A great part about doing a bazillion fantasy football drafts is that you get to see trends develop. A quarterback run here, a drop off in talent there; you start to see the ebbs and flows of the draft. It’s a hard-earned dataset, gotten through endless hours of mock drafting and poring over the data. Or, you take 20 minutes on 4for4 and snag their ADP data and break it up into tiers… Anyway, here are the fantasy football quarterback tiers as broken up by average draft position data for a 12-team league, as well as some thoughts on the players going inside said fantasy football quarterback tiers. ADP data are for 12-team leagues and 6.03 means the sixth pick of the third round, 12.12 means the twelfth pick of the twelfth round, et cetera.
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 1: The Studs
These are the cream of the crop, the guys who are guaranteed (not guaranteed) to smash your opponent (they may or may not do this). Four quarterbacks since 2014 have top-twenty ADP. None of them were better than QB4 on the year, and the other three missed multiple games (while ranking as QB6 or QB7 on the season in their healthy contests). These are your QB1s, but these are the QBs you let someone else draft. Sure, this tier is the odds-on favorite to end up as QB1, but we’ve had a different QB1 every single season since Aaron Rodgers triple-tapped QB1 in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Let someone else have them, quarterback is deep, and you should be taking running backs here, anyway.
My Favorite: Patrick Mahomes
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 2: The Contenders to the Throne
If you had to make a shortlist of guys who were best poised to make the Patrick Mahomes/Lamar Jackson leap into the stratosphere, it would be this tier. This tier makes up the bulk of mid-round four to early round-five, all going within nine picks of each other. They all have the same general profile: big arm, lots of weapons, and some legs to boost their fantasy football value. Russell Wilson’s been QB1 before, Dak was QB2 last season, and Deshaun Watson was QB1 in fantasy points per game before tearing his ACL in practice in 2017.
Kyler Murray is also there; staring, laughing. He’s daring us to bet against him in his second season with Kliff Kingsbury and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins to his targets. If you want a QB who will come closest to 2018 Patrick Mahomes or 2019 Lamar Jackson (two historic seasons), then Murray is your last shot at that.
My Favorite: Dak Prescott (I promise they won’t all be the top guy by ADP in each tier)
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 3: The Backend Starters aka The Hodgepodge
Josh Allen almost got his own tier. If 2020 Dak has the best shot at QB1, Allen has the best shot at being 2019 Dak. He can run, he can pass, he has new weapons; he has top-three QB upside. Does he have top QB upside? Absolutely not, he’s still Josh Allen. He’s the runt of the running/passing upside QB litter, and he’s a 21 pick(!) discount.
Matt Ryan had a down season, but pure interception luck should see him bounce back. Tom Brady plays out from under Bill Belichick for the first time and brought some fellow AARP beneficiaries with him to Tampa Bay. Drew Brees is interesting because he has a ton of weapons and is going as QB10. Of note: in games where Drew Brees didn’t break his thumb, he averaged 294 passing yards, 2.7 touchdowns, and 0.3 interceptions and was the QB2.
Wentz is a forgotten man. He was QB9 last year, QB11 in 2018, and QB6 in 2017And really, in 2020 it feels like he has a ceiling of QB6 and a floor of QB12. He’s a boring and solid option here if you want to make sure your QB spot is filled.
Aaron Rodgers is 36, was QB11 last year, has no solid WR2, had his replacement drafted in the first and a heavy set run game drafted in the second and third. Remember 2016 though? That was awesome.
My Favorites: Josh Allen & Matt Ryan (I swear, next tier, it won’t be the top guys)
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 4: The Matthew Stafford Tier
Here’s my favorite QB pick of the whole draft, just ignore what Yahoo! or FantasyPros has to say about the grade on your team. You’re drafting a backup to be your starter, but Matthew Stafford was incredible before breaking a bone in his back last season. Before that point, led the league in passing yards per game, was second in passing touchdowns per game, and fifth in yards per attempt and was a top-five quarterback. And this year, you can get all that (with improvements in the offense from T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift!) for the price of a backup QB. Smash that draft button.
My Favorite: Matthew Stafford (technically he’s the last guy on this list, too)
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 5: The Top-End Backups
This is a fun mix of players. Cam Newton might be the goal-line back for New England, giving him top-ten upside. Daniel Jones tied for the second-most four-touchdown games last season, so if he cleans up his turnovers, he has top-ten upside. Ben Roethlisberger says he’s had the tear in his elbow for over a decade so with his horde of weapons and a healthy elbow, he has top-ten upside.
Joe Burrow gives us the running/passing combo we need to get a quarterback up into the top ten in his rookie year. You know who else flashed-top ten upside his rookie year? Baker Mayfield.
Jimmy Garoppolo also tied for the second-most four-touchdown games last season and had the most accurate deep ball in the league according to playerprofiler.com. If Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel come back healthy sooner rather than later, he has a top-ten upside. Jared Goff was QB6 in the last five weeks of last year, so he has top-ten quarterback upside.
Hope this helps you sort out who has top-ten QB upside!
Jokes aside, these guys are likely your top-end streaming candidates throughout the season, but they all have the ability to grow past that. Think 2019 Ryan Tannehill; initially a streamer who ended up lighting fantasy football leagues on fire as a second-half set-and-forget starter.
My Favorite: Handsome James Garoppolo (for handsomeness) and Daniel Jones (in a 2019 Josh Allen sort of way)
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 6: Who Wants Some Porridge
Boring. Uninspiring. Blech. This is a dead zone between the top-ten upside guys and the pure upside guys going undrafted. Going by their ADP, these are the last of the “wait on quarterback and take one as late as possible” before taking a kicker and defense. Tannehill is the one I like best here, but his value last season was mostly tied to A.J. Brown catching the football and running as far as he could (which turned out to be pretty far!). Kirk Cousins is quietly third in touchdowns in the last three seasons but I want zero part of Kirk “the fantasy football equivalent of white tube socks” Cousins.
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 7: Chug a Beer, Ride a Fixie, Lip Sync a Rap
While I’m not excited about Teddy Bridgewater, this is my favorite deep deep deep punt tier group of quarterbacks. Drew Lock has an absolute throng of weapons at his disposal in year two and flashed some things last year before struggling. He broke his hand, hit IR, and threw this absolute beauty as his ninth career pass. It’s hard to argue against that upside. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t that exciting as a prospect in 1QB leagues for me, and has never shown that sort of reliable production to change that. He is hands off to me outside of 2QB or superflex leagues.
Gardner Minshew was a top-twelve QB in all formats when not getting jacked around for Nick Foles.
My Favorite: Gardner Minshew
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 8: These Quarterbacks Also Exist
Tua is a fine dart throw here, Philip Rivers just throws too many interceptions to trust him these days, and Derek Carr has streaming upside with all of his weapons. All of these guys are third QBs in a 2QB league. If you don’t play in a 2QB league, don’t draft these guys. Derek Carr was QB15 last year so I guess there’s that.
My Favorite: Tua Tagovailoa
Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 9: You Blew It
If one of these names ends up on your fantasy football roster, you messed up big time. If Herbert gets the job, he has streaming potential in a Josh Allen/Daniel Jones sort of way. It’ll be sloppy but it will get you fantasy points.
My Favorite: Justin Herbert