Quarterback Tiers, Targets, and Players to Avoid

A look at the 2020 quarterback crop broken into tiers with values, overvalued players, extra bang for your buck players in different scoring systems and schedule notes.

Another year, another ridiculously deep group of fantasy quarterbacks for one quarterback leagues. Hopefully, you are dabbling in 2QB/Superflex leagues to add more strategy layers to your drafts, but even if you aren’t, “wait at quarterback” isn’t an obvious answer this year. The top quarterbacks are scoring at a higher clip than ever and some of our old standbys are getting close to the quarterback cliff. What does the quarterback landscape look like this year?

ELITE QB1

Lamar Jackson, BAL
Patrick Mahomes II, KC

Yes, I have Jackson over Mahomes. Give me the rushing upside over passing upside any day. Of course, the scoring system can affect this calculation, so be sure to incorporate that into your ranking here. I think the Ravens offense can be even better this year, but I also see the Chiefs as a juggernaut, so I’m fine with both in the second round which is a bit of an RB/WR dead zone. When the top quarterbacks score 30 a game, that advantage wins weeks as often as any advantage you can land in the first two rounds outside of a repeat of 2019 Christian McCaffrey.

Value: Jackson
Priced Correctly: Mahomes

STRONG QB1

Dak Prescott, DAL
Russell Wilson, SEA
Deshaun Watson, HOU
Kyler Murray, ARI

Value: Prescott
Priced Correctly: Wilson, Watson, Murray

Ceedee Lamb is as good as advertised so far and the Cowboys offense is conjuring up stars in our eyes. Prescott has moved to the clear #3 quarterback on my board, and if he’s still going two rounds after Jackson/Mahomes, he could be the best value of the top six quarterbacks off of the board and the kind of player that makes your draft. Wilson is next in this tier with our hopes that the “Let Russ Cook” or “Play Every Quarter Like It’s the Fourth Quarter” movement will add more pass attempts to his plate. Watson has to adjust to losing DeAndre Hopkins, which adds some volatility to a quarterback who was already up and down last year. Murray is a fashionable breakout pick, although he might not be far along enough as a passer to leapfrog to the top of this tier, even with the addition of Hopkins.

HIGH CEILING QB1

Josh Allen, BUF
Carson Wentz, PHI

With improvements in efficiency (which is possible after the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs), Allen could be a strong QB1 this year, but if Zack Moss is better than Frank Gore at converting goal-line carries, Allen’s weekly ceiling could take a hit, and he’s not going to take a big step forward in volume. Wentz could pop for fantasy this year if Desean Jackson stays healthy and Jalen Reagor is as good as early camp buzz indicates. Wentz is going outside of the top 7 rounds, the most fertile wide receiver territory, so I get having him as a quarterback Plan A if you don’t want to sacrifice a premium pick on a quarterback, but still want to build in some upside to your QB1 pick.

Value: Wentz
Priced Correctly: Allen

HIGH FLOOR QB1

Drew Brees, NO
Tom Brady, TB
Matthew Stafford, DET
Matt Ryan, ATL
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Brees was actually a strong QB1 after he came back last year and I could be underrating him with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders. He’s also a fine pick in the vein of Wentz where you build in upside to your QB1, but don’t use a top 6-7 round pick on the position. Brady won’t be approaching Jameis Winston’s numbers, but his weapons are still much improved and he could have his best fantasy season since 2017. Stafford was a top 5-6 option last year and you can get him a round or two after Brees, although the team has two strong running backs this year to potentially lower the passing game volume. Ryan is a solid pick as usual, although his numbers were down a tick when the team got more competitive in the second half of the year. Roethlisberger’s injury discount might be warranted, but he’s the cheapest of this tier and best pick in a “wait at quarterback” approach.

Value: Stafford, Roethlisberger
Priced Correctly: Brees, Brady
Overvalued: Ryan

WAIT ON QB1/HIGH CEILING QB2/SUPERFLEX


Joe Burrow, CIN
Ryan Tannehill, TEN

Cam Newton, NE

These are your top targets if you want to be the last one to take your starter and might even wait until a few teams have their backup to take your QB1. Burrow should get great come from behind game scripts and has some running ability along with a terrific set of targets. Tannehill was a top-three quarterback once he took over for Marcus Mariota last year, but the fantasy community obviously doubts that he can sustain his efficiency level. Newton has always been a strong QB1, but the Patriots having a legitimate three-way quarterback competition in camp casts some doubt on his fantasy reliability.

Value: Newton, Burrow, Tannehill

MATCHUP STREAMER/BOOM/BUST QB2/SUPERFLEX

Aaron Rodgers, GB
Jared Goff, LAR
Daniel Jones, NYG
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF

This group is only going to be useful if you try to time their ceiling games (which admittedly will have top-five upside in that week). Rodgers is going to be stuck in a run-first offense. Goff was horrendous against good defenses last year. Jones opens with Pittsburgh, Chicago, and San Francisco and can’t be your QB1 to open the season. Garoppolo carries the risk of minuscule volume games when the 49ers cruise, but he does start with Arizona, who he hung four touchdowns on twice last year.

