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2018 Fantasy Rookie Quarterbacks Rankings: Who Will Step Up?

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals – 2018 Fantasy Rookie Quarterbacks Rankings
Photo Credit: Eric Chan, Wikimedia Commons

As we examine our 2018 Fantasy rookie quarterbacks rankings, it’s always interesting to me how the NFL looks at a first-year quarterback as a possible savior – and Fantasy owners barely look at them at all.

Of course, an NFL team is one of 32 teams, which means a rookie could make an impact among those 32 starters. But in Fantasy Football, it’s relatively unlikely that a rookie QB can become an impactful starter for one of 12 Fantasy teams. Sure, they might be decent as a bye-week replacement at some point, or in a short set of games, but for the most part, Fantasy owners avoid rookie QBs.

Should that still be the case this season? In a year where four quarterbacks were drafted in the top 10 picks of the 2018 NFL Draft, the first time that has happened since 1949, should we be expecting more?

In a year that followed Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson putting on a Fantasy Football laser show in Houston, ranking fourth among all QBs in Fantasy points after Week 8 (first after Week 6!), before his knee injury, should we be expecting more? By the way, our Mark Strausberg made the bold prediction that Watson will be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback by the end of 2018 – and it won’t even be close.

Just two years ago, Dak Prescott ranked sixth among Fantasy QBs after a bright rookie season in Dallas, so should we be expecting more from this incoming class?

Right now, no rookie quarterbacks rank among the top-200 players in Average Draft Position on FantasyPros.com. Yet, we’ve had at least one rookie QB land among the top-13 Fantasy QBs in each of the past three seasons, and in five of the past seven seasons. Heck, there has been a rookie among the top-20 quarterbacks in each of the past eight seasons, dating back to Sam Bradford in 2010!

Rookie food for thought!

2018 Fantasy Rookie Quarterbacks Rankings

These 2018 Fantasy rookie quarterbacks rankings are based on a standard, non-PPR scoring format, not that QB rankings are affected by a change in scoring like that. More importantly, these rankings are for yearly leagues, not keeper formats.

1. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

I’m not a huge fan of Mayfield’s, and I think Cleveland made a mistake taking him first overall this season. While everyone wants to shake away the Johnny Manziel comparisons, there are some similarities:

  1. Cleveland drafted both higher than the rest of the NFL would have.
  2. Both are Heisman winners with off-the-field arrogance issues.
  3. One prefers the crotch grab, while the other prefers the “money” gesture with his fingers.
  4. Both are undersized NFL quarterbacks that can extend plays with their feet.

With that said, it’s difficult to not see Mayfield as the best Fantasy rookie for 2018 yearly drafts. He’ll have to get by Tyrod Taylor on the Browns’ depth chart, but that’s a better road to hoe than many of his rookie counterparts.

Mayfield can improvise, too, which means he can extend plays, run up field when he must, and find open receivers deep downfield.

Rookies often need to improvise because the game happens so fast in front of them, it’s the only thing they can do – escape! Unfortunately, with all those big plays, comes thrice as many broken plays/fumbles/interceptions/sacks.

The Browns also give Mayfield the best set of receiving options among the other rookie QBs on this list. He’ll have these pass-catchers at his access:

  • RB Carlos Hyde (59 catches last year!)
  • RB Duke Johnson (74 catches last year!)
  • WR Jarvis Landry (112 catches last year!)
  • WR Josh Gordon (considered one of the most dynamic WRs in the game)
  • TE David Njoku (sophomore receiving TE with huge upside)

While Mayfield isn’t a player to draft as your Fantasy starter, the odds are he will put up the best Fantasy season among all the rookie signal-callers. His analytics are above average, too, so I could be completely wrong about him not looking like a franchise quarterback for the next 10 years off Lake Erie. His NFL player comp was Doug Flutie – the Heisman winner who ended up having to earn his way back into the NFL after a career in Canada.

2. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

One of the most polarizing quarterbacks in this draft, Allen has the power (and accuracy) of an elephant gun, the work ethic of an ox, and a bean of a brain (see controversial tweets).

