Scoring Trending Down for Top 10 Fantasy Quarterbacks
It was clearly evident in the year-end quarterback rankings that it was a down year for scoring at the position. Top 10 Fantasy Quarterback lists are usually loaded with star power and players that are scoring machines week after week. Over the past few seasons, the majority of NFL teams were running high octane pass-heavy offensive attacks, so it was easy for quarterbacks to reach and exceed the 30-touchdown plateau.
Top 10 Fantasy Quarterbacks Scored Less in 2017
That was not the case in 2017, as many NFL teams tried a more balanced offensive approach with their play-calling. There were only three quarterbacks who threw more than 30 touchdown passes in 2017 – Russell Wilson (34), Carson Wentz (33), and Tom Brady (32) – the lowest total since the 2006 season. Given the relative success that running backs enjoyed in 2017, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the downward trend continue for quarterbacks as more teams shift their offensive philosophy towards a balanced approach between run and pass.
Injuries to players like Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson caused them to miss most of the season, which opened up spots among the upper echelon quarterbacks for players who are generally thought of as second quarterbacks or bench depth. This is readily apparent in the year-end rankings. Let’s look at where the Top 10 quarterbacks finished up and look ahead to the 2018 season as we think about what next year's rankings might look like and who might be in the Top 10 next year.
Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks
400.75 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB4
Russell Wilson got off to a sluggish start in 2017, but after the Week 6 bye, he settled in and found a nice rhythm as the season progressed. He had only one game through the rest of the year in which he threw less than two touchdowns, speaking to the consistency with which he performed. The lack of a running game and a very subpar offensive line put more pressure on Wilson to get the job done. The normally stout Seahawks defense was also helpful to the increase in Wilson’s numbers as the unit found themselves giving up plenty of points in a few games. All in all, the 2017 season may have been his best yet, and if you drafted him you should be pleased with what he gave you for the season.
Looking ahead to 2018, Wilson should once again find himself among the first quarterbacks off the board in drafts. The Seahawks will bolster the offensive line and add at running back via both the amateur draft and free agency to try and create a viable running game for this team. Now, you may think that this will hinder Wilson’s numbers next year, but it should help to loosen up the coverage and allow him to expand his game. Next season, he could return to be the multi-dimensional threat that can beat you through the air or on the ground.
Tom Brady - New England Patriots
351.60 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB1
It was business as usual for Tom Brady, as it seemed as though time is just not slowing him down. It was another 30-touchdown year for him and in most games, it seemed as though it was effortless for him to pile up the statistics. Brady led the NFL in passing yardage as the team struggled to find an identity in the running game for most of the year. Newly acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks help to ease the blow of the loss of Julian Edelman in the preseason, but just imagine this offense with both in the lineup.
Now that the Patriots have traded Jimmy Garoppolo, they appear committed to Brady playing at least a couple of more seasons. If he continues to play at the elite level, who can blame him? With a receiving group that includes Rob Gronkowski, Edelman, Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan, it’s hard not to imagine that Brady will once again be drafted among the top players at the position. Once again, you will have to grab Brady early in 2018 drafts, but you’ll also know you can count him to deliver, assuming good health.
Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
348.50 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB5
Yes, Cam Newton finished third among quarterbacks by the season’s end after a horrendous 2016 season in which he finished as QB15. But if you really dive into Newton’s numbers, you know that his contributions were strictly tied to his rushing statistics. That is where his value comes from. If he is not helping you on the ground, he is a detriment to your Fantasy roster. The acquisition of Christian McCaffrey in the NFL draft helped him to a degree as a weapon that he could use for short passes, but largely, Newton’s passing numbers are similar to what you would see in a backup Fantasy QB. His inconsistencies as a passer can be mind-numbing to an owner, but as a runner, he was giving you low-end RB2 type numbers on a weekly basis. So, you have to take the good with the bad with Cam Newton.
In my opinion, to expect Cam Newton to be back here again at the end of next season would be a bit of a reach. In his time in the NFL, he has yet to put together two straight seasons of what you would consider quality QB1 numbers based on his draft position. You also have to consider that the Panthers’ coaching staff knows that they have to put him in a position to take fewer hits. Keeping him in games gives the Panthers a chance to win, which means that his rushing totals could take a hit. That means his appeal to Fantasy owners takes a hit as well. Cam Newton will once again be one of those QBs that owners will be forced to take early, making him a risky option.
Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs
342.60 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB21
Heading into the 2017 season, if you had told me that Alex Smith would finish the year as a Top 5 Fantasy QB, I would have sold you the beachfront property that I own. Plain and simple, Smith enjoyed a career season, as he was looking over his shoulder with Patrick Mahomes ready to take the job. Early in the season, it seemed like the coaching staff was hitting all the right buttons with Smith reaching 30 Fantasy points in three of his first five starts, prompting many Fantasy owners to rush to the waiver wire to add him. After those first five games, though, Smith only produced one game with more than 30 FP, five games with less than 18 FP and had an overall average of just 21.8 FP over his last 11 games – a 16.5 percent drop in production from the 26.1 FP average of the first five games.
Now for the bad news on Smith. He will likely be heading to a new team for the 2018 season, as the Chiefs seem adamant about moving forward with Mahomes as their starter. Look for Smith to land somewhere like Arizona, where he can step right into the starter’s role with no pressure behind him. But don’t expect a repeat of 2017 regardless of where he lands. Smith will be a low-end QB2, and quite possibly waiver wire fodder, when 2018 Fantasy drafts begin depending on his landing spot.
