One of the strangest things about Fantasy Football is that, while nobody questions that quarterbacks are the most important players in the NFL, they can often be an afterthought in Fantasy. Experts still tell you your best chance to win is to wait to invest at the position, taking advantage of the depth at a position where your standard Fantasy league only sees 12 of the 32 actual starters in lineups in any given week.
Some leagues try to account for that discrepancy between real world and Fantasy value by having you start two quarterbacks or by adjusting scoring to penalize more for mistakes, but the truth is, it's hard to account for the reality of the quarterback position in the NFL -- the best are literally franchise-changing players. The trick as a Fantasy player is trying to find the right balance between a league that places so much importance on the position and a game that largely systematically devalues it.
Of course, it's possible that the systematic devaluation of quarterbacks is a mistake --. But the truth is, quarterbacks are probably going to be valued less in your Fantasy league than they are in the NFL. Adjusting to that can be hard, but that's what we're here for.
In today's Fantasy Football Today Newsletter, I'm going in-depth on the QB position, with my rankings, my answers to the biggest questions, and my overarching thoughts on the state of the position.
Before you read on, however, you'll want to make sure you check out Heath Cummings' QB preview for the 2022 season. In addition to-- a case I happen to agree with -- he also goes in-depth on his strategy for the position, along with sleeper, breakout, and bust picks, projections, and more to help you get up to speed. If you need more help making sense of things, .
Tomorrow, we'll have sleeper and breakout picks for QB as well as some bust-case scenarios for the costliest players at the position, and if you have any questions about quarterbacks or anything else leading up to your draft, make sure you send them to Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com to get them answered right here later in the week.
For now, here are my thoughts on QB heading into 2022.
State of the QB position
If you follow most Fantasy podcasts, especially Fantasy Football Today, you're probably planning on waiting to take a quarterback. If you follow along with any of our mock drafts at CBSSports.com, you might be inclined to think you can really wait on QB – Josh Allen went 36th in the non-PPR mock draft we did last week, while Justin Herbert went in the fifth round and Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts were all sixth rounders.
But here's the dirty secret about so-called "expert" drafts – they don't reflect reality. Average Draft Position in CBS Fantasy leagues shows six quarterbacks with an ADP inside of the top 50, with another nine going inside of the top-100. That's how real drafts work.
And the thing is … I think the way your typical draft works might just be more reflective of the state of the position these days. Because getting one of the elite options at QB actually gives you a real edge. Or at least, it has over the past two seasons. The bar for Fantasy relevance at the position has never been higher as a slew of young, two-way QBs has taken the league by storm, and the No. 12 QB in 2021 averaged 21.6. That mark was below 20 in each of 2016, 2017, and 2019; 2018 was a relative boon year, with the No. 12 QB averaging 20.6.
Between 2020 and 2021, the top-12 QBs in ADP accounted for 67% of all top-six weekly finishes over the course of the season; Kirk Cousins was the only QB picked outside of the top-13 to have more than three top-six finishes or seven top-12 finishes last season. Between 2016 and 2019, the top 12 QBs in ADP accounted for just 46.6% of all top-six finishes, with more than half of all top-12 finishes coming from QB picked outside of the top 12, too.
I've been trying to hammer this point home all offseason, but you should probably try to be one of the first people in your league to take a QB – for more, check out my piece on why early-round QBs are worth the price from the CBS Sports and Beckett 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Guide, which you can pick up right here.
You've gotta know your league, of course – if you know everyone listens to FFT and waits (and waits) to take their quarterbacks, there's no need to spend a second-round pick on Allen – he'll probably be there in the third. But, if your league is like most, being one of the first three or so to snag a QB isn't a bad idea. It just might be the biggest leg up you can get on the competition. Because 18 points per week from your QB just doesn't cut it anymore.
Biggest questions at QB
How early should I draft a QB?
Well … did you read the part before this? Not everyone agrees with me, of course, and even I'm not necessarily dogmatic about it. I think spending one of your first few picks on Allen, Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, et al is the right play right now for most leagues, and I've made a point to just reach for Allen in my drafts. However, it's easier to do that when everyone you're drafting with isn't looking for an early-round QB.
As always, the best advice is to know your league, read how the draft is going, and adjust. I won't take Allen in the first round, but if he's there in the late second or early third, I'm happy to take him. Mahomes, Jackson, or Herbert in the third or fourth is my ideal as well. If they are there at those points in your draft, jump on them. If not, don't force it.
If I don't draft one early, who should I look for late?
