Thor Nystrom


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Tiered CFB Fantasy QB rankings

Tuesday, August 8, 2017






1. Lamar Jackson (Louisville)

2. Quinton Flowers (USF)

3. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)

4. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State)

5. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State)

6. Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)

7. Luke Falk (Washington State)

8. Sam Darnold (USC)



  • Jackson is the consensus No. 1 overall fantasy player heading into the fall. He's an auto-pick if you're awarded the top pick in your draft. The question becomes: Who is the No. 2 quarterback behind him?


  • In a poll I conducted on Twitter in early June, my readers overwhelming picked Mayfield over Flowers and Fitzgerald for that honor. Me? I prefer Flowers, partly because of his rushing stats, partly because of USF’s soft schedule and partly because of the coaching change. I expect HC Charlie Strong and OC Sterlin Gilbert to allow Flowers to air it out more than Willie Taggart did. Since 2014, Gilbert has called plays for Dino Babers (at Bowling Green), Phil Montgomery (at Tulsa) and Strong (at Texas). USF is going to run a variation of Art Briles' old offense at Baylor. That hyper-spread attack is fantasy gold.


  • Fitzgerald is underrated by fans but loved by college fantasy football writers. If he improves in the pocket this fall—and NFL folks think he will—his upside is as high as anyone outside of Jackson. Fitzgerald ran for over 100 yards in six of MSU’s last seven games, a span when he also began to get more comfortable in the pocket. 


  • Barrett is the least-sexy fantasy stud of the 2017 season. In what was considered a highly disappointing 2016, he threw for 2,555 yards with 24 touchdowns and ran for 845 and nine scores. He’s never run for less than nine touchdowns in any of his three seasons, and I fully expect him to be better in the pocket this fall. A 3,000 yard/30 TD passing, 1,000 yard/10 TD rushing season isn’t completely out of the question if Ohio State’s offense clicks.



9. Eric Dungey (Syracuse)

10. Jalen Hurts (Alabama)

11. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech)

12. Trace McSorley (Penn State)

13. Shea Patterson (Mississippi)

14. Logan Woodside (Toledo)

15. Riley Ferguson (Memphis)

16. Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee)

17. Kenny Hill (TCU)

18. Brandon Wimbush (Notre Dame)

19. J’mar Smith (Louisiana Tech)

20. Josh Allen (Wyoming)

21. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)



  • If you aren’t able to get a quarterback from Tier I, you’re going to want to find your starter from this group. Every quarterback in Tier II has top-five fantasy upside if everything break right.


  • Relative to other writers, I’m highest on Dungey. Syracuse’s offense will be better in Year 2 under HC Dino Babers, and that’ll mean huge numbers for the dual-threat Dungey. He’s a risky proposition, however, because of his issues with concussions. I'm willing to roll the dice at the price point he's available for in most drafts.


  • Ditto for Kenny Trill. He burned many fantasy owners last fall, but he was victimized by the most dropped passes of any FBS quarterback. TCU has all kinds of perimeter talent, and I expect that group to be much improved in 2017.


  • There’s considerable risk with Wimbush, but I’m willing to bet that Notre Dame’s offense takes off again under new OC Chip Long. Athletic, equipped with a big arm and surrounded by premier offensive talent—including one of the nation’s best OLs—Wimbush has enormous fantasy upside.


  • Allen may end up being the No. 1 overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, but his fantasy upside is capped a bit by Wyoming having lost their running back and top three receivers.


  • Woodside and Stockstill may well throw for 4,000 yards again, but neither offers much on the ground. Shimonek isn't a threat to run, either.


  • The aggressive ranking on Smith is a bet than Louisiana Tech continues to be an offensive juggernaut despite losing its top two receivers. Smith was awesome in last year’s opener against Arkansas after Ryan Higgins got suspended. He doesn’t get to work with Carlos Henderson or Trent Taylor this time around, but Tech still has strong talent on the outside. Smith and WR Teddy Veal had Ryan Gosling-and-Rachel McAdams chemistry in the spring game.



