For years, we've talked about the quarterback disconnect between real-life and fantasy football. NFL life is all about the quarterback. Fantasy football is about so many things before the quarterback. Often it has downshifted to the fourth-most important position on draft day.
Perhaps those days are gone for good. It's never been easier to throw in the NFL, the position has become more athletic and more run-friendly and the quarterback scoring is going through the roof — at the top of the position. If you cull the top points-per-game seasons from quarterbacks all time, the top 13 of them are in the 2000s. And 7-of-11 of those super seasons landed in the last four years. None of the names will surprise you — Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen. These are the cover boys, the MVP favorites, the faces of the NFL.
The idea behind late-round quarterback hunting was the idea that the second, third and fourth waves at QB wouldn't be that far behind the first wave, so let's attack the position with fewer resources. I suppose it's possible that maybe you can find a breakout quarterback who's mispriced by the fantasy market — maybe. Obviously, the names in the previous graph were league-altering picks the first season they exploded. Nonetheless, as this position starts to become more top-heavy, I've shifted into a more proactive mindset as I fill the quarterback slot.
Oh, I'll never be taking them in Round 1, and Round 2 is also too pricy for me. The same goes for paying up in a salary cap draft format. Assuming neither situation is a Superflex format. After that? Season to taste, amigos. Season to taste.
Pass the salt.
The Big Tickets
$35 Patrick Mahomes
$33 Josh Allen
$33 Jalen Hurts
$30 Lamar Jackson
$30 *Joe Burrow
$29 Justin Fields
$29 Justin Herbert
$28 Trevor Lawrence
Mahomes might hit the sweet spot for running, just enough to augment his production, but not so much that you worry about it bringing on extra injury risk. The Chiefs wide receiver room is once again suspect, but Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid are enough to build a formidable passing attack
I wonder at what point the Bills will pull back from Allen's goal-line rushing, realizing he's the one irreplaceable player they have and there are safer ways to punch in scores from in close. In the playoffs, OK, play with your hair on fire. It really doesn't make sense in a September or October game against some .500 opponent. Allen was obviously playing hurt in the second half of 2022, but he's healthy now.
Jackson gets an offensive makeover at the right time, a beefed-up receiver room and a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken. He's ready for another MVP run.
Herbert is also an interesting option this year; surely the Chargers can't be as injury-unlucky as they were last year, and the Bolts also added some interesting outside pieces. And with new OC Kellen Moore in town, they'll probably play at a quicker pace, too.
Burrow has always been a proactive pick for me, never more than this season. He's working with a superstar receiver and perhaps the best No. 2 wideout in the league, the line looks capable, and an ordinary running game might push Cincinnati to pass more than usual. Burrow is also likely to punch in four-to-five touchdowns on the ground. (I attached an asterisk to Burrow's ticket, and pushed him down $1, after he suffered a calf strain on July 27. The Bengals are still optimistic he can be ready for the opener.)
Legitimate Building Blocks
$23 Dak Prescott
$22 Tua Tagovailoa
$21 Daniel Jones
$19 Kirk Cousins
$19 Geno Smith
$18 Aaron Rodgers
$17 Deshaun Watson
$16 Jared Goff
I was willing to give Watson a pass for last year's poor play; he was set up to fail. But I wanted to see more crispness this summer, too, and that never happened. So I'm torn here. I can't say Watson has a floor, but I can't ignore his upside, either. I bumped him down two bucks from earlier Shuffles.
Cousins had stunningly ordinary efficiency metrics last year despite the presence of Justin Jefferson, perhaps the league's best receiver. Perhaps Cousins was playing hurt, as was discussed after the season, but we're also talking about a non-running veteran entering his age-35 season. The Vikings need another offensive piece to step forward if Cousins is going to stay inside the QB12 cutline — in other words, a weekly starter — this year. But a full year of T.J. Hockinson sounds nice, and I expect Jordan Addison to be a strong pro.
If you look at Smith and worry about pumpkin risk, I get it. But Smith actually outplayed Russell Wilson during the 2021 season in Seattle, and the Seahawks added another exciting receiver (Jaxon Smith-Njigba, albeit he's now headed for wrist surgery) to go with reliable holdovers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Smith had some pedigree coming into the NFL, but almost everything fell wrong for him in his New York days. I expect the Seahawks to have a plus offense again.
Rodgers is a mercurial cat, but he's getting a city change at the right time, and Garrett Wilson is headed to the moon. Tom Brady had a career revival in Tampa Bay. Brett Favre's first year in Minnesota was a blast. Rodgers can give us at least one more Pro Bowl season.
As promised, Richardson was bumped a tier when the Colts named him the Day 1 starter. New head coach Shane Steichen was the man responsible for the Hurts breakout in Philadelphia; he knows how to scheme for a mobile quarterback.
Talk Them Up, Talk Them Down
$12 Russell Wilson
$12 Matthew Stafford
$12 Brock Purdy
$11 Derek Carr
$11 Kenny Pickett
$10 Jordan Love
$7 Bryce Young
$7 Sam Howell
$6 C.J. Stroud
$5 Mac Jones
Purdy was given a solid bump after a healthy and crisp summer. He's obviously playing with all sorts of fun teammates. The upside is capped by pedigree, somewhat, and a Niners setup that will rarely necessitate Purdy play pinball against the opposing offense. Purdy will likely be more efficient in real life than he is explosive in fantasy. There's value here, but be realistic about the upside.
Pickett showed poise throughout his rookie year and there were flashes of greatness in the last quarter of the season. We've been spoiled in the last couple of decades with quarterbacks who are great right away; don't hold it against Pickett if he needs a more deliberate path for development. The Steelers have a good receiver room, too, as they usually do. And this first-string offense looked very good all summer.
Maybe Sean Payton can fix Wilson, but things didn't look promising all summer. The Broncos receiver room has also been ravaged by injury.
$3 *Kyler Murray
$1 Sam Darnold
Murray is tied to what looks like the worst roster in the NFL and no other team is remotely close. Heck, we're not sure when he's going to return to action. The Cardinals have been surprisingly mum about it, perhaps because they know a massive rebuild is coming. This has tank job written all over it.