Best of luck to you in your drafts! (Except for anyone drafting against me directly — then I wish you nothing but a level of misfortune worthy of Greek mythology.)
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (bye: 12)
What really needs to be said here? Last year, the gap in per-game scoring (minimum 10 games played) between Mahomes and the second-best QB was greater than the gap between that No. 2 guy and No. 12. Mahomes probably will fall back to earth a bit this season, but he still has room to orbit above everyone else.
2. Deshaun Watson, Texans (10)
Watson followed an electrifying but injury-shortened 2017 with a fourth-place finish among quarterbacks last year. He is a good bet to reach greater heights this season after Houston paid dearly to provide him with much-needed blindside protection in the form of new left tackle Laremy Tunsil. In the same deal, the Texans also brought in WR Kenny Stills, who will provide key depth, given that WRs Keke Coutee (already injured) and Will Fuller aren’t portraits of health.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (11)
Free from the shackles of Mike McCarthy’s unimaginative schemes — and thankfully past an offseason in which his beer-chugging deficiencies were put on humiliating display — Rodgers can hope to do much more of what he likes under new head coach Matt LaFleur. He should at least have a better receiving corps beyond Davante Adams, given another year of seasoning for youngsters such as Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow.
4. Baker Mayfield, Browns (7)
Last year’s No. 1 draft pick enters his second year almost that high on this list, after looking extremely promising in a rookie season that began with Tyrod Taylor under center and Hue Jackson prowling the sideline. Mayfield proved to be as confident on the field as he was off it, and he backed it up with impressive accuracy on secondary-challenging throws. Add arguably the NFL’s most talented wideout to the mix in Odell Beckham Jr., and this has the makings of an offense ready to explode.
5. Matt Ryan, Falcons (9)
Last year’s No. 2 QB in terms of fantasy scoring, Ryan seems like a safe bet for stellar production, and we know for a fact that he plays lots of dome games and has Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. His upside seems somewhat capped by a relative lack of rushing — his three TDs on the ground in 2018 were three more than he had from 2013 to 2017 — and Atlanta should have an improved defense, which could have Ryan throwing less, but those are mere quibbles.
6. Carson Wentz, Eagles (10)
You’re going to want Wentz to stay healthy, but it’s not like we’ve never seen that happen, as he played all 16 games as a rookie. His back issues are reportedly not a thing anymore, leaving him back at the helm of one of the league’s better offenses, which was augmented in the offseason by the return of DeSean Jackson.
More of a boom-or-bust pick than some may realize, after defenses appeared to be getting a pretty good read on Coach Sean McVay’s beloved three-wideout scheme, even before the Rams’ offense was suffocated in the Super Bowl. McVay should be able to come up with some new wrinkles, though, and with key receiver Cooper Kupp back, he may well opt to rely more on Goff’s accurate arm than Todd Gurley II’s fragile legs.
8. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (7)
Not for the faint of heart here, but there is a lot of reason to believe that Winston could throw his way into the fantasy elite this year. First of all, there’s no FitzMagic around to steal his job, and Winston showed down the stretch last year that he could make better decisions with the ball. Coach Bruce Arians has arrived to further his development, and Winston has all sorts of pass-catching weapons at his disposal, plus a terrible-looking defense to force him to stay aggressive.
9. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (8)
Just to get an idea of how much QB rushing can be a cheat code in fantasy, once Jackson took over as Baltimore’s starter in Week 11, he threw for just five TDs — and ranked seventh at his position in fantasy scoring. And that was with the Ravens completely remaking their offensive identity on the fly, so imagine how effective he could be with an entire offseason for the team to hone what will probably be the league’s most unusual attack.
10. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (11)
I’m doubting Wilson a little, and very much at my peril, but part of what’s pushing him down here is the influx of exciting young talent at his position. In other words, it’s not you, Russ, it’s them. Well, it’s also a Seattle offense that looks pretty uninspiring without Doug Baldwin, as well as Wilson’s decline in rushing in two of the past three years. Okay, it’s somewhat you, Russ.
11. Cam Newton, Panthers (7)
As if a comeback from shoulder surgery wasn’t concerning enough, Newton then suffered a foot injury in a preseason game. Both of those issues are just a tad problematic, but he is reportedly on track to start in Week 1 and has earned some benefit of the doubt as a consistent fantasy force, one who has some terrific young weapons.
