Rankings are the backbone of fantasy football draft prep season, but there are more to rankings than meets the eye. Every position has multiple drop-off points, where the fantasy value takes a dip. Knowing where these breaks are can help you make the right call on what appears to be a tough decision. That’s why after you rank the players at every position, you must then put them into tiers.
The idea is simple. While you might prefer Russell Wilson to Tom Brady, you understand that the bottom-line difference between the two is minimal, thus placing them in the same tier. When multiple players in the same tier are still available, you may be able to wait on filling that spot on your roster. If you’re at the end of a tier, though, you’ll need to address it if you don’t want to have to drop down to the next group.
(1) Aaron Rodgers
The best quarterback in the league, from both real-life and fantasy perspectives, without question. Tom Brady is more accomplished, but Rodgers is the better pure quarterback. That’s what puts him in a tier by himself.
You know exactly what you’re getting with Wilson, Brady and Brees. Those guys all have established levels of high performance, and it’d be a surprise to see any of them come up short of what their track records say they should do. Watson is a wild card, but we all saw what he did before tearing his ACL last year. I realize the sample was small, but he was clearly the best player on the field in every game he played, including the one that featured Wilson. That doesn’t happen by accident.
(6) Cam Newton
Newton has a higher ceiling than everyone beneath him, and a lower floor than everyone ahead of him. He has been a top-three quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In the years he wasn’t, he finished 17th and 15th. He’s not quite as safe as he seems, but when he puts it all together, he’s a scoring machine.
The Brady/Brees Lite tier. These four don’t have quite the reliability or ceiling of the two future Hall of Famers, but there’s little chance they don’t end the year as season-long QB1s. Cousins, Stafford and Rivers, in particular, are three of the most criminally underappreciated fantasy players at any position. Ryan, meanwhile, is a textbook bounceback player after a 2017 season where a surprisingly low touchdown rate didn’t jibe with the rest of his numbers.
The upside tier. If Luck’s shoulder is finally healthy, he has the upside to be a top-five quarterback. If Wentz is able to play at least 14 games at or near 100% after tearing his ACL last December, he, too, has top-five upside, and likely a top-10 floor. Believe it or not, Roethlisberger has never been a top-five fantasy quarterback in his career. He has a top-15 floor, however. And with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Juju Smith-Schuster in tow, the chance for a career year is present, even at 36 years old. Garoppolo could be the next big thing at the position. Extrapolate his five starts from last year over a 16-game season, and you get nearly 5,000 yards at a 67.1% completion rate and 8.76 yards per attempt.
These three are solidly who they are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s interesting, though, is that their circumstances are all quite different this season. Smith is with a new team, and while his weapons in Washington aren’t quite what they were in Kansas City, Jay Gruden should get the most out of him in the way Andy Reid did. Manning has had some ugly years recently, but no quarterback who has had an RB1, WR1 and TE1 in the same season ever finished that season worse than 14th at his position. Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham and Evan Engram should carry Manning to a rebound year. Goff is in just his third year and absolutely could have some natural growth ahead of him, but he’s settled into a spot on the QB1/2 border for the time being.
(18) Patrick Mahomes
(19) Marcus Mariota
(20) Mitchell Trubisky
(21) Dak Prescott
The breakout potential tier. Mahomes and Trubisky are second-year players who have the feel of rookies, at least in the fantasy world, but for different reasons. Mahomes basically is a rookie, having started one meaningless game last season. Trubisky started 12 games for the Bears, but did so in a comically conservative offense that would have fit better in the NFL of the 1950s rather than the 21st century. Mariota has shown us more than flashes during his career, but last year was unquestionably a step in the wrong direction. This has the feeling of a make-or-break season for the fourth-year pro. Before Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension last year, Prescott was putting up 22.03 points per game. By comparison, last year’s No. 1 quarterback, Russell Wilson, finished with 22.18 points per game.
(22) Case Keenum
(23) Andy Dalton
(24) Blake Bortles
(25) Jameis Winston
(26) Tyrod Taylor
(27) Derek Carr
(28) Sam Bradford
These guys are all worthy streamers in traditional leagues, and back-end starters in superflex formats.