Quarterback Danger Rankings

Ryan Miller

The NFL off-season provides coaching staffs and general managers with multiple opportunities to improve their team. While a player may enter the off-season as his team’s presumed starter, there are many landmines that must be avoided to retain that title. The most dangerous of those include free agency, the NFL Draft and training camp. These times can be worrisome for quarterbacks given the vicious nature of devoted NFL fans, who seem to give up on their team’s leaders earlier and earlier as the years go on. While successful quarterbacks have the longest viable life span of all fantasy assets, the trouble comes in finding who these players are, as this is consistently the most desired position in the National Football League.

In the next three to five years, several Hall of Fame-worthy quarterbacks will be hanging up their cleats after what were miraculous careers. These quarterbacks have been mainstays over the last fifteen or so years, but it is time for the next wave of QBs to take over. This already began in last year’s draft, as five quarterbacks were taken in the first round. If a starting quarterback is able to survive the wave of free agency, the final threat to their imminent value comes via the NFL Draft.

I took a look at each team’s current starting quarterback and ranked them all based on how dangerous they are to own. Obviously, these players have a variety of risks, including injury or off-field issues, but I have ranked them solely with the draft in mind. A team unlikely to draft a quarterback means their current starter would rank low on this “danger scale,” while a team almost certain to draft a quarterback means their current QB is very dangerous to own right now.

We’ll go in reverse order, meaning these are some of the “safer” quarterbacks to own in dynasty leagues. Remember, this is not a ranking of the value of these QBs, but only their danger level.

TIER ONE: SAFE FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE (NO DRAFT RISK)

32. Russell Wilson, SEA

Coming off an extension making him the highest paid player in the NFL, Seattle has some time stored up before considering adding any new quarterbacks for depth purposes.

31. Patrick Mahomes, KC

Mahomes took the league by storm in 2018 and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. His complete arsenal is still being discovered one mesmerizing throw at a time, and he is in line for a record-shattering deal when his time comes.

30. Baker Mayfield, CLE

Cleveland fans are going to wake up feeling dangerous for a long, long time.

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29. Aaron Rodgers, GB

The best quarterback in the NFL is signed through 2021 (at the earliest) at a $30m cap hit, and DeShone Kizer is a solid backup who was drafted at high draft capital.

28. Drew Brees, NO

New Orleans would have been in the top ten in the Danger Rankings, but Sean Payton had to pursue Teddy Bridgewater extremely aggressively to get him to stay in New Orleans. The Saints have only one pick in the first three rounds of the draft and have bigger holes on the roster, allowing me to be fairly confident they will not focus on this year’s QB class.

27. Andrew Luck, IND

Andrew Luck is back and the Colts offensive line is elite. He’s getting the chance he has deserved since entering the league in 2012 and can legitimately run the table in 2019. The Colts are set at quarterback leading up to the draft, as Luck is signed through 2021 and GM Chris Ballard loves Jacoby Brissett as well. Expect the Colts to sign Luck for the rest of his career on their next extension, rightfully repaying him for the countless injuries he endured under previous management.

26. Matt Ryan, ATL

The Falcons could pursue a quarterback in the later rounds of this draft, but Matt Ryan has been performing at an elite level since his 2016 MVP season (even if he hasn’t been getting the same amount of recognition). There are a few deep targets at quarterback I like as fliers, but even if Atlanta were to take one here, Ryan is signed through 2023 and remains an undervalued dynasty asset.

25. Deshaun Watson, HOU

Watson has had a phenomenal start to his professional career, but the Texans could look around should a player they like fall further than they should, due to Watson’s prior injury history (torn ACL in each of his knees).

24. Dak Prescott, DAL

Any Cowboys quarterback not named Dak Prescott has as great of a chance of becoming a viable fantasy asset as you do. Back in November, Jerry Jones said he “would not even consider” trading Prescott away for two first round picks. No matter your stance on Prescott’s ability as an NFL quarterback, he is in it for the long haul with Jason Garrett and the Cowboys.

23. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF

Despite a rollercoaster start to his time in San Francisco, Garoppolo was acquired for a valuable asset (pick 43 in the 2018 draft) and was signed as the then-highest paid QB in the NFL through 2022. Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard also did very well last season before suffering injuries of their own. Expect the 49ers to stock up on defense in this year’s draft (trade back candidates?), as well as a promising wide receiver.

