Fantasy Football: Examining Strength of Schedule for QBs in 2023

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You don’t win your fantasy football league at the draft. It’s a mantra this time of year. A related tip frequently discussed on the show is viewing the season in manageable short-term “chunks.” That’s exactly what this article series is about.

I look at each position in four-week “chunks.” Weeks 1-4 are the start of the season when you set the tone. Starting hot is ideal but not necessarily required for active managers. Weeks 5-8 and 9-12 are the heart of the season when fantasy managers jockey for position and make key moves. Weeks 13-17 are the time to make a run through the fantasy playoffs and secure that #FootClanTitle.

I’ll be going position by position in this series, looking back at last season before looking ahead to 2023. First up, quarterbacks. The table shows where they ranked within the position during each four-week sample size of the season. It includes bye weeks and games missed to injuries. The last stretch is five weeks because of the odd 17-game season, and Week 18 is ignored, as no league should be competing in that final week of the NFL season.


Last year’s top-four quarterbacks separated themselves from the pack by being consistently good throughout the entire season. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Joe Burrow never fell out of the top ten over any quarter of the season. Mahomes never dipped below QB4!

Geno Smith bookended his season with above-average performances, but he was elite over the middle of the season. He didn’t put up as many week-winning performances as the top four, but his season-long consistency led him to a QB5 finish. 

Justin Fields famously started terribly, but he didn’t finish as strong as I remembered. Some of this is because he missed Week 12 with a shoulder injury and the placement of his bye in Week 14. If we shift the four-week window a bit, he was the QB1 from Weeks 7-10.

Jared Goff started hot, then absolutely cratered during the middle half of the season. He bounced back in a big way and was a legitimate league-winning quarterback. He finished as QB2 in Week 16 and as QB7 in Week 17, a.k.a. the fantasy football championship.

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Positional Strength of Schedule 

So how do we use this for 2023 drafts? One way is to examine the strength of schedule (SOS) for the upcoming season. There is a plethora of SOS metrics and resources available, but most of them focus on the entirety of the season. I used the Strength of Schedule tool found in the Ultimate Draft Kit, which allows you to select and sort both by position and by different weeks. It is based on how teams performed against each position last year, and since teams have had player and coaching changes, it isn’t perfect. However, it is easier to trust early in the season, before the injuries, trades, and chaos that is an NFL season are in full swing.

Once we see the teams with the most and least favorable opening schedules, we can use that as input in the draft process. A team with a favorable SOS for a position is a definite bonus, and players from that team should get a bump. Likewise, you may want to slightly fade players that could get off to a slow start. 

Early Season Targets

If you spend a high-value draft pick on a top-tier quarterback, you can largely ignore the opening schedule. However, if you choose to look for your quarterback in the middle or late rounds, you should at least consider it. Streaming and trading are always options, and you’ll be in a better position for either if your chosen quarterback gets off to a strong start. Here are the quarterbacks with the best schedules from Weeks 1-4.

Justin HerbertWeeks 1-4 SOS: 1st
Patrick MahomesWeeks 1-4 SOS: 2nd

Nobody will be drafting these two quarterbacks because of their early-season schedule, but it’s encouraging to know that they should get off to good starts. You have to spend a significantly higher draft pick for Mahomes, but he has the second-easiest schedule over the first four weeks. His first three opponents, Detroit, Jacksonville, and Chicago, were all in the bottom ten against quarterbacks last year. In Week 4, however, he has a matchup with the Jets’ stout defense that was the eighth toughest against the position. Realistically, this is all moot for Mahomes. If you spend the draft capital on him, you should plan on starting him every game all season long.

You can draft Herbert several rounds after Mahomes, and he has an even better opening schedule. His first four opponents, Miami, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Las Vegas, all finished among the bottom seven against quarterbacks last season. Conversely, he and the Chargers have the third most difficult schedule for quarterbacks from Weeks 14-17, the fantasy playoffs. That isn’t something worth worrying about during fantasy draft season, but you might want to stash that info away to monitor later in the season.

Russell WilsonWeeks 1-4 SOS: 3rd

Wilson left a terrible taste in the mouth of everybody that drafted him last season. With how awful the majority of the season was for Mr. Unlimited, it was easy to miss the fact that he finished as a top-five fantasy quarterback in three of his last four games.

Now he gets the third-softest schedule for quarterbacks to open in 2023. The Sean Payton-led Broncos debut against Las Vegas, then take on Washington, Miami, and Chicago. The Commanders are the toughest team against quarterbacks among those four teams, finishing 16th against the position last season. If he isn’t truly washed, Russ could get cooking early on in the season.

Jordan LoveWeeks 1-4 SOS: 4th

After sitting behind Aaron Rodgers for three full seasons, Love finally gets the lead role in Green Bay. Getting the fourth-best fantasy quarterback schedule over the first four weeks could allow him to start hot. What’s more, he has the easiest SOS for fantasy quarterbacks over the entire season. There are plenty of unknowns surrounding Love, but if he can take advantage of the soft schedule, he may be a late-round quarterback steal. 

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Slow Start Trade/Waiver Targets

Some great quarterbacks will get off to bad starts, but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed for the entire season. Justin Fields was the perfect example from last season. Here are some quarterbacks that could get off to slow starts based on their opening schedules in 2023. If they do start slow, you could acquire them on the cheap.

Lamar JacksonWeeks 1-4 SOS: 31st

The Ravens have a brutal opening schedule, at least for fantasy quarterbacks. They open the season against Houston who, while not exactly Super Bowl contenders, were the third-toughest team against fantasy quarterbacks last season. That was primarily because teams could often take their foot off the gas early against the Texans in 2022. Baltimore also faces Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Cleveland in the first four weeks, giving them the second-toughest schedule for quarterbacks to open the season.

The good news? Baltimore has the best schedule for fantasy quarterbacks from Weeks 5-8, the second quarter of the season. They have just the 16th most difficult schedule over the entire season. If Jackson does get off to a rough start over the first quarter of the season, he will be my favorite trade target.

Tua TagovailoaWeeks 1-4 SOS: 27th

It’s (another) make-or-break season for Tua. The schedule makers didn’t do him any favors to start the season. Miami opens against the Chargers, which could easily turn into a high-octane shootout. After that, however, they face New England, Denver, and Buffalo. It doesn’t get much better for the Dolphins, who have the eighth most difficult schedule for quarterbacks over the entire season, in large part due to playing in the tough AFC East. 

Ryan TannehillWeeks 1-4 SOS: 32nd

Tannehill is going very late, if at all, in fantasy drafts. I had been considering him as a late-round flier, but after checking on quarterback SOS, I’m more likely to check for him on waivers later in the season. As long as he plays well enough and the Titans stay in playoff contention, he should be able to hold off Will Levis and remain the starter in Tennessee. That would bode well, as the schedule only gets better. The Titans have the 12th-best SOS for quarterbacks over the back half of the season from Weeks 9-17.

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