One remaining obstacle we still face in the fantasy community as content providers and consumers is understanding that rankings, projections, tiers, and average draft positions are all different and serve different purposes.

My season-long rankings and projections focus on the probable outcomes for a player based on top-down team production and projected game script.

Then player opportunity production is based on that team volume.

We can tweak volume and efficiency for a range of outcomes per player, but that is the simplest explanation of how the projection sauce is made.

While those projections give us a range of season-long numbers and have implications for listing players in a linear format (rankings), the one thing that is missing is that even when those full-season numbers are accurate, they fail to capture the overall weekly impact and the pockets of production that are relevant to our weekly game of fantasy football.

Projecting Davante Adams for 103 receptions, 1,144 yards, and 8 touchdowns (his 2023 totals) paints a nice picture of his season-long outlook, but any gamer that rostered Adams last season will also tell you that there was a lot of weekly variance.

That is an anecdotal example to make a larger point, but there is a litany of other examples we can lay out that fit into the top-down point I am making.

There are very few players at each position that just smash weekly throughout the fantasy season at the highest level, and we are hopeful to be in on the remainder of players when they strike the hottest.

That is where player tiers come in.

2024 Fantasy Football Tiers

A lot of fantasy football tiers that you will find out there are just rankings chopped up into sections.

While the rankings are more focused on a probable tally of season-long output for a week-to-week game, I prefer to structure my tiers based on how similarly players accrue their fantasy points and by their archetypes.

By doing this, it allows me to notice actionable gaps in player pricing per tier which in turn allows for arbitrage in fantasy drafts while also highlighting some longer-odds players who have more potential than originally perceived.

Arbitrage in fantasy football is driven strongest by how production is accrued, and the order of those players (rankings) is driven by the opportunities (on a player and team level) that each player receives.

Our projections are inherently going to be wrong on those projected opportunities often.

Team situations are influenced by a plethora of things.

The game script, injuries to the player himself, injuries to surrounding teammates, ineffective play, player breakouts, and so on. That is just the game through injuries, performance variance, and fluctuation.

Understanding how a player is used allows us to find prospects who target that variance in performance and opportunities. If we are wrong on the opportunity projection, then a lower-tiered player could be an arbitrage opportunity.

While there is not a direct overlap to the individual player rankings, the order of these tiers is how I prioritize drafting the positions from an archetypical stance.

While that may be confusing for a player ranked highly on a linear list versus a specific tier he is in, I will do my best to incorporate detailed thoughts regarding draft capital in those events throughout the player breakdowns.

One final bit of housekeeping, I will be updating and adding analysis to these tiers all summer long,

With that intro to the methodology used with tiers in place, let us roll into the actual player analysis.

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Tier 1 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Josh Allen
  • Jalen Hurts
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Lamar Jackson

Josh Allen

Bye: Week 12

Fantasy Playoffs: @DET, NE, NYJ

We open things up with the pocket of players that I believe are drawing the best odds to lead the position in overall fantasy points in 2024.

The crux of this tier is made up of the best dual-threat options in the NFL.

Josh Allen has been the QB3, QB1, QB2, and QB1 in points per game in each of the past four seasons.

Whereas Patrick Mahomes showed us his vulnerability for fantasy scoring for the first time in 2023 due to a “down” passing season based on the lofty standards that he has set, Allen still led all quarterbacks in scoring per game despite a lackluster passing season compared to his previous standards.

Allen has been as safe of a bet in fantasy football to make at the position.

There is a reason he is currently the consensus QB1 in ADP.

In leagues that start multiple quarterbacks, being aggressive Allen makes more sense.

In leagues that require only one starting quarterback, that is a tougher way to spend frontend draft capital.

I believe there is rarely a reason to take the first quarterback off the board in a 1QB fantasy draft based on opportunity cost. Sure, we do have an idea where QB2 will come off the board to the first quarterback selection, but you are still at the mercy of the room determining when the next passer is selected.

Also, while I would bet against Allen outright failing or bottoming out for fantasy, he may have more fragility in delivering that QB1 overall season than we are assuming based on the transition under Joe Brady and all of the changes that Buffalo has made to their receiving unit this offseason.

Before elevating Brady to offensive coordinator last season, Allen and the Bills were 5% over pass rate expectations on all downs and 11% on first downs.

After Brady took over, the Bills were 3% below pass rate expectations and 7% below expectations on first downs.

Over those nine games, Buffalo was 31st in the NFL dropback rate (52.4%) and 27th in the rate of yardage gained via passing (60.7%).

Before that, they were seventh in the NFL in dropback rate (63.2%) and 68.5% of their yardage came through the air (13th).

At the end of the season, Allen’s 14.8 passing points per game were his fewest in a season since 2019, the year before Buffalo added Stefon Diggs.

Under Brady, Allen averaged 13.9 passing points per game, which would have ranked 18th over the full season.

Allen had a career-high 3.1% interception rate while his 5.0% touchdown rate as a passer was his lowest in a season since 2019.

He survived overall because he added a career-high 18 rushing touchdowns.

11 of those came in those games under Brady, which covered up a lot of the limited passing production.

Allen ran much more under Brady.

He rushed 9.2 times for 47.1 yards per game over that stretch after averaging 4.8 rushes for 24.6 yards per game on the ground before that.

Allen comes with a higher rushing floor paired with touchdown equity on the ground, which can insulate some of the concerns that we have with all of the moving parts among his pass catchers.

In 2023, Buffalo had five different wide receivers receive 20 or more targets on the season.

Four of them are no longer with the team.

Buffalo has young players in Dalton Kincaid, Khalil Shakir, and Keon Coleman that they are hoping to provide added upside, but also have limited top-down success in the NFL or have yet to play a snap.

The Bills have also brought in veterans Curtis Samuel, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mack Hollins, Chase Claypool, Andy Isabella, and K.J. Hamler, but none of those players have ever even had a 900-yard season in the NFL over their careers.

That group has combined for one season reaching 700 yards in the NFL.

Allen has the coverage via rushing to keep from bottoming out for fantasy in the way that Mahomes did a year ago, but this current collection of Buffalo pass catchers is similar to where the Chiefs were a year ago in looking for answers from a group of players.

And the Chiefs still had Travis Kelce, an established star and target earner.

Mahomes ended as one of the worst fantasy picks based on cost.

The Bills are outright fielding their weakest group of objective pass catchers around Allen since 2019.

In that season, Allen was still the QB6 in overall scoring, but he was the QB11 in points per game.

Allen also has the toughest projected schedule among all of the frontend fantasy options at the position.

Allen has our 29th-ranked passing schedule in 2024, and we saw his passing production be limited against top defenses last year.

He plays in a tough division where he draws the Patriots and Jets (both at home at least) for the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs.

For his career, Allen has one QB1 overall scoring week against those teams.

In 22 starts against those teams, he has six top-three scoring weeks.

As the first quarterback off the board, anything close to those numbers in the context of the position would be a significant letdown.

Jalen Hurts

Bye: Week 5

Fantasy Playoffs: PIT, @WAS, DAL

Through natural regression coming off a huge 2022 season that meant facing a harder schedule paired with playing through a knee injury, Jalen Hurts took a slight step back last season.

He also lost offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on top of things.

Hurts ended the season by completing 65.4% of his passes (15th in the league) for 7.2 yards per pass attempt (14th) with a 4.3% touchdown rate (18th) and a 2.8% interception rate (27th).

He was 12th in EPA per dropback.

After rushing for 52.3 yards and 50.7 yards per game during his first two seasons as a starter, Hurts rushed for only 35.6 yards per game last season.

He suffered a knee injury in Week 6 that impacted his bottom line as a runner, but Hurts was only averaging 41.2 yards rushing per game before that injury.

He averaged 12.7 passing points per game (QB22) after 14.9 passing points per game (QB10) the previous season.

But Hurts rushed for 15 touchdowns, giving him double-digit rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.

The only other player with double-digit rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons is Derrick Henry.

Hurts has the bonus from the “tush push,” which has taken off over the past two seasons.

In 2023, Philadelphia running backs had zero rushing attempts from the one-yard line. They were the only team in the NFL without one.

Hurts had a league-high 13.

In 2022, Philadelphia running backs only had three rushes from the one-yard line, which was 24th in the league.

Hurts was tied for second in the league that season behind Jamaal Williams.

In 2021, Hurts had 7-of-14 team rushes from the one-yard line while the next closest player on the team had just four rushes.

In total, Hurts has a league-high 24 rushing touchdowns from the one-yard line over the past three seasons on 31 attempts (77.4%).

The league success rate on those runs over that span is 58.2%.

While there is no objective reason for the Eagles to move away from the tush push, the retirement of Jason Kelce could have an unknown impact on the success of the play, while the Eagles may be incentivized to use Saquon Barkley more near the end zone than the gaggle of backs that they have had rotate in over the previous three seasons.

I certainly would not expect Philly to shut out Saquon at the one-yard line as they did with their running backs in 2023.

All of those rushing touchdowns in 2023 allowed Hurts to finish the season second in fantasy points per game (21.0) behind only Allen despite his step backward through the air.

Hurts has now ended his three seasons as a starter as QB6, QB1, and QB2 in points per game.

As strong as Hurts has been, he has outright only paced the position in overall scoring in two weeks over his early career.

Hurts will look to recapture some of that 2022 passing magic alongside new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

Moore has had mixed results in stops with the Cowboys and Chargers, but I do consider his addition an improvement over Brian Johnson from a year ago, who previously had no experience as an NFL offensive coordinator.

Moore’s previous stops indicate that this offense will at least be more modern than a year ago when throwing the ball.

The Eagles were 30th in the NFL in the use pre-snap motion last season at 25.5% of drop backs. The league average was 43.7%.

Moore’s Chargers were fourth in the league at 57.5%.

In 2022 with Dallas, the Cowboys were 10th at 44.8%.

Hurts also comes with the best pass catching corps among the frontend fantasy quarterbacks, throwing to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, two players with higher ADP than any pass catcher attached to the other three quarterbacks here.

Patrick Mahomes

BYE: Week 6

Fantasy Playoffs: @CLE, HOU, @ PIT

Mahomes had an “off year” by his career standards.

He threw a career-high 14 interceptions while posting career-lows in touchdown rate (4.5%), yards per pass attempt (7.0), yards per completion (10.4), and passing yards per game (261.4).

He closed the season 10th in EPA per dropback (0.07) and 10th in success rate (45.2%).

Averaging a career-low 15.5 passing points per game last season (10th among quarterbacks), Mahomes was the QB14 in points per game overall (17.5).

The crux of this tier does fit that mold of having the best passing and rushing upside paired together.

The one exception you can make here is Mahomes, which was highlighted last season as being vital to anchoring his fantasy stability at such a lofty cost.

Mahomes did rush for a career-high 24.3 yards per game last season, but he also ran for zero touchdowns.

What happened to Mahomes last season was a testament to something that I have echoed throughout the fantasy halls about the fragility of quarterbacks who have been reliant on passing first production to anchor their ability to contend for the top spot at the position.

Those passers must walk a fine line in being forced to be ELITE passers to compete with the QBs that have higher rushing floors.

Mahomes ran into his weakest passing season, and he was just a regular fantasy option.

Allen and Hurts had soft passing seasons compared to their standards and were still able to circumvent bottoming out because of touchdown equity on the ground.

If you outright want to suggest that Mahomes belongs in Tier 3, I get it.

But I still would handle Mahomes as having better overall odds to be the QB1 in overall scoring than those passers despite his floor not having the same stability as the passers here within the opening tier.

Before last season, Mahomes was QB1, QB6, QB2, QB5, and QB3 in points per game. He still has more elite scoring seasons on his resume than lackluster ones. More of those elite seasons came with an attachment to Tyreek Hill and a prime Travis Kelce, but his 2022 season without Hill still holds water.

Mahomes struggled in large part due to his surrounding pass catchers failing to deliver compounded by Kelce playing through injuries and having a down year compared to his own Hall of Fame standards.

Kelce battled through 15 regular season games but had career lows in yards per catch (10.6) and yards per target (8.1).

He had never averaged fewer than 12.0 yards per catch in any season of his career.

His 65.6 receiving yards per game were his fewest in a season since 2015.

Kelce ran a route on 71.7% of the team dropbacks, his lowest rate in the Mahomes era.

That led the team.

The only other Kansas City players on the field for at least half of the team dropbacks were Marquez Valdes-Scantling (62.1%), Rashee Rice (54.5%), and Justin Watson (51.3%).

