When drafting fantasy teams, many owners use simple fantasy football rankings when they should be using fantasy football tiers. While there is nothing wrong with targeting particular players, it can be difficult to execute that strategy if your preferred targets keep getting taken right before your selection. Thinking of fantasy rankings in groups of players, or “tiers” – where you target a certain cohort of closely-ranked players – gives you much more flexibility in executing your draft strategy.
How To Use Fantasy Football Tiers
When drafting using fantasy football tiers, you want to pay attention to how close a tier is to ending. For example, if you are torn between taking a wide receiver or a running back, how many are left in the highest remaining tier? If there are three wide receivers left in the highest of the remaining fantasy football tiers but only one running back, then it would likely be smart to take the running back. In that scenario, it’s much more likely that you’re able to draft one of the wide receivers with your following pick.
Generally, you want to try and take one of the last players in a particular fantasy football tier rather than one of the first players in a particular tier. This is especially important if you are going by more of a value-based drafting strategy over a position-based drafting strategy such as Zero RB.
Of course, this knowledge must be combined with an average draft position (ADP). If you are deciding between two positions with a similar number of players left in a tier, then try and deduce which of the players are most likely to make it back to your following selection.
2020 Fantasy Football Tiers: Quarterbacks
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 1 – Proven League-Winners
This tier of quarterbacks will provide you a matchup-proof weekly advantage at the quarterback position. The best of the quarterback fantasy football tiers, they will likely cost you a top-24 pick in redraft leagues and are a must-draft anywhere outside the top-36 picks.
1. Lamar Jackson: 6th in the NFL in rushing yards as a QB with 7 touchdowns… and lead the league in passing touchdowns. Due to regress in the latter, but is legitimately impossible to defend. Top-three lock, health allowing.
2. Patrick Mahomes: The overall QB10 (QB 6 by PPG) in an “off” year despite missing two games and being hobbled in multiple others only a year after the best quarterback season in fantasy history. Adding Clyde Edwards-Helaire is simply icing on the cake for the safest fantasy quarterback bet.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 2 – High Floor Difference-Makers With Elite Upside
This tier of quarterbacks is proven weekly advantages over the majority of your league who will rarely if ever come out of your lineup. They likely don’t have 50 touchdown upside, but all are capable of being top-two options at the high end of their range of outcomes.
3. Dak Prescott: 2nd highest odds to lead the league in passing yards (behind only Mahomes). Was 6th in attempts, 2nd in yards, 3rd in passing TDs. Retained Kellen Moore as dynamic offensive coordinator, added arguably the best WR in the 2020 draft class (CeeDee Lamb) with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup returning. Don’t forget that 2019 was his first year rushing for less than six touchdowns (still had three), and remains underrated on the ground.
4. Kyler Murray: Will he take the next step, or is he 2020’s Baker Mayfield? Undeniable accuracy and agility, range of outcomes include overall QB1 with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins to go with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Rushing ability raises his floor and ceiling but offensive line concerns linger. Will Kingsbury resort to his conservative, low-aDOT ways that he used to compensate for poor offensive line play?
5. Deshaun Watson: Lost DeAndre Hopkins, and they still have real offensive line issues. The addition of Brandin Cooks is sneaky good (he’s still only 26), but Will Fuller needs to stay healthy. David Johnson remains elite in the passing game (30 catches and three receiving TDs in the first six games last year) which will help replace Hopkins (who was used in the short passing game much more often last year). Watson was 4th in rushing attempts and yards and 2nd in rushing TDs among QBs last year. Will be asked to do more than ever, and likely needs rushing production to continue to justify this ranking with the loss of Hopkins (was 13th in passing yards and 12th in passing touchdowns).
6. Russell Wilson: Top-6 fantasy QB in four of the last six seasons, including an overall QB1 finish. Passing attempts ranking since 2012: 26th, 23rd, 19th, 18th, 15th, 6th (his QB1 season), 20th, 13th. Needs to continue his ultra-efficiency and get back to scrambling more to have overall QB1 upside since Carroll and Schottenheimer show no signs of unleashing him. Still, with the best weapons of his career, this ranking might be his floor. If the Seahawks are smart, they’ll give Wilson the keys to the car with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf forming one of the league’s best receiving tandems.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 3 – Average Starts With Weekly Advantage Potential
This fantasy football tier of quarterbacks features guys who you will start most weeks but may bench in favor of a streamer in below-average matchups. Their range of outcomes vary wildly but will be enough to keep you afloat or even above average many weeks. Count these guys as your average league starts (mid-to-low QB1s).
