Rankings: 2020 QB Rankings

(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer

In a draft, Fantasy Football QBs traditionally come in five tiers:
  • Draft-Early Elites
  • 4th-6th Rounders with Elite Potential
  • Safe Middle-Rounders
  • Late-Round Sleepers
  • Undrafted Streamers
Since The Lateral is all about taking a sideways look at fantasy football, these rankings felt like they would be better displayed in those same tiers, rather than strictly on projected points. Do not get me wrong, I know I am not reinventing the wheel here; a ranking based solely on projections would likely have arrived at 4-5 tiers anyway. However, breaking it down this way is a more interesting format, and should provide a blueprint to better evaluate value by examining ADP vs Projected Finish.


To create these rankings, I used the following resources to examine historical data:
Then, I created a projected point total for each of the 32 NFL starting QBs using: Games Played (GP), Passing Yards per Game (PYG), Passing Touchdowns (PTDs), Interceptions (INTs), Rushing Yards per Game (RYG), Rushing Touchdowns (RTDs), and Fumbles (Fumbskis?). Finally, I adjusted as needed, and came up with the final order. You will see the projected finish in brackets like so:

    Patrick Mahomes (KC) [3]

This means that Patrick Mahomes is expected to finish as QB3 based on the projections, but between his ADP, historical finishes, and my own gut feelings, he goes in Tier 1. If you want to draft him, you will need to draft him in that tier.


Rankings and projections should always be taken with a grain of salt. Always. Do not take these as gospel, but instead compare them against your own thoughts and other evidence to create your own educated opinions. That being said, these are my official rankings, and I do stand by them, even though I will surely get something wrong by the time the season is over.


Tier 1: Draft-Early Elites

1. Patrick Mahomes (KC) [3]
2. Lamar Jackson (BAL) [2]

The great thing about Tier 1? Lots of people have already talked about these guys. You do not need me to tell you that Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are really good at football. You may need me to tell Bill Polian, but you are smarter than that, so you already know.

Instead, I want to tell you why you should not draft these absolute studs. Reason #1? Nobody has repeated as QB1 since at least 2012 (FantasyPros data starts in 2012), and only Aaron Rodgers has finished QB1 more than once in that span. Logically, that means you should not draft Lamar as QB1 in 2020, and Mahomes would need to have an extraordinary season (but not unprecedented), to repeat his 2018 QB1 finish. Combined with the fact that Mahomes runs the ball a bit less than you might think, and Lamar being a prime candidate for TD regression without the passing volume to balance out said TD regression, maybe it is not the best idea to pass on Chris Carson in Round 3 so you can get that "Elite QB." But if you do, rest assured you will still have a damn good QB.

Tier 2: 4th-6th Rounders with Elite Potential

3. Dak Prescott (DAL) [5]
4. Kyler Murray (ARI) [4]
5. Deshaun Watson (HOU) [1]
6. Russell Wilson (SEA) [6]
7. Josh Allen (BUF) [13]

Tier 2 is always high risk/high reward. Case and point? Deshaun Watson went ADP 49 in 2019 after a 2018 season that saw him finish at QB4. He went on to finish at QB5. Was this a little lower than his ADP of QB2? Sure, but he was still a Top-5 QB and you probably passed up on a FLEX or a WR3 rather than a potential RB1 to get him. 

By the way, this year Watson is going at QB5 (ADP 67), and the loss of DeAndre Hopkins could lead him to rely on his already potent run game even more than in the past.

Conversely, you could have drafted Baker Mayfield at ADP 65 (QB5) last year, and felt the pain that Browns fans have felt for generations, as your high-value pick resulted in a bust. Despite some flashes in 2018 where he finished with 17.15 points per game (PPG) and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. in the off-season, Mayfield in 2019 turned out to be a turnover-prone mess and finished QB19 behind Ryan Picksmagic and the DeVante Parkers.

Josh Allen is the prime candidate to be a similar bust this year, with a reputation built on 40 RPG over his career, and a nose for the end-zone. Unfortunately, QBs also have to pass the ball, something Josh Allen has struggled with so far in his career. Last year he improved on his 2018 numbers, but failed to crack 60% completion percentage or 200 PYG. His ADP has started to drop to reflect these concerns (ADP 100 [9th Round] as of this writing), but given his FantasyPros ECR of QB7, you may find yourself reaching into this tier to get him as your QB.

Tier 3: Safe Middle-Rounders

8. Drew Brees (NO) [7]
9. Matthew Stafford (DET) [8]
10. Tom Brady (TB) [9]
11. Matt Ryan (ATL) [10]
12. Carson Wentz (PHI) [14]
13. Aaron Rodgers (GB) [11]

Tier 3 are the safety net QBs. Could they win your league? Maybe! After all, Matthew Stafford was on pace for a Top-5 finish last year! Sure, a middle-round pick this year is a bit of a premium compared to his ADP 181 in 2019, but another Top-5 season could leave you looking like a genius compared to those that reached for QB. Worst case, in this tier, you are probably looking at someone like Carson Wentz or Tom Brady. Both were drafted in rounds 6-10 last season, and both finished as Top-12 QBs. They are not winning your league, but they are not losing your league either. Perfectly safe.