Kirk Cousins - Washington Redskins
341.55 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB6
Kirk Cousins had yet another steady season as the Redskins’ quarterback, finishing with 4,093 yards passing and 27 touchdowns. All this was accomplished after his receiving corps was dismantled in free agency. The Terrelle Pryor experiment crashed and burned, and his favorite safety valve, Jordan Reed, once again succumbed to the injury bug. Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson did what they could but were inconsistent at best during the season. So, taking all this into account, the fact that Cousins finished this high in the rankings is a huge surprise.
Cousins has likely played his last game with Washington. His decision in free agency will likely be swayed by Washington’s failure to commit to him long-term for the last few seasons. There are going to be a few suitors out there in the market for Cousins, and where he decides to land will likely have major Fantasy implications. For instance, if he signs with Cleveland, he could be a very sneaky value because of the receivers on their roster. He could easily be among the Top 5 quarterbacks again with the Browns.
Kirk Cousins to the Denver Broncos STATUS UPDATE: "More Likely Than Not." https://t.co/gKAkwMnBos
— NBC Sports Redskins (@NBCSRedskins) January 27, 2018
Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions
338.10 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB12
After signing a huge contract in the offseason, Matthew Stafford had a lot to prove entering the 2017 campaign. And this past season was perhaps his most inconsistent to date under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. His touchdown total spiked, but his yardage dipped compared to 2016. He would have a big point total one week and follow that up with two somewhat poor performances. Stafford took more shots downfield in 2017 than he has in any previous season, which could have contributed to his inconsistencies in the passing game. With the slew of injuries that took place at the position, Stafford could have easily fallen further down this list, but slotting in at QB6 at the end of the year is a nice place for the year he had.
Look for the Lions to add some depth to their offensive line in 2018, while also seriously addressing the lack of a running game. In a perfect world, the Lions would like to operate a more balanced attack and take some pressure off Stafford. Be prepared to see Stafford’s passing numbers take a hit if the Lions address their rushing needs in the offseason.
Philip Rivers - Los Angeles Chargers
327.55 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB13
Philip Rivers had yet another steady and productive season in 2017. He came into the season as a borderline QB1, and on a week-in, week-out basis that was typically the production you would get from Rivers. He could pull out a big 20-point game from time to time, but during most weeks you would get a 13 to 17 point game from him. He was consistent enough that you could count on him as your weekly starter, which was difficult to find with the injuries that plagued 2017.
Heading into 2018, you have to figure that the look of the Chargers offense will continue to be the same. All the skill position players will be back, and their running game does well enough to keep coverage honest. If the Chargers can add to the offensive line this offseason, you can expect an uptick in production next year.
Carson Wentz - Philadelphia Eagles
319.70 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB17
Carson Wentz enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 before succumbing to the injury bug himself. He may not have blown you away with gaudy passing yardage stats, but what he did well is score. His 33 touchdowns in 13 games were astounding. He could have been the only QB to pass for 40 TDs this year had he stayed healthy. Even with the time missed at the end of the season, he managed to finish inside the Top 10 at the position. If you were lucky enough to grab him late in drafts, Wentz likely helped you into the Fantasy playoffs.
As he recovers from the injury during the offseason, expect Wentz to be a tad rusty as his offseason program will be slightly different. The positive for Wentz, though, will be that he will still be playing behind the league’s best offensive line, and all his skill position players will be intact. The fact that he will have no learning curve entering next season will be vital, and his ascension into the upper echelon at QB should continue. There’s no reason not to expect Wentz to be right back inside the Top 10 next year.
Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers
315.25 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB11
Ben Roethlisberger came out of the gates in 2017 very slow with only seven touchdowns in his first six games. The team seemed intent on getting the ball into the hands of Le’Veon Bell much more in the early stages of the year. But after the Week 9 bye, Roethlisberger really turned it on and was a Top 5 player at the position the rest of the way. After the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster coupled with Antonio Brown, the passing game really took off. He was definitely a player that helped owners to Fantasy titles in 2017.
Assuming the Steelers do the right thing and make sure they bring back Bell in the offseason, Roethlisberger will once again have all the pieces he’ll need to be a QB1 in Fantasy in 2018. If he can improve his consistency and his road production, you’re looking at a player that will contend for a Top 5 spot.
Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints
313.90 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: QB2
The 2017 season marked the first year in which Drew Brees was outside the Top 6 quarterbacks during his time with the Saints. That was in large part due to the running game behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara being the best in football. Brees just did what he had to do to help the team win, but that doesn’t necessarily help Fantasy owners win games. After a three-touchdown game in Week 3, Brees never produced that amount in a game for the rest of the season, making him quite the let-down for the 2017 season based on his ADP.
Brees will be a free agent as we enter the offseason, but all indications are that he will be back with the Saints in 2018. The bigger question will be whether Mark Ingram will be back. If the Saints lose Ingram, they lose a big piece of their running game. I’m not certain that Kamara will be able to hold up in an every-down role, which could put more emphasis back on to Brees and the passing attack. Do I expect Brees to contend for a top spot at the QB position in 2018? No. But finishing as the QB10 is something I do believe he improves upon next year.
Alex Smith Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ed Zurga
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