One of the "tiebreakers" I use when choosing between two players is the schedule. Every year I go through a process of grading each defense in a number of areas, then plug it into each player's schedule. This helps me figure out which decent players might overachieve because of a favorable slate, and which solid players might disappoint because of a bad slate.
You can read up more on my Projected Strength of Schedule Rankings (PSoS) process and which players have good/bad season-long schedules by position here:| | | .
But I also want to know which quarterbacks have a chance to start the season hot because of a bunch of weak opponents in Weeks 1 through 4. Those tiebreakers also come in handy, especially if I am trying to find a cheap quarterback to kick-start my season with a late-round pick.
So go ahead and put a star next to a signal caller's name on your pre-draft list if they're ranked high here. It means they're projected to face easy opponents early on. Hey, we need all the help we can get.
Week 1-4 Projected Strength of Schedule QB Rankings
Biggest early winners
Ryan Tannehill: It just keeps getting better for Tannehill. The Titans' overall passing PSoS isn't great but at least the first five weeks should give Tannehill a chance at a hot start. The Cardinals, Seahawks, Colts, Jets and Jaguars boast mild-to-measly secondaries with only Arizona hosting a dangerous pass rush. He should thrive now that he's got Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. If you happen to find yourself without a quarterback by Round 9, pair Tannehill with another passer (Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa or any rookie) and begin the season with the Titans' slinger before possibly moving on. A reminder: Tannehill has delivered at least 20 Fantasy points in 21 of his past 26 games.
Jalen Hurts: The whole world's a little nervous about how Hurts will play in his second season. The good news is that his first five matchups (Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Panthers) leave little to sweat. In fact, the Eagles might fly into high-scoring shootouts in four of those games. That won't hurt Hurts. Keep him in mind as a top-10 Fantasy passer.
Trevor Lawrence: The schedule-makers did the Jaguars a solid, giving them the Texans right off the bat, then handing them the Cardinals, Bengals and Titans in Weeks 3 through 5. Not only are these games the Jaguars can actually win, but Lawrence should be fairly comfortable piloting the offense. You'll want another Fantasy passer besides Lawrence for Week 2 against Denver, but there is some potential for him to blossom right away. He's a terrific co-starter or No. 2 Fantasy QB.
Kirk Cousins: The bastardized stepchild of Fantasy quarterbacks, Cousins actually has a stellar schedule that runs deep into October. His toughest matchup between Week 1 and 8 is home against the Browns, and all but one squad the Vikings will play have 28-point potential. Minnesota may be forced to load up on points in the first half of the season, something that obviously benefits Cousins. He's hit at least 21 Fantasy points in 18 of his past 27 games and just might be good enough to plug in as a full-time starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Think of it this way -- the Football Team should at the very least be in some shootouts with the Chargers, Giants, Bills and Falcons early on. Only the Bills defense stands out as even remotely scary against the pass. It puts the 38-year-old squarely in position to pump up Fantasy totals early on, which is good because his schedule gets tougher after Week 4.
Sam Darnold: The new Panthers quarterback will battle against his old team, surely an exploitable matchup. He'll deal with the Saints at home in Week 2, then dance the Texas two-step with matchups against the Texans and Cowboys in Weeks 3 and 4. All I'm saying is there's a chance for Darnold to succeed in a fresh, innovative offense early on. Taking him as the 20th-or-later quarterback off the board in any format carries very low risk.
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Trey Lance: The 49ers PSoS is 10th-best for the first four weeks, but it's the league's best over the entire season. If you have the roster space, stash Lance for after the first four weeks of the season. By then, Jimmy Garoppolo may have messed up enough for the rookie to be put into action. Once he's on the field, expect some huge numbers thanks to his rushing prowess and cannon arm.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.
Biggest early losers
Matthew Stafford: Stafford's overall schedule is super, but the toughest part comes in the first three weeks against the Bears, Colts and Bucs. Just be aware of these games before you commit to making Stafford your Fantasy starter -- grabbing Tannehill or Cousins to handle the first three weeks isn't a bad, low-cost idea.
Matt Ryan: The Falcons will battle with Tampa Bay and Washington in two of his first four games. Those are defenses with suffocating pass rushes and very nice secondaries behind them. Heck, you may feel uncomfortable starting Ryan against the Eagles and Giants in September as well now that Jones is gone. He's at best a No. 2 quarterback to kick off 2021.
Carson Wentz: On the season, Wentz has the fifth-best PSoS. And he opens the year against the Seahawks and takes on the Titans two weeks later. But because the Colts play the Rams, Dolphins and Ravens as well over the first five weeks, he might disappoint more often than thrive. Your best bet is to wait on Wentz unless you're in a two-QB league, in which case it's probably likely you'll take lumps with him as your No. 2 thrower.
Tua Tagovailoa: Like Wentz, Tagovailoa pulled a tremendous full-year PSoS rank, but starting the season off against the Patriots and Bills will not be easy. Things get much better starting in Week 3 (hello, Vegas!). No one's drafting Tagovailoa to be a Fantasy starter except in two-QB formats, so just take a patient approach if you nab him.
Daniel Jones: An already dicey quarterback must struggle through Denver, Washington and New Orleans in his first four weeks. That's a tall order not just for Jones, but for his offensive line. I've downgraded the entire Giants passing game in my rankings.
Patrick Mahomes (sort of): Calling Mahomes a loser is like calling Superman soft. But I want to put this here just for the record: The Chiefs open the season with the Browns, Ravens and Chargers, then the Eagles, Bills and Washington. There is a chance Mahomes doesn't put up 30-plus points per game right away. I'm not docking him in my rankings for the schedule, but sure as heck wouldn't reach for him on Draft Day.
Josh Allen (sort of): Calling Allen a loser is like calling Mahomes a loser. But again, just want to point out that Allen will face the Steelers, Dolphins and Washington to open 2021. And again, it's not enough to push Allen down the quarterback rankings, but it is enough to contain the excitement for drafting him until Round 3 at the absolute earliest.