Mahomes had no downfield presence at wide receiver, something that this team has lacked since trading away Hill.

That was not a major issue in 2022 because Kelce was still so good at circumventing things, but with a limited version of Kelce last season, that lack of downfield presence was glaring.

Patrick Mahomes Career Rates on Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:

YearAtt/GmComp%TD%Int%1D/Att%QBR
201813.151.7%11.0%4.3%47.8%116.0
201912.650.8%8.5%2.3%47.5%114.9
202013.352.3%8.0%1.5%51.3%115.4
202111.946.0%4.0%2.5%42.6%85.6
202211.654.3%3.6%3.0%52.8%98.6
202310.545.8%1.2%5.4%42.9%65.1

On throws 10 yards or further downfield, Mahomes had his lowest passing volume paired with some of the worst rates of his career in nearly every department.

He was 28th in the NFL in rating (65.1).

He completed just 45.8% of those passes with two touchdowns and nine interceptions.

In every other season of his career, Mahomes had thrown at least seven touchdowns on those types of throws.

Struggling to push the football down the field since Hill was traded, the Chiefs emphasized getting an infusion of speed paired with upside at wide receiver this offseason by adding Marquise Brown and Xavier Worthy.

21.6% of Brown’s targets in Arizona were deemed inaccurate per TruMedia. No wide receiver with as many overall targets over that span has a higher inaccurate target rate.

Over his two seasons in Arizona, Brown played with six different quarterbacks. None of which were the caliber of Mahomes.

Since entering the NFL, Brown has averaged 23.4 yards per touchdown catch.

The only players with more receiving touchdowns and a higher average over that span are Ja’Marr Chase (32.3), Tyreek Hill (28.4), and A.J. Brown (27.7).

Since Hill left Kansas City, Mahomes has averaged 9.5 yards per touchdown pass in 2023 (ahead of just Bryce Young) and 12.2 yards in 2022 (29th in the league).

Mahomes has had 10 passing touchdowns from outside of the red zone the past two seasons (16th in the league) after having 56 of those scores in 2018-2021, the most in the league.

We also know that the Chiefs will continue to throw the football.

Kansas City has finished first in pass rate over expectations due to the game script in every season since 2019.

Over that span, the Chiefs have a 65.7% dropback rate, the highest in the league.

Suggesting that you should buy Mahomes at his softest point is not exactly rocket science here, but Mahomes still has front-end appeal.

Lamar Jackson

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: @NYG, PIT, @HOU

After missing crucial chunks of the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Jackson was able to stay healthy for a full season, winning his second MVP Award.

He set career highs with a 67.2% completion rate and 8.0 yards per pass attempt.

His 12.0 yards per completion was his highest since his rookie season.

He closed as the QB4 in overall scoring and the QB3 in points per game for fantasy.

Since taking over as the starter in 2019, Jackson has been inside of the top 10 in points per game in each of those five seasons.

While Jackson has a QB1 overall season on his resume and has held a high seasonal floor, he has had more weekly volatility than the other three quarterbacks in this tier.

Tier 1 QB Scoring Rates:

PlayerQB1%Top-3%Top-6%Top-12%
Allen15.0%32.3%49.5%63.4%
Hurts3.9%25.5%56.8%78.4%
Mahomes10.4%26.0%43.8%70.8%
Jackson12.9%25.9%37.7%62.3%

Even last season, Jackson had eight weeks (Weeks 5-12) in which he was outside of the top-12 scorers in five of those games.

He also matched Allen with the most QB1 overall scoring weeks on the season (three) and has had a higher rate of QB1 overall scoring weeks than both Mahomes and Hurts.

Jackson has had more floor volatility because he consistently carries the lowest passing volume of anyone here.

Jackson has never thrown the ball 500 times in an NFL season.

If looking for a reason to be optimistic that Jackson could push past that arbitrary barrier for the first time in his career, Baltimore should have natural regression leading on the scoreboard.

In the first half of games last season, Baltimore had a 63.8% dropback rate, which was ninth in the NFL.

In the first half of games, Baltimore outscored their opponents by a league-high 142 points.

As a byproduct, the Ravens led for a league-high 78.9% of their snaps in the second half of games.

Baltimore carried a 48.6% dropback rate in the second half of games, the lowest rate in the NFL.

Jackson ended up throwing only 73 passes in the fourth quarter last season, ahead of only Kenny Pickett and Jake Browning among the 32 passers that qualified for the league’s passer rating. Those two players only played in 12 and nine games.

In the first half of games last season, Jackson had a league-high 42 scrambles.

The next closest quarterback had 26.

In the second half of games, Jackson still led the NFL in scrambles, but because the Ravens were not dropping back, that number fell to 26.

The addition of Derrick Henry also should be a continued signal for Jackson to retain passing efficiency and have a potential spike since Henry has commanded so much defensive attention. Teams will have to account for Henry paired with Jackson in the rushing game, something that could lead to heavier box counts.

Against heavier boxes, Jackson has been at his best as a passer.

Lamar Jackson Career Regular Season Rates per Box Count:

Box TypeComp%TD%Int%1D/Att%QBR
Heavy64.3%13.2%2.1%37.5%114.1
7+66.5%8.4%1.8%38.9%110.7
Light63.8%4.3%2.5%34.3%90.2

One thing that does hurt Jackson a bit when splitting hairs within this tier is that like Allen, Jackson plays in a more competitive division than Hurts and Mahomes do.

Jackson has seen his top-12 scoring rate drop to 48.1% in career AFC North games along with a 33.3% rate for top-six scoring weeks and an 18.6% rate for top-three scoring weeks.

On that front, the only division game that Jackson draws for the fantasy playoffs is Week 16 at home against Pittsburgh.

Tier 2 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Anthony Richardson
  • Jayden Daniels
  • Kyler Murray
  • Caleb Williams
  • Deshaun Watson

This is the tier that will surely have the most shock value to the casual gamer, but these are the quarterbacks who fit the archetype of crashing a fantasy ceiling that we are looking for.

These players have the potential to contribute viable production through both passing and rushing components of scoring.

While each of these players needs to turn in passing production to reach their ceilings, their floors are more stable than most gamers consider through rushing output.

That is perhaps the largest disconnect for these players when looking at them through a fantasy lens as opposed to a real-life football lens and the ultimate premise of the original Konami Code article I penned all of the way back in 2013.

In fantasy football, these players have more weekly stability than assumed based on their variance as passers.

I will have something more in-depth on this later this summer when we look at positional ADP trends, but non-rushing quarterbacks carry a higher bust rate and fail to live up to draft investment versus mobile quarterbacks.

That does not mean that running quarterbacks are immune to failure, but when shopping in this aisle of the fantasy grocery store, you are working with a higher hit rate of making your dollar stretch.

Now, if your league operates on 6-point passing touchdowns, this tier does lose some ground to the following tiers at their median and floor levels, but this tier of players still has higher ceiling potential even in those formats since you are double dipping when they do run into above average passing production.

If any of these passers flirt with 30-plus passing touchdowns, they are still going to drop hammers in those formats.

There also is not much arbitrage remaining on this tier of player at the position outside of Deshaun Watson, the one player here who does not carry a current ADP near the top 12 at the position.

Daniel Jones is arguably the best you can do in terms of chasing this type of player for fantasy among the remaining list of players we will cover.

Anthony Richardson

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: @DEN, TEN, @NYG

We only got to see Richardson play in four games for the Colts last season, two of which he was forced to leave early.

Richardson suffered a concussion in Week 2 that forced him to miss Week 3 and then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5.

Losing nearly a complete season and suffering an injury to his throwing shoulder was a large blow for a passer that needed development.

On his small sample on the field, Richardson did provide plenty of upside but also showcased why losing a season’s worth of passing reps was also a big deal.

We only had a brief sample of Richardson as a rookie, but it was on par with expectations as a passer and runner, for better or worse.

Entering the league with one of the worst passing profiles for a prospect ever, Richardson completed 7.7% fewer of his passes than his expected rate, which was the lowest in the league at the time of his injury.

His 59.5% completion rate before injury was 32nd out of 33 quarterbacks at the time.

He was 21st in the league over that small sample in yards per pass attempt (6.9).

That said, we also did get to see the electricity that Richardson provided as an athlete.

In his two full games played, Richardson was the QB4 and QB2 in weekly scoring.

In Week 2, Richardson played only 18 snaps and still scored 17.7 standard fantasy points.

For some added context to that, C.J. Stroud only had two top-six scoring weeks as a rookie over his 15 starts.

Stroud had six games in which he scored 17.7 fantasy points or more.

Richardson averaged 0.73 fantasy points per dropback.

Josh Allen led the league over a full season with 0.63 points per dropback.

Richardson averaged 9.4 rushing points per game, even with his two shortened games mixed in.

51.7% of his fantasy points came via rushing.

The only quarterbacks to average more rushing points per game while making more than two starts in the Super Bowl era are:

  • Lamar Jackson in 2019 and 2020
  • Jalen Hurts in 2022
  • Justin Fields in 2022
  • Michael Vick in 2010
  • Cam Newton in 2011

On the surface due to his physical build and how he accrues his fantasy points, Richardson looks like early-career Cam Newton.

Newton kicked off his career with five straight seasons as a top-seven scorer in fantasy points per game with four top-five scoring seasons over that stretch.

Richardson’s infrastructure makes him more appealing than someone such as Justin Fields, another expensive quarterback for fantasy who had shortcomings as a passer that proved to be problematic in the long run.

Richardson is only in year two of his rookie contract, so the Colts still have a lot invested in his current development.

This Indy coaching staff also appears to want optimal things on offense.

We saw Jalen Hurts take a step back without Shane Steichen last season.

With Richardson on the field, the Colts used no-huddle on 23.4% of their plays compared to a 17.1% rate without him.

They averaged 6.4 yards per play on those snaps, which would have led the NFL over the season on no-huddle snaps.

Richardson has the fourth-best schedule for passing efficiency, the highest of any quarterback we have touched on to this point.

He has a late-season bye week and an appealing schedule for the fantasy playoffs even if two of those games are not indoors.

Jayden Daniels

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: @NO, PHI, ATL

There was an absolute case to make for Jayden Daniels being the QB1 in this draft class, especially when looking at things through a fantasy lens.

While Caleb Williams is going to add a rushing component to his game, Daniels will be built around it.

Daniels rushed for 60.1 yards per game over his collegiate career with 34 touchdowns, registering a 96th-percentile career rushing score on my end.

In 2023, he rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 scores.

Daniels could have a rookie-season impact on the Robert Griffin spectrum in his range of outcomes, which is fitting given his landing spot.

If Daniels ends up as an above-the-board passer in the NFL, then his ceiling is in contention to be the QB1 in overall scoring in a given season.

The difference the 2023 Heisman winner has compared to someone such as Richardson from a year ago is that his passing resume is so much stronger. He takes less projection to avoid outright flatlining.

The way to frame things is that Daniels projects to run more than Williams will while he projects to be a better passer than Richardson, giving him the potential to be the best of both worlds.

As a 19-year-old freshman at Arizona State, Daniels averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt while throwing 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

He is coming off a season in which he just put up video game output, throwing for 11.7 Y/A with 40 touchdowns to just four interceptions through the air to go along with those gaudy rushing stats we highlighted.

From a final-season perspective, Daniels was in the 99th percentile in yards per pass attempt, 96th percentile in TD-to-INT rate, and 96th percentile in completion rate.

Those rates propelled him to career marks in the 86th percentile in yards per attempt, 91st percentile in TD-to-INT rate, and 80th percentile in completion rate.

Daniels threw for a class-high 11.2 Y/A on throws that did not come with play action or an RPO.

He had a 73.9% on-target throw rate against the blitz, which was second in the class. He was blitzed on 39.2% of his dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the class.

On throws 10 yards or further downfield, Daniels sported a class-high 68.3% on-target throw rate with an insane 23.8% touchdown rate on those passes. On 122 passes 10-plus yards downfield last season, Daniels threw 29 touchdowns with just 1 interception.

The question surrounding his enormous 2023 season is how much he was aided by the surrounding scheme and talent paired with his overall collegiate experience of playing in 55 collegiate games.

Daniels had his best season turning 23 years old in season while playing attached to two first-round wide receivers.

You can make the chicken or the egg case for those wideouts being attached to Daniels, but I have a ton of confidence that Malik Nabers is the real thing while Brian Thomas Jr. comes with elite traits winning downfield.