22. Sam Darnold, NYJ

It is way too soon to target another quarterback after drafting Darnold at number three overall last season, and surrendering their 2019 third round pick in the process to select him. Darnold was the youngest QB to ever start an NFL game in week one, so I assume he will get the benefit of the doubt even more than most rookie phenoms. The Jets will be better off investing in Darnold via his offensive line and adding more weapons for Adam Gase’s creative offense than to draft competition behind him.

21. Mitchell Trubisky, CHI

The Bears only have five picks in this year’s draft, with the soonest pick coming at 87th overall. Coach Matt Nagy will obviously have no regrets about it since he was able to lock up Khalil Mack long-term, and GM Ryan Pace knows this is win-now mode with Trubisky on a cheap rookie deal. Chase Daniel is also a veteran leader and great locker room presence, providing even more assurance the Bears are unwilling to further invest at quarterback in 2019.

20. Lamar Jackson, BAL

Jackson is a very raw prospect with poor accuracy, but he can protect the ball while an elite defense takes care of their end of the bargain. Coach John Harbaugh is extremely impressed with Jackson’s off-season dedication, and they need a full season in order to gauge whether or not Jackson is the team’s new franchise quarterback.

19. Josh Allen, BUF

Not to sound repetitive, but it takes some time for a team to know when they have found their franchise QB. Last year’s class had FIVE quarterbacks selected in the first round, the most since 1999. Allen showed flashes of excellence at the end of last season, and his sophomore season will be crucial in answering what positions the Bills need to pursue in 2020. After the Nathan Peterman incident, I think Bills fans will be okay with GM Brandon Beane staying away from QBs for a couple of years.

TIER TWO: STARTERS NOT AT RISK, BUT DEPTH IS NEEDED

18. Jared Goff, LAR

Didn’t the Rams make the Super Bowl with Goff? Yes. Didn’t the Rams go out and sign Blake Bortles in free agency? Exactly… Goff had a great 2018 season and is a top six-eight dynasty quarterback in my opinion, but for some reason, I cannot shake an article posted by Bill Barnwell of ESPN in September 2018. Sure, Goff’s short and mid-range throw accuracy is among the best in the league. He and McVay have a great relationship as well.

But, as Barnwell notes, I could see a very, very slight chance the Rams let Goff go and start a rebuild with a brand-new quarterback when Goff’s rookie deal expires. It would be the only way they could keep their core players of Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton, Aqib Talib, and Marcus Peters together. If anyone could actually pull a move like this off, it would have to be McVay, right? I wouldn’t suggest to actually sell Goff, but from a real-life NFL strategy standpoint, I’d be sure to read up on Los Angeles rumors each off-season.

17. Philip Rivers, LAC

Despite being 37 years old and having 15 seasons worth of hits to his name, Rivers has not shown one hint of slowing down. His ability to avoid injury this late in his career is nothing short of miraculous, and his dedication to the game has been paying off as of late, with a 21-11 record dating back to 2017. Keep an eye on the Chargers in this final week leading up to the draft, though, as their name has been tied to Josh Rosen of late.

16. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Pittsburgh investing in quarterback each of the last two draft classes has me wary they will draft another in a relatively thin year for quarterbacks, when they have so many other key skill positions needing viable replacements. I believe Mike Tomlin is very satisfied in both Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, and my bet is that Roethlisberger signs a three-year extension prior to the start of the season, ending his career the same time as All-Pro Center Maurkice Pouncey.

15. Kirk Cousins, MIN

Cousins is one of those players that is simply too expensive to bench prior to the end of his contract in 2021. Cousins has consistently struggled behind subpar offensive lines for the entirety of his career, and if the Vikings can get someone like Garrett Bradbury or Andre Dillard in the first round, Minnesota fans will be changing their tune on the highly-recruited quarterback real soon. The Vikings could take a flier on someone like Jarrett Stidham or Garrett Minshew late in the draft, but dynasty owners would still have two years’ notice to move Cousins before his selling window closed.