It depends on how you're defining "late." Between 95 and 110 overall in ADP in NFC drafts, you've got Aaron Rodgers, Trey Lance, Derek Carr, and Kirk Cousins going off the board, and I don't mind any of them. Preferably, I'd draft two of them, with Lance being my preferred high-upside gamble alongside any of Rodgers, Carr, and Cousins as the high-floor alternative. I have Rodgers ranked highest of that trio, so if he's available, I'm happy to take him. However, if I waited too long and only one (or even none) of those guys are available, here's how I'd prioritize the options with an ADP outside of the top 10 rounds in NFC ADP:
Ideally, you're looking for someone with some rushing upside, which each of Fields, Jones, and Mariota have plenty of. Winston and Tagovailoa don't have a ton of rushing upside, necessarily, but each of them could realistically rush for, say, 350 yards and a handful of touchdowns. While that isn't difference-making production, it matters – 350 yards and five touchdowns come out to about 4.0 Fantasy points per game. When 21-ish points is the minimum you're looking for from your starting QB, that matters.
How does a two-QB league change my approach?
You might think that, because I'm the early-round QB guy, that I think you should expend multiple early-round picks on QBs in a Superflex league, but that isn't necessarily the case. You shouldn't wait too long to get a QB, but you also shouldn't completely ignore your other positions and get two QBs in your first two rounds. This is where the depth of the position works to your benefit. Because, while the No. 12 QB last season averaged 22.5 points per game – 2.1 more than No. 13 – the gap between No. 13 and No. 20 was the same.
Which is to say, while 18-20 points per game isn't enough from your starting QB in a one-QB league, it's still not hard to find QBs who score that much most weeks. So, unless you can lock up two of the first 10 or so – maybe stretch it to 14 if you believe the likes of Cousins and Carr can get you 22 points per game – getting one high-end option and waiting for your QB2 is probably your best option.
Someone like Ryan Tannehill makes a lot of sense as your second quarterback. The loss of A.J. Brown hurts, but he's managed to put up 22.3, 24.5, and 20.0 points per game over the past three seasons and will probably still be there in the fifth or sixth round in two-QB leagues – Tannehill had a 70.2 ADP in 250 Scott Fish Bowl Drafts.
The point is, when I'm talking about drafting quarterbacks early in one-QB drafts, it's because I want one of the handful of legitimate difference makers. When you expand the pool of starters to 24 or more, I'm a lot more likely to wait for that second QB, because the pool of "good, not great" guys is a lot deeper.
Are the second-year guys primed for a breakout?
Honestly, it's kind of hard to project that for any of them except Lance. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones all went in the first round last season, while Davis Mills enters this season as the starter for the Texans as well, and of those six, Lance might be the only one who enters the season in a legitimately good spot – and you'll have to draft him as a top-12 QB if you want to take a chance on his upside.
Lawrence's Jaguars made a point of spending a lot of money to improve the team around him, and replacing Urban Meyer with Doug Pederson could be a significant upgrade in itself. However, even with big expenditures in free agency, I'm not sure a receiving corps headlined by Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones, Zay Jones, Leviska Shenault, and Evan Engram is one even in the top half of the league.
Justin Fields, of course, might have the worst receiving corps in the league to throw to, with a pretty bad offensive line to go with it. Wilson will be coming off preseason knee surgery, so while I like his weapons and line, he's got the odds stacked against him coming off a pretty rough season. Mills is one a team that is probably year or two away (at least) from really trying to compete, and it's not even clear if the Texans view him as a potential piece for whatever the next competitive Texans team is.
That leaves Mac Jones, arguably the best of the bunch last season. He was better than many expected as a rookie, but still looks like a high-floor, low-ceiling prospect thanks to his limited physical tools. The Patriots offense also looks like it could be kind of a mess, with nearly all training camp reports indicating that the installation of a new offense has been kind of a mess. Jones doesn't have a particularly intriguing skill set for Fantasy, and his weapons probably rank in the bottom half of the league, too. There just doesn't seem to be much to get excited about here.
The 2021 QB class was supposed to reset the position, but entering Year Two, things look kind of bleak for those guys. There's talent here, but I certainly wouldn't be pinning my Fantasy hopes to this group.
- Josh Allen* -- If all you knew about Josh Allen was that he finished fourth in pass attempts and third in rush attempts among quarterbacks last year, you'd have a good case for him as the No. 1 option. The fact that he's an efficient rusher who dominates near the goal line and an effective passer is what makes him the clear choice this season in a tier all his own.