Buffalo is a great landing spot for him, as it should allow him less scrutinization as if he were drafted by the Jets in New York. Many people scoff at the idea that Buffalo was a natural spot for him because he played in bad weather in Wyoming, but it’s a reality that is worth at least mentioning. It’s not to say he’s the new Tom Brady in snow, but it’s still good to know that snow won’t shake him.

Unfortunately, the Bills don’t have much to throw to, outside of aging RB LeSean McCoy. Sophomore WR Zay Jones was a disappointment last season and Kelvin Benjamin is still trying to shake the “project” label, but he’s absolutely a major weapon if he can stay healthy and committed. Charles Clay is a veteran pass-catching tight end who should become a welcome target for the rookie QB.

Allen will have to leapfrog A.J. McCarron to be the starter, but that doesn’t seem to be too farfetched.

3. Sam Darnold, N.Y. Jets

This is the quarterback I thought the Browns should have drafted. No one acted like a No. 1 overall pick more than Darnold, making me think of No. 1 quarterbacks from decades past, like John Elway and Drew Bledsoe. Not to say he has their talent, but that I believe he has their makeup – which is half the game as an NFL QB (ask Todd Marinovich, Jeff George and JaMarcus Russell!).

Unfortunately, Darnold would inherit a subpar WR corps that includes Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, and Terrelle Pryor. Plus, he has to overcome not one quarterback in front of him (Josh McCown), but now it appears Teddy Bridgewater is ready to make a run at the Jets’ first team.

Compared with the players I have ranked behind Darnold, though, he has the best chances of racking up starts by season’s end.

4 .Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Those owners that rolled the dice on DeShaun Watson last season are likely drooling over the prospects of Jackson starting with the Ravens at some point. Of course, Jackson has a 6-foot-6 obstacle to leap over first, in Joe Flacco, who will be paid $12 million to lead this offense. The Ravens drafted Jackson for the future, and Fantasy owners will probably have to wait before they can utilize him.

But Jackson has playmaking skills none of the other quarterbacks on this list have, with the ability to throw or run for six points on any single play. It’s his running ability that will rack of the fantasy points early on, and that’s a feature the other quarterbacks really don’t have (although, Mayfield does to an extent).

It’s easy to consider Jackson as one of the best dynasty quarterbacks in this group, but Flacco’s presence limits that just a bit.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the Ravens institute some sort of “Slash” offensive system, where Jackson comes into the game in a Kordell Stewart-type fashion?

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5. Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

It pains me to rank Rosen this far down the 2018 Fantasy rookie quarterbacks rankings, but he has Sam Bradford ahead of him (and Mike Glennon lurking), and he doesn’t have the wheels and playmaking skill of Lamar Jackson.

With all that said, if Bradford gets hurt, which is like saying, “If Gonos goes for seconds at dinner,” then Rosen could become a hot waiver-wire pickup because of two major pass-catching teammates in RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald.

Of course, there are other freshman QBs that could end up on a longer list of our 2018 Fantasy rookie quarterbacks rankings, but really, it’s rare that more than five rookie QBs become Fantasy relevant. For instance, the fifth-ranked rookie QB at the end of last season was Buffalo’s Nathan Peterman, who played in just four games and scored fewer than 20 Fantasy points. Got some offseason keeper questions? Send them to the SCFE Fantasy Football writers!

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David Gonos

David Gonos has been writing about Fantasy Sports online since 2000 – and playing Fantasy Sports since 1989. He has drafted both Curt Warner and Kurt Warner, along with Big Unit and Big Papi. A veteran of hundreds of drafts in the past 15 years alone, Gonos is closely acquainted with sleepers, breakouts and busts – as he has drafted many of all three. He was a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBSSports.com for five years, and he has been columnist on SI.com and FanDuel.com, while also getting published on MLB.com, NFL.com, FoxSports.com and USAToday.com.
Follow DG

David Gonos has been writing about Fantasy Sports online since 2000 – and playing Fantasy Sports since 1989. He has drafted both Curt Warner and Kurt Warner, along with Big Unit and Big Papi. A veteran of hundreds of drafts in the past 15 years alone, Gonos is closely acquainted with sleepers, breakouts and busts – as he has drafted many of all three. He was a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBSSports.com for five years, and he has been columnist on SI.com and FanDuel.com, while also getting published on MLB.com, NFL.com, FoxSports.com and USAToday.com.

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