2018 Pre-Draft Rookie Quarterback Rankings
Now that the NFL Combine is over, it seems like a good time to rank the 2018 quarterback class. We won’t be receiving any new information prior to the NFL Draft, unless you value the Pro Days. Below are my complete rankings of the class. Keep in mind that this is from a 2QB fantasy perspective. You can also get my thoughts on individual QBs from this class via my Armchair Scouting Report series.
Tier 1 - Future Fantasy Studs
1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Fantasy Ceiling - Drew Brees
The quarterback with the most long-term upside in this class is Mayfield, who completely dominated the college football scene. Just how good was he? Mayfield was the most efficient signal-caller ever during his time at Oklahoma. There have been some comparisons out there to Johnny Manziel, but I don’t think that is even remotely accurate. Mayfield is a tremendous pocket-passer, who I expect to follow in the footsteps of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees as smaller, efficient throwers. Mayfield doesn’t offer the rushing upside of Wilson, but he could still be an upper-echelon fantasy passer in the mold of Brees.
2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Fantasy Ceiling - Michael Vick
In single-quarterback formats, I will be ranking Jackson first this spring, as his immediate impact should be greater than that of Mayfield, and the position is far more saturated. In 2QB leagues, he still comes out as my second favorite signal-caller of the class. Jackson was one of the most prolific dual-threats in college football history, passing for over 9,000 yards and rushing for over 4,000 yards in his three-year career. He was expected to run in the 4.3’s at the NFL Combine, but elected not to participate in anything but the throwing drills. Jackson will have an immediate impact with his legs, which bodes well for fantasy. If he can translate to the NFL as a passer as well, he could post some Vick-esque fantasy totals.
Tier 2 - Potential Long-Term Pocket-Passers
3. Sam Darnold, USC
Fantasy Ceiling - Matt Stafford
Darnold is not going to offer much on the ground, but he will be the youngest drafted quarterback ever when his name is called in April. He will struggle with interceptions during his career, particularly early on, but could develop into one of the better pocket-passers. From a fantasy perspective, he could be like Stafford, who has been a QB1 in six of his nine seasons in the league, and peaked inside the top five. I do not believe he has yearly top-five quarterback upside.
4. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Fantasy Ceiling - Eli Manning
Rosen is slightly older than Darnold, but actually became the starting quarterback at UCLA at a younger age than Darnold did at USC. He has been an elite prospect since his high school days, and all of that is expected to culminate in a top-six pick in April. Rosen seems to have the more traditional quarterback qualities people value. His mechanics and footwork are often lauded by the scouts. However, I’m not sure he will be a dominant fantasy quarterback, particularly since he offers nothing on the ground. Manning has been a QB1 in five of his last nine seasons. He is reliable in the land of best ball and has had a lengthy career. That’s how I picture Rosen if he hits.
Rudolph is another uber-efficient passer in this class, but doesn’t seem to carry the same draft capital of the others. With a late first round/second round draft projection, it is possible we don’t see him at all in 2018. When he does get a full-time job, however, he could have a Roethlisberger-esque ceiling as someone who is somewhat inconsistent, but is capable of monster fantasy outings. I like him quite a bit as a value in 2QB rookie drafts, and his placement at five on the rankings just speaks to the overall depth of this class.
6. Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Fantasy Ceiling - Andy Dalton
Much like Rudolph, Lauletta is not expected to go as high in the draft as the other top prospects, but I think he has a decent chance to hit. His profile looks a lot like other FCS hits we’ve seen in the past such as Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The only real blemish on his resume is the abundance of interceptions. I don’t think he’ll be a Day One starter like Dalton was, but he has that kind of fantasy ceiling as a player who throws a boat load of interceptions, but will also be durable and bring weekly upside. Dalton was a top-five quarterback once, and has been a QB1 three times in seven seasons.
7. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Fantasy Ceiling - Blake Bortles
I want to be clear here: I think Allen stinks. However, with a projected draft position inside of the top six, it is nearly impossible for me to not consider him as a potential long-term starter in this league. And even if he isn’t a “good” real life quarterback, he could definitely still post numbers for fantasy a-la Bortles. Despite playing in a massive frame, Allen has great mobility, and could definitely boost his numbers with rushing yards and touchdowns. Bortles has been a top-13 fantasy quarterback for three years running, but could also lose his job at any minute. That is peak Josh Allen.