- Patrick Mahomes -- Mahomes looked positively mortal for stretches last season and yet still finished with 4,839 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. That's what a "down" year looks like. He doesn't run quite as effectively as some of the other high-end QBs and he's playing without Tyreek Hill for the first time, so many have him third at the position. I think anywhere from second to fourth makes sense, but I'll defer to his elite track record and legitimate 50-touchdown upside.
- Lamar Jackson -- Jackson has stumbled a bit since his historic 2019 season, but he still has upside only a few other quarterbacks can touch. Justin Herbert might be a bit safer, but I don't think he has 30-PPG upside; Jackson does. That's enough to serve as a tiebreaker for me.
- Justin Herbert* -- There was no sign of a sophomore slump from Herbert, who actually improved both his yards per attempt and touchdown rate. The problem, such as it is, is that he probably doesn't have the rushing upside the rest of the elite quarterbacks have. He makes up for that by being an elite passer, but when the margins between players are as slim as they are at the top of the position, that's just enough to hold him back ever so slightly.
- Kyler Murray -- For the second season in a row, Murray looked like he was making a big leap before an injury slowed him down. In the first eight games of 2021, he was on pace for nearly 5,000 passing yards and 40-plus total touchdowns. An ankle injury cost him three games and he struggled upon his return. He's one of those few QBs with 30-plus PPG upside, and I'm willing to bet on that and hope that injuries don't slow him down again.
- Jalen Hurts -- Hurts' rushing upside is second only to Jackson, so if the addition of A.J. Brown makes him a more effective passer, he could absolutely challenge for the No. 1 overall spot. 4,000 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns plus upwards of 1,000 rushing yards is within the realm of possibility for Hurts if he takes a step forward.
- Dak Prescott -- There isn't a new tier here, technically, but this is where we get to the more traditional pocket passer portion of the proceedings. Prescott is coming off a career high in touchdowns, but there is probably a perception, rightly or wrongly, that he was a little bit disappointing. A full year removed from that ankle surgery should do him well, but questions about the receiving talent in Dallas are probably holding him back a bit.
- Joe Burrow -- Burrow's 8.9 yards per attempt and 6.5% touchdown rate from last year will be hard to repeat, but he's another year removed from that torn ACL and should see an increase in passing volume to make up for whatever he loses in efficiency. I don't love Burrow at his cost -- he's QB4 in NFC ADP at 59.5 -- but that doesn't mean I don't like the player. I just wish he was a better bet to either run more or be in the top five in pass attempts.
- Russell Wilson -- Denver's receiving corps is less proven than Seattle's, but that might mostly because one group got to play with Wilson these past few years and the other didn't. It says something about how high Wilson has set the bar that a season that saw him average 7.8 yards per attempt with a 6.3% touchdown rate is viewed as a disappointment. He's one of the most efficient quarterbacks we've ever seen and should be in to at least challenge his career-high in pass attempts (558, set in 2020). He might be too low here.
- Tom Brady -- All Brady has done over the past two seasons is averaging 301.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game, finishing as QB7 and QB2 in his two seasons in Tampa. He's lost a lot of receiving talent from last year's team -- and he's away from the team during camp, which is strange, if not exactly a reason to panic -- but he's likely to remain a high-end Fantasy QB, even in his age-45 season.
- Matthew Stafford* -- I dropped Stafford to the lower end of this tier due to concerns about his lingering elbow injury. Not that I think it's likely to limit him much one of the regular season starts, or anything. It's just that, the bar for a No. 1 QB is so high when you don't run that any risk factor is going to get magnified. In all likelihood, you'll be happy you have Stafford as your starting QB if you wait, but don't let him be the reason you pass on a high-upside backup, either.
- Trey Lance -- Like, say, Trey Lance. Lance carries risk as a raw passer, but that is mitigated by a San Francisco offense that has made basically every QB look good over the past few years. He has elite weapons, a good system, and most importantly, game-breaking athletic abilities. I would prefer to pair Lance with a later-round passer with a high floor just in case he falters, but the overall package is so enticing, he could absolutely end up being one of the three best QBs in Fantasy this season.
- Aaron Rodgers -- Asking Rodgers to remain a must-start Fantasy QB with the worst WR group of his career is a tall task, especially in an offense that didn't throw a ton with Davante Adams there. Rodgers is one of the best QBs we've ever seen, but it wouldn't shock me if the Pakcers became even more run-heavy and we saw a dip in his productioin. In fact, I'm expecting it.
