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 with the available player pool. Dissecting key drop off points in a position's average draft position (ADP) is critical to maximizing draft day value. Here are the key pivot points for 2018 at quarterback:
The big four
While drafting a quarterback early in 2018 is less preferred than most years considering the historical depth of the position, there are four strong options at the position. Within the Top 5 of positional ADP, Deshaun Watson stands out as an avoid player. His historic touchdown rate, partial season success, plus returning from an injury likely to limit is rushing upside this season all point to a clear overvaluation at QB2 of ADP.
Surrounding Watson, however, is a sturdy quartet of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton. All have long-term success finishing near the top of the position and Newton, the most suspect passer of the group, has his best collection of weapons to-date with Torrey Smith and D.J. Moore added this offseason plus Greg Olsen (and 2017 Round 2 pick Curtis Samuel) returning from injury.
Beyond this cluster, there are more questions, like Carson Wentz returning from a knee injury and likely limited in his play-making and rushing acumen and Andrew Luck returning from a long layoff and will Drew Brees' volume return?
Ben Roethlisberger around the QB14 zone of ADP ends the next tier break. Outside the big four reside a number of sturdy veterans without many questions, including Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger. All have top-5 potential, but a dependable season-to-season floor outside of their career worst performances sprinkled in over the years. All have a quality collection of weapons to support them.
Kirk Cousins with his team change and offensive line question mark does not qualify within this ADP zone and Jimmy Garoppolo has a partial season profile and lagging weapons overall to provide enough doubt to side with the more seasoned veterans.
Chasing the upside
The priority QB2 zone where options have realistic QB1 upside is stocked this season. This includes Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, and Jameis Winston. Goff enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 under Sean McVay's tutelage and added Brandin Cooks this offseason. The arm talent of Mahomes is obvious and the Chiefs added Sammy Watkins to Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt. Mahomes' high-variance play leaves him in the upside QB2 bucket, but his highs can rival any quarterback in the league. Mariota has his best weaponry at the skill positions to-date with Corey Davis entering Year 2, Dion Lewis signed, and Taywan Taylor poised for more contribution than his rookie season. Mariota also can challenge most of the high-level rushers at the position any given week.
Dak Prescott's stock has been beaten down this offseason considering his lackluster finish to 2017. However, Dallas was running on fumes overall on offense and Prescott has averaged at least 4.0 PPG on the ground alone in back-to-back seasons. Finally, Winston is serving a three-game suspension to start the year but returns to a lights-out group of weapons including Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate.
the line in the sand
While risky to rely on solely as a standalone fantasy starter, the intriguing quarterbacks stretch all the way outside the Top 30 of positional ADP. Eli Manning in the QB25 zone has largely been a top-12 fantasy option with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. in recent seasons. With Beckham back from injury and the addition of Saquon Barkley, Manning has one of the best quartets of skill positions surrounding him (adding Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram) in the NFL.
Tyrod Taylor sits in the Manning range and the Browns have seen a weapons explosion since last year's offensive implosion behind Deshone Kizer. Jarvis Landry was signed, Josh Gordon is presumed to be back, Antonio Callaway was drafted, David Njoku enters Year 2, and Cleveland has arguably the best trio of running backs top-to-bottom in the NFL (Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson). Taylor is the opposite of Kizer, known to protect the ball at all costs and extend drives with smart scrambling.
Also beyond the Top 25 are Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill, veterans who have been cast aside from fantasy consciousness. Tannehill adds the rushing element which is a fast-track to mid-QB2 or better fantasy production as he returns from a lost 2017 due to injury. Flacco's weapons were abysmal last season as Baltimore endured one of their worst years in recent memory on offense. This offseason featured the signing of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, two underrated additions and better than anything they have had at wide receiver since Steve Smith back in 2014. The Ravens also added Hayden Hurst at tight end in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.