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Elite quarterbacks scored so well last year that even sharps are taking quarterbacks early in 1QB leagues in 2023, even as high as the second round. Should you join this trend, or does that give us even more reason to wait at quarterback? Many quarterbacks had things change around them that make their 2023 harder to predict, which makes ranking and grouping this position even more difficult in the most interesting year for quarterback strategy in a long time.
The Big Three
Consider at ADP: Allen, Hurts, Mahomes
Taking one of the big three at ADP will end up being just fine as long as they perform up to 2022 levels, and there's no reason to think they won't. On the surface, it means you can't take advantage of falling quarterback value later in your draft, but if you draft a QB2 that hits, you can hope to trade your elite QB1. That's not a sure thing with a limited number of potential trade partners and a possible surplus of startable options in 10 or 12-team leagues. Still, based on VBD (value over replacement), all three were worth first-round picks in almost any fantasy draft last year. The other argument in favor of taking one at ADP is that, somewhere in the 20s, value seems to fall sharply at RB/WR/TE, so taking an elite quarterback might be the best way to lock in the value of the premium pick.
Allen is still #1 in this group even though the team signed two quality inside runners (Damien Harris and Latavius Murray), who could become goal-line backs to save wear and tear on Allen. He was the clear QB1 before his mid-season elbow injury last year. Hurts' value avoided an offseason hit when the league decided not to make the "tush push" that was responsible for so many of his rushing scores illegal, although his 2022 feels like a career year. Mahomes has the highest floor, and he was the healthiest for the fantasy playoffs (Hurts actually missed Week 16 and 17). Mahomes is also probably the best choice in 5- or 6-point pass touchdown leagues.
Return to the QB1?
Lamar Jackson, BAL
Target at ADP Jackson
Once upon a time, Lamar Jackson put up one of the top five (#1 overall, even depending on your scoring system) fantasy seasons by a quarterback. Then the Ravens offense became stagnant under Greg Roman, and Jackson may or may not have sat out the end of the season last year with an injury he could have played through because he didn't have a contract. Now, he has a new contract and a new offensive coordinator. That new coordinator, Todd Monken, is going to go with a faster tempo (the Ravens were one of the slowest under Roman) and more emphasis on the pass. The Ravens added Odell Beckham Jr and Zay Flowers this offseason and hope to have a healthy Rashod Bateman after he had foot surgery, so the passing game should be well-stocked after having one of the worst wide receiver groups in the league for a while. Jackson absolutely has QB1 overall upside, and he's going a round or more after The Big Three.
The Next Elite Fantasy Quarterback?
Justin Fields, CHI
Target at ADP Fields
Fields started very slow as both a runner and passer but came alive mid-season. From Week 6 on, Fields' weekly scoring average was basically the same as Joe Burrow's season-long average, and before his groin injury, Burrow was going ahead of Fields. But we shouldn't expect Fields to stay at last year's production levels. The team added D.J. Moore in the offseason, and Fields should be more competent as a passer behind an improved offensive line in the second year in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's scheme. A Jalen Hurts-esque leap isn't impossible.
Consider at ADP Herbert, Lawrence, Watson
AVOID AT ADP: Burrow
This group is probably going to give an advantage over the low QB1 pack, but how big an advantage and how close they get to the top five is an open question. Burrow was a solid top 6 option in drafts before his camp groin injury and the clear QB4 last year, well ahead of QB5. The groin injury is worrisome because it sounds like it is not 100% that he'll be back for Week 1 or 100% healthy in Week 1. That opens the door to a slow start, re-injury, or in a worst-case scenario (maybe best case for his overall health in 2023), missing time to begin the season. If he reproduces his 2022 and returns in Week 1 without incident, then a falling ADP could present a solid value, especially with the addition of Orlando Brown to firm up left tackle. Still, this is a clear known risk factor, and with so much potential upside up and down the board at quarterback, it's difficult to recommend taking on this risk and downside. Herbert is getting a big boost with the installation of Kellen Moore to replace Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator and could return to the form that had him going in the top three quarterbacks last year. He could be preferable to Fields as a mid-round swing for the fences in five and six-point passing touchdown leagues. Lawrence is adding Calvin Ridley, who, from all accounts, has picked up where he left off before being suspended for the 2022 season, and he's in year two of the Doug Pederson system. He doesn't have the rushing upside or track record of the players ranked ahead of him, but he's only in his third season. Watson was atrocious last season but should be better, even if he may never regain his 2020 elite fantasy form. He's probably the best value in this tier, but Watson's ability to put up numbers in December in Cleveland (where he plays three times) is yet to be proven.
Target at ADP Richardson, Jones
If you hate taking a quarterback early, this tier is for you. Richardson should start right away, and Justin Fields showed us last year that a young quarterback can be mostly ineffective in the passing game and still be a strong fantasy option if they are an explosive runner. Richardson qualifies. Jones is actually one of the most productive rushing quarterbacks in the league, and his offense should be better in year two under Brian Daboll, especially if Darren Waller can stay healthy.
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