Priced Correctly: Garoppolo
Overvalued: Rodgers, Goff, Jones

VALUE QB2/SUPERFLEX/STREAMER

Teddy Bridgewater, CAR
Tyrod Taylor, LAC
Drew Lock, DEN

Bridgewater has four great targets and will be playing from behind a lot of the time. Taylor has the rushing contributions to be a low QB1 for as long as he’s the starter, which could be the whole season. Lock’s cup runneth over with speedy targets and the hope is that he’ll take a big step forward this year. Being able to wait on QB2/Superflex in that league format and still land one of this group will allow you to be patient, although they might be better cast as QB3’s that allow you to trade an earlier pick if they hit.

Value: Bridgewater, Taylor, Lock

QB2/SUPERFLEX LOW CEILING PLAYS

Kirk Cousins, MIN
Gardner Minshew, JAX
Philip Rivers, IND
Derek Carr, LV
Baker Mayfield, CLE
Sam Darnold, NYJ
Dwayne Haskins, WAS

You might be able to time a good start out of this tier, but chances are you don’t want to reach into this group in one quarterback leagues. Cousins is better than his numbers and will be viable in matchups where the Vikings are underdogs, especially if the defense suffers from the changes in the secondary. If the Vikings pass volume increases, he could surprise. Minshew will have random solid games, but the Jags carry the risk of being a dead team walking again this year. Rivers should be tasked with taking care of the ball over carrying the offense but does have an impressive array of targets. Carr has the line and now the targets, but he has always been a fantasy underachiever. Mayfield is in the same kind of highly structured run-first offense as Cousins. Darnold has to row upstream against Gase, and Haskins is still under construction playing behind a poor line with a shallow group of targets.

Priced Correctly: Minshew, Carr, Mayfield, Darnold, Haskins
Overvalued: Cousins, Rivers

Week 1 Starter and then...

Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA
Mitchell Trubisky, CHI

Priced Correctly: Fitzpatrick, Trubisky

As of this moment, Fitzpatrick and Trubisky are in line to start Week 1, but that can change. And if they start Week 1, they may not start Week 2. The Dolphins appear to be more open to starting #5 pick Tua Tagovailoa every day, although Fitzpatrick was a good fantasy option in the second half of the year, so he could still have value if he holds off Tagovailoa. When Nick Foles was signed, he was assumed by many to be the Week 1 starter, but the Bears don’t seem convinced of that… yet. The Dolphins offer more upside than the Bears for fantasy if you are going fishing here in 2-QB/Superflex leagues.

Likely to Get Starts Eventually

Tua Tagovailoa, MIA
Nick Foles, CHI
Justin Herbert, LAC

Tagovailoa and Foles are probably going to start more games than their counterparts. Getting out ahead of this in 2QB/Superflex leagues is a good idea, and they should be drafted ahead of Fitzpatrick/Trubisky, but Foles collapsed last year and is not nearly as sure a thing as Tagovailoa to finish the season as the starter. Herbert will only start once the season is lost, and he might not be as well-equipped as Tagovailoa to have even modest success.

2QB/SUPERFLEX WATCHLIST

Marcus Mariota, LV
Kyle Allen, WAS
Alex Smith, WAS

Derek Carr is a better quarterback than Mariota, but do Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden believe that? The Raiders could easily be 1-4 going into their bye after facing Carolina, New Orleans, New England, Buffalo, and Kansas City, and pondering a change to Mariota. Allen knows the Scott Turner offense and the team could turn to him if Haskins struggles. Alex Smith is a great story but is probably far away from being able to move and protect himself adequately on a football field. It was still a long long shot that he would make it this far, so he could actually get on the field this year if he continues to defy the odds.

Best Picks for roles

1QB starter: Jackson, Mahomes, Prescott, Wentz, Stafford, Roethlisberger, Newton
1QB backup: Newton, Burrow, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Taylor
2QB/Superflex QB1: Jackson, Mahomes, Prescott, Wentz, Stafford
2QB/Superflex QB2: Roethlisberger, Newton, Burrow, Tannehill
2QB/Superflex QB3: Bridgewater, Taylor, Lock

Extra Bang for your Buck

4 pt pass td/pt per 25 pass yd: Jackson, Allen
6 pt pass td: Mahomes, Wilson, Prescott, Brees, Roethlisberger
300 yd bonus: Prescott
Long TD bonuses: Mahomes, Prescott, Stafford, Tannehill, Roethlisberger
-2 or more for turnovers: Jackson, Wilson, Rodgers, Cousins, Mahomes, Brady
Points for completions/accuracy: Ryan, Prescott, Carr

Schedule Notes

  • Atlanta opens with Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Green Bay, and Carolina - the run defenses are mostly projected to be weak and Matt Ryan’s attempts might be low, helping the case against picking him as your QB1.
  • None of the Colts' first six opponents - Jacksonville, Minnesota, the Jets, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati - should force Philip Rivers to air it out.
  • Tyrod Taylor’s opening trio of Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Carolina meshes well with Daniel Jones tough Pittsburgh/Chicago/San Francisco start and also works well with Tua Tagovailoa as a QB2BC in 2QB/Superflex.
  • Sam Darnold is a scary start even in 2QB/Superflex with Buffalo, San Francisco, Indianapolis, and Denver to open.
  • Tom Brady only gets one pushover defense in an opening five games of New Orleans, Carolina, Denver, the Chargers, and Chicago, but he finishes in Weeks 14-16 with the new look Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit cornerback groups.
  • Josh Allen has Pittsburgh, Denver, and New England Weeks 14-16, beware.
  • Lamar Jackson (@CLE JAX NYG) and Patrick Mahomes II (@MIA @NO ATL) have favorable Weeks 14-16 schedules.

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