Just 16.2% of Daniels’ pass attempts in 2023 came against top-25 defenses.

For context, Caleb Willams was at 35.4%.

When I look at Daniels from a top-down lens, I see a lot of similarities with Justin Fields exiting Ohio State.

Fields was a player who had superb passing efficiency in college that he was unable to match once removed from playing in prestige conditions.

Even with his faults as a passer, Fields lived as a fantasy QB1 through his front-end rushing output. He pushes to be the QB1 in any given week in which the passing output goes along for the ride.

But his shortcomings as a passer also prevent him from carrying premier stability in getting there weekly.

Like Fields, Daniels has struggled in the quick game and taking sacks when sped up.

Daniels took a sack on 22.0% of his pressures in 2023.

Fields took a sack on 21.2% of his pressures exiting Ohio State.

Since entering the NFL, no quarterback has been sacked on a higher rate of pressures than Fields has (28.3%).

While Daniels is an elite rusher, he also was sacked on a class-high 18.8% of the time outside of the pocket.

Despite having a monster 2023 season in the efficiency department, Daniels was second to last in this draft class in on-target rate (60.5%) in the red zone with a 6.1% sack rate (9th) in that area of the field.

That is more of a concern for his second contract and Dynasty formats because Daniels is going to play early in his first season and be given multiple opportunities to fail over his rookie contract.

Working with Kliff Kingsbury as a rookie in 2019, Kyler Murray was the QB8 in overall scoring and the QB12 in points per game.

You can make a case that Daniels provides a higher floor of rushing.

Murray ran 93 times for 544 yards and 4 touchdowns as a rookie.

As a passer, Murray was throwing to 36-year-old Larry Fitzgerald as his lead wideout.

Washington has more initially on the table for Daniels to distribute passes to with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson at wideout and veteran safety valves in Austin Ekeler and Zach Ertz. They even have fellow rookie Luke McCaffrey as a potential shallow option to improve the quick game for Daniels in the NFL.

Kingsbury takes warranted flack for his first head coaching stint in the NFL, but his offenses regularly operated successfully for fantasy football.

By all indications from that stint, Washington should play fast, which is something that has been an emphasis from their players in early camps.

With Arizona from 2019 to 2022, Kingsbury’s offense ran a league-high 1,491 no-huddle plays. The next closest team ran 865 no-huddle snaps over that span.

The Cardinals ran off 26.9 seconds per play over Kingsbury’s tenure, the second-fastest in the league over that stretch.

The passing game averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt with the use of no-huddle (8th in the NFL) while only averaging 6.6 yards per attempt without (27th).

Even if Daniels does struggle to acclimate to the NFL as a passer, overall play volume and rushing acumen alone could be enough for him to register viable fantasy points.

Kyler Murray

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: NE, @CAR, @LAR

Murray will enter his sixth season in the NFL.

Returning to the lineup in Week 10 last season coming back from an ACL injury suffered in 2022, Murray was a mixed bag.

He completed 65.7% of his passes, which was his lowest rate since his rookie season in 2019.

His 6.7 yards per pass attempt did climb from a pedestrian 6.1 Y/A mark in 2022 but still ranked 21st in the NFL over the span of his return.

His 41.8% success rate and -0.01 EPA per dropback were the lowest rates of his career, coming in 21st and 18th in the league Weeks 10-18.

Murray once again struggled his most when tasked to throw downfield.

Murray completed just 41.0% (32-of-78) of his throws 10 yards or further. That ranked 26th in the league over the span of his return.

This follows a 41.7% completion rate on those throws in 2022, which ranked 40th in the NFL among all passers with 100 or more pass attempts.

There are still plenty of excuses to make for Murray on the surface if you are looking for them.

Outside of coming back from a major injury, his 31.2% pressure rate was the second-highest of his career.

He only threw from a clean pocket on 62.5% of his dropbacks, the lowest rate of his career.

The top route runners on the team over his return were Trey McBride (85.7% of dropbacks), Greg Dortch (75.4%), and Rondale Moore (71.1%). The only other pass-catcher to run a route on half of Murray’s dropbacks was Michael Wilson (56.8%).

Despite all of those surface issues returning from injury to one of the weakest surrounding sets of skill players and offensive line, Murray still averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game.

Murray posted six top-12 scoring weeks over his eight starts.

Since entering the NFL, Murray has finished as QB12, QB5, QB4, QB9, and QB10 in fantasy points per game.

Murray has come with some warts as a passer, but the best stretch of his early career came attached to playing alongside an alpha wideout in DeAndre Hopkins.

With a healthy Hopkins over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Murray posted the best passing metrics (and subsequently the most fantasy points) of his career.

With the selection of Marvin Harrison Jr, Murray now has his best weapon and security blanket since that attachment to Hopkins.

A year removed from ACL surgery, Murray could also see another uptick in rushing output after averaging a career-low 5.5 rushes per game returning to the lineup in 2023.

Caleb Williams

BYE: Week 7

Fantasy Playoffs: @MIN, DET, SEA

Williams exits college with a 97th percentile score in career passing production in my prospect model for all quarterbacks going back to 2000.

For his career, Williams ranks in the 92nd percentile in yards per pass attempt (9.2 Y/A). He averaged over 9.0 yards per pass attempt in all three seasons at college.

He is in the 96th percentile in touchdown to interception ratio (6.6:1) and in the 85th percentile in completion percentage (66.9%).

Known for his ad-libbing and ability to play outside of structure, Williams has drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes as a ceiling outcome.

No quarterback in this draft class had more pass attempts outside of the pocket in 2023 than Williams did (88) per Sports Info Solutions.

On those plays outside of the pocket, he averaged 9.4 Y/A (third in the class) with a 12.5% touchdown rate (also third).

He was sacked on just 4.3% of his dropbacks outside of the pocket (third-best in the class) despite having the most dropbacks on the move.

Inside of the pocket, Williams averaged 9.4 Y/A, third in this class.

He also comes with an 88th-percentile career mark in rushing production.

In the NFL, I do not believe Williams will be a rusher to the degree of the top-flight runners. I believe he will be more touchdown-dependent in that regard than an outright scrambler, but he can be used in the read-option game as well as near the goal line.

Paired with his passing profile, Williams could be in the bucket of what we had in early-career Deshaun Watson from a fantasy-lens as an apex outcome.

Williams rushed for 27 touchdowns in college.

With the NFL using their quarterbacks more than ever near the end zone on the ground, Williams led this draft class with seven of his 11 rushing touchdowns in 2023 coming inside of the five-yard line.

Despite being pressured on 36.7% of his red zone dropbacks in 2023, he did not throw a red zone interception. His 79.2% on-target throw rate in the red zone was the best in this draft class.

On third and fourth down passes, Wiliams still led this class with 9.6 Y/A and did not throw an interception on those downs despite being pressured on 42.6% of those dropbacks (third highest).

Going to Chicago, Williams is in a more favorable position than many previous quarterbacks selected at No. 1 overall given how Chicago landed the top pick after trading out a year ago.

Williams will be starting his career throwing to D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen.

You can make a strong case that this is the best WR1-WR2 duo that a quarterback selected at No. 1 overall has had as a rookie since Carson Palmer worked with both Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in their primes.

Palmer also sat his entire rookie season before working with those two.

I did a larger breakdown of the synergy that both Moore and Allen can have together in this new offense.

Chicago has a new play-caller in Shane Waldron, to go along with Cole Kmet, D’Andre Swift, and Gerald Everett, and they added Rome Odunze with the No. 9 overall pick.

If that weren’t already enough in favor of a No. 1 pick compared to previous top picks, the Bears also have our No. 1 ranked passing schedule for the upcoming season.

I do question if we will get enough rushing for Williams to consistently threaten the top scorers at the position, but you can make a strong case that he has more overall upside as a combo-fantasy option than what we had in C.J. Stroud a year ago as a prospect.

Deshaun Watson

BYE: Week 10

Fantasy Playoffs: KC, @CIN, MIA

This is where we are going to lose some people.

I get it.

Watson is not only a villain for many off the field, but on the field, he has failed to recapture the early-career success he has with Houston and now with Cleveland.

Watson only started six games with one of those being a game in which he played 12 snaps before exiting.

Watson sustained a rotator cuff injury in Week 3 that did not allow him to return in full until Week 9.

In Week 10, he suffered a broken bone in his throwing shoulder that required surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

Watson has now made 12 starts since the 2020 season.

Out of 48 quarterbacks to throw 100 or more passes last season, Watson ranked 39th of that group in EPA per dropback (-0.16) and 35th in success rate (39.3%).

On that same list, Watson ranked 38th in completion rate (61.4%), 31st in yards per pass attempt (6.5), 24th in touchdown rate (4.1%), and 24th in interception rate (2.3%).

17.0% of Watson’s throws were inaccurate per TruMedia, by far the highest rate of his career and ahead of only Trevor Siemian (17.0%) and P.J. Walker (20.7%) among those passers.

Watson’s throwing shoulder issues likely played a role in those accuracy issues, but this is not the same player we saw in Houston.

That said, this is an example of potential arbitrage through a fantasy lens, which is why we do this exercise. Watson is being drafted well below everyone else in this tier.

Despite all of the negativity, Watson was a better player in fantasy football than his surrounding optics.

Watson was inside of the top 10 fantasy scorers in three of his five full games last season.

Watson added 4.0 rushing points per game those weeks with 28.4 yards on the ground per contest.

He averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game in those weeks, which would have been QB13 on the season.

He is currently the QB21 in ADP.

His individual rank is lower than quarterbacks in the following tier due to volatility, but Watson’s fantasy archetype and depressed draft cost represent an opportunity to spike return value.

If he’s the same player, he can return profit. If he is a better passer, then he is a significant hit.

In Watson’s final game of the season in Week 10, Cleveland beat Baltimore 33-31 on the road in a game in which Watson completed all 14 of his passes in the second half for 9.6 yards per pass attempt.

The Browns are not only committed to Watson financially, but Kevin Stefanski has shown that he wants to throw the football more.

With Cleveland, Stefanski’s offenses have gone from 29th in dropback rate (53.5%) to 26th (56.6%) to 25th (55.0%) to 21st (58.5%).

Paired with the unknown timetable for Nick Chubb returning close to 100% this season, Cleveland should be expected to see another spike in pass rate, despite the defense being one of the best in the NFL.

The team went out and added Jerry Jeudy to go along with Amari Cooper, David Njoku, and Elijah Moore. While it remains to be seen what they get from Jeudy after a lackluster opening to his career in Denver, there is enough talent in this pass-catching corps to see a viable unit while Cleveland still fields one of the better offensive lines in the league.

Watson also has three potential pinball games in the fantasy playoffs against offenses that have the potential to score points.

Tier 3 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • C.J. Stroud
  • Dak Prescott
  • Joe Burrow
  • Jordan Love
  • Brock Purdy
  • Trevor Lawrence
  • Tua Tagovailoa

Many readers of mine over the years won’t be shocked to see emphasis placed on the tier above versus this one.

This next pocket of passers is just that…quarterbacks who have to rely on elite passing production to anchor their fantasy lines.

This group does not offer many outs through their legs when those front-end passing numbers do not show up, which makes them more fragile fantasy options.

This is the archetype of fantasy quarterback that has the highest bust rate in fantasy drafts, especially the ones that require QB1 capital.

We covered this within the Dynasty Tiers at the position, but I do want to bring back what was discussed there.

These quarterbacks do not give you complete zeros in the rushing department, but they HAVE to live on frontend passing numbers to hit their ceilings for fantasy while the bulk of the opening tiers do not.

Almost everyone in this group must throw 35-plus touchdowns to push frontend QB1 status.

What separates this tier from the next is that these are the best of that archetype.

I would not blink if any of the passers here finish as QB1 scorers or threaten to push into the top half of QB1 scorers in any given season.

The rub that gamers run into with this group at cost is that a high amount of them will be able to be arbitraged by the following tier.

More often than not, this tier of quarterback is going to be able to be arbitraged by gamers running a platoon or streaming at the position when they fail to hit those elite passing seasons.

This is something we have seen repeatedly over the years of fantasy football.

Any “regular” passing season allows them to be run down by a platoon or player punching above their class like Baker Mayfield or Jared Goff last season.

C.J. Stroud

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: MIA, @ KC, BAL

Houston hit the jackpot last spring in landing C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall.

Not only did Stroud have a great season in the context of rookie quarterbacks, but he had a great season in the context of all quarterbacks in the league.

