Fanelli’s Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 12 Quarterbacksby Mike Fanelli August 21, 2020 3 comments
It’s August, and that means the 2020 NFL season is just around the corner. The preseason and even the season won’t be the same as in the past thanks to Covid-19. However, as long as we have football, we have fantasy football. I recommend you wait to do your drafts for redraft leagues until the last possible moment because of Covid-19. But, for those of you who draft early, I offer my redraft rankings. To start the series, here are my top 12 quarterbacks.
Please note, all rankings and stats are based on six points per passing touchdown scoring.
1) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes’ 2019 season wasn’t as great as his 2018 season, where he won MVP and threw 50 for touchdowns. However, despite missing 2.5 games with a knee injury, Mahomes finished the year as the QB6, averaging 24.2 fantasy points per game. In 2020, the Chiefs return the majority of their Super Bowl roster, including all of Mahomes’ weapons. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce form the best wide receiver and tight end duo in the league.
First-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the first running back taken in the 2020 NFL draft and is built perfectly for this offense. His ability to not only catch passes out of the backfield but also line up in the slot gives Mahomes another mismatch weapon. While the defense is slightly improved, the Chiefs should still end up in plenty of shootouts this season. Given his history, the weapons around him, and the projected number of shootouts, Mahomes is easily my QB1 this season.
2) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Everyone knows what Jackson did on the ground last year. He easily led quarterbacks in rushing attempts (176) and yards (1,206). Jackson did finish second in rushing touchdowns (seven) behind Josh Allen (nine) in part because Mark Ingram was the Ravens main goal line back while Allen had several goal line carries for the Buffalo Bills. However, what isn’t given enough credit for his Jackson’s passing stats. Despite throwing only 401 attempts, good for 26th in the league, Jackson led the league with 36 touchdown passes.
In the offseason, the Ravens didn’t add a lot on offense in free agency. They did trade away Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round pick (a trade the Ravens easily got the better end of), but Hurst was easily behind Mark Andrews on the depth chart. However, the Ravens added plenty offensively during the draft. They added J.K. Dobbins in the second round and one of my dynasty rookie sleepers, Devin Duvernay, in the third round. With all of his critical weapons returning from last year and the new additions on day two of the draft, Jackson should have no trouble finishing as a top-three quarterback this season, even despite the expected regression.
3) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Cardinal fans should all sign a big “thank you” card and send it to Bill O’Brien. In the steal of the offseason, the Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans in exchange for David Johnson and a second-round pick. As a rookie, Murray finished the year as the QB10, averaging 20.3 fantasy points per game despite no true number one receiver on the roster. Now with Hopkins on board, Christian Kirk can slide over into his natural role as the WR2. Larry Fitzgerald is back for one more ride while guys like Andy Isabella provide explosive depth. The offensive line should be better with the addition of third-round pick Josh Jones, giving Murray more time in the pocket this season.
Last season, Murray averaged 34 rushing yards and 0.25 rushing touchdowns per game. On average, 4.9 of Murray’s 20.3 fantasy points per game (24.1%) came on the ground. Part of that success in his running back in the backfield; Kenyan Drake. Not only is Drake a perfect fit for this offense given his speed and big-play ability, but he also keeps defenses honest on read-option plays. With defenses focused on Drake’s big-play ability, Murray can more easily sneak out on keeper runs. Over the last three games of the 2019 season, Drake averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Expect a lot of open running lanes for Murray this season.
4) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
No one was a bigger winner of the offseason than Prescott. In addition to re-signing Amari Cooper to a five-year deal, the Cowboys also brought back tight end Blake Jarwin. On draft night, CeeDee Lamb fell into the Cowboys’ lap at pick 17 overall. Dak now has arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the league in Cooper, Lamb, and Michael Gallup. While the sudden retirement of Travis Frederick hurts the Cowboys’ offensive line, the team has veteran Joe Looney and last year’s third-round pick Connor McGovern, who will compete with rookie fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz at center. Needless to say, on paper, this offense is one of the best, if not the best in the league.
Last season Dak finished as the QB2, averaging 24.9 fantasy points per game. While many may think a lot of his production came via his rushing ability, that simply isn’t true. Dak averaged 17.3 yards and 0.19 touchdowns per game on the ground last season. On average, 3.1 of Dak’s 24.9 fantasy points per game (12.5%) came on the ground. Many will have Dak as the QB3 in their rankings but given the presence Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, I have Murray just ahead of Dak.
5) Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
The loss of Hopkins certainly hurts Watson. However, many will drop Watson too far in their rankings because of it. While we don’t have a real sample size of Watson playing without Hopkins, Watson is an elite quarterback regardless of who he is playing with. Furthermore, the Texans did add weapons after trading away Hopkins. In addition to adding Johnson in the trade for Hopkins, they signed Randall Cobb and traded for Brandin Cooks. Now, in total, the trio doesn’t make up for the loss of Hopkins, but it does give Watson some options to go along with Will Fuller.
Watson finished last year as the QB4 despite sitting out a meaningless week 17 game. However, even despite having an elite wide receiver like Hopkins, Watson was very inconsistent week to week. Watson’s fantasy production last season was very much tied into his touchdown success. Watson had five games last season with three or more passing touchdowns. He averaged 37.6 fantasy points per game in those games. By comparison, Watson had seven games with one or fewer passing touchdowns. In those games, he averaged just 16.6 fantasy points per game despite having six of his seven rushing touchdowns in those games. With Hopkins gone and “replaced” by the often injured Cooks and Cobb, Watson’s weekly upside is now limited while his floor hasn’t improved.
6) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Over the last three seasons, Wilson might be the most underrated fantasy quarterback. He finished last year as the QB3, the QB7 in 2018, and the QB1 in 2017. Over those three years, Wilson has thrown for 100 touchdowns while adding six more on the ground. Wilson had the second-best year of his career passing, throwing for 4,110 yards, in large part thanks to his supporting cast. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf form one of the more underrated wide receiver duos in the league. In addition, the team will get back Will Dissly at some point and added veteran Greg Olsen this offseason. While Wilson has been a top-seven quarterback in three straight seasons, he is very inconsistent on a week to week basis.
That isn’t Wilson’s fault as the Seahawks have a run first mindset, which limits his passing upside some weeks. Last season, Wilson had six games with one or fewer passing touchdowns. In those games, he averaged just 14.4 fantasy points per game. By comparison, he had 10 games with two or more passing touchdowns. In those games, he averaged 30.4 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, Wilson had three games with three or more passing touchdowns. In those games, he averaged 39.1 fantasy points per game. Because of the Seahawks run the ball and play defense mindset, Wilson doesn’t offer the same upside as the quarterbacks ahead of him on this list. However, his few big games a year can single handily win your matchup for the week.
7) Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Last season Wentz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards despite not having a wide receiver go over 500 yards. Part of that is the great tight end duo Wentz has. The other part is the Eagles’ wide receiver group was killed with injuries and the lack of depth showed. However, the Eagles made sure to address that this offseason. While they missed out on receivers in free agency, the Eagles spent multiple draft picks on wide receivers. It started with the selection of Jalen Reagor in the first round. He is expected to be a starter early in his rookie season. In addition to Reagor, the Eagles used three picks on three day to add more depth.
They drafted John Hightower in the fifth round and Quez Watkins in the sixth round. Last season Wentz finished as the QB8 with limited weapons, imagine what he will do now that he has plenty. If not for the fact that all the quarterbacks ahead of him offer more upside, Wentz is ranked too low as the QB7.
8) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Last year Ryan missed just one game with an injury and finished the season as the QB11, averaging 21.3 fantasy points per game. The duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley might be arguably the best in the league. Coming off a career year, Austin Hooper signed a massive free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. The Falcons quickly changed direction and traded for the Ravens’ tight end Hurst. While Hurst hasn’t done much so far in his career, he will now step into a clear starting role in a pass heavy offense. In addition, Hurst recently earned praise from Ryan.
With Julio, Ridley, and Russell Gage at wide receiver to go along with Hurst at tight end, and Todd Gurley in the backfield, Ryan has enough weapons to have another 4,500 plus yard season. However, what makes me love Ryan more than most is his defense or lack thereof. The Falcons are expected to have one of the worst defenses in the league this year. On top of that, they have two of the best offenses in the league in their division. I expect the Falcons to need to score a lot of points to stay in games this season, which makes Ryan’s floor and ceiling higher each week.
9) Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The GOAT moved south this offseason for warmer weather and better weapons. Last season Brady finished as the QB12, averaging 19.5 fantasy points per game. He did this despite playing with a banged up offensive line, no consistent weapons other than when Julian Edelman was healthy, and a very good defense. Now Brady gets to play behind a revamped offensive line and has arguably the best set of weapons in the last 10 years of his career. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are one of the best duos in the league. At tight end, Rob Gronkowski is back after taking a year off to go along with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Between Justin Watson, Scott Miller, and the rookie Tyler Johnson, someone should emerge as the WR3.
While the defense improved last season and is expected to take another step forward this season, they aren’t anywhere near the same level as the Patriots’ defense last season. Between a weaker unit and a division with a couple of high powered offenses, I expect the Buccaneers to be in several shootouts this season. Furthermore, the Buccaneers are expected to be a pass heavy offense again this season. With no elite running back on the roster (sorry Ke’Shawn Vaughn truthers), the Buccaneers will have to rely even more on the passing game. Unlike last year, fantasy owners won’t have to worry about weeks where Brady’s weapons can’t get the job done. I expect Brady to have a few weeks where he finishes as the QB1 this season.
10) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
A lot of Allen’s value comes from his rushing ability. In four points per passing touchdown scoring, Allen finished as the QB6 last year. By comparison, he finished as the QB9 in six points per passing touchdown scoring. Allen led all quarterbacks with nine rushing touchdowns, two more than Jackson and Watson. Furthermore, Allen finished eighth in the league in rushing touchdowns, ahead of running backs like Nick Chubb, Marlon Mack, and Drake. Allen’s rushing touchdown upside came as he was the Bills’ goal line rusher last season. However, with the addition of third-round pick Zack Moss, Allen will likely have his goal line rushing attempts limited.
Now that the bad news is out of the way, the good news is Allen’s supporting cast has dramatically improved from last season. The headline addition of Stefon Diggs gives Allen a true number one wide receiver for the first time in his career. The Bills paid a heavy price, giving up several picks, including their first-rounder to get Diggs. With Diggs on the roster, John Brown can return to his ideal role as the Bills’ number two receiver. While Allen’s biggest flaw is his accuracy, Diggs’ strong route running, and ability to create separation will help Allen with that. While the potential loss of rushing touchdowns hurts Allen’s fantasy value, the addition of Diggs should keep him in the low-end QB1 discussion.
11) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The days of Rodgers being a bad man are in the past. However, let’s not overreact and put Rodgers outside of the top 12 quarterbacks. Since he finished as the QB1 in 2016, Rodgers finished as the QB4 on a point per game basis in 2017 as he played in just seven games because of an injury. He finished as the QB9 in 2018 and the QB7 last season. Now the lack of proven weapons outside of Davante Adams hurts Rodgers but he has lacked weapons for years now. The bigger issue is the Packers’ new run first mindset.
In addition to Aaron Jones, who had 1,084 rushing yards (finishing 11th best in the league among running backs) and 16 rushing touchdowns (tied for the league lead), the Packers have Jamaal Williams and drafted A.J. Dillon in the second round. The fact that the Packers did not draft a wide receiver in a loaded draft class is a big red flag for Rodgers and his fantasy owners. However, if Rodgers can finish as the QB7 last year with Adams missing four games and playing several others less than 100%, the return of Adams and the growth of Allen Lazard should keep Rodgers inside the top 12, even as the Packers turn more towards a run first offense.
12) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last season was the first time in his Saints career that Brees missed games because of injury. Before last season, Brees had played in every meaningful game in his Saints career. Any concerns about him being an injury risk are foolish. With Brees missing five games with the thumb injury, he finished the year as the QB19. However, on a points per game basis, he would have finished as the QB3 behind Jackson and Matthew Stafford, averaging 25.3 fantasy points per game. Brees’ average fantasy points per game were his highest since 2016 (25.4) and second-highest since 2013. Now he enters a season with an excellent and improved supporting cast.
Brees wasn’t the only Saints player to miss time last season. Both Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara missed two games with injuries. The Saints didn’t sit back in free agency, but instead, signed Emmanuel Sanders. For the first time since 2016 with Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks, Brees has two very good wide receivers at his disposal. Between Thomas, Sanders, Cook, Kamara, Latavius Murray, and the do it all gadget man Taysom Hill, Brees has arguably the best supporting cast in years. The only reason Brees isn’t higher on the list is because of his decline in touchdowns as every year the Saints are one of the top teams in rushing touchdowns. Over the last six seasons, Brees has thrown for over 34 touchdowns just once.
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