Tier 3 - Potential (Spot) Starters
8. Logan Woodside, Toledo
Fantasy Ceiling - Ryan Fitzpatrick
Woodside had a career YPA of 9.0 and a career AYA of 9.6 in three years as the starter at Toledo. Unfortunately, he is projected to go very late in the draft, if he is even selected at all. That means he will have to go the Fitzpatrick route to success, and it may be a few years before we see him make a true fantasy impact. Still, he probably has the best odds of any of the players outside of the top seven at turning in a long-term career.
9. Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Fantasy Ceiling - Tyrod Taylor
Flowers was the best quarterback in his school’s history, and rushed for about 3,600 yards in three years as the starter. He also comes with quality passing efficiency, posting a career YPA of 8.3, and a career AYA of 8.7. Much like Taylor, draftniks have predicted a potential position switch, but I truly believe he is a quarterback. I could be wrong, and he ends up an oft-cast running back like Denard Robinson, but I think Flowers has what it takes to at least earn some spot starts, which gives him some nice upside with his legs. If he really hits, he will fit the Taylor career arc.
10. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Fantasy Ceiling - Jacoby Brissett
Barrett didn’t test as well athletically as I would have expected, so he’s more of a lite version of what I think Flowers can do. Brissett is fairly mobile, and earned some time as the Colts starter in 2017. He is not a long-term option at the position, but proved fantasy viable in a handful of starts. That’s what we’re hoping for out of Barrett.
11. Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Fantasy Ceiling - Derek Anderson
Ferguson played just two years of BCS football, but he did crest the 9.0 AYA mark for his career, which gives him some hope as a long-term asset in this league. Anderson managed to be a starter for a couple of seasons, and even had a top-five fantasy season, but has spent most of his career as one of the league’s top backups.
Tier 4 - Long-Term Backups
12. Mike White, Western Kentucky
White really exploded onto the scene in his first year at WKU, with an AYA of 11.5 on 416 pass attempts. He regressed down to a 7.7 AYA in 2017, but the overall productivity on the resume is still somewhat promising.
13. Luke Falk, Washington State
Three-year starter with a career 68.3 percent completion rate. Unfortunately, this did not result in big-time efficiency, with a career AYA of 7.4.
14. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
Shimonek had a career AYA of 8.6, but only started in his final season at Texas Tech. With a sample size so small, it is difficult to assert that Shimonek will ever develop into a starter.
15. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Benkert seemed to be a favorite of scouts early on in the college season, but his play was fairly Jekyll and Hyde for the duration of his career. His size is likely to give him chances, but the career AYA of 6.3 and completion percentage of 57.7 paint the picture of someone who will struggle in the opportunities he receives.
16. Danny Etling, LSU
Etling improved throughout his career, but his overall sample is nothing impressive. Leadership at one of the country’s major football institutions is his biggest asset here.
17. Nick Stevens, Colorado State
Stevens’ career AYA of 8.5 is impressive, though it is worth noting his two best seasons came while playing with one of the draft’s top receiving prospects in Michael Gallup. There are more questions than answers here.
Tier 5 - Longshots
18. John Wolford, Wake Forest
9.4 AYA in his final season, but just 6.4 for his career.
19. Kenny Hill, TCU
A YOLO quarterback prospect due to his mobility and production at a major program.
20. Chase Litton, Marshall
Prototypical size, but just a 7.0 career AYA at a non-major school.
21. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
A Combine invitee who struggled to leave his mark.
22. Kyle Allen, Houston
Once upon a time was a much heralded prospect, but he is declaring after transferring to Houston and not starting.
23. Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State
Briscoe was one of the most prolific FCS quarterbacks of the past few seasons. Unfortunately, he is already over 24, and was not invited to the Combine.
24. Austin Allen, Arkansas
Often injured in his time as a Razorback, but his career 7.9 AYA could be worse.
25. Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan
Five year MAC player, but a career AYA of 6.3.