Stroud threw for 8.2 yards per pass attempt (3rd in the NFL) with a league-best 4.6 TD-to-INT ratio.

He finished sixth in the league in EPA per dropback (0.11) and ninth in success rate (45.5%).

Layering in all the injuries that Houston dealt with on their offensive line and at wide receiver, the 2023 season for Stroud was nothing short of a major win for the organization.

Houston’s most frequently used offensive line combination last season was on the field for 20.2% of their offensive snaps, which was 28th in the league.

When Houston did not have a sack on a drive, they were ninth in the NFL in points per drive (2.26).

When Stroud was sacked on a possession, they fell all of the way down to 30th in the NFL in points per drive (0.51).

Both Nico Collins and Tank Dell were on the field together for just 34.4% of Stoud’s dropbacks on the season.

The team should naturally run into better fortune keeping their line intact this season while they have given Stroud an added weapon in Stefon Diggs while also adding Joe Mixon to this offense.

Some may look at Stroud’s rookie season paired with those points and wonder why he is not in the opening tier already.

That is fair if he can string together a run like Patrick Mahomes had to start his career, but Stroud was only a top-six scorer in two weeks last season since he averaged 2.3 rushing points per game (QB26).

We already highlighted that was the same number of top-six weeks that Anthony Richardson had in only two complete games played.

He is one of the larger examples of how a passer who is even performing with a high bar of efficiency can still be run down by the field for fantasy if they are not providing that rushing component regularly.

We also do want to see Stroud “punch up” more frequently moving forward for fantasy.

He had a great game in the playoffs against a frontend Cleveland defense but then followed that up with single-digit fantasy points against Baltimore.

Stroud has 192 dropbacks against defenses that ranked in the top 12 in passing points allowed.

On those dropbacks, he completed 59.3% of his passes for 6.5 yards per pass attempt, which includes the Cleveland game.

On his other 418 dropbacks, he completed 66.1% of his passes for 9.0 yards per attempt.

The good news is that Stoud only has five of those teams on the schedule in 2024.

Stroud does get Baltimore again in the fantasy championship round, but games with Miami and Kansas City to start the fantasy playoffs could be high-scoring game environments.

Stroud does come with the same fragility that we have seen from high fantasy picks like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert in recent seasons, but he does have all those positives surrounding him based on the environment paired with playing indoors.

Dak Prescott

BYE: Week 7

Fantasy Playoffs: @CAR, TB, @PHI

Dak Prescott had arguably the best season of his career in 2023.

He led the NFL in completions (410) and touchdown passes (36), and his 69.5% completion rate was the highest of his career.

Prescott was second in the NFL in EPA per dropback (0.18) and third in success rate (48.5%). Both marks were the second-highest rates in those areas for his career.

He also had a 1.5% interception rate, which was his lowest in a season since 2018.

All of that led to Prescott finishing second in MVP voting.

He averaged 20.2 fantasy points per game (QB4), the fourth time over the past five seasons that he eclipsed 20.0 fantasy points per game.

The 87.3% output of production compared to the QB1 scorer overall was the best of his career.

While Prescott has been a stable fantasy bet, there are a few pulling threads here entering 2024.

You don’t lead the NFL in passing touchdowns without some fortune in that department.

We should expect some touchdown regression after he led all passers with 9.7 passing touchdowns over expectations.

This is also arguably the weakest surrounding offensive unit that Prescott has had in Dallas.

Outside of CeeDee Lamb, this is the worst collection of offensive line, running backs, and pass catchers he has had.

Jake Ferguson and Brandin Cooks are solid players, but if Lamb were to miss any amount of time, this would objectively be the worst unit that we have covered for a quarterback to this point.

Even with Lamb, it is in contention of being the lightest when accounting for a complete collection of pass catchers, backs, and linemen.

The interior of this line with Zack Martin and Tyler Smith is still strong, but both tackle spots are questionable.

Dallas could end up playing rookie Tyler Guyton at left tackle to go with Terence Steele at right tackle.

Despite an offseason extension as a sign of endorsement, Steele was 73rd last season in overall grade among tackles per PFF.

His 7.9% pressure rate allowed was a team-high and ranked 64th among all tackles to play 100 or more snaps in protection last season.

Joe Burrow

BYE: Week 12

Fantasy Playoffs: @TEN, CLE, DEN

Burrow’s 2023 season was hampered by injuries.

He opened the season with a calf injury that limited the opening month of the season when the Bengals went 1-3.

Over the opening four weeks, Burrow was dead last in the NFL with 4.8 yards per pass attempt and had completed only 57.6% of his passes (32nd) with two touchdowns.

Over that span, Burrow took 96.6% of his dropbacks out of shotgun and only used play action on 18.5% of his attempts.

Getting on track, the Bengals won four of their next five games.

During that run, Burrow completed a league-high 74.1% of his passes for 7.5 Y/A (10th) with 12 touchdowns.

He took more snaps under center with his added mobility and turned his back to the defense more often, seeing his shotgun rate dip down to 87.5% while using play action on 24.9% of his dropbacks.

Then in the first half of Week 11, Burrow tore a ligament in his throwing wrist that forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

Burrow underwent surgery in late November and is expected to be ready for training camp this summer.

We have seen how strong his ceiling is when everything is working and he is healthy, but we are now four years into Burrow’s career and he has been inside of the top 10 in fantasy points per game for just one of those seasons.

It also does not help Burrow that the AFC North has been a bar tavern brawl of a division.

Burrow’s success against the Browns and Ravens in particular has been fleeting (at least Mike Macdonald is now out of Baltimore).

In 18 career games against Division opponents so far, Burrow has posted a 33.3% QB1 scoring rate and a 22.2% rate of top-six scoring weeks.

In 34 other starts outside of the division games, Burrow has averaged 19.8 points per game with a 55.9% QB1 scoring rate and 26.5% rate of top-six scoring weeks.

Jordan Love

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: @SEA, NO, @MIN

The Packers surged over the back half of 2023 on the strength of major growth from Jordan Love.

Love ended the regular season with 32 touchdown passes, which was second in the league.

Green Bay was able to calibrate their offense with a quicker passing game to facilitate Love’s growth.

Through Week 10, the Packers carried a 3-6 record while Love lived as a long-range gunslinger.

Over that span, Love averaged 9.2 air yards per pass attempt, which was third in the NFL.

During that period, 15.7% of his passes were on throws 20 or more yards downfield (2nd in the NFL) while he ranked 29th in the NFL in throws past the line of scrimmage but fewer than 10 yards downfield.

Living on a diet of downfield throws, Love also struggled on those targets.

On throws 10 or more yards downfield during that span, he was 28th in completion rate (41.7%) with 3 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

The Packers then went 7-3 over their final 10 games, with Love throwing multiple touchdown passes in nine of those 10 games.

Love, Matt LaFleur, and offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich all got on the same page as the offensive focused on a quicker passing attack.

Over the final 10 games of the season, Love averaged 7.7 air yards per attempt, which was 15th in the league.

His deep ball rate went to 10.8% of his passes, which was 22nd in the league.

47.6% of his passes were out within 2.5 seconds over that span (11th in the league) after 45.4% prior (18th).

This also aided him in being a better downfield passer when he was not tasked to live on those throws.

On throws 10 or more yards downfield over those games, Love was seventh in the NFL with a 53.5% completion rate, throwing 8 touchdowns and 1 interception on those attempts.

All of that had a major impact on his fantasy output.

Over those opening 10 games, Love was 18th in fantasy points per game (17.5) with just two games as a QB1 scorer.

Over the final 10 games, Love averaged 21.2 points per game (fifth) and was a QB1 scorer in seven of his final eight regular-season games.

I would expect to see some marriage from the front half of Love’s 2023 and the closing numbers.

Love threw 7.8 touchdowns over expectations, which elevated a 5.5% touchdown rate. Only Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson threw more touchdowns than expected last season.

The Packers scored a touchdown on 95% of their goal-to-go possessions, the highest rate for any team in the 2000s.

All 11 of Love’s completions in goal-to-go situations went for touchdowns.

76.2% of the Green Bay offensive touchdowns last season came through the air, which was fourth in the NFL.

It was the highest rate of passing touchdowns that Green Bay has had in a season since 2016.

That has historically been a rate that regressed the following season for teams, which ties naturally in a potential touchdown dip for Love in 2024 paired with the addition of Josh Jacobs.

Even with Aaron Rodgers, the four times that Green Bay scored 75% or more of their touchdowns through the air, they averaged a loss of -8.0 passing touchdowns the following seasons.

That said, Love is not someone we should anticipate bottoming out.

Even over that front half of 2023, he was in the top half of weekly scoring 7-of-9 games.

Putting together his floor with the usage changes the team had over the season, Love should be at worst a high-end QB2 with plenty of QB1 appeal.

Love does not run as much as the earlier quarterbacks, but he still managed to post 2.9 rushing points per game.

Brock Purdy

BYE: Week 9

Fantasy Playoffs: LAR, @MIA, DET

Brock Purdy not only repeated his late-season success as a rookie, but he exceeded it.

Purdy was among the league leaders in almost every passing metric in his first full season as a starter.

He led all passers in rating (113.0), yards per pass attempt (9.6), EPA per dropback (0.26), success rate (53.0%), and the rate of pass attempts to result in a first down or touchdown (43.2%).

After a 7.6% touchdown rate over his small sample size in 2022, he led the NFL with a 7.0% touchdown rate last season.

For some context there, Aaron Rodgers is the only other quarterback over the past 30 years to have back-to-back seasons with a touchdown rate of 7.0% or higher while attempting 100 or more passes (he did it twice in 2011-2012 and again in 2020-2021). Before Rodgers, you have to go all of the way back to Dave Krieg in 1987-1988 accomplishing that feat.

For added context, Patrick Mahomes has one NFL season with a touchdown rate of 7.0% or higher.

Now, no other quarterback in the Super Bowl era has put together three such seasons in a row.

Despite the inflated touchdown rate, Purdy was below Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and Jordan Love in touchdowns thrown over expectations.

Even if you want to attribute his environment to part of Purdy’s success, he still has been the best quarterback in this system since Kyle Shanahan has been in San Francisco.

If you do want to tear Purdy down for his environment, there is some small sample evidence of how much that has propped him up.

It has not been often, but when San Francisco has had to lean on Purdy when the defense knows what is coming, his production has dropped off.

Purdy only has 137 dropbacks when trailing in the second half of his early NFL career.

But on those dropbacks, he has a 61.1% completion rate (29th), 3.2% touchdown rate (29th), 5.6% interception rate (37th and highest in the NFL), and a 75.3 rating (33rd).

When playing with a lead, Purdy has sported a 69.9% completion rate (third), 7.7% touchdown rate (second), 0.8% interception rate (seventh), and a league-high 122.3 rating.

While you can use that as a Leo Meme of saying “See, it is Shanahan and the playmakers,” Purdy still has those elements in play for him entering 2024.

The 49ers are once again projected to be one of the best teams in the NFL and play ahead more often than not.

For the short-term, Purdy also still has that attachment to elite weaponry in a Shanahan offense. This is the best surrounding corps of talent any quarterback has in the NFL.

Even if you are suggesting that is what is elevating his performance, there are no signs his situation is about to worsen significantly for 2024 outside of a potential trade of either Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel over the remainder of the summer.

Purdy and the 49ers also get three teams in the fantasy playoffs that can push them for points.

Purdy has made 21 regular season starts, averaging 18.4 fantasy points per game in those weeks.

He has 13 QB1 scoring weeks and eight top-six scoring weeks over that sample.

Like most of this tier, Purdy has struggled to punch all the way up as a front-end fantasy scorer since he is not adding any rushing points.

Despite the high floor, he has just two top-three scoring weeks in that sample.

Trevor Lawrence

BYE: Week 12

Fantasy Playoffs: NYJ, @LV, TEN

After taking a jump to close the 2022 season, Lawrence and this offense fell apart as the season went on last year.

Lawrence was battered all season, playing through a knee bruise in October and then suffering ankle and shoulder injuries in December while also sustaining a concussion.

At one point, the Jaguars were 8-3, but a 1-5 collapse ended their season.

Lawrence ended the season 22nd in the league in EPA per dropback (-0.03), completing 65.6% of his passes (14th) for 7.1 yards per pass attempt (16th) with a 3.7% touchdown rate (22nd) and a 2.5% interception rate (25th).

Lawrence had a career-high 12.4% inaccurate throw rate which also coincided with a career-high 8.2 air yards per pass attempt.

