Check engine light: Recalibrating all the fantasy quarterbacks

All summer we talked about how it was the deepest quarterback pool in history. And it took just two weeks to blow that to smithereens.

Injuries, poor play, rustiness — we’re in strange waters at the quarterback position. With that in mind, I thought it was time for a note on all of your current fantasy options; consider this the “check engine light” exercise for our quarterbacks. A bunch of guys are still set-and-forget, and some sneaky, playable values have emerged. But I’m also going to validate some of the fantasy angst floating around.

This is not a strict rankings list, but rather, a tired sense of how I feel right now about everyone playing the most important position in sports. I did not comment on any quarterback who’s currently unavailable to play.

Let’s be careful out there.

(Here’s the too long, didn’t read digest: if you have someone in the top tier, jump offline and go enjoy your evening. If you’re in a fix, the “Probably won’t go ballistic, but there’s value here” tier is an area you might need to shop in. Obvious disclaimers apply: you know your league better than anyone else, and all fantasy decisions are dominated by context. I know, I know — in your league it’s different. Season this all to taste.)

Try not to rub it in:

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Lucky you. Or maybe that’s smart you. Even when Tyreek Hill is out, this is an unfair weapon. The Alex Smith era feels like 10 years ago.

Deshaun Watson, Texans

An elite talent and as likable a player as they come. Here’s hoping Bill O’Brien and the Texans offensive line can keep him protected, though Watson’s pocket awareness needs some work, too.

Matt Ryan, Falcons

Very high floor, set up to succeed. Probably has the best overall set of receivers to work with. Almost the entire schedule will be played indoors.

Tom Brady, Patriots

Supporting cast looked ordinary, then Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown came on board. No guarantee the team can keep the primary guys intact, but Brady could easily go down as a monster profit.

Lamar Jackson, Ravens

Last year he played “athlete”; this year he looks like a quarterback. Baltimore’s quietly restocked the skill positions nicely; Mark Andrews looks like a gigantic profit player.

Dak Prescott, Cowboys

Has a sneaky rushing backboard that you never really have to pay for. Amari Cooper got back to stardom, just needed to wash the Raiders off him. A shame Michael Gallup is hurt, but this fridge is stocked.

Can't go wrong with Dak Prescott right now. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Might not be a birdie, but should be a par:

Jared Goff, Rams

Maybe he’s never going to be truly elite, but surrounded by Sean McVay and those receivers, who cares? Take note of the home/road splits.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Like Dean Smith and Michael Jordan, the only thing that can really stop Wilson is his coaching staff. Better sack avoidance would also help. DK Metcalf has been helpful right out of the box.

Carson Wentz, Eagles

The supporting cast looked too good to be true, then about 40 percent of it got hurt in Atlanta. I’m still on board, but I’d like a reassurance game.

You probably like them more than I do:

Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Is the Green Bay brand name still a thing? Is Rodgers copacetic with his new coaching staff? Something doesn’t add up here.

Baker Mayfield, Browns

The line is shaky, no getting around that. I’m still mostly on board, but there was a public rush to anoint him. The Browns might have read too many of their preseason clippings; you still have to play the games.

Derek Carr, Raiders

Not a lot of upside given what he’s working with. Someday, you’ll tell your grandchildren Carr was an MVP candidate. Oakland’s still got that 5-11 gleam.

Kyler Murray, Cardinals

Not convinced of the coach, and where is all the rushing production? One week they threw to David Johnson, one week they didn’t.

Philip Rivers, Chargers

Reasonable floor as always, but no longer has the juicy upside.

Probably won’t go ballistic, but there’s value here:

Andy Dalton, Bengals


One of my favorite pivots, even if A.J. Green can’t be counted on (injury optimism is not your friend). Zac Taylor knows how to design an offense. The volume should be projectable.

Josh Allen, Bills

Runs eagerly and runs recklessly; you worry about that holding up. But he’s a playmaker and he’s already clicked with John Brown.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Niners

Poor opener had me spooked, but Kyle Shanahan had all the right answers at Cincinnati. Even if Dante Pettis isn’t ready for prime time, the skill players are exciting.

Matthew Stafford, Lions

Big volume days are long gone, but he’s a pro’s pro who will play hurt and leave it on the field. Kenny Golladay might be an eyelash overrated, but the receivers are good here. T.J. Hockenson looks like the rare rookie exception at tight end.

Jacoby Brissett, Colts

With the right team, with the right coach. Had starter experience before this year, albeit it was with the old regime. A passable QB2 for the Superflexers. I still see Indy as the best team in that division.

I will sign off on your worry:

Cam Newton, Panthers

Paid a massive price for years of proactive running. I am not optimistic he can reinvent himself strictly as a pocket passer, and he obviously looks hurt now.

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers

With those weapons and that coach, how could he fail? Well, he’s Jameis Winston, and maybe Byron Leftwich isn’t ready to be a play-caller. I never thought I’d miss Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Tampa bullpen.

Mitchell Trubisky, Bears

If you want to throw up in your mouth, think about Chicago trading up to draft Trubisky — in a draft that also included Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Does this become another hide-the-quarterback thing?

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Just good enough to lose with. Team is openly trying to hide him. If you see a selling window on Adam Thielen or Stefon Digs, you have to consider it.

Upside of the Unknown:

Daniel Jones, Giants

Laughed out of the draft room, but looked the part in the summer. Give the Giants credit for being proactive. Skill spots aren’t deep, but Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram give you a shot. I’m oddly excited for DJ’s debut at Tampa.

Gardner Minshew, Jags

Say this for Minshew, the moment is never too big for him and he wins the press conference. He’s also clicking with some of his primary receivers. I hate to see Nick Foles hurt, but Minshew could be a legitimate find.

Mason Rudolph, Steelers

Hard to say what he’s ready for. At least he has help, and a decent infrastructure around him.

Superflex Blues:

Teddy Bridgewater, Saints

Maybe Sean Payton can proactively run his offense through Teddy B, but I’m not optimistic. And this team’s skill chart is especially top-heavy.

Joe Flacco, Broncos

I don’t want to roster him, watch him, think about him.

Marcus Mariota, Titans

There’s a non-zero chance they’re actually better off playing Ryan Tannehill. Mariota doesn’t have the durability to run proactively, and he’s not a special player without those multiple packages.

Case Keenum, Redskins

Should not be allowed to wear the Cousins-8 in Washington, they play too much alike. That’s not a compliment.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins

No one has a chance here. And Josh Rosen will only be worse.

Jets Quarterbacks

Can Joe Namath still chuck it 50 yards?

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