14. Cam Newton, CAR

Newton’s value as a dynasty quarterback is unquestioned, but his on-field performance since his 2015 MVP season looks more of a distant memory by the week. His physical play style as a dual-threat QB places incredible strain on both his upper and lower body in a way that is not sustainable for long term success. I expect the Panthers to look for potential suitors in the next season or two, but Newton’s job is safe as long as he can play. The Panthers did have the fifth most QB visits leading up to the draft, so this is definitely a quarterback situation to monitor.

13. Matthew Stafford, DET

Detroit’s all-time passing leader signed a five-year, $135m contract during last year’s off-season. While this assures his starting role through 2023, the Lions have nine draft picks in this year’s upcoming draft, while Connor Cook is the team’s current backup. Cook has bounced around the league ever since he was drafted by the Raiders in 2016 and would be a potential cut candidate should Detroit look to refresh their depth chart in this year’s draft.

12. Carson Wentz, PHI

Carson Wentz is undoubtedly the Eagles’ franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future, but his biggest question mark is health. After missing the end of a stellar 2017 season with a torn ACL and missing the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Wentz was shut down for the final month of the season once the Eagles were knocked out of playoff contention. After Nick Foles left in free agency to Jacksonville, Philadelphia is a prime candidate to reload their quarterback depth rather than rely on Nate Sudfeld and Luis Perez next season. Keep an eye on Ryan Finley as a day three pick after investing heavily in their injury-ravaged secondary.

11. Tom Brady, NE

We say this every year, but is this the year Tom Brady calls it quits? Now that his favorite security blanket of his career has retired and there is a noticeable lack of offensive firepower compared to previous years, we could finally see signs of the end of the Brady-Belichick era. Or they will win another Super Bowl (there really is no in-between, is there?)

The top two Patriots play callers have an average age of 38. I would expect them to go after an accurate pocket passer such as Jarrett Stidham, Ryan Finley, or Drew Lock to be the latest QB dubbed as the heir to the greatest quarterback of all time.

10. Jameis Winston, TB

GM Jason Licht had to make a tough decision in the midst of a lost 2018 season- cut former number one overall pick Jameis Winston and admit defeat on a four-year experiment, or extend him on a one-year “prove it” deal at a cap hit of $20m? Licht ultimately chose the latter, and Winston has arguably the greatest opportunity of his career to prove his GM right, as he is now being mentored under the offensive genius of Bruce Arians.

Arians has spoken nothing but high praise of Winston since they have been able to work together this offseason, but that also has not stopped the Bucs from bringing in five different quarterbacks prior to the 2019 draft. This could all just be an act of due diligence prior to extending Winston if he has a successful first year under Arians, or it could be the sign of a fresh restart in Tampa Bay. For what it’s worth, I am a total Winston supporter and believe he is bound to take off now that he has a coach that can truly speak into the emotional side of Winston’s game.

9. Derek Carr, OAK

One of the final acts of the pre-Gruden era in Oakland was the lucrative extension of Derek Carr. Although he is signed through 2022 at an annual salary of $19m, Gruden has proven he can rid his team of any talented player (see: Mack, Khalil). While I think the Raiders can use their four picks in the top 35 overall to address several needs along the defensive line and secondary positions, there are two major landmines in Oakland named Jon Gruden and Antonio Brown. No matter what Carr does on the field, these two people seem to have major pull wherever they go, and could send him packing to any team willing to absorb his contract (Patriots?)

8. Nick Foles, JAC

Jacksonville made a major splash in free agency by signing Nick Foles on a four-year deal, but there is still work to be done in their quarterback department. Cody Kessler has proven not to be a serviceable backup QB, and I believe the Jaguars will use most of their eight draft picks to retool their offensive arsenal (tight end, running back, backup quarterback) to the liking of head coach Doug Marrone.

7. Marcus Mariota, TEN

When Mariota was drafted to the Titans second overall, his fantasy stock soared. His rushing ability paired with his lights out play style at Oregon had dynasty owners fighting to get a share of his fantasy stock. Unfortunately for him, Tennessee has undergone three different head coaching regimes since the season leading up to Mariota’s draft selection, and as a result, he was never able to find a repeatable groove in a productive offense

Tennessee’s smashmouth approach to football does not let Mariota to harness his gifted abilities as a passer, throwing for only 180 yards per game last season. Mariota has also never played a full 16-game season in his career, and it may be time for the Titans to start over while their defense is still elite. They acquired Ryan Tannehill in free agency for depth, but this is still a short-term situation to monitor for anyone who still has Mariota on their roster.

