Predicting the Top-12 Fantasy QBs for Week 1
For the fifth year in a row, I am attempting to make sense and somehow manage to sift 32 starting QBs (before bye weeks) down to selecting 12 to be a QB1. Not to belittle you as some uninformed fool, but I just want to get on the same page as only 12 QBs can be in the top-12 each week. In other words, 20 guys will not be invited to this party and leaving out a couple of invitations each week is heart-breaking.
As discussed in the 25 QB Statistics from 2018 article, there were 41 different QBs that etched their name in the top-12 weekly fantasy performance pantheon last year. If you want to go back and look at the list, we saw some unlikely names such as Kyle Allen, journeyman Josh Johnson, the enigmatic Brock Osweiler, C.J. Beathard and somehow… Case Keenum.
Because the QB position is streamable, there are always a number of good weekly options. The long-term goal is to find the right blend of your league waiver wire QBs and some solid matchup-dependent plays. This article isn’t about predicting the exact order of finish, but more identifying which guys have a shot to be among the top 12. I will organize my weekly picks in these four categories:
Four-Sures: Top-4 for the week and definite must-starts.
Com-Four-table: Four QBs with relatively safe floors with added upside to be a solid top-12 choice.
Four In the Door: Four QBs who could sneak into the top-12 including the Ballers “Stream of the Week” options and at least one daring dart throw.
Four-Get-About-It: Four QBs I’m fading this week and projecting to finish outside the top 12. Often this includes some higher-profile QBs with tougher matchups that could underperform.
I also try to stay accountable with my weekly picks to remain transparent but also give some context that narrowing the field down and crossing out 20 guys off my list ain’t so easy. Last year I finished with a 55.6 percent success rate. For context, 60 percent is almost demi-god status in this industry.
***IMPORTANT NOTE*** There are 15-20 viable QB starts each week. If you don’t see your guy listed on here, that’s ok. This article is about predicting the top 12 not necessarily who is safest. I’d strongly advise you to follow Andy, Mike, and Jason’s advice for where they have QBs ranked for Week 1.
Patrick Mahomes @ JAX
Where else can we start but with Mahomes? Coming off a 50-TD season and the near-unanimous QB1 in drafts, he’s an autostart as he had 14 QB1 weeks in 2018, tied for the most ever with Peyton Manning‘s magical 2013 season. There is a minor red flag as last year Mahomes had zero passing TDs and two INTs against Jacksonville in his worst performance of the year. Regardless, the Chiefs have the 3rd highest team implied total (28.3) even on the road. It’s also of note that the Jags gave up the most QB rushing yards in the league so adding 25-30 yards on the ground should be well within the realm of Mahomes’ projection.
Drew Brees vs HOU
Deshaun Watson @ NO
With the highest over/under (53.5) of Week 1, this is easily the most intriguing matchup of the week to go into a full-on shootout. Brees at home is a different kind of animal: last year he completed 76% of his passes along with 21 to 1 TD:INT ratio. With the departure of Jadeveon Clowney as well as Tyrann Mathieu, this Texans defense could legitimately be an awful unit all year long. They ranked 2nd worst against WR1s last year so get ready for all the Michael Thomas you could want. On the other side, Watson is a top-5 threat each week given his rushing floor (6.2 attempts per game) and the Texans four legit WRs (five if you honestly count Duke Johnson Jr.). The Saints gave up the fewest rushing yards per game in the league (55.9) and are particularly stingy at home but still had major trouble against pass-catching RBs ranking 31st in DVOA according to Football Outsiders. You drafted Watson to be your starter so enjoy him in this Monday night opener.
Carson Wentz vs. WAS
Coming off a major injury, Wentz slipped slightly in drafts as the QB8 but offers a monster ceiling as Andy predicted him to lead the league in passing yardage. He receives a juicy Week 1 matchup as a 9.5 point home favorite against a lowly Washington Redskins team. The Redskins ranked 20th in defensive DVOA and allowed the MOST first downs on 3rd & short for BOTH passing and rushing plays in 2018. That is a hard thing to do. I like pairing him with Alshon as a sneaky play in DFS as the overrated Josh Norman allowed the most red-zone receptions in the league and is a poor tackler at this point in his career.
Russell Wilson vs CIN
Wilson’s uber-efficient 2018 season has led to some discussions of major regression coming his way in 2019. He starts out the year with a cupcake matchup at home against a Bengals squad that gave up the most passing yards per game (275.9), the 3rd most points per game (28.4) and the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs in 2018. The Seahawks are 9.5 point home favorites so expect great things from the Ballers Consensus QB7 in Week 1.
Jameis Winston vs SF
You will hear this almost every week from me: Winston has among the highest weekly ceilings but the downside is also real. You’ve seen absolute blow up four TD performances and implosions of four INTs. I feel more comfortable putting him in this section albeit at home against a 49ers defense that gave up the 2nd most passing TDs and the fewest INTs (only two!) in the league last year. The Bucs should score and it likely won’t be via the ground as they “boast” arguably the most anemic backfield in the league. Winston is the Ballers QB3 on the week.
