I suspect I won’t have Burrow on too many of my teams. I can see the path to him being an elite Fantasy QB, but he’s probably not going to replicate last year’s efficiency  – he averaged 8.9 yards per attempt with a 6.5% touchdown rate, two marks no player has ever matched in multiple seasons. Burrow probably doesn’t have much upside as a rusher, so he either needs to be an Aaron Rodgers-esque efficiency outlier or the Bengals need to pass more. They did throw more down the stretch of their Super Bowl run, but after he had eight touchdowns in his final two games of the regular season, Burrow had just five in four playoff games, so I’m not quite ready to assume he’s ready to make that leap. I’d rather take Stafford or Wilson at what will likely be cheaper costs.
  • If I’m waiting to take my QB, I like the idea of taking a flier on the upside of Fields or Lance while pairing them with the likes of Carr or Cousins. There’s a decent chance neither Lance nor Fields is a reliable weekly starter, but Carr or Cousins are probably good enough to get by – Carr is potentially more than good enough if Davante Adams helps him take a step forward. Preferably, I’d wait until outside of the top-100 in a one-QB league to take them. 
  • It’s possible I’m wildly underrating Watson, who would be a top-six QB if I knew he was going to play 17 games. But I am expecting a suspension this season as a result of the NFL investigation into the claims of sexual assault against him. Hopefully, we’ll know his status by the time draft season really kicks off, but as long as a potential suspension hangs over him, you can’t pay full price.  

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