Now that the NFL combine has passed, we have a plethora of new athletic data on this upcoming rookie class. That information can be applied to athletic models and used to shape out the full portfolio for prospects to go along with production profiles, which is a general overlay of what these players put on tape for NFL teams.
With that, we’re laying out the positional rankings for each position pre-NFL Draft from a fantasy stance. We’ve already hit the tight ends, broke the wideouts up into top-10, WRs 11-20, and WRs 21-55 segments and then did the same with top-five running backs, RB 6-15, and RB16-30. You can also find the rest of the rookie rankings and all other 2020 rankings for seasonal and dynasty formats as they arrive in our 2020 rankings hub as they arrive and are updated throughout the offseason.
Wrapping things up, we’re going in on the quarterback class. For purposes of having the most information, these early ranks will cover only the players invited to the combine at each position. That means sorry to Tyler Huntley, who was egregiously not invited.
Although I do models for each of the skill positions and will share the ranks for the players in those models, my personal ranks don’t strictly follow those models linearly. I use the prospect models in a similar fashion as I do projection models for the NFL season. We’re looking for immediate market inefficiencies in leagues where we’re drafting rookie prior to the actual NFL draft.
Since I am no scout — and have marginal faith in actual quarterback scouting in the first place —I do follow the model more closely at the quarterback position than the others. They say you can’t scout quarterbacks solely off production. While that may be true, the alternative hasn’t exactly been a foolproof measure, either.
The model has done me well in fantasy, too. I play in a lot of SuperFlex Dynasty leagues, so it’s given me some solid hits. Some recent hits…The model has Patrick Mahomes as the QB1 in the 2017 class, Russell Wilson as the QB3 in 2012, Dak Prescott as the QB3 in the 2016 class, and even last season had Gardner Minshew as the QB4. Like anything, there were plenty of misses along the way such as Geno Smith and Brett Hundley, but the trade-off for the time investment necessary to scout every quarterback to the deepest depths is worth it.
The quarterback position for fantasy is also much different than in real life. Scouting and analyzing how collegiate passers will translate to the next NFL has been a long-losing endeavor. For fantasy, we’ve been able to place the variance of prospects hitting at the position on the shelf because it has long-standing been the position we didn’t need to invest in, opposite of actual NFL teams.
With SuperFlex and 2QB formats gaining popularity, the top of the position has become more relevant, but overall, the quarterback position still remains a supply and demand game that lends favor to suppressing incoming rookies at the position since so many leagues are still “start one” quarterback formats.
Quarterbacks are also now starting earlier and more than ever. Since 2008, we’ve had 35 quarterbacks taken in the first round. 16 of them started immediately in Week 1. 24 of those players were starting for their organizations by Week 4 of the season. 26 of those players started more than half of the team games as a rookie. The only first-round rookie quarterback to actually not start a game in their rookie season out of those 35 players was Jake Locker in 2011.
2020 Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
- Joe Burrow, LSU, FY Age: 23.1 (Model Rank QB2): We took a deep analytical dive on Burrow two weeks ago that highlighted how unprecedented his 2019 spike was and just how great of jump he made a year ago. Even factoring in Burrow’s older age — he lost a year as a redshirt and sat behind J.T. Barrett at Ohio State before transferring on 2018 — Burrow’s short resume is stellar, anchored by that breakout this past season. He enters the NFL ranking in the 95th percentile or above in career yards per pass attempt (9.4), completion rate (68.8%), and TD/INT ratio at 7.1:1. He also has a bit of mobility, rushing for 399 and 368 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter.
- Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, FY Age: 21.8 (MR QB1): Sports Info Solutions also did a similar deep dive for us analytically on Tagovailoa. The model loves Tua because he is much younger and has a resume with multiple seasons of performance at a high level. He ranks in the 99th percentile in career yards per attempt (10.9) and TD/INT ratio (7.9:1) while he’s in the 96th percentile in completion rate (69.3%). The one thing that has shown true in quarterbacks transition to the NFL is that if you have issues in the accuracy and making mistakes departments, you’re likely to maintain those shortcomings. What the model doesn’t account for are the injury concerns Tua has enters the league and the potential limitations on his short term availability and potential risk down the line, which is why he will be selected after Burrow in the actual draft this April and in fantasy drafts afterward.