For fantasy, Lawrence has now opened his career as QB37, QB13, and QB17 in points per game.

We are still looking for Lawrence to make a complete jump that overlaps with his pedigree entering the NFL, but he will have a long leash still having that opportunity.

There are moving parts here with this offense swapping out Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones for Brian Thomas Jr. and Gabe Davis to go along with security blankets in Christian Kirk and Evan Engram.

Davis and Thomas could end up being an upgrade, but both come with some initial overlap where each wins and weekly volatility.

The largest issue for Lawrence so far in his early career has been handling pressure.

Since entering the league in 2021, Lawrence has completed just 44.0% of his passes under pressure (34th in the league) for 5.4 yards per pass attempt (29th) and a 4.0% interception rate (33rd).

This offensive line is still a work in progress.

The Jaguars ended the season ranking 29th in ESPN’s pass block win rate and 27th in run block win rate.

At Pro Football Focus, they were 21st in overall pass-blocking grade and 31st in run-blocking grade as a team.

The only change being made for 2024 is adding center Mitch Morse.

Tua Tagovailoa

BYE: Week 6

Fantasy Playoffs: @HOU, SF, @CLE

Playing the first full season of his career, Tagovailoa led the NFL in passing yards (4,624) in 2023.

In the past two seasons with Mike McDaniel (and Tyreek Hill), Tagovailoa has posted touchdown rates of 6.3% (first in the league) and 5.2% (seventh).

Tagovailoa did have a career-high 2.5% interception rate (26th in the league), but the Dolphins have won more games than the season prior with him as a starter in each of his four seasons.

Like Brock Purdy, there are still some “chicken or the egg?” questions surrounding Tua’s stats and his offensive attachment since Miami has struggled in big games when forced to punch up when conditions are not perfect.

Miami is 17-4 against non-playoff teams the past two seasons, averaging 30.0 points and 276.1 passing yards per game against those opponents.

The Dolphins are 3-12 versus playoff teams the past two seasons, averaging 20.1 points and 240.2 passing yards per game in those contests.

Tua has thrown more than 2  touchdown passes in just one of those games with only one 20-point fantasy game.

Miami will face three legit contenders in the fantasy playoffs this season.

This is what has made Tagovailoa such a volatile fantasy option despite the strong counting stats overall.

Tagovailoa has seven weeks as a top-four scorer over the past two seasons but also just five other weeks as a QB1 scorer.

He has been the QB17 or lower in 16 of his 30 starts including 11 as the QB20 or lower.

He has had eight games throwing 3 or more passing touchdowns, but also 14 throwing 1 or fewer.

You can also make the case that Tua plays behind the worst offensive line in the league for players we have covered to this point (Kyler Murray is up there).

Tua just gets rid of the football so quickly that pressures were never stacked severely, but McDaniel has inherently called plays under the premise that his line also cannot hold up (a big part of the splits this team has when facing legitimate defenses).

Miami was 31st in ESPN’s pass block win rate (49%) in 2023.

When Tagovailoa was pressured last season, he was 28th in the NFL in rating (57.5). Only Will Levis (40.6%) and Bryce Young (39.1%) completed a lower rate of their passes under pressure than Tua last season (40.7%).

Miami’s most frequently used combination on the offensive line played just 16.9% of the offensive snaps in 2023. Only the Jets had a lower rate of snaps played by the most frequent line combination.

On top of those injuries, this team also lost starters Robert Hunt and Connor Williams in free agency this offseason.

Terron Armstead is the only blue chip pass protector that Miami has.

Unfortunately, Armstead just cannot stay on the field, missing another seven games last season.

Through 11 NFL seasons, Armstead has now missed multiple games in all but one and has yet to play in every game for a complete season.

Tier 4 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Jared Goff
  • Kirk Cousins
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Matthew Stafford
  • Justin Herbert
  • Baker Mayfield
  • Derek Carr
  • Geno Smith

This tier and the one before it are largely subsets of the same archetypes of fantasy options.

While the previous tier is filled with the best of that archetype in terms of where they are on the age apex of their careers and upside, this tier is filled with plenty of players that will rival them in fantasy scoring, providing plenty of cheaper bites at the apple.

I would prefer not to lean on any of these quarterbacks as my “set and forget” QB1 option, but you can build a quality platoon around these options and pick streaming spots for the spike-week potential for them in the same context as the tier above.

Jared Goff

BYE: Week 5

Fantasy Playoffs: BUF, @CHI, @SF

The Lions got a great season out of Goff in 2023.

He completed 67.3% of his passes, the highest rate of his career. He posted a 5.0% touchdown rate, his highest since 2018.

Goff was seventh in EPA per dropback (0.11) and seventh in success rate (45.9%) among passers last season.

The marriage of Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is a good one.

He has been the QB10 and QB7 in overall scoring the past two seasons, closing those years as the QB15 and QB16 in points per game.

We have seen over Goff’s career that if there is insulation around him in terms of talent and a functional play-caller, he can succeed. It is when things are forced to go off-road for Goff when his limitations prop up.

While I believe that Goff’s road splits have more to do with playing in inclement conditions for the bulk of his down notes on the road, it does not hurt that Goff will play just one true outdoor game over the first 15 weeks of the season.

The bummer is a looming Week 16 at Chicago, but gamers can calibrate for that easily in advance.

With Detroit, Goff has finished as the QB20 or lower in all three games on the road in Chicago.

Goff has just two QB1 scoring weeks outdoors over the past two seasons.

Jared Goff Indoor/Outdoor Splits 2022-2033:

StadiumComp%Y/ATD%Pts/Gm
Indoor/Retractable68.6%7.86.0%19.9
Outdoor63.4%7.12.8%13.4

Kirk Cousins

BYE: Week 12

Fantasy Playoffs: @LV, NYG, @WAS

Kirk Cousins will turn 36 this August and is coming off an Achilles injury on his plant leg.

He had surgery on November 1, which should put him on track to be ready this summer.

Cousins comes with some risk due to age and a return from a significant injury, but there is also no question that Cousins is a significant upgrade over what Atlanta received from their quarterback rooms over the previous three seasons.

Atlanta QBs vs. Kirk Cousins from 2021-2023:

StatATL QBsCousins
EPA/DB-0.040.08
Yds/Att7.07.3
Success%40.2%45.0%
Inaccurate %12.8%8.2%
TD%3.6%5.3%

Before his injury last season, Cousins was completing 69.5% of his passes, which would have been on pace to be his best season since 2018.

While we had an incomplete season, he was the QB7 in points per game last season, which was tracking to be his best season in the context of the league since joining Minnesota.

Now, with the addition of Cousins, the Falcons will transition from Arthur Smith to an offense led by Zac Robinson.

Robinson has been a part of the Rams coaching staff since 2019, where Cousins’ previous head coach Kevin O’Connell came from before taking over Minnesota’s offense.

As far as transitions into new systems go, this one should be clean.

Over the past three seasons under Smith, Atlanta had one of the least dynamic offenses in the NFL.

The Falcons ranked 30th in the NFL in dropback rate (55.1%) over those seasons.

They ranked dead last in the NFL in rate of passing plays in 11 personnel at 30.1%. The league average over that span was 70.8%. The next closest team to them was at 47.4% rate of 11 personnel on passing plays.

The entire coaching tree from Sean McVay has deployed more 3WR sets compared to the league average over that span, so this should be a huge offensive change for the passing game in Atlanta compared to recent seasons.

For Cousins himself, this is largely a lateral move from a fantasy stance.

Cousins was already a quarterback that had seen a decline in rushing output before his Achilles injury, which all but flatlines any expectations via the ground.

Without a rushing component to his game for fantasy, Cousins is still best as a floor-based option on the QB1/QB2 line that can moonlight as a QB1 in the right spots.

He has finished lower than QB16 in points per game just once during his time as a starting quarterback.

On the other end, he has just three seasons as a top-10 scorer in points per game.

Cousins is losing the best wide receiver in the context of their career arc in Justin Jefferson, but he is going to a place that has frontend offensive assets in Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts.

Atlanta also has one of the best offensive lines in the league.

To top it all off, Cousins and the Falcons get a strong outlook for the fantasy playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers

BYE: Week 12

Fantasy Playoffs: @JAX, LAR, @BUF

Aaron Rodgers suffered an Achilles injury just four plays into the season last year, completely deflating the helium that his team had in making a jump to contention.

Unlike Cousins, Rodgers injured the Achilles on his front leg.

Rodgers is on track to be ready and 100% for this season, but he also will turn 41 this December.

The last time that we saw Rodgers on the field, he took a step backward in 2022 after the Packers traded away Davante Adams.

Entering last year, this situation has an almost identical overlap to what we saw with Tom Brady three years ago joining the Bucs. Like Brady leaving New England, Rodgers was coming off his worst season and outright appeared to be uninterested at times with the offense.

Due to his age and lack of rushing ability, it is hard to handle Rodgers as more than a player to pick our spots with entering the season, but there are positives here.

Outside of Garrett Wilson obviously, Rodgers will work with Breece Hall a year fully removed from his ACL injury, while both the receiving depth and offensive line are improved over what Rodgers was going to work with coming into last season.

With limited resources and a soft free-agent class, the team is taking a flyer on Mike Williams after he was released by the Chargers.

Williams will turn 30 this October and will be returning from an ACL injury that ended his season in Week 3 last year.

He suffered the injury in a game in which he had already caught seven passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Williams has only played in 16 games over the past two seasons, but he has been hyper-productive on his snaps played going back to 2021.

Over the past three seasons, the Chargers have averaged 0.77 EPA per play with Williams on the field.

The only wide receiver with a higher EPA play with as many plays as Williams over that span is Brandon Aiyuk (0.96).

The Jets also added Malachi Corley in the draft, who can be an improvement on anything the team envisioned Mecole Hardman doing in this offense a year ago.

69.4% of Corley’s yardage last season came after the catch, by far the highest rate in this class.

The real potential for an upgrade with this team comes up front, however.

Last season, the Jets’ most frequently used combination on the offensive line was on the field for just 143 plays.

That was 13.6% of their total snaps, the lowest rate in the NFL last season.

They went out to open this offseason and grabbed two potential starters from the Ravens by adding Morgan Moses and John Simpson.

Moses just turned 33 in March and is only on contract for one season, but he ended last season 11th in overall grade among tackles last season per PFF.

Simpson signed a two-year contract worth up to $12 million, which is the ballpark of his performance last season.

Simpson started all 17 games for the Ravens after starting 21 games over three seasons with the Raiders.

He only ended the season 50th in overall grade among guards per Pro Football Focus, but his 4.3% pressure rate allowed was good for 24th among guards last season.

Their starting left guard last season, Laken Tomlinson, ranked 73rd among guards in pressure rate allowed (7.4%).

The Jets also took the swing on Tyron Smith.

Smith was great again for Dallas last season, allowing only a 3.6% pressure rate (fourth among tackles), and was Second-Team All-Pro.

The rub is that he missed another four games last season.

Smith will turn 34 this December, having not played a full season since 2015. Over that span, he has missed at least three games in eight consecutive seasons.

To add insurance to Smith inevitably missing time again, the Jets used their first-round pick on Olu Fashanu.

Alijah-Vera Tucker has been sturdy through NFL seasons, playing snaps everywhere but the center.

In 2023, he was by far the highest-graded lineman on the team, but unfortunately only played five games.

Over the past two seasons, Vera-Tucker has only played in 12 of 34 games.

This unit has an extremely low bar to clear in being better than what the team put on the field a year ago.

Paired with better quarterback play, there is even a good amount of upside here if they thread the needle and operate at full strength for the crux of the season since Smith, Vera-Tucker, and Moses are all plus players at the front of their positions when on the field.

Matthew Stafford

BYE: Week 6

Fantasy Playoffs: @SF, @NYJ, ARI

What a difference a year makes.

Last offseason, Matthew Stafford was coming off an injury-plagued campaign with rumors swirling that he could even consider retirement.

Not only did that not happen, but Stafford came back with a strong 2023 season, in particular his close to the season.

Stafford ended the season finishing eighth in the NFL in EPA per dropback (0.11) and 13th in success rate (43.7%).

Over his final six games of the regular season, Stafford was fourth in the NFL with a 109.5 rating, ranking third over that span with a 7.1% touchdown rate and fifth in yards per pass attempt (8.0).

Stafford turned 36 this February, but he still plays in a fantasy-friendly system.

What I believe hurts Stafford in the long run for going all in on him this season is that he faces a rogue’s gallery of high-end defenses, especially late in the fantasy season.

