When drafting you want to have your draft cheatsheet gathered into tiers to help you find value and not overreach for someone. But tiers are also subjective enough that you need to feel confident in your tiering so you don't second guess yourself. It's still early in the offseason, so these tiers will change, but we're already mocking and drafting in best-ball leagues, so there is no time like the present to start grouping players.
Rodgers continues to put up great numbers despite injuries, slumps, offensive line woes, bad coaching and all that noise. In eight seasons of 15 or more games played, Rodgers has finished as the No. 1 or 2 fantasy quarterback in seven of those, and his worst finish ever was seventh-best. He's still within his prime, and there is no reason to think he'll fall off a cliff after his second-best fantasy season ever last year, especially without a strong running game. I usually don't draft a quarterback early, but Rodgers will sometimes be an exception if he falls into or past the third round.
This tier is one of my favorite to land deeper in drafts, as sometimes I can grab Brady or Wilson at value, but mostly I will end up waiting. All four have No. 1 upside, but not quite the track record of Rodgers. Brady is older than dirt, but also has the best coach and one of the best offenses in the league, and he showed once again last season he could put up big fantasy numbers, even without Rob Gronkowski. This season, Brady should have Gronkowski back and has the addition Brandin Cooks. That's not really fair. Brees and Luck are consistent top-5 quarterbacks, and I don't see that changing this season.
This is an odd tier that I could see merging with Tier 4, but health, volume and supporting cast are something these two guys have, which should keep them safer than some of the guys below. I don't think Ryan or Cousins are, in any way, transcendent quarterbacks, but they are solid and have offensive systems and players around them who will continue to allow them to flourish.
You can argue that losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon should drop Cousins back down into the pack, but Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson added to Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder - with a sprinkling of Chris Thompson - should keep Cousins right on track. Cousins threw the ball 606 times last season and I don't think the run game and/or defense is going to change that number much this year.
Ryan, on the other hand, destroyed his personal bests last year on his way to MVP honors. We knew he could be good, but he also lacked a strong consistency of offensive play-makers, especially after Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White were sent out to pasture. Last season, Ryan had Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Taylor Gabriel step up alongside Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones to put together big play after big play. Ryan still has his core offensive players and a second-year Austin Hooper, which should keep Ryan as a consistent fantasy producer, even if he regresses a little from his best fantasy season.
This is probably my favorite tier, as the upside is quite high for all of these guys. The top two, Roethlisberger and Rivers, would be in the tier above if it weren't for injuries. For Roethlisberger, the injuries are to himself, but for Rivers, the injuries are to his team. I feel weird factoring in random injuries to wide receivers and offensive linemen to projections of Rivers, but good lord, it happens every single year! We already have rookie Mike Williams hurt, and you know how often Keenan Allen is healthy. If the Chargers' offense can stay relatively healthy, I love Rivers this year as a top-5 quarterback and will be drafting him whenever he falls.
Carr and Mariota showed me stretches last season that were right up their with the top-tier guys, and both have only seen good additions to their offense. They aren't locks by any means, but the fact they've shown they can do it is always something I like, and now all we need is consistency.
I've gone all over the place with Cam Newton's ranking this offseason, and I might continue moving him up, but he will no doubt stay in this tier. He's not a good pure passer. That's just the way it goes, but he is competent, and now he has added Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to go along with Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, Jonathan Stewart and Devin Funchess. I expect the Panthers' offense to be a little more contained, but also more consistent, and even though Newton will likely run fewer times, he isn't going to stop running and should still be a contender at the goal line. I think his ADP will continue to rise unfortunately, but if he's available later, I'm grabbing him.
Tiers five and six are where I likely will see the most movement in my rankings this preseason. The additions of Eric Decker and Jeremy Maclin to some of these teams will push their quarterback up a bit and likely for good reason, especially when these quarterbacks are so close together.
Eli Manning is my fantasy nemesis, and he let me down big time last season. New head coach and past offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has upped Manning's pass attempts, and while it should have resulted in better fantasy finishes, Manning was just bad last year. The addition of Brandon Marshall and the lack of a strong running game will keep Manning throwing, which also keeps his upside high, so I'm willing to take a risk on him again, but I'll need him at value.
Winston added some good weapons with DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin, plus Winston is still young and has Mike Evans as his No. 1 receiver. Add in a few rushing touchdowns, and Winston pushes into the top-10 quarterbacks this year.
Andy Dalton, like Matt Ryan, needs players around him to do the heavy lifting, and for the Bengals, they have a good group of pass catchers with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and now John Ross and Joe Mixon. Unlike someone like Aaron Rodgers, Dalton can't make up for lack of talent around him with his arm, but if his guys can stay healthy, he'll be an asset in fantasy, just like he was in 2015 before his injury.
This is the last tier I would draft from for a starting single-quarterback league, but I would likely need a backup who I like to allow me to stream quarterbacks throughout the season. I also think the Bills will grab Maclin or Decker, and I will likely move "TyGod" up a tier, and if Flacco gets some help with either of those guys, I will also feel better about his prospects this season. So, there is room for movement here and there is also upside. Carson Wentz has a whole stable of good receivers to throw to with the addition of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Bortles has the throwing mechanics of a catapult, but also has Allen Robinson to throw to. And Palmer has a top-tier offense if he and his offensive line can stay healthy.
Unless I'm in a 2QB league, I will likely be avoiding these players.
These guys are a mix of upside and downside, but their true value will come only if they can win a starting job somewhere.