- Justin Herbert. Oregon, FY Age: 21.8 (MR QB3): Herbert has the size (6’6”, 236 pounds, 10” hands) and arm strength that is always going to be alluring scouts and coaches. Physical score doesn’t go into the model, but Herbert did have an 89th percentile score in that area as well in front of coaches and scouts a week ago in Indy. There’s just no doubt he raised his stock and will be in contention for a top-10 pick. Outside of that, Herbert has a notable resume to go along with being in that prototypical mold, although not as good as the top-two passers. Herbert ranks in the 62nd percentile in career yards per attempt (8.2) and in the 68th percentile in completion rate (64.0%) while in the 91st percentile in TD/INT rate (4.1:1). He also 42 career starts under his belt compared to the shorter resumes above. Herbert has a smidge of rushing production to go with his measured athleticism, rushing for 560 yards and 13 scores over his career.
- Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma, FY Age: 21.3 (MR QB4): Hurts won’t be the fourth-highest quarterback selected, but he should be. Hurts has elite athleticism (89th percentile) to go with a major rushing trump card (3.274 yards and 43 career TDs) that has always been exploitable for fantasy purposes and has become increasingly gaining steam in the NFL. Hurts also has a positive passing resume. His yards per pass attempt rose every year of his collegiate career and his 11.3 Y/A in 2019 is the third-highest final season mark for a quarterback invited to the combine over the past 20 seasons. The strike against him there is the inflation of scheme transferring to Oklahoma, because the two passers ahead of him in that department were Kyler Murray in 2018 and Baker Mayfield in 2017. Turns out, Lincoln Riley is good at his job. But even incorporating his passing performance at Alabama, Hurts enters the NFL ranking in the 91st percentile in career Y/A (9.1), 90th in TD/INT rate (4.0:1) and 77th in completion rate (65.1%). Those marks are all well above the passing resume Lamar Jackson entered the league with. Hurts is not on Jackson’s level running the ball, but Jackson may have just kicked the door down for some team wondering if they can work with what Hurts does well. He’s more landing spot dependent and has a wider range of outcomes, but for fantasy, Hurts has as high of a ceiling as any quarterback here.
- Jordan Love, Utah State, FY Age: 21.2 (MR QB8): Love is an interesting prospect. He’s loved by scouts for his big arm, but has a checkered resume entering the league. He had a monster 2018 season, throwing for 8.6 Y/A and a 32-to-6 TD/INT ratio as a 20-year old sophomore. He then followed that up by taking a full fall backward this past season, dropping down to 7.2 Y/A (22nd percentile), a 61.9% completion rate (39th percentile) and a 1.2 TD/INT ratio (fifth percentile). That happened while Love faced the lightest schedule of opponents out these top passers listed. There’s some mystery on who Love the passer truly is, but he does also come with some athleticism, rushing for 403 yards in 33 career starts. I believe Love will be the fourth quarterback taken in the draft. If he gets taken in the first round, then we have to anticipate him playing year one.
- Jake Fromm, Georgia, FY Age: 21.4 (MR QB5): There’s a major tier break in the model after Hurts. After two strong seasons — and running Jacob Eason out of town — Fromm took a step back in 2019. He closed his career with final season marks in the 31st percentile in yards per attempt (7.4) and 34th percentile in completion rate (60.8%) after strong campaigns in those areas to start his career. Part of that decline was impacted by facing the hardest schedule of defenses in this class. 77.9% of his pass attempts this season came against defenses in the top-50, per Jim Sannes of numberFire. Still, the decline in those numbers against better competition is a red flag, while Fromm’s arm strength and size (6’2”, 219 with 8 7/8” hands) will do him no favors in the eyes of what the league values. Safe assumption is Fromm is a solid career backup that can have spurts of success in the NFL.