Stafford has our 28th-ranked passing schedule based on projections.

Weeks 15-16 against the 49ers and Jets will be weeks in which gamers will have a hard time using him for upside.

Stafford has only averaged 6.2 yards per pass attempt in six games against the 49ers with the Rams, averaging 14.3 fantasy points per game.

If you can get through that and the Jets matchup to the fantasy finals, however, Stafford has averaged 18.9 points per game with the Rams against Arizona, throwing for 8.7 yards per pass attempt.

Justin Herbert

BYE: Week 5

Fantasy Playoffs: TB, DEN, @NE

This one hurts because, from a talent perspective, Justin Herbert should be included in Tier 3.

But due to all the changes in Los Angeles this offseason, it is hard to handle Herbert as more than a player you would prefer to have as your QB2 for fantasy over being a steady QB1.

Herbert is coming off a 2023 season that ended on a sour note. He missed the final four games of the season due to a finger injury.

Before that injury, Herbert had a 5-8 record as a starter, his first losing record as a quarterback since his rookie season.

Herbert ended the season ranking 11th in the league in EPA per dropback (0.07) and 15th in success rate (43.6%).

That success rate was the lowest of his four years in the league.

His 65.1% completion rate was also his lowest as a starter.

Herbert started the season hot, completing 74.4% of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt and a 5.0% touchdown rate through the opening three weeks.

Then Mike Williams was lost for the season, impacting this offense yet again.

Over the remainder of the season, Herbert completed 61.8% of his passes (27th in the league) for 6.6 Y/A (25th) and a 4.2% touchdown rate (18th).

Williams was released this offseason, and the team also traded away longtime star wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Herbert and this passing offense have gone by the availability of those wideouts over the past two seasons.

Justin Herbert Based on WR Availability 2022-2023:

Justin HerbertDBEPA/DBComp%Y/AaDOTTD%
With Both2780.2176.0%8.07.33.9%
W/o Allen4270.0364.8%6.36.44.0%
W/o Williams7110.0264.5%6.46.94.0%
W/o Both1420.0865.9%5.65.94.5%

To compound matters, the Chargers also lost Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett this offseason, officially gutting the primary core of this passing game in recent seasons.

With the hire of Jim Harbaugh and moving away from the crux of their offensive touches a year ago, this will be a complete revamp offensively.

Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Greg Roman have created efficient offenses at all their stops.

We should anticipate the Chargers to potentially exceed expectations, but when your offense is predicated on efficiency over volume, that makes it tricky for us to highlight individual pieces for fantasy success.

When Harbaugh and Roman were together in San Francisco from 2011-2014, the 49ers were 30th in the NFL in dropback rate (54.0%) and 31st in passing plays per game (30.7).

Even when Harbaugh had an elite quarterback prospect in Andrew Luck at Stanford, he only threw the ball 27.1 times per game.

We have seen a lot worse quarterbacks in terms of talent compared to Herbert putting up hyper-efficient passing production paired with Harbaugh and Roman at their various stops in college and the pros. Herbert is the best passer that either Harbaugh or Roman has had in the pros.

I would expect Herbert to challenge his best marks in areas such as EPA per dropback and yards per pass attempt, but he will have to live on elite efficiency to catapult his fantasy lines.

That is just too fragile of a way to operate for gamers at a position that can be arbitraged through so many avenues if the quarterback is not an elite rusher.

Baker Mayfield

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: @LAC, @DAL, CAR

Baker Mayfield had a career season with Tampa Bay in 2023.

He set career highs in completion percentage (64.3%), passing yards (4,044), and passing touchdowns (28).

As good as Mayfield was overall, he was still QB19 in fantasy points per game (16.1) with three weeks as a top-10 scorer.

Mayfield also could be due to some hits in the regression department due to career outliers in his performance on third downs and his success throwing to wide receivers and tight ends.

The loss of Dave Canales could have rippling effects here.

Geno Smith immediately took a step back after Canales left Seattle.

The loss of Canales also keeps a streak Mayfield wishes were not true.

Mayfield has had the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons just once in his career.

The positive news is that Mayfield did work with new offensive coordinator Liam Coen a couple of years ago when Coen was the coordinator for the Rams in 2022.

Mayfield made a pit stop there to close that season, starting four games and completing 63.6% of his passes for 6.6 yards per pass attempt with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Derek Carr

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: @LAC, @DAL, CAR

Derek Carr inked a four-year contract with New Orleans last offseason.

In his first year with the Saints, Carr completed 68.4% of his passes (sixth in the league) for 7.1 yards per pass attempt (18th) with 25 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

His 1.5% interception rate was his lowest in a season since 2016.

He finished 14th in touchdown rate (4.6%), 17th in EPA per dropback (0.04), and 16th in success rate (43.4%).

Those rankings align with what we know about Carr.

He is not going to kill you at the position but also is below the front end of the position.

He has finished higher than QB19 in points per game just once over his 10 NFL seasons.

If you are looking for some pros for Carr as a QB2 with upside this season, not only do the Saints have our fifth-best passing schedule, but the offensive changes should impact this offense positively overall.

The transition to Klint Kubiak will be a welcome addition compared to the approach the New Orleans passing game took in 2023, which had next to zero easy buttons for a passer.

In 2023, the Saints were dead last in the NFL in the use of play action (14.4%) and pre-snap motion (22.8%).

Serving as passing coordinator in San Francisco last season, we are hoping Kubiak brings over more of what Kyle Shanahan was doing offensively.

San Francisco was second in the NFL in use of pre-snap motion (67.3%) and 16th in play action rate (23.2%).

Kubiak only has one year of calling plays in the NFL, back in 2021 with the Vikings.

In that season, Kubiak’s offense was 12th in the NFL in pre-snap motion (43.4%) and 18th in the use of play action (25.5%). Even if those held up for 2024, there would be huge positive shifts compared to the 2023 rates for New Orleans.

While those changes could give Carr some newfound life for fantasy, he has to be better in the red zone than we have seen throughout his career.

Carr has flirted with high yardage before, but he has just one season hit 30 passing touchdowns due to his limitations near the end zone.

Since entering the league in 2014, Carr is 43rd in completion rate (48.3%) inside of the 10-yard line.

Last season, he was 27th in completion percentage (43.8%) in that area of the field.

Geno Smith

BYE: Week 10

Fantasy Playoffs: GB, MIN, @CHI

Geno Smith has a bit more instability than the other players here since he could lose snaps if things do not go well, but he remains the Seattle starter to bet on going into the season.

After a career breakout in 2022, Smith took a step back last season.

His completion rate went from 69.8% down to 64.7%.

His touchdown rate went from 5.2% down to 4.0%.

His yards per pass attempt went from 7.5 down to 7.3.

Smith ended the season 16th among quarterbacks in EPA per dropback (0.06).

He went from averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game down to 15.1.

The largest issue that Smith and Seattle had last season was added pressure and handling that added heat.

Smith was under pressure on 40.8% of his dropbacks last season (28th in the league) after a 34.2% rate in 2022 (21st).

When pressured last season, Smith averaged only 5.3 yards per pass attempt (25th) while completing 50.0% of his passes (12th).

When Smith was kept clean, he averaged 8.4 Y/A (5th) and completed 73.0% of his passes (11th).

Smith averaged 7.3 air yards per pass attempt from a clean pocket (12th) while averaging a league-low 6.4 air yards per throw when pressured.

By the end of the season, Seattle’s most frequently used combination on the line for the year was on the field for just 21.4% of their offensive snaps, which was 26th in the league.

The tackle spots just wrecked this line last season.

In their second season, tackle Charles Cross missed three games while Abraham Lucas only appeared in six.

Seattle will look for better health from those tackles in 2024, but they also will be replacing both offensive guards from a year ago to further add to the question marks this line has this season paired with a quarterback that needs pristine pass protection.

Top-down, this line still poses to be a potential hindrance.

That said, if he does get better protection, Smith is a major QB2 value in 2024. We have already seen him operate as a QB1 when kept clean.

Smith may never have as efficient of a season as he had in 2022, but his performance from a clean pocket suggests that he is not a complete pumpkin again, either.

The other area of improvement for this offense will be with Ryan Grubbs replacing Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator.

While Grubbs successfully facilitated a Washington passing offense that incorporated three quality wide receivers, we are waiting to see how he chooses to deploy the combination of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Tier 5 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Bryce Young
  • Daniel Jones
  • Will Levis
  • J.J. McCarthy
  • Bo Nix
  • Drake Maye

We are in an unknown part of the position.

Fantasy selections from this tier will be made largely on draft investment, potential upside, and hope.

This group of players will not garner much action in 1QB leagues until they show something that gamers can use, but in best ball leagues, 2QB, and Superflex formats, this is where some real value can be had if anyone pops from this area of the draft.

Bryce Young

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: DAL, ARI, @TB

2023 was nothing short of a disaster for Bryce Young and the Panthers.

He finished 32nd in the league in passer rating (73.7).

He was dead last among qualifying passers with 5.5 yards per pass attempt.

Young’s 2.1% touchdown rate was ahead of only Kenny Pickett (1.9%) among qualifying passers.

Young completed a league-low 39.3% of his passes on throws 10 yards or further downfield.

He was sacked on a league-high 26.8% of his pressures.

Young was not only blown away by C.J. Stroud (whom Carolina bypassed when selecting Young) in terms of on-field performance but was historically one of the worst rookie quarterbacks in the modern era.

Since 2000, there have been 63 quarterbacks that have qualified for league passer rating as rookies.

Young’s 5.5 yards per pass attempt ranks 56th on that list.

The only quarterbacks he is ahead of are Derek Carr, Chris Weinke, Blaine Gabbert, Joey Harrington, Jimmy Clausen, Kyle Orton, and Bruce Gradkowski.

The only other quarterbacks below 6.0 Y/A as rookies were David Carr, Josh Rosen, and Kyle Boller.

Young’s 36.0% success rate as a passer ranks 53rd on that list, ahead of Boller, Gradkowski, Carr, Zach Wilson, Harrington, Chad Hutchinson, Rosen, Orton, Gabbert, and Clausen.

Young’s -0.21 EPA per dropback sits 59th on that list, ahead of Orton, Clausen, Rosen, and Hutchinson.

TruMedia only has four years of throwing accuracy data, but Young’s 15.2% inaccurate throw rate is only ahead of Zach Wilson (15.4%) and Justin Fields (17.0%) among rookie passers over that span.

For fantasy, Young had only one game all season finishing a week higher than QB16.

He had 10 weeks as the QB25 or lower in weekly scoring.

Big picture, Young is keeping some downright awful company, but we have seen a few truly bottom-rung rookies bounce back as fantasy success stories in year two.

QBComp%Y/ATDFant. PPGPPG Rank
Bryce Young Y159.8%5.5119.841
Jared Goff Y154.6%5.356.743
Goff Y262.1%8.42817.011
Blake Bortles Y158.9%6.11112.429
Bortles Y258.9%7.33519.66
Derek Carr Y158.1%5.52112.031
Carr Y261.1%6.93216.820

Goff and Carr have never been fantasy juggernauts, but each has sustained QB2 value with moments where each could be started.

If anything, this is a small slice of hopium.

The bottom line is that Young must play better in his second season than he did as a rookie, but from his offensive line, surrounding pass catchers, his year-one coaching staff getting fired during the season, and having an early-season ankle injury, there is no shortage of excuse-making options on the table for Young if you are looking for them.

The Panthers are committed to Young short-term, and Carolina did what they could this offseason in terms of adding bodies to the offensive line and acquiring a viable pass catcher.

The Panthers closed the season ranking 23rd in pass block win rate.

At Pro Football Focus, they were equally poor, ranking 27th in collective pass-blocking grade.

Injuries were a huge part of the story.

The team’s most frequently used offensive line combination was on the field for just 17.2% of their offensive plays. Only two teams (the Dolphins and Jets) had a lower rate as their most often-used combination across the line.

At the end of the season, Carolina had five different combinations across their line on the field for over 100 snaps, but the most one of those combinations played together was 189 snaps.

Where the team just could not stay healthy was on the interior.

No guard on the roster appeared in more than 10 games for the Panthers last season.

At the end of the season, Carolina had 10 different offensive guards log a snap while five of them played 100 or more snaps with the most being 434 snaps played.

Carolina guards combined to allow pressure on 10.5% of their pass-blocking snaps, the highest rate in the league.

