2019 Fantasy QB Tiers: Baker Mayfield to push for a Top-5 finish

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield
Can Baker Mayfield reach the next level in 2019? Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In my view, fantasy rankings are taking a linear thought process into an inherently fluid decision-making exercise. I often find there’s a heavy amount of frivolous debate on subjects like, “Why do you have Player-X at No. 12 but Player-Y at No. 15?” I don’t think it does the reader a service to try and take the numerical order as a one-to-one comparison, nor do we learn anything of use or substance about the players or how they will score us fantasy points on a week-to-week basis in the discussion. For all the hype surrounding the event of the draft, winning weekly is still the name of the game in the vast majority of fantasy formats.

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With that school of thought established, I do believe that using tiers by position helps offset some of the uselessness of rankings. It helps take some of the frivolity of arguing the difference of a few spots in the order. Most of the players in one tier have roughly the same value, whether they fall first in the set or last. It provides more actionable information for fantasy gamers to use during drafts, specifically in terms of helping us imagine the range of outcomes for players from both a season-long and weekly standpoint. We get too caught up in where we think a player will rank at the end of the season, but tiering can help remind us that the goal soon enough will be all about constructing teams that are best set to win one week at a time.

Every year the refrain repeats and really, only gets louder: The quarterback position is deeper than ever. You’ll see 15 passers find their way into a starting- or- QB1 tier. Most leagues are 12 or fewer teams. The supply is greater than the demand which has only increased the popularity of the late-round quarterback strategy. As more teams wait, tiered rankings can help us create the range of outcomes for each possible quarterback pick, so we know when to finally take a dip in the pool as options slip down the board.

QB Tier 1 - Favorites to be the QB1 overall

1) Patrick Mahomes

2) Deshaun Watson

Finishing as the QB1 overall in consecutive seasons would be a tremendous feat for Patrick Mahomes. Heading into the 2018 season, Jordan Hoover noted that while consecutive top-three finishes were common, a back-to-back overall QB1 finish had not been accomplished since the 2005 season. Even with his league-high 8.6 touchdown rate bound to regress, Patrick Mahomes could well be the rare player to buck this trend. He’s in a uniquely juicy situation with Andy Reid still at the helm of an offense returning the All-Star cast that finished the 2018 season.

Deshaun Watson almost quietly finished as the QB5 last year, buoying the inevitable regression coming for his passing numbers with strong rushing production. His 99 carries ranked third among quarterbacks last year. Houston’s supporting cast looks great around him with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee making up one of the strongest and most diverse wide receiver trios in the game. And Watson showed he could do it behind a bad line in 2018.

QB Tier 2 - Baker Mayfield is an every-week starter

3) Carson Wentz

4) Aaron Rodgers

5) Andrew Luck

6) Baker Mayfield

The Eagles offense is absolutely loaded heading into 2019. After leading the league in touchdown rate during the 2017 season, Carson Wentz merely slipped to 13th last season. He ranked No. 2 behind only Drew Brees in on-target throw percentage, per Sports Info Solutions. Wentz could erupt in this situation. Aaron Rodgers could also be a strong bounce-back candidate if things click in Matt LaFleur’s offense. Getting Rodgers under center with more play-action and overhauling the assignments are all needed developments.

Andrew Luck enjoyed his best season as a pro in Frank Reich’s uptempo offense. The Colts played fast and got the ball out of Luck’s hands quickly. The weapons are even better this year and the offensive line is intact. His calf injury bears monitoring but he could lead this tier if healthy.

Baker Mayfield has a dream cast of supporting actors. Odell Beckham Jr. is an elite route-runner and proven quarterback elevator. Mayfield already broke records as a rookie. This marriage could be a terror for the rest of the NFL. Don’t rule out the second-year quarterback leading the NFL in passing scores.

QB Tier 3 - Likely every-week QB1 starters with some volatility

7) Matt Ryan

8) Cam Newton

9) Kyler Murray

10) Russell Wilson

11) Lamar Jackson

12) Jameis Winston

13) Dak Prescott

14) Ben Roethlisberger

15) Drew Brees

Matt Ryan ranked top-five in completion percentage and adjusted yards per attempt in a Falcons offense that didn’t really meet expectations. With a change at coordinator, investments made in the offensive line and Calvin Ridley developing into a star, Atlanta’s offense could be even better in 2019. Across the NFC South, the Panthers offense has a chance to take a leap, as well. The supporting cast is by far the best of the Cam Newton era with D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel actually creating layup throws for this passer. The 2018 Colts provided Carolina a model for evolving the game of a once-reckless superstar athlete.

