I like to start my fantasy football prep right around the end of May. This way you get all of the new draft class players in and you can start to feel them out, while teams also have new head coaches and systems in place.
You can really start your process the second the previous NFL season ends, but if you’re going hard at it, this is the point in the offseason that things get real for me.
One thing you always want to keep an eye on in average draft position. If you know how your league operates and what kind of settings, scoring and league size you’re dealing with, you can start gauging how certain players will fly off the draft board, when and where.
That will still change over the next few months, but it’s good to get an indicatation of draft value early and monitor it’s progress. Here’s a look at the quarterback position (in 12-team standard leagues) with a handful of steals based on their current ADP over at FantasyFootballCalculator.com:
Tom Brady – New England Patriots (Round 4)
Aaron Rodgers leads the way for quarterbacks in round three, which is an improvement on past years where some fantasy drafters took him even earlier. That’s a testament to a fantasy football generation that has grown smarter and values skill positions (accurately so) over fantasy passers.
Last year proved that injury can kill your first few rounds at any point, but given how deep quarterback tends to be (12 put up 250+ fantasy points in 2017), it makes sense to stack up running backs and wide receivers early and wait on your quarterback.
Brady is over 40 now and could hit a wall at any point, but he was the #3 fantasy quarterback in 2017 and he’s been inside the top three in each of his last two full seasons. Considering how close he could end up being to A-Rod, he feels like a solid value just one round later in most 12-team fantasy football drafts.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers (Round 6)
Brady is an arguable value and a nice way to set the tone here, but Newton shows you absolutely do not need to draft a quarterback early to dominate in fantasy football.
I owned Cam Newton in several fantasy leagues in 2017 and loved the return on my investment, as he ended 2017 as the #2 fantasy passer and produced eight top-10 finishes during the season, including numerous top-five runs and two #1 performances.
Newton again looks to return strong value in drafts, as he’s graded out as the 7th best fantasy passer and clearly has top-five ability and top-three upside.
The funny thing with Newton is many thought his stock would take a hit with a drop in rushing stats, yet he paced all passers with 754 yards on the ground and tied for the lead in rushing scores.
Newton inherited some extra help in Torrey Smith and rookie D.J. Moore in the passing game and still has Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olson to work with. All things considered, Newton feels primed for another strong fantasy year and he’s one of my favorite quarterbacks to target right around the 6th round.
Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles (Round 6)
Wentz was so dominant in his second NFL season that he finished as the 5th best fantasy quarterback despite missing the final three games of the 2017 regular season due to a torn ACL. There are valid question marks as to whether he’ll be ready for week one or if he can repeat those gaudy numbers, but the fact that you can get a top-five guy in round six makes him a potential steal.
Unless we hear firm reports on the status of his knee, I’d try to hold out another 1-2 rounds. Still, taking him in the 6th and then getting a viable backup a couple rounds later isn’t a bad fantasy football draft strategy.
Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts (Round 8)
It’s going to be awfully tough to trust Luck after missing an entire year and struggling with injuries in the past, but if he’s healthy, he looks like a steal in round 8 or later. Luck has top-five upside and still has a solid array of weapons in Indy, while Peyton Manning once wrecked the league after sitting out an entire year.
Health is the key here. Luck will eventually shake off the rust and get back to balling, provided he’s actually healthy. If we can believe that, he’s going to be an absolute steal this late in fantasy drafts.
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions (Round 9)
Stafford seems to finally be in a groove in Detroit, as he’s finished inside the top-10 for fantasy quarterbacks in each of the past two seasons. In fact, even when he wasn’t inside the top 10, he was 11th and 12th in past years.
I know the Lions want to be more balanced going into 2018 and fantasy owners started seeing that with Stafford dropping down to just 565 pass attempts in 2017, but he’s still going to sling it. Stafford remains a true gamer under center and does a great job putting up monster yardage and a good amount of scores.
I do think Stafford tends to be matchup dependent, but he’s got a very nice arsenal around him and an improved rushing attack would only aid his efficiency. You’re getting a possible top-10 guy here with plenty of upside, yet you don’t need to start thinking about selecting him until round 9.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders (Round 10)
I feel many have shrugged off Carr’s awesome 2016 campaign, where he made the Raiders look like title threats en route to a top-10 fantasy finish. Carr did seem to regress a bit last year, but if his wide receivers didn’t drop so many passes, perhaps he would have fared a bit better.
Incoming head coach Jon Gruden took notice of some issues with Oakland’s passing game and he brought in a reliable possession guy in Jordy Nelson, loudly made Amari Cooper the featured target and aimed to stretch the field with a trade for Martavis Bryant.
There’s no guarantee all of this works and Carr returns to his previous MVP-level form, but he’s been pretty steady throughout his career and has the ability to deliver a top-five season if everything breaks just right. I think you can do a lot worse at QB1 in round 10.
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys (Round 11)
It’s possible Dak Prescott got exposed as a pocket passer and decision-maker at times in 2017, but when his team is healthy and balanced, he remains an elite fantasy performer. Dak probably needs Ezekiel Elliott around to crush skulls, but even in a down year he finished 11th among fantasy quarterbacks.
Dallas aimed to get more balanced in 2018, as they shed a volatile Dez Bryant and watched a plodding Jason Witten retire. The Cowboys certainly do lack a game-changer at wide receiver, but that puts the onus on Prescott simply locating the open guy and/or burning defenses with his legs.
This pick is about dual threat upside. Prescott has rushed for 282+ yards and 6 scores in each of his first two seasons and he remains a threat to put up even better numbers on the ground in 2018. I know the inconsistency we saw last year is troubling, but taking Prescott in round 11 feels like an amazing value pick.
Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans (Round 11)
There are a few other fantasy quarterbacks you could at least glance at late in your fantasy football draft, but Mariota is a guy I feel most will shrug off after a disaster 2017 season. This was supposed to be a guy ready for a huge leap, especially since Mariota had finished 12th and 9th in his previous two seasons.
It just never came together, but in Mariota’s defense, Corey Davis struggled as a rookie and Eric Decker seemed to be half the player he once was. With Davis likely maturing going into his second season and a healthy Mariota motivated to shed last year’s bust label, I think there is interesting upside to be tapped into here. The fact that you can roll the dice in round 11 or later on a top-10 guy is what intrigues me.
I understand the hesitance with a few of these guys, but the main point being driven home is that quarterback is extremely deep. Whether it’s Tom Brady in round 4, Cam Newton in round 6 or Matthew Stafford in round 9, you’re going to find value and you don’t have to feel pressured to take a passer early.
How you draft this year is up to you and I can’t knock you for pulling the trigger on someone like A-Rod right away. I personally prefer to wait at least 4-5 rounds before taking my quarterback, though, and I can safely said it’s rarely the reason why my team performs below expectations.