Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings, season review with look ahead

The 2019 fantasy football season was tumultuous at the quarterback position, especially for those in 2-QB leagues. We review our rankings and look ahead towards next year. Who can you trust?

Week 17 of the NFL regular season unleashed appearances from the likes of A.J. McCarron, Robert Griffin III and Matt Barkley. We would like to tell you that these names are the reason not to count Week 17 in fantasy football contests, but we just spent weeks debating the usefulness of David Blough, Devlin Hodges, Drew Lock and others.

This year felt so topsy-turvy with quarterback production that the Week 17 names were more household than some of the guys we’d been watching for a month.

For the season, Lamar Jackson was the runaway top scorer among quarterbacks. That was just the beginning of the surprises in store. Dak Prescott finished second in scoring; Jameis Winston ranked fifth; Josh Allen sixth. Sure, these are known names, but they were (apparently) hardly known quantities. We review our rankings and the final QB standings of the season, then look ahead towards 2020 with three big Fantasy Football questions.

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, debate Fantasy Football in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem on the season:

The biggest names all disappointed to varying degrees this year. Patrick Mahomes followed up his historic season with just a seventh-place ranking. It’s not bad, but anyone who drafted him regretted it with the value at the position that became available much, much later. The same goes for Aaron Rodgers, who finished ninth. Rodgers was even more frustrating because of how wildly his scoring vacillated. He was unplayable some weeks, which should never happen to a top guy.

Speaking of unplayable, Mr. Tom Brady finished the year as the 12th-best quarterback in fantasy. To be honest, that was higher than I expected, but it’s because of how few guys played the whole season. Brady made it by volume. He ranked just 17th in points per game.

Philip Rivers, Baker Mayfield and Drew Brees were even lower than Brady on the end-of-year rankings, though Brees only played 10 games. Mayfield may have been the biggest bust of all thanks to his preseason expectations. It is worse to own Mayfield than, say, Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger. When a guy goes down for the year, you can move on. When he keeps playing but playing poorly, it is hard to know when to cut bait.

Dan Salem on the season:

Consistency evaded nearly all fantasy football owners at the quarterback position unless you owned one of the top two players. Most guys were streaky at best, while some literally caused anxiety attacks. Rivers was good every other week it seemed. Mayfield had one or two great games sprinkled among a litany of terrible performances. Brady had a nice September and was adequate at best thereafter.

If I had to take one thing away from how the quarterback position performed as a whole this season, its that a player’s ability to run is more critical and valuable than ever. Even if they don’t actually run, the ability to do so lets them throw outside the pocket and evade the rush.

With so many teams having bad offensive lines, a player’s ability to throw accurately on the run is crucial. It’s also worth noting that turnovers did not negatively affect a player’s value. Winston and Daniel Jones both had solid fantasy seasons, despite all the turnovers.

Todd Salem with some surprises:

The disappointments this season were mirrored by plenty of pleasant surprises. The guys at the very top are the biggest surprises, even though they were drafted as starters. Jackson went in the seventh round of the average draft; Prescott went in the ninth. These were the top two scorers at their position and two of the top four scorers overall.

Of the guys not projected to be starters, Josh Allen was huge. He was the 20th QB drafted and finished sixth in points. Winston was even better, being drafted 23rd. We each had our personal guys we were fond of that were pleasant surprises for a little while. Mine was Gardner Minshew; you had Jacoby Brissett. Neither guy could keep it going all year though, which brings us to the Mayfield issue of knowing when to hold steady and when to go in another direction.

Looking ahead to 2020, Jackson will obviously be atop the position, followed by the likes of Mahomes, Watson, Wilson, Wentz, Ryan and others. Some of the bigger names could be switching teams though. Prescott and Winston need new contracts. We don’t know where Newton will be playing.

The team they play for could drastically shift their fantasy value, positively or negatively. I assume Prescott returns to Dallas, but what if he goes to a more pass-happy offense, or what if Dallas becomes happier passing with a new head coach?

Big questions for 2020

1. Do you trust what just happened with Jameis Winston?

Todd Salem: He led the league in interceptions but still produced. For fantasy, we shouldn’t care how a player gets to his numbers unless it means he could be benched. Winston toes that line better than anyone at the position.

Dan Salem: Winston is a reliable fantasy starter as long as he has a job. Rumors are swirling about Tampa Bay finally moving on from Winston, because he just tossed 30 interceptions in a single season. The Buccaneers won seven games. Imagine if their quarterback only threw 20 interceptions, compared to Winston’s 30 interceptions.

As long as Winston has a job with the Buccaneers, he is a solid fantasy option. He did throw 30 touchdowns. I don’t trust him to produce for another team, because Tampa Bay has great wide receivers.

2. Where would you (roughly) rank Aaron Rodgers?

Todd Salem: Rodgers had such a weird year. Was it the new offense? Was he losing something? I would be hesitant to take him in the top 10 next year even though he’s lived in the top five pretty much his whole career.

Dan Salem: I rank Aaron Rodgers 15th next season. That ranking could rise as high as 11th if the Packers add a top tier wide receiver in free agency or the draft. It’s a receiver heavy draft, which is good because Robby Anderson may be the best receiver available in free agency. He or a comparable rookie boosts Rodgers’ fantasy value.

Otherwise, Green Bay is a run-first offense right now with an aging quarterback who no longer takes over games. Rodgers is solid, but not a top-10 fantasy quarterback any longer.

3. What do you do with Tom Brady?

Todd Salem: He was actually more consistent and reliable than Rodgers, albeit with a lower ceiling. Brady has thrown for over 4,000 yards in 11 of his past 15 seasons, including getting there this year. That used to be a bigger benchmark than it is now obvious. There is no denying that 2019 was disappointing for that offense. So does Brady still belong among the top 12 in fantasy?

Next: Predicting Every Game of the 2020 NFL Playoffs

Dan Salem: I pass on Tom Brady entirely next season. He likely returns if the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl, but doing so comes with caveats. I believe Brady remains with the Patriots, but his team will be without either Bill Belichick or Josh McDaniels. One moves on to coach a different team and that shakeup is a major red flag for Brady’s fantasy impact.

New England must add a WR1 and a tight end, otherwise I don’t see how Brady will be able to produce much in terms of fantasy worthy stats next year.

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