Jeff Ratcliffe's Fantasy Football Quarterback Tiers
FTN's Jeff Ratcliffe goes through his quarterback tiers and how to approach your fantasy football drafts next season at the position.
Jan 30, 2023, 2:58 PM EST
Fantasy football draft season is still a long way away, but it’s never too early to roll up your sleeves and start your draft prep. One of the most useful weapons to have in your draft-day arsenal is fantasy football tiers. With a tier-based approach, you can see how each player stacks up at his respective position. Tiers are slightly different from fantasy football rankings because it’s not just a straight list of players. These groupings allow for a more flexible approach to drafting that you can ultimately build into your draft board.
Over the next few days, I’m going to go position-by-position and give you my tiers for 2023 fantasy football drafts. We’ll kick things off today with quarterback fantasy football tiers. Of course, don’t forget that you can check out all of my 2023 fantasy football rankings, the FTN consensus fantasy ranks, and fantasy football projections.
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Fantasy Football QB Tiers
Tier 1 – Elite
These three are undoubtedly the top options at this position. Josh Allen has finished as a top-2 option in each of the last three seasons, and Patrick Mahomes is the reigning No. 1 fantasy option. Jalen Hurts offers a slightly different profile, but his prowess as a runner helped launch him into the fantasy stratosphere this past season. His elite ability as runner gives Hurts an absolutely massive weekly floor in the explosive Philly offense.
All three players are more than capable of putting up monster numbers yet again this year, but there’s a problem. They’re going so early in drafts, that they’re essentially priced out of most draft boards. Don’t get me wrong. They’re all extremely valuable, but you’ll be able to construct a more balanced roster by waiting at the position.
Tier 2 – No. 1 Potential
It wouldn’t be at all shocking if any of these three players ended up finishing as the No. 1 option in 2023. Joe Burrow is knocking on the door of elite territory, though he will need to string together more consistent performances from week to week. His six finishes outside of the top 10 in 2022 took fantasy managers on a bit of a roller coaster ride. Likewise, Justin Fields was far from stable last season, but his string of performances from Weeks 6-11 showed signs of being a fantasy legend. If the Bears improve their offensive line and upgrade their weapons in the passing game, Fields could explode in 2023.
Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson seemed to take a step back in 2022. To be fair, Herbert had to navigate a multitude of injuries to his receivers and the general ineptitude of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. The good news is that his coordinator problems should be fixed after the Chargers hired Kellen Moore. As for Jackson, there’s a ton of unknowns as we head into the offseason. With a potential franchise tag or free agency looming, his future with the Ravens is very much up in the air. But wherever he plays in 2023, Jackson will continue to be a fantasy factor thanks to his top-shelf ability as a runner.
Tier 3a – High-Ceiling QB1s
This third group really needs to be subdivided into two sub-tiers, as the next six quarterbacks are not all cut from the same cloth. This trio comes with a higher ceiling, but also has more volatility. Trevor Lawrence took a huge step forward in 2022 and certainly could blow right past this tier in short order. At the same time, one year of production isn’t enough to solidify him as a front-end QB1.
As for Deshaun Watson, we really don’t know what he’ll look like this coming year. Last season wasn’t pretty, but can we really garner much from a handful of games after spending three months away from the team? What we do know is that he was once a borderline elite option and will be given the keys to the castle in the Browns offense. Likewise, there are a ton of questions with Tua Tagovailoa. He flashed major upside in Mike McDaniel’s offense last season, but also suffered two (or possibly three) concussions. His health is a major concern, but he offers massive upside if he’s able to resume his duties as the Miami starter.
Tier 3b – High-Floor QB1s
This group isn’t as sexy as the first subset of Tier 3, but all three of them come with higher fantasy floors. Much was made of Dak Prescott’s propensity for picks, but he also had six top-10 fantasy finishes over his final nine games of the fantasy season. Kirk Cousins also impressed down the stretch and ended up as the No. 8 option on the season. Jared Goff is the biggest surprise of the bunch. Largely an afterthought heading into last season, he managed 4,438 passing yards and finished an impressive 11th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring.