Kyler Murray is aggressively ranked but with the pace and efficiency boost expected in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, the rookie could push for 4,000 passing and 500 rushing yards. Russell Wilson showed us the rushing cheat code long before Murray. While the Seahawks will remain run-heavy, Wilson is a remarkably efficient passer, with a 6.0 career touchdown rate and 8.0 yards per attempt.

Lamar Jackson and Jameis Winston are ideal late-round quarterback targets. Winston is volatile every week but offers a pristine ceiling. He has a strong cast of pass-catchers with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard and is now married to a coach who favors downfield passing. Jackson won’t run at the pace he did as a rookie but is uniquely gifted in this area. If he improves just a hint as a passer, he will make his current price (QB15) appear as just a mere floor cost.

Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are both expected to lose some volume from their 2018 totals. The Steelers threw more passes than any other team last year. That’s unlikely to be the case after the cataclysmic loss of Antonio Brown from the aerial attack. Brees’ pass attempts have declined in three-straight seasons as the Saints offense has become more run-centric. It would be stunning if he maintains the efficiency he would need to repeat his mere QB8 performance from 2018.

QB Tier 4 - Priority streamers

16) Jimmy Garoppolo

17) Jared Goff

18) Philip Rivers

19) Josh Allen

20) Mitchell Trubisky

21) Tom Brady

You can convince yourself rather easily that any of the quarterbacks in this group could jump into Tier 3. Jimmy Garoppolo is a favorite target. Even without him in 2018, the 49ers ranked Top-15 in passing success rate, offensive yards per play and total first downs. With several players healthy and/or ready to make the leap around him, he’s in a great situation at the helm of Kyle Shanahan’s scoring unit.

Jared Goff and Philip Rivers will put up fine passing stats but are dinged in fake football due to the lack of rushing success. Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky help boost their scoring with this trait. Allen is particularly intriguing after he finished as a QB1 in the fourth act of last year’s regular season.

Fantasy Football Draft Kit
Fantasy Football Draft Kit

It’s peculiar to see the GOAT this low but seriously, how the hell are the Patriots and Tom Brady moving the ball through the air? Who is supposed to catch passes for this team outside of Julian Edelman and the running backs? Brady will offer big weeks but the way this team is currently constructed is anything but a fantasy goldmine.

QB Tier 5 - He’ll have his weeks

22) Kirk Cousins

23) Derek Carr

24) Sam Darnold

25) Matthew Stafford

26) Ryan Fitzpatrick

Kirk Cousins still has two elite receivers to throw to, even if the Vikings are planning to take the air out of the ball this year. His 77.9 completion rate led all quarterbacks with at least 50 play-action attempts last year, per Sports Info Solutions, and that should be a focus of this year’s offense.

Derek Carr has become a priority target in 2-QB or Superflex leagues when looking to wait on a second passer. The additions of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams improve the receiver corps dramatically.

Sam Darnold and Matthew Stafford have major volume concerns brought on by conservative coaching staffs. Adam Gase routinely challenges to put his teams at 32nd in plays run every season. The Lions have blatantly told us they want to run the ball first and foremost, for whatever reason.

You know Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to win some fantasy weeks before he inevitably throws himself out of the job. His 9.6 yards per attempt led all quarterbacks last year. The Dolphins have some sneaky talent at the skill positions and will be in negative game scripts often in 2019. We’ll see if Josh Rosen is actually good.

QB Tier 6 - Low-end streamers with possible fatal flaws

27) Andy Dalton

28) Marcus Mariota

29) Nick Foles

30) Joe Flacco

31) Dwayne Haskins

All of these quarterbacks will be in consideration as bye-week fillers and DFS plays in potentially high-scoring games. However, most of them inhabit offenses that either want to be run-heavy or don't come with enough skill-position talent to elevate them at this point in their careers. Andy Dalton had a shot to be in Tier 5 but an injury to A.J. Green and losses on the offensive line have set him back.

QB Tier 7 - Can’t envision a scenario

32) Eli Manning

Just two weeks ago, you could make the argument that the pass-catching corps was one of the few strengths of the Giants roster, even without Odell Beckham in the mix. A thumb injury to Sterling Shepard and a four-game suspension for Golden Tate whipped that off the table in training camp. Eli Manning was already a mess last year. If he starts 16 games with Daniel Jones lurking, it’s only because the Giants are full-blown selling out on not hurting his feelings as his career winds down.

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