7. Josh Allen: Uncanny rushing ability (1,141 rushing yards and 17 rushing TDs in 28 career games) keeps his floor high, but needs more passing production to reach elite fantasy QB levels. Career average of 184 passing yards per game with 1.1 TDs and a career-high of 266 yards in a game. Can Stefon Diggs elevate him, or have we seen Josh Allen’s ceiling?
8. Matt Ryan: Ryan’s fantasy QB finishes since 2012: QB6, QB9, QB7, QB16, QB3, QB14, QB3, QB6. This may be Julio Jones’ swan song as an elite WR considering his age, but Calvin Ridley is ready to pop this year. An injury to either, however, would bode very poorly for his ceiling. Health allowing, Ryan combines a QB4 ceiling with a QB10 floor. You know what you’re getting with him.
9. Carson Wentz: After tearing his ACL during his MVP-level sophomore season, Wentz never looked right in 2018 while he went through arguably the worst skill position-injury of the millennium last year. Despite an obvious lack of weapons, he still finished as the overall QB8. With DeSean Jackson healthy, an exciting rookie in Jalen Reagor, and old reliable Zach Ertz still up the seam, Wentz is a rock-solid QB1 this year with good upside in a very weak division.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 4 – Fringe QB1 Starters With Spiked Week Potential
These quarterbacks are best used as leaders of a committee approach on your fantasy team. They’ll have game-winning weeks in plus matchups, but lack the year-long ceiling of the QBs in higher fantasy football tiers.
10. Drew Brees: Was the QB11 and QB8 in 2017 and 2018, respectively, but his 24 fantasy points per game pace when healthy last season would’ve made him the overall QB4. Added Emmanuel Sanders, but simply does not pass deep at this point in his career. Start him at home, beware of his ceiling on the road.
11. Tom Brady: If Ryan Fitzpatrick can be a weekly QB1 with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, so can Tom Brady. This is probably at the lower-range of his projections. Has not been a top-10 fantasy QB since 2017, but has not had these kinds of weapons since the Moss and Welker days. Without Gronk, Jameis Winston was last year’s QB2.
12. Matt Stafford: Incredibly underrated first eight games of 2019 before his season-ending injury – was on a 38 touchdown, 5,000-yard pace. Has not been an elite fantasy producer since Calvin Johnson’s prime but if last year was an appetizer to this year’s entree, he is vastly undervalued.
13. Daniel Jones: In 4/12 games, Jones accounted for 4 or more TDs and had 300+ yards in nearly half of his starts. Had an insane amount of turnovers, but still put numbers in the box score as a rookie with a sneaky amount of injuries to his pass-catchers (Barkley, Engram, Shepard, Tate all missed multiple games).
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 5 – High-End QB2s With Decent Floors
These quarterbacks are very solid QB2s who will be useful in good matchups multiple times during the course of the season. Counting on them as your full-time starters will leave you at an aggregate disadvantage, however.
14. Aaron Rodgers: Has been turned into an elite game manager, but was still last year’s QB12. Selection of a QB and RB with their first two picks and zero additions to pass-catching corps speaks volumes about the Packers’ intent this year. The days of 4,500 yards and 40 TDs are likely long gone in Green Bay.
15. Ben Roethlisberger: Has a scant track record of fantasy success without Antonio Brown (5 less fantasy PPG in his career without Brown in the lineup), but has a sneaky stable of weapons (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Eric Ebron) and led the league in pass attempts in 2018.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 6 – Mid-Range QB2s With Limited Ceilings
These quarterbacks can flirt with a top-12 finish but are unlikely to threaten the top-8 overall. They are decent-to-average QB2s who will mostly be used in streamer and bye/week situation and can start multiple weeks in a pinch. They should not be the best QB on your roster.
16. Ryan Tannehill: Full season pace of his ultra-efficient 2019 would have yielded last year’s QB6 finish, but will need to continue his historic efficiency if his volume does not increase. After last year’s run AFC Championship game, a formula change is unlikely.
17. Jared Goff: The days of the three-WR set dominance and stellar o-line play are over, but last year’s “disappointment” still tied him for the league lead in pass attempts. Has never finished outside the top-12 with Sean McVay and was sneakily elite in the final five games (24 fantasy PPG) using the 2 WR/2 TE formation that will be featured this year. We wrote why might be very undervalued.
