Fantasy football: QB tiers through six weeks of the season

I love tiered rankings in sports. Sometimes, No. 1 is better than No. 2, which is better than No. 3. More of the time, however, Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are about the same.

That’s especially true in fantasy football, which is why I always work from a tiered list when prepping for a draft.

Tiers need not be limited to pre-draft use. Even during the season,  it’s important to understand the current pecking order at a particular position when it comes to roster decisions.

QB is by far the easiest of the top four positions (including RB, WR and TE) to upgrade on the fly, thanks to positional depth on the waiver wire — more so in 10- or 12-team leagues. With that in mind, here’s a look at my view of the current tier structure at QB.

Must starts

Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Cam Newton (Panthers), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Carson Wentz (Eagles)

Anyone fortunate enough to own one of these six passers is basically set for the season.

Mahomes has been sensational. Newton and Rodgers are as reliable as ever. Ryan and Big Ben each recovered brilliantly from poor season openers. 

Wentz’s spot here is most tenuous.  But it appears his underwhelming Week 3 return to the field for the first time since before the 2017 playoffs was just shaking off rust. He’s gone for 20-plus points each week since.

High ceiling, low floor

Drew Brees (Saints), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Andrew Luck (Colts), Jared Goff (Rams), Tom Brady (Patriots), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Jameis Winston (Buccaneers). Matthew Stafford (Lions)

There really are two levels to this group: The proven veterans and the question marks.

Brees, Cousins, Luck, Brady and Stafford have been fantasy standouts before, and all but the Lions’ QB are pretty close to must-start level. 

As for the rest, Trubisky is the one trending in the right direction, with huge weeks in his last two games. Goff has posted some monster games, but otherwise has been an ordinary option.

Winston’s track record in the past suggests a useful fantasy QB, but he’s made only one start in 2018. And then there’s Bortles, who is maddeningly inconsistent, but can’t be disregarded.

Low ceiling, high floor

Philip Rivers (Chargers), Andy Dalton (Bengals), C.J. Beathard (49ers), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

Anyone looking for a relatively safe option at the position should look no further than these five.

Rivers and Dalton play in the best offenses of this group and are the alphas. Wilson, a former fantasy stud, could still find his way. Beathard’s three starts in place of injured Jimmy Garoppolo have been solid, but don’t expect greatness. Flacco has "bye week fill-in" written all over him.

Eli Manning is no longer a reliable fantasy football option and should be avoided if possible.
Eli Manning is no longer a reliable fantasy football option and should be avoided if possible. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Desperate measures

Alex Smith (Washington), Dak Prescott (Cowboys), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Derek Carr (Raiders), Case Keenum (Broncos), Eli Manning (Giants), Sam Darnold (Jets), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Josh Rosen (Cardinals), Josh Allen/Nathan Peterman (Bills), Marcus Mariota (Titans)

Only break the glass on these guys in case of emergency.

The rookies (Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen, Allen) should be monitored closely, but aren’t worth the trouble yet. Smith and Prescott could surge, too, so don’t ignore them. No one else merits any attention right now, especially occasional Buffalo starter Peterman.