- Jacob Eason, Washington, FY Age: 22.1 (MR QB8): Eason had the job taken from him at Georgia by Fromm, but has a better physical build (6’6”, 231 pounds and 9 ½” hands) and better arm than Fromm, which is why scouts will likely ignore that piece of actionable detail. Eason enters the league with sketchy marks in career Y/A (22nd percentile) and completion rate (33rd percentile) while ranking 51st percentile in career TD/INT rate (2.4:1). He did improve in all three of those measures in his final season, but the best mark he has in any final season category is ranking in the 58th percentile in completion rate (64.2%).
- Anthony Gordon, Washington State, FY Age: 23.3 (MR QB7): There’s another major tier break here as the rest of these passers are all extreme longshots to have tangible NFL careers. Gordon gets the Washington State inflation for raw numbers. In just one season as a starter under Mike Leach, Gordon tallied more pass attempts (689) that Tua Tagovailoa did for his entire career (684). But outside of Gordon’s inflated raw totals, he enters the league with final season marks only near the middle of final year production in Y/A (55th percentile) and TD/INT rate (3.0:1) while being the oldest passer in the class.
- Jake Luton, Oregon State, FY Age 22.0 (MR QB9): Luton didn’t get a chance to start a full season until 2019, where he completed 62% of his passes (40th percentile) for 7.6 Y/A (35th percentile). He had an impressive 28-3 TD to INT ratio, but his limited resume (17 starts) don’t do him any favors.
- Kevin Davidson, Princeton, FY Age: 22.4 (MR QB10): Davidson has some support as a dark horse in this draft class. He shows up with 81st percentile marks in career completion rate (65.8%) and 91st percentile marks in TD/INT rate (4.2:1), but gets docked for strength of competition. While Joe Burrow’s hand size was the talk of the combine for passers, Davidson’s 8 1/4” hands are the smallest of any quarterback recorded since 2008.
- Cole McDonald, Hawaii, FY Age: 22.6 (MR QB11): McDonald was able to stack some raw production playing in Hawaii’s open offense, but he still enters the league with a 45th percentile ranking in career completion rate (61.4%) and averaged 0.73 interceptions per game, the fourth-highest in this class. He does come with some added mobility, rushing for 880 yards and 12 touchdowns over his 33 game career.
- Shea Patterson. Michigan, FY Age: 23.0 (MR QB12): A decorated recruit, Patterson just never got over the hump in college. Transferring to Michigan to play under Jim Harbaugh for two seasons didn’t help his cause as he enters the league as an older prospect with pedestrian marks in career completion rate (60.3), yards per attempt (8.0), and TD/INT rate (2.5:1).
- Nate Stanley, Iowa, FY Age: 22.3 (MR QB13): Stanley started 39 games over the past three seasons, but enters the draft completing just 58.3% of his passes (24th percentile) for just 7.2 yards per attempt (23rd).
- Steven Montez, Colorado, FY Age: 23.0 (MR QB14): A five-year senior, Montez leaves school with 7.4 yards per pass attempt and 0.70 interceptions per game. He can do some work on the ground, rushing for 960 yards and 11 scores over his career.
- Kelly Bryant, Missouri, FY Age: 23.3 (MR QB15): The former Clemson quarterback who lost the job to Trevor Lawrence took over for Drew Lock this season and completed 62.0% of his passes for 7.6 Y/A while posting a 2.5:1 TD/INT ratio. Another option near the bottom here that is better with his legs, Bryant rushed for 1,215 yards and 17 touchdowns despite essentially playing just two full seasons.
- Brian Lewerke, Michigan State, FY Age: 23.2 (MR QB16): A five-year senior and three-year starter, Lewerke has the lowest career Y/A (6.6) in this class to go along with throwing 0.78 interceptions per game, the highest of all passers in this class with more than one season of starting. Keeping up with the ending theme, Lewerke did tack on 1,255 yards and 10 scores on the ground over his career.