2024 fantasy football position preview: Quarterback (2024)

  • Tristan H. co*ckcroft

Jun 19, 2024, 07:45 AM ET

The quarterback position in fantasy football has undergone quite a transformation over the past decade and a half.

Prominent quarterbacks such as Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young and Daunte Culpepper were fantasy gold, delivering week-winning scores and often warranting first-round, building-block draft status. From 1984 to 2004, there were 16 instances of a quarterback scoring 300-plus fantasy points in a season, with those four names responsible for half of them. To reach that threshold was quite an accomplishment for the player, and advantageous for his fantasy manager.

Beginning with the 2009 season, and after a change to the NFL rules providing greater protection for quarterbacks, the position's statistical output exploded. Twenty-two quarterbacks exceeded 300 fantasy points over a five-year span from 2010 to 2014 alone. By its peak in 2020, a record 11 quarterbacks reached that threshold. In 2021, when the NFL expanded the schedule to 17 games, another 11 scored at least 300 points. The gaudy positional statistics provided fun fan chatter, but they diluted the impact of top fantasy performers at the position. It became commonplace for managers to wait until the later rounds of their draft, scoop up any ol' quarterback, and watch Joe No-Name coast to a plenty-competitive fantasy point total.

It was that 2021 season, however, when the tide again began to turn. Despite the additional game, the 2022 and 2023 campaigns each saw only five quarterbacks score as many as 300 fantasy points, and last season, the number of quarterbacks who scored 270-plus points matched the number who scored 300-plus in 2020 (again, 11).

That's perhaps partly due to the retirements of statistical stalwarts Drew Brees (after 2020), Ben Roethlisberger (after 2021), Tom Brady and Matt Ryan (both after 2022), as well as partly due to lackluster quarterback draft classes in 2021 and 2022. To address the latter, not one of the 19 quarterbacks selected in those seasons -- six of whom went in the first round -- has since delivered a 300-point fantasy season, whereas four QBs from the 2019 and 2020 draft classes did so in at least one of their first two NFL seasons.

The upshot of this positional transformation is that although, yes, it remains relatively easy to fill the quarterback position in an ESPN standard league of 10 teams and one weekly starter, the value of the game's truly elite has recently rebounded. A big reason for that is because we've become much better at identifying who these positional stars might be.

In 2022 and 2023, the clear top two quarterbacks come season's end were ones selected among the position's top three and within the first three rounds overall: Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in 2022, and Allen and Jalen Hurts last year. We've also seen 10 quarterbacks reach the once-unfathomable 350-point plateau in the past three seasons -- granted, the extra game helped with that -- and among that group, only Justin Herbert (63rd overall ADP, No. 9 QB, in 2021) and Brady (62nd and QB8, 2021) came close to being termed "later-round" picks.

Among the reasons for this is the growing number of mobile quarterbacks across the league and the strong correlation between mobility and fantasy production. Pocket passers, in this modern era, are at a distinct disadvantage. As we migrate into our examination of the position's value tiers, we'll start with the mobile quarterbacks, as they dominate the upper portion of the rankings.

Tier 1: Stars who can run

Allen, Hurts, Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have combined to account for eight of the 17 best single-season fantasy point totals among quarterbacks in NFL history, and four of those have come in the past two seasons. Each of them also attempted at least 75 rushing attempts last season, accounting for half of the eight quarterbacks who ran at least that often in 2023.

Here's why that's important: We've seen 14 instances over the past five seasons of a quarterback generating more than 100 fantasy points with his legs alone, two more than there were during the 20 seasons that preceded that span (1999-2018). Four of these came from Allen, and three apiece from Hurts and Jackson. Seven of this trio's combined 10 seasons finished among the position's top three in total fantasy points in the given year. The group's average positional finish was 3.9, strengthening the correlation between mobility and fantasy dominance.

So it's no surprise these four reside a solid step ahead of the remainder of the position in the fantasy rankings.

