Each fantasy football season the landscape of the skill positions change. One year offers more depth, while another turns into a studs and duds feel to the available player pool. Dissecting key drop off points in the position ADP is critical to maximizing draft day value. Here are the key pivot points for 2017 at quarterback:
The clear Endpoint
Starting at the back of the positional ADP, Eli Manning is the last comfortable QB1 (roster-wise) on my board. His ADP of QB18 is quizzical as Manning's weapons are the best in recent memory, including the 2014 and 2015 seasons where he finishes as QB11 and QB8 respectively. Evan Engram may be a rookie of flashes more than consistent impact, but Engram and especially Brandon Marshall are key additions to Manning's already strong stable of Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard.
In a start-1QB format, Eli Manning is the last viable starter I want to lead my depth chart. With other appealing options outside the top-12 like Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, there are key checkpoints to know Manning's time is getting close on a draft board to cease the game of 'quarterback chicken' in the middle of the draft.
In quarterback premium formats, the Eli Manning rule shifts as he is the last QB1 I want if waiting for the position, but Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, and Sam Bradford are sturdy options outside the top-20 for a team's second (or third) quarterback option.
The Big 3
While diving into the early quarterback pool is not natural to my fantasy drafting DNA, there is a clear divide between the 'big 3' of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees and the rest of the quarterback list.
At QB4 sits Matt Ryan, one of the biggest regression candidates at the position in recent years. Ryan is firmly priced at his ceiling with only downside to investing at his ADP. Ryan has one finish inside the top-5 quarterback in his career, which was 2016. Ryan is followed by Andrew Luck at QB5, who remains a question mark to start the season considering his recovery progress and a shoddy offensive line leading to an above-average sack rate in 2016.
While typically gone already, I would pull the trigger in Round 4 on any of the trio of Rodgers-Brady-Brees in standard leagues. Otherwise, I am waiting a few rounds to reassess the value landscape at quarterback.
The Middle Ground
With a wide range once the top-3 quarterbacks are gone and Eli Manning comes around in the QB15-18 ADP zone, here are the key tier drops in between:
Russell Wilson and Derek Carr are aggressively priced considering their recent fantasy finishes. At QB6 and QB7 respectively, they have a combined one season higher than QB6, which was Wilson's 2015 season. Neither has seen a strong uptick in weapons (like Eli Manning for example) and Carr has yet to finish as a QB1.
Jameis Winston has QB18 and QB14 finishes since entering the NFL and his weapons set is arguably the best in the NFL with DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard added to Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, Cameron Brate and Charles Sims out of the backfield. At QB8 in ADP, Winston has a stronger argument at that price than Wilson or Carr at higher valuations.
Marcus Mariota, like Winston, has a strong argument as a target quarterback in the middle ground of ADP. Tennessee adds Corey Davis and Eric Decker to a quarterback with a QB10 finish in 2016 and strong rushing upside.
Speaking of rushing production, Cam Newton and Dak Prescott are in the QB10-12 zone of ADP. Newton has finished QB8 or better in every season of his career outside of his QB15 fall in 2016. With Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel added to his weapons, Newton's inaccuracy or a steep decline in rushing production is the only pause button to investing this season. Prescott was highly-managed as a rookie to a QB13 finish and returns the same offense as last year, pending the time missing by Ezekiel Elliott.
Considering the turnover at wide receiver, Kirk Cousins is a tough investment by comparison at QB11 ADP. Instead, waiting on Philip Rivers or Eli Manning is optimal. Rivers' QB15 ADP is lower than each of his finishes since 2013, including two QB8 performances. With Keenan Allen returning and Hunter Henry entering Year 2 of development, Rivers is a safe bet to outproduce his ADP.
Matthew Stafford is another secure investment at QB14, showing the voluminous depth of the 2017 quarterback crop. Stafford has finished inside the top-12 in five seasons of the past six, including 2016 without Calvin Johnson (QB9).