Carolina immediately went out and splurged in that area to open free agency, adding both Damien Lewis and Robert Hunt to huge contracts.

Carolina allowed D.J. Chark to walk in free agency while adding Diontae Johnson as a clear upgrade and lead target alongside slot man Adam Thielen.

Johnson provides Carolina with a wideout that can separate on the perimeter, something they lacked a year ago.

Johnson ranked 11th among NFL wide receivers in ESPN’s open score last season after ranking first, fourth, third, and second in their metrics the previous four seasons.

The team also added rookies Xavier Legette, Jonathon Brooks, and Ja’Tavion Sanders, all of whom should compete for viable snaps out of the box.

While this still takes a lot to come together, Carolina objectively has more offensive talent than they had a year ago.

Their best acquisition under the premise of turning things around immediately for Young comes from the hire of Dave Canales as head coach.

Canales has been attached to the resurrection of both Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield in the past two seasons when he was the Seattle quarterbacks coach in 2022 and the offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay last season.

Daniel Jones

BYE: Week 11

Fantasy Playoffs: BAL, @ATL, IND

After inking a four-year extension last offseason, the 2023 season was a lost one for Daniel Jones.

Jones only appeared in six games with the team going 1-5 in those games.

While on the field, Jones only averaged 5.7 yards per pass attempt (45th out of 48 quarterbacks to have 100 or more attempts) with 2 touchdowns.

After throwing just 5 interceptions on 472 passes in 2022, Jones threw 6 interceptions on his 160 passes last season.

The Giants averaged just 3.9 yards per offensive play with Jones in the game compared to 4.3 yards per play with Tommy DeVito and 5.2 yards per play with Tyrod Taylor.

To compound matters, Jones was never healthy. He missed time early in the season due to a neck injury and then was officially shut down for the season after an ACL injury the first week of November.

Through five seasons, we have likely seen enough to know that Jones is not a franchise quarterback, but we have seen him produce from a fantasy stance.

He was the QB16 in points per game in 2019 as a rookie and was QB10 in points per game in 2022.

Jones has never played with a wide receiver that has threatened to be a true star.

He has thrown 100 or more passes to five different players so far in the NFL.

Those players are Darius Slayton (302 targets), Sterling Shepard (202), Saquon Barkley (189), Evan Engram (182), and Golden Tate (118).

The selection of Malik Nabers gives him an added-out to be a potentially useful QB2 with upside.

The downside is that Jones is out of excuses.

If he plays to the same level that he did a year ago, the Giants could outright pull the plug because they can get out of his contract after this season. They would eat $22 million in dead cap space but also save $19 million in the process.

Returning from ACL surgery also jeopardizes Jones from using his legs, something that has been his anchor for fantasy relevancy.

Jones has 16 QB1 scoring weeks over his career. In those games, he has averaged 9.9 rushing points per game.

Will Levis

BYE: Week 5

Fantasy Playoffs: CIN, @IND, @JAX

Will Levis made his first start of the season in Week 8 with flying colors.

The Titans beat the Falcons that week with Levis throwing 4 touchdown passes.

The remainder of the season was not as clean, however.

Tennessee went 2-5 over the remaining seven full games that Levis started while he only threw 4 touchdowns in total over that span.

He missed two of the final three games with an ankle injury, playing just 13 snaps in his other start.

Among the 32 passers that qualified for league passer rating, Levis was dead last among those passers in completion rate (58.4%).

His 3.1% touchdown rate ranked 25th while his 7.1 yards per pass attempt ranked 17th.

Levis was 21st in EPA per dropback (-0.03) and 30th in success rate (36.7%), ahead of only Bryce Young and Zach Wilson.

He was sacked on 9.9% of his dropbacks, ahead of only Young, Wilson, and Justin Fields.

Taking sacks, accuracy, and passing under pressure were two of the major red flags for Levis entering the NFL.

All were issues over his small sample in year one.

Levis had the lowest on-target throw rate on throws 10 yards or further downfield among last year’s rookie draft class entering the league.

As a rookie, he only completed 40.6% of his throws 10 yards or further downfield, ahead of only Young.

Under pressure, Levis completed just 40.6% of his passes (again, only ahead of Young) for 5.1 yards per attempt (28th).

While Levis did carry over some negative traits on his profile from college, some areas were impacted by his environment last season.

Levis was pressured on 44.8% of his dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the league.

He was solid when he was not pressured.

When kept clean, Levis averaged 8.3 Y/A (6th in the league) and had his completion rate climb to 69.2%.

That was still only good for 25th in the league but was one of the higher jumps in the league from when pressured since he was so low when the heat was on.

Removing Andre Dillard from the field is an addition by subtraction for Tennessee this season.

Dillard played 562 snaps last season, all at left tackle. Despite appearing in just 12 games, he allowed the most sacks in the league (12) and a 13.4% pressure rate, which ranked 98th in his position.

The Titans selected JC Latham in the first round to play left tackle.

They also aggressively pursued Lloyd Cushenberry, whom they inked to a four-year contract that can potentially earn $50 million.

Cushenberry ranked 10th in overall grade at Pro Football Focus among centers, but the standout area was that Cushenberry ranked third in their pass protection grade.

Cushenberry allowed a 2.3% pressure rate (seventh among centers) and just one sack.

Latham, Cushenberry, and last season’s selection of Peter Skoronski give the Titans a potentially good left side of the line, though the right side is still a major question mark.

Levis also did not have a lot on offense.

When he was on the field as a rookie, DeAndre Hopkins was on the field for 86.3% of his dropbacks, but the next highest players were Chigoziem Okonkwo (67.1%), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (60.3%), Chris Moore (54.1%), and Tyjae Spears (52.7%).

No other player was on the field for over 50% of his dropbacks.

Levis threw the ball to Hopkins on 28.7% of his passes while the only other players over 10% were Okonkwo (15.0%) and Spears (14.6%).

That will change this season with the additions of Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd, and Tony Pollard along with a transition to a more open passing game.

Part of why Levis carried such a low completion rate is that he only threw the ball downfield. This offense did not have many easy buttons in it, especially for a rookie quarterback.

No quarterback averaged more air yards per attempt than Levis.

His average throw was 10.5 yards downfield. The average among passers that qualified for league passer rating was 7.7 yards downfield.

22.4% of Levis’s throws were 20 yards or further downfield, the highest rate in the league.

The average was 11.7% while the next closest passer at 14.6%.

While Levis was last in the league in completion percentage, his expected completion percentage was 28th in the league.

This was not just a Levis issue but a scheme issue as well.

26.9% of the Tennessee wide receiver routes run were 20 yards or further downfield, the highest rate in the league. The league average was 16.5%.

The Titans ran a lot of 2WR sets, facing crowded defensive fronts and relying on vertical shots.

With Derrick Henry leaving the team paired with Brian Callahan taking over as the head coach, this offense is going to look a lot different in 2024.

The Titans used 11 personnel on just 57.9% of the snaps (24th) with Levis on the field with a 57.7% dropback rate on his snaps (26th).

Levis had 261 plays with Henry on the field last season.

The Titans were in 11 personnel for just 28.0% of those plays with a dropback rate of just 41.8%.

While we should not expect a complete overlap of what the Bengals did while Callahan was with the team, we can pair what that system has run with the transactions that Tennessee has made this offseason and come away with some idea that this offense is going to be wildly more spread out and operate with more emphasis on getting the ball out of Levis’s hands on the shallow to intermediate levels.

From 2019-2023 with the Bengals, Callahan’s offense threw the ball 3% over expectations, and Joe Burrow missed the crux of two seasons over that span.

The Bengals had good wide receivers, but every coach to leave the Sean McVay coaching tree has run a ton of 11 personnel.

This is a system that will push to get the ball out of Levis’s hands earlier.

Based on recent outcomes for non-first-rounders given a chance in year two, Levis is drawing lower odds to hit.

It is more likely we see Levis go the route of Davis Mills, Desmond Ridder, or Drew Lock before he hits like Jalen Hurts, but at least the Titans have given Levis a good amount to work with.

Levis may be drawing low odds to hit, but he comes with low risk in finding out if there is anything here for gamers chasing that initial starting outcome.

J.J. McCarthy

BYE: Week 6

Fantasy Playoffs: CHI, @SEA, GB

J.J. McCarthy was perhaps the most polarizing quarterback of the top prospects in this class.

He is the youngest player at the position, just turning 21 this past January.

The top-down thing with McCarthy is centered around the conditions he was placed in.

He is viewed by some as a caretaker. We have seen quarterbacks in this offensive system attached to Jim Harbaugh have efficiency-based results that do not always match the overall perception of the player.

With McCarthy going in the first round, the only other quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2000 with fewer final season pass attempts per game than McCarthy (22.1) were Jason Campbell (20.8), Cam Newton (20.0), Trey Lance (17.9), and Michael Vick (16.1).

All those guys were limited in passing volume because of how good they were on the ground.

But McCarthy’s low-passing volume can easily be explained outside of the normal Harbaugh stigma.

Michigan lost one game with McCarthy as their starter over the past two seasons.

Not only that, but they also trailed at halftime just three times, and just once in 2023 did they trail at half. They led by double-digit points at the half in nine of their games.

Blowing out many teams, McCarthy threw 34 total passes in the fourth quarter this season. He did not even play in seven different fourth quarters this past season.

Interestingly enough, the things we do know about McCarthy’s output could be the most tangible since he does not have empty-calorie inflation anchoring his production.

65.1% of McCarthy’s pass attempts this season came in the first half of games, the highest rate of this draft class.

On those throws, he was third in completion rate (73.1%), fifth in on-target rate (75.1%), and fifth in yards per pass attempt (9.2).

On third and fourth downs, McCarthy completed 71.3% of his passes (2nd) with 9.3 yards per pass attempt (2nd).

He also attempted a class-high 49.7% of his passes against top-25 defenses.

McCarthy also averaged a class-high 10.1 Y/A when pressured in 2023.

It is okay not to jump all in on McCarthy and question what his rate stats look like with increased passing volume, but we do have to draw the line that he was not trusted to throw the football as a lot of his depressed volume was circumstantial on top of the inherent attachment to Harbaugh.

McCarthy has a sprinkle of mobility as well.

He rushed for 632 yards and 10 touchdowns at Michigan.

He did not have to scramble a lot given his environment, giving him a 35.9% rate of designed runs on his ledger. Only Jayden Daniels (258) and Joe Milton (187) had more rushing yards than McCarthy (166) on designed runs in 2023.

That said, his overall rushing still likely falls in the Justin HerbertTrevor Lawrence range.

I am more open to the pro side of the coin of McCarthy, but the question remains in what we are getting for fantasy.

Can he be a quarterback who regularly can push to be a weekly QB1?

If his rushing falls around those two passers, he will have to be someone who regularly flirts with 30-plus passing touchdowns to get to those levels.

In the majority of outcomes, I see McCarthy maxing out as someone who moonlights as a fantasy QB1 but is more of a QB2.

The good news is that I believe this landing spot potentially maxes McCarthy out.

He is opening his career with Kevin O’Connell, Justin Jefferson, and Jordan Addison.

With that, you can make a strong case for McCarthy as QB3 in this rookie class for fantasy behind Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels once he starts, which should be sooner rather than later.

Bo Nix

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: IND, @LAC, @CIN

The unique circumstances through COVID and the new transfer rules allowed Bo Nix to develop and max out his collegiate career with a massive season at Oregon.

He closed his career ranking in the 91st percentile in final season yards per pass attempt (9.6), in the 99th percentile in touchdown-to-interception rate (15.0:1), and in the 99th percentile in completion rate (77.4%).

Nix has a 98th-percentile final-season production score in my prospect model but also has just a 60th-percentile career production score.

Nix is a rare five-year starter, appearing in 61 games.

The only other quarterbacks selected in the first round in the 2000s with more than 50 appearances were Carson Palmer (53) and Kenny Pickett (52).

What makes it even harder is that perhaps no rookie quarterback we have covered so far had as optimal playing conditions as Nix had in 2023.

He played behind the highest-graded pass blocking offensive line in college per Pro Football Focus.

Nix was pressured on just 16.1% of his dropbacks, the only quarterback in this class under 20%.

He was pressured on just 28.6% of his blitzed dropbacks, also the lowest rate.

He averaged only 6.3 air yards per pass attempt, the fewest in this draft class. The next closest was a full yard over him at 7.4 yards downfield.

67.0% of his passes were credited as thrown to open receivers per Pro Football Focus, the highest rate in this class.