Tier 2: NFL franchise cornerstones

One could make the case that 2023 rookies Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud, each of whom exhibited elite-caliber impact, aren't far off from graduating into the top tier. Richardson, another quarterback noted for his mobility, averaged 18.2 fantasy points (that's a pace of 308.9) over his first four games last season before being lost for the season due to a shoulder injury. Stroud, meanwhile, delivered the position's ninth-best fantasy point total (276.02), had the best single-game output by a quarterback (41.8, in Week 9), and accounted for two of the position's 15 instances of a 30-point score.

They join Joe Burrow, the 2020 No. 1 pick, and comeback kid Dak Prescott as the position's next-best options. Burrow's 19.3 fantasy points per game over the past three seasons is fifth best among qualifiers, and Prescott's 19.2 ranks sixth.

Tier 3: Value picks with some questions

A slew of intriguing names -- as many as eight -- could be the key to a fantasy championship for those who wait until the later rounds.

A pair of 2023 breakouts, Jordan Love (fifth among QBs in fantasy points) and Brock Purdy (sixth), will probably be the most popular from this tier. They have emerged as franchise cornerstones, each coming from relatively unexpected places. Love, the No. 26 pick of the 2020 NFL draft, attempted a combined 83 passes in his first three seasons while serving as Aaron Rodgers' backup. Purdy, for those who haven't yet heard, was the 2022 draft's "Mr. Irrelevant," an honor bestowed upon the final player selected.

Speaking of Rodgers, he and Kyler Murray represent the "old guard" within this tier, each boasting at least one season among the aforementioned 17 best campaigns in history. They finished second and third at the position, respectively, in that quarterback-rich 2020 campaign.

The 2024 NFL draft's two most ballyhooed prospects, Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels, also stake a claim to rankings within this tier. Williams, who won the 2022 Heisman Trophy and passed for a combined 93 touchdowns the past two seasons, was almost immediately announced as the Chicago Bears' Week 1 starter. Daniels will likely join him as a Week 1 starter, and he brings some of the best mobility among any quarterback prospect in recent memory. Our projections say he'll finish his rookie season fourth among QBs in carries and in fantasy points rushing.

Finally, a pair of household fantasy names round out the tier, with Kirk Cousins joining an enticing Atlanta Falcons offense, while a prime-age Herbert has gaudy statistical accolades -- his 380.76 fantasy points in 2021 is 14th best at the position in history -- but could have his 2024 numbers tempered by new head coach Jim Harbaugh's rebuilt, run-heavy offensive scheme.

There's plenty of fluidity in the rankings among this octet.

Sneaky late-/final-rounders

The remaining names at the position are clear standard-league backups, or lower-end starters in two-quarterback or superflex leagues, but that doesn't mean there aren't prospective values in the group. Remember, 2023 gave us a handful of quarterbacks who finished among the top 10 in scoring despite being outside the position's first 16 selected in drafts on average (the aforementioned Love, Purdy and Stroud, plus Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield).

Goff and Mayfield are reliable deeper-league starters who merely lack the top-shelf, win-your-week-caliber fantasy ceilings. Trevor Lawrence has fallen short of the potential advertised when he was selected first in the 2021 NFL draft. Deshaun Watson's career has been sidetracked by injuries and off-the-field issues, but he brings a level of mobility that, at his peak, compares to that of players such as Richardson or Murray. Matthew Stafford might be in the latter stages of his career, but he has two of the game's best receivers to throw to and is three years removed from a near-330-point campaign. Even rookie J.J. McCarthy, who is likely to take over the Minnesota Vikings' starting gig, could quickly emerge as a positional star.

Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 11 scoring quarterback last season, and No. 15 the season before despite four missed games, might be one of the position's best values. He also has two of the game's most talented receivers to throw to and could be primed for a statistical step forward if the team's running backs are unable to repeat their unexpectedly excellent 2023 numbers.

2024 fantasy football position preview: Quarterback (2024)

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