Lamar Jackson @ MIA
I’ve been ecstatic about the Lamar Jackson experience in 2019 given his unfair rushing advantage each week. He already set the record for most QB rushing attempts in a season while starting only 7 games. Think about that. On the recent Values episode, Andy stated he likes his chances the break the single-season QB rushing record of 1,026 set by Mike Vick in 2006. He should roll in Week 1 as the Dolphins have basically cleaned house with a complete tank job. They were particularly inept at stopping the run in 2018 allowing the 4th most RB rushing yards and the 3rd most QB rushing yards. If Jackson even throws one passing TD, he’s in the conversation as a top-10 QB given his ground game dominance. As a 6.5 point road favorite, you can trust Jackson as the Ballers QB8 on the week.
Baker Mayfield vs. TEN
There is palpable excitement for Baker and the Browns this year and for good reason. On the other hand, this Titans secondary often goes unnoticed but they are a solid crew giving up the 6th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs and the 3rd fewest to RBs. With a new Air Raid approach under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the pace of play should increase although the Titans would like otherwise. The Browns have a healthy 25.5 team implied total and if they hit that total, it should be upon the arm of Baker. He was perfect in red-zone last year with 20 TDs and zero INTs. He is safely ranked as the Ballers Consensus QB6 on the week.
Four in the Door
Dak Prescott vs NYG
Dak has an excellent start to his season facing the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins in the first three weeks. With Zeke freshly inked to a new deal, this is only good news for Dak. Over the second half of last season with Amari Cooper in the mix, he completed 71% of his passes and was the QB6 in that stretch. The Giants ranked 26th in pass DVOA and allowed the 4th most QB rushing attempts in the league. They also allowed the 2nd most 20+ yard passing plays in the league. As a 7-point home favorite, Dak is trustworthy as low-end QB1 in Week 1. He’s ranked as the Ballers Consensus QB11.
Tom Brady vs PIT
As a fantasy asset, Brady likely went undrafted in a majority of your single QB leagues apart from the novice who recognized his name and took him in the 5th round as their second QB. Regardless, his early-season schedule sets up nicely at home with the 2nd highest team implied total of the week. The Steelers are particularly tough against the run so TB12 could dink and dunk his way to 250+ yards and two TDs.
Philip Rivers vs IND
The Colts were a classic “funnel” defense allowing QBs to complete 70 percent of their passes (2nd highest in the league) while limiting big plays (5th fewest 20+ yard completions). This plays right into Rivers’ strengths with Keenan Allen and a healthy Hunter Henry. He’s more of a compiler (10th most passing yards per game) but don’t be shocked to see Rivers end up with 270+ passing yards and two TDs especially with Melvin Gordon out of the picture.
Nick Foles vs KC
This is my “dart throw of the week” as Foles is ranked outside of the top-20 on almost every single site of the intranets. If this game is a back-and-forth affair, I like Foles’ chances to make things interesting. This Kansas City defense was bad last year ranking 26th in defensive DVOA and especially friendly to QBs. KC allowed the 4th most fantasy points to opposing QBs while giving up the most 20+ yard passing plays in the league. FYI Dart throws are not for the faint of heart but more suggestions as a DFS play than season-long.
Ben Roethlisberger @ NE
Big Ben is 3-10 versus Tom Brady in his career. I don’t like betting against Uncle Bill who has had an entire offseason to prepare for this game and likely will take Juju Smith-Schuster out of the game. The Patriots allowed the second-lowest completion percentage (61%) and the 7th fewest points per game in the league. Big Ben could get to top-12 in garbage-time fashion but I wouldn’t be too stoked to start him in Foxboro in Week 1.
Aaron Rodgers @ CHI
Yikes! Why is Mr. Mustache Discount Double-Check on this list? If you drafted him you might as well start him, but being a 3-point underdog on the road against the #1 defense in the league doesn’t really get me going. The Bears led the league in takeaways and registered the 3rd most sacks in 2018. We all remember Rodgers’ epic Week 1 comeback against the Bears last year but when he faced them on the road in Week 15, he threw for 274 TD-less yards in a 24-17 loss. His floor is still high given his talent and relentless desire to drive the ball down the field. However, I don’t see a major ceiling this week as the Packers have a lower team implied total than even the Raiders.
Matt Ryan @ MIN
I’ll come out and say it: My name is Kyle and I’m a Falcons fan. It pains me to put Ryan here but this road matchup lowers my expectations. Minnesota allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to QBs and the 3rd fewest passing yards per game. Unless he gets there on sheer volume, I would rather sit Ryan on the road. The Ballers agree as he’s their QB18 on the week.
Jared Goff @ CAR
JARED GARF! Goff was recently handsomely paid as he reached an extension in Los Angeles further knitting him together to Sean McVay’s future. But for Week 1, I’m not standing up for King Goffrey. If you look up his splits from 2018, there is a significant drop-off in his production on the road. His adjusted yards per attempt plummets from a league-leading 10.04 at home to 6.77 on the road, which is Brock Osweiler territory. His TD to INT ratio (10:9) was frightening and his completion percentage (60) is basically what Blake Bortles (now fellow LAR teammate) was in 2018. No thanks in Week 1.
2018 Overall Percentage: 55.6%