Nix threw 60.1% of his passes in under 2.5 seconds, the highest rate in this class.

All of that makes it hard to accurately judge Nix’s 2023 as development or something anchored by unique circumstances and environment.

His NFL environment will immediately illuminate things.

Nix should jump Zach Wilson and Jarrett Stidham right away, but this Denver roster is currently in rough shape.

Their running backs combined to rush for 4.1 YPC (20th in the league) with a 34.0% success rate (24th) in 2023.

Denver wide receivers combined for 167 receptions (27th) for 2,353 yards (22nd) in 2023.

The Broncos also have our No. 31 ranked passing schedule for 2024, although the playoff schedule is not nearly as bad on the surface as the complete outlook.

We should at least see Nix alter their offensive approach.

Denver wideouts lived on the long ball in 2023.

Their 23.3% target rate on throws 20 or more yards downfield was second in the NFL while their 21.8% deep route rate was also second.

If looking through the pro side of things for Nix, he is still a former five-star recruit who improved his yards per pass attempt in every season in college.

When tasked to push the football downfield, he did excel.

Nix had an on-target rate of 65.6% on throws 10 yards or further, which was second in this class. His 17.9% touchdown rate on those throws was also second.

On throws 10 yards or further and outside of the numbers, Nix was second in the class with an on-target rate of 61.8%.

He has enough ability to escape pressure and create with his legs.

Nix rushed for 38 touchdowns over his five seasons, averaging 26.4 yards on the ground per game for his career.

For starting projection, Nix is going to have initial value in Superflex leagues.

In 1QB formats, it is hard to get overly aggressive with his profile as more than a QB2 who can offer spots of QB1 output.

Drake Maye

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: @ARI, @BUF, LAC

Maye is 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds attached to a howitzer. He can also move.

You will see a few Josh Allen comparisons thrown his way, but I see Maye more on the Jordan Love spectrum in the NFL.

Maye is a cleaner prospect than Love was, but he is more of a wild card for fantasy output than the first two quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft.

Maye exits college in the 85th percentile in career touchdown-to-interception rate (3.9:1) but sits in the 73rd percentile in career yards per pass attempt (8.4) and 71st percentile in completion rate (64.9%).

What drags down Maye compared to the first two passers is that his final season was not nearly as strong.

From a final-year perspective, Maye was only in the 62nd percentile in yards per attempt (8.5), the 45th percentile in completion rate (63.0%), and the 41st percentile in touchdown-to-interception rate (2.7:1).

Maye’s 66.5% on-target rate in 2023 ranked ahead of Devin Leary (66.4%) in this draft class.

Maye only posted an on-target rate of 69.8% from a clean pocket, which was also the second-lowest rate in this class.

He was also dead last in on-target rate (65.1%) from inside of the pocket.

Maye was hurt by his desire to push the rock down the field.

No quarterback in this class averaged more air yards per throw than Maye in 2023 (10.7 yards).

On those passes, his 49.4% on-target rate was also the second-lowest rate in this class.

Those wonky rates are why I use the Love comparison.

There are a lot of NFL and Dynasty teams that would like a redo on taking a chance on Love at this point, so there is still upside on the table here Maye.

But he will likely take development.

Maye will turn just 22 years old this August and only has 26 career starts under his resume.

In his two seasons starting at North Carolina, Maye also rushed for 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns.

What I do believe will be different from Maye in the NFL versus Caleb Williams is the designed runs called for each.

41.4% of Maye’s rushes in 2023 were outright scrambles, which was more than Jayden Daniels (40.7%) and Williams (33.3%). That number will likely decrease in the NFL while the other two quarterbacks get their number called more on designed runs.

His landing spot in New England does take some initial work compared to the first two landing spots in this class.

This is a team that has major needs at left tackle on the offensive line and at wide receiver, the two best friends for a quarterback.

We are in what seems like a never-ending cycle of New England chasing their tail at the wide receiver position.

This team once again received basement-level production from their receivers in 2023.

New England wideouts combined to catch 175 passes (25th) for 1,909 yards (29th), and just 5 touchdowns (31st).

Only Carolina wide receivers averaged fewer yards per reception (10.3 yards) than New England receivers (10.9).

New England has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Julian Edelman in 2019, which is also the last time any of their wideouts have even reached 900 yards receiving in a season.

From a 2024 redraft stance, the current New England offense does not provide a ton of confidence in having Maye as more than a QB2 flier.

To compound immediate concerns about Maye and the Patriots being in a development curve, they also have our hardest team schedule overall in the league this season.

We could see Jacoby Brissett opening the year as the starter, but with an opening schedule of Bengals, Seahawks, Jets, 49ers, Dolphins, Texans, Jaguars, and Jets through eight weeks, it is unlikely that New England wins enough games to prevent them for kickstarting Maye’s playing time.

Tier 6 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Justin Fields
  • Gardner Minshew
  • Aidan O’Connell
  • Sam Darnold
  • Jacoby Brissett

This is the part of the position that has battles and passers that are hard to project playing a full season.

Russell Wilson and Justin Fields

BYE: Week 9

Fantasy Playoffs: @PHI, @BAL, KC

The Steelers have reworked their quarterback room on the cheap this offseason.

Pittsburgh quarterbacks were 27th in EPA per dropback last season (-0.10) after ranking 20th, 28th, 21st, and 30th in that department going back to 2019.

Russell Wilson signed a one-year contract for just $1.2 million. He will turn 36 in November of this season.

Wilson bounced back last season with a spike in touchdown variance, but the rest of his 2023 season looks suspect under the hood.

On the surface, it is reminiscent of the 2021 season that Carson Wentz had with the Colts before he was made available the following season.

Wilson posted a 5.8% touchdown rate (third in the NFL last season) but threw for only 6.9 yards per pass attempt (22nd), the lowest rate of his career.

We have spent a lot of time suggesting that a team should “let Russ Cook,” but no matter the coordinator, every offense with Wilson ends up looking the same due to his playstyle.

Wilson wants to extend plays and push the ball downfield by nature. He is a big game hunter, which current NFL defensive approaches across the league have calibrated to prevent.

He lives by the mantra of shooting a three-pointer or taking a layup.

Since he entered the NFL in 2012, Wilson has thrown the football on the intermediate level (10-19 yards downfield) just 17.0% of the time, which is 44th in the league. The league rate is 18.9% over that period.

His 14.9% deep throw rate is the third highest in the league, trailing only a one-year sample from Will Levis (22.4%), and…Justin Fields (15.1%).

Last year, Wilson threw the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage on 30.2% of his throws (second in the league) and deep on 14.5% (third).

No quarterback in the league threw the ball at the intermediate level at a lower rate (11.0%) than Wilson did.

Fields has nearly the same overlap, ranking ahead of only Wilson in throws to the intermediate area (13.5%) and second in deep throw rate (14.6%).

He threw the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage on 25.4% of his passes, which was seventh in the league.

Fields is still only 25 and carries as much athleticism as any quarterback in the league.

He has rushed for 55.5 yards per game since entering the league, which is just short of Lamar Jackson (58.8 yards) over that span.

What hurt Fields was his development as a passer and failure to get away from negative plays.

Since entering the NFL, Fields has taken a league-high 135 sacks.

A league-high 28.3% of his pressures have resulted in sacks while the NFL average over that span is 20.0%.

Over the past three seasons, Fields has averaged a league-high 3.02 seconds per time to release the football while a league-low 34.1% of his throws in the NFL have come out before 2.5 seconds.

The NFL averages over that span are 2.65 seconds to throw with 46.9% of all passes coming out before 2.5 seconds.

In a way, the greatest strength for Fields also contributes to his largest weakness.

Over the past three seasons, Fields is 35th in the NFL in expected points lost on sacks, interceptions, and fumbles out of 38 quarterbacks.

One of the players below him is Wilson.

But no matter when Fields suits up, he is immediately a viable candidate for fantasy points, finishing as the QB6 and QB13 in points per game the past two seasons. In 2023, Fields was fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points per dropback.

We also are going to see how each of these players fits into a new offense run by Arthur Smith.

Over the past three seasons under Smith, Atlanta had one of the least dynamic offenses in the NFL.

The Falcons ranked 30th in the NFL in dropback rate (55.1%) over those seasons.

They ranked dead last in the NFL in rate of passing plays in 11 personnel at 30.1%. The league average over that span was 70.8%. The next closest team to them was at 47.4% rate of 11 personnel on passing plays.

All of that said, the Steelers have an extremely low bar to clear in improving their upside as a passing offense based on recent output.

As much as we do jab at Smith and suggest that his philosophies may be dated for today’s NFL, he has fielded efficient offenses in the past (there is a reason he keeps getting jobs) and has coaxed out the best seasons of Ryan Tannehill’s career by a mile.

Over his five seasons as a play-caller, Smith’s teams have never finished higher than 16th in passing yards, but they have finished in the top five in yards per pass attempt three times.

Wilson is the clear favorite to start the season, but I would not aggressively bet on him starting all 17 games.

The Steelers also have one of the worst schedules in the NFL.

They have our No. 27 ranked passing schedule.

Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell

BYE: Week 10

Fantasy Playoffs: ATL, JAC, @NO

After bricking out with Jimmy Garoppolo last season, the Raiders are drifting towards a quarterback competition this summer between Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew.

O’Connell was selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft (No. 135 overall).

He made 10 starts as a rookie with the Raiders going 5-5 in those games.

The .500 record could be questioned.

The Raiders did have a win against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs as part of those five wins, but O’Connell only threw for 62 yards in that game and did not complete a pass over the final three quarters.

The other four wins that the Raiders had with O’Connell starting were against Daniel Jones/Tommy DeVito, Zach Wilson, Easton Stick, and Jarrett Stidham.

O’Connell ended his rookie experience completing 62.1% of his passes (27th among qualifying passers) for 6.5 yards per pass attempt (25th).

He threw 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, finishing 23rd in EPA per dropback (-0.04) and 25th in success rate (39.6%).

Despite the struggles overall, O’Connell did close the season as a QB1 scorer in three of his final four games.

Minshew ended the 2023 season starting a career-high 13 games for the Colts, going 7-6 with one of his wins coming against the Raiders.

Minshew completed 62.2% of his passes (26th) for 6.7 Y/A (23rd), closing the season 18th in EPA per dropback (-0.01) and 27th in success rate (39.2%) among the 32 passers that qualified for the league’s passer rating.

Since Minshew entered the league in 2019, he ranks 34th in success rate per dropback, right behind Mac Jones and right ahead of Desmond Ridder.

Minshew had three QB1 scoring weeks, the same as O’Connell.

Sam Darnold

BYE: Week 6

Fantasy Playoffs: CHI, @SEA, GB

Darnold could draw early-season starts before the team transitions over to J.J. McCarthy.

Whereas the Patriots and Broncos have Week 14 bye weeks, the Vikings have one of the early bye weeks.

Over their five games before that bye, the Vikings have games against the 49ers, Texans, Packers, and Jets.

They also do not get many favors coming out of that bye against the Lions, Rams, Colts, and Jaguars, but that Week 7 game against Detroit is at home.

Minnesota could use that tough gauntlet to open the year to use Darnold’s experience, but if they do not win enough games, we will see McCarthy on the field quickly.

Darnold has a larger sample of subpar quarterback play than good over six five years in the NFL, but he is still just 27.

Reclaiming the starting job in Weeks 12-18 in 2022, Darnold was second in yards per pass attempt (8.2) over that stretch.

Jacoby Brissett

BYE: Week 14

Fantasy Playoffs: @ARI, @BUF, LAC

Jacoby Brissett is in a similar spot where he could start the season, but unlike Darnold (who could keep the Vikings alive against a tough schedule due to the strength of that roster), it is hard to see the Patriots winning enough early in the season to keep them from getting Drake Maye’s development going.

Brissett’s teams are 18-30 in his career starting with a losing record in every season.

New England has an absolutely brutal schedule this season, opening the year with a plethora of teams contending for the postseason.

Over the 13 games before their Week 14 bye, the only team that New England plays that is not projected to flirt with being .500 or better based on win totals is the Titans.

Tier 7 Fantasy Football QBs:

  • Sam Howell
  • Michael Penix
  • Drew Lock

Wrapping things up, these are the backup quarterbacks drawing the best initial odds to start games in 2024.

Sam Howell and Drew Lock could start without injury.

Michael Penix is likely to get a redshirt season, but his draft capital makes him a wild card should Kirk Cousins have lingering effects from his Achilles injury or the team has a disappointing start.