It’s hard to believe the NFL regular season is here, but Week 1 gets underway on Thursday. If you're like me, you've still got several key drafts to get done in the next few days. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here's a look at how my viewpoints have evolved from initial expectations in early May.
Matt Ryan (ATL) is going to disappoint a lot of late-round quarterback connoisseurs
Quite a few fantasy enthusiasts subscribe to the late-round quarterback strategy, which is to wait until late before drafting your signal-callers. While it’s a viable strategy, it only works if you draft the right later-round passers. Matt Ryan is a popular choice this year, and it could backfire. He’s got a new play-caller and lost his favorite receiver. The Falcons will be more balanced offensively, and Ryan has generally had fantasy value because of volume.
Sam Darnold (CAR) is going to make late-round quarterback connoisseurs very happy
Joe Brady is one good season from Darnold away from an NFL head-coaching job, and Darnold needs a solid season to land a massive new contract either in Carolina or elsewhere. Armed with a talented receiving corps and an opportunistic defense, not to mention the league’s top running back, Darnold has a path to QB1 value at a fraction of the cost.
Justin Fields (CHI) will be winning in the Windy City soon, think October at the latest
A lot of us penciled in Week 11 for Fields coming off the Bears bye week. But, the preseason excitement is palpable, and early-season matchups against the Bengals, Lions, and Raiders would be far better fodder to start a career.
Teddy Bridgewater (DEN) won the Broncos job, and that’s not good news for Broncos hopefuls
Yes, Drew Lock has a disastrous floor, but so does Bridgewater. Let’s not forget he went 4-11 last season and threw just 15 touchdowns in 15 games. Even if you accept Bridgewater has a higher floor, there’s no denying he also has a lower ceiling.
Aaron Rodgers (GB) was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
Worries he would retire or force a trade never materialized, and Rodgers steps back into one of the NFL’s most productive offenses with all his key pieces in place. He would’ve been a top-10 lock regardless of his team, but staying in Green Bay keeps the likes of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan in their optimal tiers.
Tyrod Taylor (HOU) really will start games for the Texans
When Taylor signed in Houston, most thought he was an option of last resort. Whether that was the correct interpretation, he’s going to be the Week 1 starter and, barring an in-season trade of DeShaun Watson, has a chance to remain under center.
Mac Jones (NE) is the future, but he’s also the present
The fantasy community was divided on Mac Jones, with many mocking the rumors he was in play for the San Francisco 49ers at No. 3 in the draft. While Lance’s future is bright, too, Jones was surgical in his mastery of the Patriots system this summer and not only won the starting job but was good enough for the Patriots to comfortably release Cam Newton.
Jameis Winston (NO) is Drew Brees’ heir apparent
Drew Brees averaged 12 interceptions per season in New Orleans and is being replaced by a quarterback who threw 30 interceptions in his last season as a starter. We’ll see if Winston can curtail his turnovers under Sean Payton’s watch, but his ability to win the job bodes well for the Saints' skill players.
Trey Lance (SF) will play this year, but it could be frustrating for awhile
Kyle Shanahan believes his own press clippings, and when he says he’s open to rotating Trey Lance with Jimmy Garoppolo, we have to take him at his word. Lance showcased game-breaking ability in the preseason, but he also struggled with accuracy and pocket patience. Lance is a future star, but he’s probably the least valuable rookie quarterback in redraft leagues.
Tom Brady (TB) is still undervalued
Groupthink can be dangerous, and there’s an almost impenetrable consensus top six quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes II, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Dak Prescott. While I’m a fan of all six, Tom Brady should be solidly in that mix, too, and could warrant drafting as high as No. 3. Discounting him comes down to ageism, plain and simple.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (WAS) isn’t the answer unless you have a solid backup plan
When Fitzpatrick takes the field in Week 1, it’ll be as the starter for an NFL-record ninth team. Training camp reminded us why he is good enough to win jobs but not good enough to keep them. He’s daring and erratic, and expecting him to keep the starting job for a playoff hopeful belies 16 years of proof to the contrary.