TIER THREE: SHORT-TERM SOLUTIONS (HIGH DRAFT RISK)

6. Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA

The only reason the Dolphins are not more dangerous in these rankings is that I fully believe they are #TankingforTua in 2020. That isn’t to say they would pass on a quarterback they are in love with if they happen to slip to 13. I am not buying into the hype claiming they are interested in Rosen, after Miami came out and publicly stated Rosen was not and has never been on their radar. Fitzpatrick is a placeholder at best and a (possibly) serviceable QB3 in a lackluster Miami offense. The only question is whether the Dolphins believe their franchise quarterback is in this class or the next.

5. Joe Flacco, DEN

The Broncos brought in seven quarterbacks leading up to the NFL Draft, third most in the league. Flacco was already benched last season by the team he led to a Super Bowl victory, showing just how much he has declined since his mega-extension. Denver decided to inherit Flacco’s $20+ million cap hit for the next three seasons, which would seem like they want to bring in a quarterback and give him ample time to develop. With a group of key offensive sophomores in Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, and DaeSean Hamilton, the Broncos have no time to waste in selecting and subsequently grooming their next franchise quarterback.

4. Andy Dalton, CIN

New head coach Zac Taylor had the opportunity to work with offensive genius Sean McVay for two seasons, and he is now able to set out on a path of his own. While Andy Dalton has two years remaining on his current contract, it is tough to imagine a 31-year-old quarterback with zero career playoff wins is who he wants to build his franchise around. The Bengals only brought in two quarterbacks pre-draft, but they have a whopping eleven picks to essentially do whatever they want to do in the 2019 draft. They are a sneaky candidate to outbid anyone for a shot at Kyler Murray should they feel inclined, or for another quarterback such as Dwayne Haskins.

3. Case Keenum, WAS

The Redskins brought in nine different quarterbacks for a pre-draft visit, but Kyler Murray was not among them. Washington set out to get a starting quarterback in free agency, and they happened to get Case Keenum on a relatively cheap deal. Washington is not a current viable contender, and Keenum is not the fans’ much-desired answer for a franchise quarterback. With a QB corps of Colt McCoy, Keenum, and an injured Alex Smith, expect the Redskins to select either Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock this week with the real possibility they could start in the season opener.

2. Eli Manning, NYG

Despite GM Dave Gettleman’s constant praises of Eli Manning’s playing ability (after a 5-11 finish with only 21 passing touchdowns) have got to come to an end. We also know Gettleman has never traded back in the draft once in his entire front office career. Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta were fun sleeper names over the past few offseasons among dynasty forums, but the Giants need to go out and spend the draft capital on a top tier quarterback. It seems obvious to everyone but the Giants that Eli’s days as an NFL starter are numbered. Duke QB Daniel Jones has received the most buzz tied to New York, which would make sense given the Manning family’s involvement in Duke’s yearly QB summer camps. It is all but a lock to believe the Giants will aggressively target a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft at either the sixth or 17th pick.

1. Josh Rosen, ARI

Recent rumors stating the Cardinals’ disinterest in Kyler Murray have me questioning the placement of Josh Rosen as the most dangerous QB situation in this year’s draft, but it’s important to remember this is the deception period of the NFL draft. They may truly prefer Nick Bosa on their team (it would be hard to pass on Bosa if it were me, honestly), but the rumors linking Murray to the Cardinals and Rosen being traded elsewhere are too strong for me to move Rosen off of the number one spot.

One thing I have not seen in media outlets since these latest rumors broke is to remember the fact Murray turned down the Oakland Athletics’ lucrative offer to play baseball when NFL draft season was in full force. Do we think Murray would turn them down if he knew he wouldn’t be picked number one overall? Top ten? Despite all the uncertainty, I am not selling Rosen. Even if he is traded, he will be traded to a team that spends a significant amount of assets on him to be their new guy and suddenly be thrust into a brand new opportunity. We have no true way of knowing right now, so all we can do is wait and see. And that is the true beauty of the NFL draft.

Happy draft season everyone! Get your popcorn ready.

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