12. Kyler Murray, Cardinals (12)
Even gimmicky offenses can take the NFL by storm for a little while, and what the Great Kliff Kingsbury Experiment promises — a fast pace with tons of receiving options and yards-after-catch opportunities, orchestrated by a highly talented runner and passer who probably knows the scheme as well as any professional QB — sounds awfully fantasy-friendly. An underwhelming preseason showing thus far may scare away some drafters, not without reason, but Kingsbury won’t be showing his hand in exhibition games.
13. Drew Brees, Saints (9)
New Orleans’s passing attack has become much more about quality than quantity, which is great in real life but less so in our little pursuit. The 40-year-old Brees provides safety at the position and will produce some big games, especially at home, but he’s not likely to return to Fantasy God status.
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (7)
With Antonio Brown gone, Pittsburgh will probably have a happier locker room but a less pass-happy offense, after Roethlisberger led everyone in attempts (675) and passing yards (5,129) last season. He still makes for a great target for those who like to wait at QB, then wait some more.
15. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (8)
I don’t necessarily doubt that Prescott can be a top-12 QB for the fourth time in as many NFL seasons, but I’m skeptical of his ceiling, and running back Ezekiel Elliott’s possible absence could be a major problem for the Dallas offense.
16. Tom Brady, Patriots (10)
Brady is 42, doesn’t have Gronk anymore and has seen some key passing metrics head in the wrong direction over the past couple of years. It’s not over for a QB coming off a Super Bowl run and in possession of a contract extension, but fantasy expectations should be kept in check. The reinstatement of Josh Gordon will help considerably, though.
17. Josh Allen, Bills (6)
Six games is not the biggest sample size, but when it’s the most recent six games a QB has played, and he was No. 1 in scoring over that span, well, it’s at least worth noting. That’s right: Not even Mahomes racked up points at Allen’s rate down the stretch last year. If he can keep it up even a little this year, he’ll be quite the steal at his ADP.
18. Philip Rivers, Chargers (12)
Rivers has a loooong track record of being good in fantasy, has a very good array of weapons with or without Melvin Gordon and is an excellent example of just how deep the QB position is.
19. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (6)
His six-game stretch of greatness came between Weeks 4 and 10 last season, when Trubisky was second only to Mahomes. Then came a shoulder injury and questions about whether that was what made Trubisky less effective or if it was inevitable that he would not remain so consistent. But he left plenty of cause for optimism about where his career is heading.
20. Kirk Cousins, Vikings (12)
Could easily finish much higher than this ranking, as he has done in each of the past four seasons, but Minnesota wants to run more and still has a shaky offensive line.
21. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (4)
Okay, I’m about to stop pointing out how crazy deep QB is, but not quite yet, because Jimmy G is yet another strong candidate to trounce his ADP. It’s just that he has such a short track record and some questions about his receiving corps outside of tight end George Kittle. But considering what Coach Kyle Shanahan got from Nick Mullens last year, Garoppolo can reasonably be expected to thrive.
22. Sam Darnold, Jets (4)
Reports on Darnold all offseason and through training camp paint the picture of a former No. 3 overall pick ready to make a big leap in his second season. He has good weapons on offense, particularly after TE Chris Herndon returns from suspension in Week 6, and the Jets’ exceedingly sketchy situation at cornerback promises to force New York to have to keep up with opponents on the scoreboard.
23. Andy Dalton, Bengals (9)
Losses along the offensive line and A.J. Green’s injury don’t bode well, but Dalton has some sneaky upside, with the coaching change from Marvin Lewis to Zac Taylor promising to inject Cincinnati with some much-needed innovation.
24. Matthew Stafford, Lions (5)
A boring option, but for those looking for some safety at the position in deeper leagues, boring can be beautiful. Stafford does have a very good pair of WRs in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, and rookie TE T.J. Hockenson looks promising, so the receiving cupboard in Detroit is far from bare.
25. Jacoby Brissett, Colts
26. Derek Carr, Raiders (6)
27. Nick Foles, Jaguars (10)
28. Marcus Mariota, Titans (11)
29. Joe Flacco, Broncos (10)
30. Eli Manning, Giants (11)
31. Case Keenum, Redskins (10)
32. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins (5)
33. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins (10)
34. Josh Rosen, Dolphins (5)
35. Daniel Jones, Giants (11)
36. Ryan Tannehill, Titans (11)