- Kirk Cousins -- There's a lot of focus on what Cousins can't do, or on his limitations, but the fact of the matter is, over the past three seasons, he's put up a 6.2% touchdown rate and 7.9 yards per attempt -- borderline elite numbers. The Vikings figure to modernize their offense, using 11 personnel as their base and increasing their throw rate, which could help push Cousins to another level. 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns isn't outside the realm of possibility here.
- Derek Carr* -- Carr could see a similar jump to Cousins thanks to the addition of Adams as his No. 1 receiver. Josh McDaniels figures to install an offensive system that puts Carr in position to take advantage of his weapons, and he's already coming off a 4,800-yard season. The question will be whether the presence of a dominant red zone option like Adams can get Carr above a 5.5% touchdown rate for just the second time in his career.
- Justin Fields -- Fields has similar skills to Lance but is just in a much worse situation. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are his top options, and I'm not sure either would even start for the 49ers. If Fields is going to break out, it'll be because Matt Eberflus does a better job taking advantage of his athleticism than Matt Nagy did -- Eberflus was the passing game coordinator for the Packers last season, where they ran 139 run/pass option plays, compared to just 64 by the Bears a year ago. They'll have to get creative to get the most out of this offense, but Fields has the skills to be a Fantasy difference maker if they can manage it.
- Jameis Winston -- Winston is dealing with a foot sprain in camp, so hopefully that isn't going to limit him by the start of the season -- it isn't expected to. Winston was having a strange season before tearing his ACL, averaging 2.2 touchdowns with just 186 passing yards per game, as the Saints went with an ultra-conservative game plan that saw him attempted just 25.2 passes per game. The questions is whether that reflected a lack of faith in Winston or in the team's weapons. With Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry making up the top weapons now, I'm expecting a bit more aggression, and Winston has shown he can take advantage of good weapons in the past.
- Tua Tagovailoa* -- Tagovailoa hasn't shown us much in two years in the NFL, but the Dolphins are certainly putting him in position to succeed after acquiring Tyreek Hill and hiring Mike McDaniel to implement a Kyle Shanahan-inspired offense. He'll have to prove he can do more than just complete those layup RPO passes he leaned on so heavily last season, but Hill and Waddle gives him one of the most explosive receiving duos in the league.
- Daniel Jones -- Jones has some talent around him, so the hope is that new coach Brian Daboll puts this offense in better position than the Jason Garrett/Joe Judge combo has the past few seasons. Jones' athleticism makes him a sneaky-good Fantasy option if he can just be competent as a passer; that's just been more than he has been capable of so fa.r
- Marcus Mariota -- I've been higher on Mariota than the consensus all along, but I wonder if seeing him rush for a touchdown in the preseason might not get more people on my side. Mariota has been a better passer than you think -- 7.5 yards per attempt for his career -- and his rushing will probably be a pretty big part of Atlanta's offense this season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get benched at some point to see what Desmond Ridder can do, but I think he'll be a viable QB2 until that happens.
- Trevor Lawrence -- The Jaguars made a point of adding a ton of salary to try to help Lawrence out this offseason, and while I'm not convinced the players they added are necessarily difference makers, there's no question he's in a better position than he was a year ago. Lawrence has some skills as a rusher, so if he can take a (big) step forward as a passer, there could be top-12 upside here.
- Mitch Trubisky -- Trubisky and Jones might be the Spider-Man meme at this point in their careers, because you're hoping they can just be good enough as passers to make an impact as rushers. Jones has used his legs more consistently throughout his career, so I'll give him the edge, but they have similar outlooks -- including that both are fighting for their futures this season.
- Ryan Tannehill* -- Despite being in a low-volume offense, Tannehill has been top-15 in points per game three seasons in a row. The loss of A.J. Brown hurts, but the combination of Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, and Austin Hooper might make this a better all-around group if Woods and Burks get up to speed quickly. He's another guy whose rushing ability (seven touchdowns in consecutive seasons!) makes him a better Fantasy option than you think.
- Matt Ryan -- Ryan is the QB2 you settle for, because there probably isn't much upside in the Colts offense. They don't have great weapons in the receiving game and they probably won't throw the ball very much, so you're hoping for efficient, mistake-free football to carry you to 18-22 points most weeks. He won't be a difference maker even in a rosy outcome, but Ryan should be good enough as a QB2 that you won't hate the experience.
- Carson Wentz
- Mac Jones
- Baker Mayfield
- Jared Goff
- Zach Wilson
- Davis Mills
- Drew Lock
- Jacoby Brissett*
*End of a tier