18. Cam Newton: Patriots have always had a very fast-paced offense, no reason why they won’t utilize Newton in the red zone. Excluding last season, has had five top-5 QB1 seasons in the eight seasons from 2011-2018. Essentially a full season off may be what Newton needs to return to fantasy prominence.
19. Baker Mayfield: Was downright not good last year (10th in attempts, 14th in yards, 17th in TDs, 2nd in INTs). Now has a new coach with a proven efficient, yet run-heavy system, improved offensive line (signing of Conklin, 1st round pick on Wills), healthy Beckham and Landry, and signing of Austin Hooper. It is now or never for Mayfield.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 7 – Low-End QB2s and Matchup Streamers
These tier of players are likely going to be added and dropped a lot in most leagues as matchup-based streamers. Outside of superflex/2 QB leagues, none of them are must-roster players.
20. Gardner Minshew: Had a surprisingly strong rookie season, and is an underrated runner. Kept pace with Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray in nearly all categories. May be one of the more undervalued QB2’s in fantasy leagues.
21. Jimmy Garoppolo: Similar to Ryan Tannehill: needs to keep up efficiency to be useful. Will be in a run-heavy offense and lost Deebo Samuel indefinitely. 19th in pass attempts in 2019, which is a good over/under for his 2020 projection. Just throw to George Kittle and we will all be happy.
22. Joe Burrow: Heisman winner had the most prolific passing season in NCAA history. O-line is a slight concern but if Higgins and Ross are your WR 3 and 4, the weapons could be worse. Subpar defense may force him to throw more than the Bengals plan for.
23. Kirk Cousins: Last year’s QB19 despite throwing 26 touchdowns (!). Justin Jefferson is a good prospect, but can’t be expected to replace Stefon Diggs. Thielen will be 30 this year, and Cousins will likely never see the passing volume he saw in Washington.
24. Drew Lock: Weapons a young QB can only dream of, but needs to show more after failing to visibly progress much in his career at Missouri.
25. Teddy Bridgewater: Only attempted 21 passes per game when starting for New Orleans last year but Carolina’s defense might be league-worst and force them to throw. D.J. Moore is a quarterback’s dream and Christian McCaffrey can carry a QB like Bridgewater further than you think.
Fantasy Quarterback Tier 8 – Bottom-Barrel QB2s and Waiver Wire Fodder
These quarterbacks are either unproven enough or have so little upside they should not be drafted or rostered as of now (outside of superflex/2 QB leagues). The least-valuable of the fantasy football tiers.
26. Philip Rivers: Looked cooked last year when he had elite weapons. Now going to a slow-paced run-heavy offense that just spent an early pick on the best RB in the draft.
27. Sam Darnold: History suggests Darnold should have been better by now but was 10th in passer rating in the final eight games despite being pressured at the highest rate in NFL. Can’t expect much when your coach is Adam Gase and your best weapons are Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman.
28. Derek Carr: Added some nice weapons, but nearly zero upside as a classic dink-and-dunker. One 300+ yard game in his last 28 starts. One or zero touchdowns in 32 out of his last 48 games. We know exactly who he is at this point. The upgrade in weapons shouldn’t lead to too much optimism.
29. Dwayne Haskins: Hard to imagine any quarterback succeeding for such a dysfunctional franchise, but had a 5:2 TD:INT ratio in the final three games of last year. He struggled as a rookie but an impressive college career could lead to a bounce-back as a sophomore.
30. Tua Tagovailoa: Would have likely been the top overall pick if he did not suffer the devastating hip injury. Health reports seem good, but very unlikely to open the season as the starter (with so little prep time due to COVID) especially due to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s very solid play. Underrated weapons, he would be a tier higher if not for the injury and COVID.
31. Nick Foles: It’s been a while since the Bears have had a fantasy-relevant quarterback. Foles was serviceable as a spot starter with the Eagles, but he isn’t guaranteed the starting job ahead of Trubisky and doesn’t have the weapons to be successful. Bank on him making the majority of the starts, however.
32. Justin Herbert: Similar to Tagovailoa and Foles, isn’t guaranteed the starting job out of camp especially with such tough conditions in which to prepare. Has tools, but many flaws that do not translate well to the NFL (accuracy and pocket issues). Chargers run an infamously slow offensive pace.