The one caveat is you could always have an injury issue, such as what happened to Drew Brees last year. He fell to QB22 based on 5 missed games, a far cry from the ADP75 (QB6) he was drafted at in 2019. However, he was also QB8 on a PPG basis, averaging 20.80 points over 11 games. Given that the last time Brees missed more than 1 game in a season was in 2003, it would be more accurate to label him an unlucky pick rather than a true bust. You simply cannot expect someone without a significant injury history to get significantly injured.

Tier 4: Late-Round Sleepers

14. Daniel Jones (NYG) [12]
15. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) [15]
16. Jared Goff (LAR) [16]
17. Joe Burrow (CIN) [24]
18. Cam Newton (NE) [18]
19. Baker Mayfield (CLE) [22]
20. Ryan Tannehill (TEN) [23]
21. Gardner Minshew II (JAC) [19]
22. Derek Carr (LV) [25]
23. Drew Lock (DEN) [26]
24. Sam Darnold (NYJ) [29]

More often than not, championships are won here. Last year alone the following Top-12 QBs were drafted in Round 11 or later: Dak Prescott (QB2), Josh Allen (QB7), Matthew Stafford (QB6 until his season ended prematurely). The year before? Jared Goff (QB7), Dak Prescott (QB10). Pat Mahomes' 2018 QB1 season was essentially here as well, as he went at the very tail end of Round 10. Kyler Murray 
in 2019 was going in the early part of Round 10 (still pretty cheap), and finished at QB7. The point is, there is a ton of value here if you know what you are looking for.

For 2020, the best bets are probably Joe Burrow and Gardner Minshew II. While Daniel Jones has a lot of upside with his legs, he also has trouble holding onto the ball and faces a murderers' row of defenses to start the season. Ben Roethlisberger has a ton of talent around him and a cannon for an arm, but he also has a propensity to get banged up and miss at least a game each season (only 4 seasons in his career wher he played all 16 games). Jared Goff could easily rise to the Top-12 on sheer volume, but given McVay's desire to mirror division rivals (and heartbreaking Super Bowl losers) San Francisco, Goff may see that ceiling shrink. Cam Newton is coming off a couple years of lingering injuries, including last
 season where he managed to play just 2 games, but if he is healthy he could be Deshaun Watson-lite. The rest of the group have more serious issues, but there is still enough upside for each of them to keep them out of "streamer" territory. Still, do not be shocked if you see them go undrafted or dropped at some point this season.

Anyway, back to Burrow and Minshew. 

Look, Burrow is a rookie. Rookies can definitely have good seasons, but recently the trend has been for sophomore year breakouts a la Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson. Still, Kyler Murray managed to finish QB 7 last year with a combination of prodigious talent, an awful offensive line, and an even worse defense. While Burrow is not going to be the threat that Murray was with his legs, he has a similar set of circumstances this year, but with more talent at WR than Murray had last year, and a Joe Mixon-sized safety blanket for him to dump off some throws. Volume and a phenomenal pocket presence should provide Burrow the chance to be a Top-12 QB in 2020.

But maybe a rookie is too risky for you. After all, the second year is where the breakout happens right? Maybe you prefer upside of a mustachioed scrambler in jorts

Well I have good news for you! Sophomore Gardner Minshew II also has a terrible offensive line, a terrible defense, and talented WRs, but he also is in his second year as a starter, and has pass-happy Jay Gruden for an offensive coordinator. Plus while Cincinnati re-signed their highly productive RB, Jacksonville just cut theirs. Between the 24.6 RYG, the potential passing volume on a bad team, and the general trend towards second-year breakouts, Mishew II is an excellent use of a Round 14 draft pick.

Tier 5: Undrafted Streamers

25. Kirk Cousins (MIN) [17]
26. Philip Rivers (IND) [20]
27. Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) [21]
28. Tyrod Taylor (LAC) [27]
29. Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA) [31]
30. Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) [30]
31. Dwayne Haskins (WSH) [32]
32. Teddy Bridgewater (CAR) [28]

These QBs are QBs to avoid for the most part. Whether it is low ceilings (Cousins, Garoppolo, and Bridgewater), signs of decline (Rivers), or question marks about if they will even finish the season as the starter (Taylor, Fitzmagic, Trubisky, Haskins), you should not use a draft pick here unless you absolutely have to. Pick them up if you need a bye week fill in, but otherwise stash a FLEX instead.

The only exception here is Haskins; I do not like his prospects, but the flashes of talent, the new regime in DC, and Washington's desire to make sure he is not a bust at all costs, make him a borderline sleeper candidate. I would not draft him, but if you did as a last pick, I would get the logic.

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