The available player pool is vast in fantasy football. While every player has their price, most drafts will center around 40-50 target players and key avoid players on an owner's draft board. These strong takes for the upcoming season based on average draft position (ADP) sculpt a draft plan. Here is the early draft plan for the quarterback position by myfantasyleague.com ADP through late May on Footballguys.com.
Quarterbacks to Target
Russell Wilson, QB4
Getting a discount on Russell Wilson compared to the top-3 of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Aaron Rodgers is gravy in a fantasy draft. Wilson has been on an elite career arc through four seasons as an NFL starter. The missing piece is even average NFL passing volume to unlock an even higher fantasy ceiling. In addition to low volume, Wilson has also had one of the worst sets of passing weapons in the NFL. Tyler Lockett enters Year 2 after a promising rookie year. Doug Baldwin, while touchdown regression is highly likely, is a viable option. Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson are injury wild cards entering the season. Wilson also had just a single rushing score in 2015. Rushing production is erratic for quarterbacks, but with elite mobility, Wilson is a good candidate to bounce back with 3-to-5 scores on the ground like previous seasons.
Philip Rivers, QB14
The high-QB2 zone of ADP is ripe with upside value early this draft season. Rivers is in the running for the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks annually as a 'get no respect' veteran. Rivers is unlikely to have a top-notch running game again in 2016, controlling the line of scrimmage pre-snap and using the short passing game as a substitute for a consistent rushing attack. Rivers has completed 66% or more of his passes for three straight seasons. Travis Benjamin enters as a field-stretching option to replace the oft-injured Malcom Floyd. Keenan Allen returns to the lineup after missing most of 2015. Antonio Gates returns as a viable red zone target from free agency.
Carson Palmer, QB15
Palmer is nearing the age where a fall-off can occur at any time. However, at the price of QB15 Palmer's upside is perfect as part of a two or three-headed committee to find a top-5 option. Over the last two years, Palmer has 46 passing touchdowns in 22 games to just 14 interceptions. Arizona has a dominant set of pass-catchers from wide receiver (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown) to running back (David Johnson). Palmer is one of the few quarterbacks outside the top-12 with elite upside.
Eli Manning, QB19
Since Odell Beckham's arrival in 2014, Eli Manning has had his two finest fantasy seasons in his 12-year career. Now, Manning adds Sterling Shepard, an NFL-ready interior receiver. The backfield is unsettled, making Manning is a good candidate for 600 or more passes for a third straight season.
Jay Cutler, QB26
Like Eli Manning, Jay Cutler has been up and down over his career. Alshon Jeffery had less than 100 targets due to missed games in 2015 and No.7 overall pick Kevin White missed the entire season. As a result retreads Eddie Royal, Marc Mariani, and Josh Bellamy combined for 117 targets at wide receiver. Zach Miller flashed over the second half of the season and projects as a viable replacement to departed Martellus Bennett. Outside the top-25, Cutler is being forgotten among quarterbacks while top-12 numbers are within reach simply by Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White staying on the field.
Quarterbacks to Avoid
Blake Bortles, QB5
Bortles is one of the glaring touchdown regression candidates entering 2016. Bortles is prone to the poor decision, despite his 35 touchdowns a year ago. The only above-NFL average secondary metric for Bortles is his touchdown rate. He has been sacked 106 times through two seasons and yet to complete 60% of his passes in a season. Both of Bortles' main targets, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, had sky-high touchdown rates. An improvement in Jacksonville's defense would limit Bortles' garbage time opportunities. Bortles led the NFL in attempts (107), yards (806), and passing touchdowns (8) in the last five minutes of games down by at least two touchdowns. While Bortles has a reasonable floor entering Year 3 (Footballguys has QB9 projection on Bortles), an ADP of QB5 makes Bortles an avoid player in 2016.
Marcus Mariota, QB9
Mariota was on pace for less than 500 passes as a rookie. Add his thinner frame and lack of upgrades in the pass game (Rishard Matthews the lone free agent or rookie addition of note) and Mariota needs a substantial boost beyond his own skills to emerge as a top-10 option in Year 2. Tennessee added Derrick Henry as a run game hammer, in addition to still having DeMarco Murray in the backfield. Signs point to another low-volume season.
Jared Goff, QB20
Betting on non-rushing rookie quarterbacks is historically a low-payoff move for fantasy. The Rams added a number of rookie passing weapons, but none in the early rounds of the draft as projected early impacts. With a strong defense, stingy division, and Todd Gurley healthy from the start in his second season, Jared Goff is a low-ceiling proposition not worth the roster spot.