Tier 4a – Late-Round Safe Options
If you want to execute the “safe and upside” late-round approach in your drafts where you take one safe option and one upside option, this is your safe tier. These guys may not all be available at the end of your drafts, but it’s extremely likely that at least one will be. These five signal-callers may not have the highest ceilings, but their floors make them appealing options.
Geno Smith is coming off an unlikely season where he largely matched some of the best years Russell Wilson managed to produce in his time with the Seahawks. Of course, he only stays in this tier if the Seahawks re-sign him. Likewise, Tom Brady’s fantasy value is somewhat nebulous with the possibility still present that he retires. Matthew Stafford will be back with the Rams, as will Sean McVay. Last year was a big disappointment for Stafford, but he remains in the late-round conversation. As for Derek Carr, we don’t know where he’ll be playing in 2023, but it would be very surprising if he didn’t have a starting job. Aaron Rodgers is in a similar position to Brady, as retirement is certainly possible. However, unlike Brady, Rodgers would have to be traded if he’s going to play elsewhere in 2023.
Tier 4b – Late-Round Upside Options
This is the group to pair with your safe option. These three players do not come with a high floor, but each of them has the potential to give you a massive return on investment if they hit this year. If you’re going to use the safe-and-upside strategy in your 1QB leagues, you’ll want to draft one player from the safe tier and one from the upside tier. Doing so will give you the opportunity to swing for the fences on upside while not completely striking out if you miss. The safe option won’t win you your league, but he will tide you over while you work the waiver wire.
Trey Lance is far from a lock to remain in this tier throughout the offseason. Yes, he’s recovering from a season-ending injury that he suffered all the way back in September, but it’s the late-season play from Brock Purdy that has thrown a wrench into the 49ers’ plans. Stay tuned. As for Daniel Jones, he showed this past season that his mobility can make him a favorable fantasy asset. Kyler Murray wouldn’t be in this tier if his status for the start of the season wasn’t in question. Some are suggesting that he won’t be ready until mid-to-late October.
Tier 5a – The Rookies
- Bryce Young
- C.J. Stroud
- Will Levis
- Anthony Richardson
We still have a ways to go until the NFL Draft, but this group of four signal-callers project as first-round selections. Each offers something slightly different. Bryce Young doesn’t have prototypical size, but he has the mobility of a modern signal-caller and can spin it with the best of them. C.J. Stroud is a more traditional pocket passer who isn’t necessarily flashy but plays very clean football. Will Levis has the intangibles that NFL teams covet, but he also has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. Anthony Richardson is the greenest of the bunch, but he’s also off the charts from an athleticism standpoint. This tier will dissolve after the draft and we’ll place these players accordingly based on their landing spots.
Tier 5b – 2QB Meh Options/Streamers
These guys aren’t likely to be drafted in 1QB leagues, but they’re all in consideration in 2QB and superflex formats. However, none of these guys offer a particularly high fantasy ceiling. For your third quarterback, you may want to swing for the fences and select one of the players in Tier 5c.
Tier 5c – 2QB Volatile Options/Streamers
You may end up streaming these guys in 1QB leagues, but they’re very much in play as third quarterback options in 2QB and superflex leagues. Kenny Pickett showed improvement over the course of his rookie season and will have offensive continuity with the Steelers deciding to retain offensive coordinator Matt Canada. As of now, Desmond Ridder is the favorite to start for the Falcons in 2023, but a lot can change between now and August. As for Mac Jones, the addition of Bill O’Brien at offensive coordinator should help his development, but he has a lot to clean up after regressing in his sophomore season.
Tier 6 – Watch List
- Zach Wilson
- Mike White
- Taylor Heinicke
- Brock Purdy
- Jordan Love
- Andy Dalton
- Baker Mayfield
- Sam Darnold
- Bailey Zappe
These guys aren’t going to be drafted in regular-sized leagues, but you should keep your eye on them.