22. Deondre Francois (Florida State)

23. Justin Herbert (Oregon)

24. David Blough (Purdue)

25. Mike White (WKU)

26. Daniel Jones (Duke)

27. Zach Abey (Navy)

28. Jake Browning (Washington)

29. Will Grier (West Virginia)

30. Brandon Silvers (Troy)

31. Shane Buechele (Texas)

32. De’Andre Johnson (FAU)

33. Kyle Allen (Houston)

34. David Cornwell (Nevada)

35. Chad President (Tulsa)



  • Blough saw his projection brighten because of a coaching change. He now plays for QB guru and offensive mastermind HC Jeff Brohm. Blough doesn't have a lot of talent to work with, but Brohm churned out fantasy studs regularly at Western Kentucky. At USF in 2014, Mike White completed 50-percent of his passes for 5.9 yards per pass attempt (including sacks) and a 2.9-percent interception rate. At WKU under Brohm in 2016, White completed 67-percent of his passes for 9.8 yards per pass attempt (including sacks) and a 1.7-percent INT rate. Blough had 3,352 passing yards and a 25/21 TD/INT rate last year. Extrapolating those numbers to account for Brohm’s historical rate of quarterback improvement would render Blough a top-20 fantasy quarterback. He remains extremely risky, as Purdue must replace its top four receivers on an offense that stunk last year.


  • My only concern with White is that Brohm is no longer calling the plays. I dinged White’s projection a little based on that, as well as White having lost his top two WRs (Taywan Taylor 98-1,730-17 and Nicholas Norris 76-1,318-14 last year). New HC Mike Sanford was a strong play-caller at Notre Dame, so I'm tentatively hopeful. But be forewarned: White leaves the pocket less than a baby kangaroo.


  • Grier is a perfect fit for the Mountaineers’ spread offense. But he hasn’t played in over a year, and is taking over an offense that lost most of its receivers. Some see Grier as a top-25 or even top-20 quarterback. If that’s the price, hard pass.


  • If you’ve watched the new season of Last Chance U, you know De’Andre Johnson. He's a former four-star dual-threat recruit from Florida State who now gets to run the old Baylor offense after Lane Kiffin hired Art's son Kendal Briles as OC. If he wins the FAU job, Johnson could be Kendal Briles’ small-lights version of his former Heisman-winning QB at Baylor, Robert Griffin III. Johnson is still dueling Jason Driskel. I expect Johnson to earn the nod.


  • I’m higher on Silvers than most. He’s entering his third year as the starter in HC Neal Brown’s Air Raid system, and most of Troy’s skill talent returns. The Trojans will field a legitimately scary offense in 2017.


  • My faith in President is based on HC Phil Montgomery’s offensive track record, Tulsa’s stellar returning offensive talent and President’s standing as a former star recruit. President hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far, but since he’s been sitting behind an accomplished starter in Dane Evans, it’s probably best not to draw too many conclusions from his mop-up work. He’s not a shoe-in to win the job, but if he does, President could be a fantasy stud. Tulsa’s wide-open system, very similar to Baylor’s old offense, is a perfect fit for the dual-threat President. Tulsa returns one of the Group of 5’s best OLs, a stud RB and several good receivers.


  • A former all-world Texas A&M signee, Kyle Allen is a promising pocket-passer who’ll throw to a superb WR corps led by Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar this fall. Allen doesn’t get the sleeper pub that guys like Smith or Johnson do, but don’t be surprised if he ends up the better fantasy player this fall.


  • Cornwell is a former Alabama quarterback who’ll be running Nevada's brand-new Air Raid attack. He's already been named the starter. Nevada has strong receiving talent with WRs Wyatt Demps and Andrew Celis both back. Cornwell is a prime-time sleeper.



36. Steven Montez (Colorado)

37. Kelly Bryant (Clemson)

38. Brogan Roback (Eastern Michigan)

39. Joshua Jackson (Virginia Tech)

40. Jesse Ertz (Kansas State)

41. Drew Lock (Missouri)

42. Kwadra Griggs (Southern Miss)

43. Armani Rogers (UNLV)

44. Nick Stevens (Colorado State)

45. Brandon Dawkins (Arizona)

46. Thomas Sirk (ECU)

47. Josh Rosen (UCLA)

48. Ben Hicks (SMU)

49. Kent Myers (Utah State)

50. Dru Brown (Hawaii)

51. Brett Rypien (Boise State)



  • Whoever wins ECU’s starting job—be it the Duke transfer Sirk or the part-time 2016 starter Minshew—will direct one of college football’s best passing offenses over the past decade.


  • I’m high on Rogers, one of the best recruits UNLV has ever signed. He was named the starter in the spring over Johnny Stanton and Kurt Palandech, who both started games last year. UNLV has plenty of talent at WR (Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys) and RB (Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams) to compliment his dual-threat game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Rodgers turns in a top-30 fantasy season among quarterbacks, and he’ll go for far cheaper than that on draft day. He’s a prime target in dynasty leagues.


  • Rosen should bounce back after last season's debacle -- he was betrayed, in order, by his body, his coaching staff and his teammates -- but I'm not high on him in fantasy. A non-mobile quarterback playing in a pro-style offense, Rosen is a far better NFL prospect than he is a hot fantasy property.


  • Hicks is currently the leader in the SMU quarterback race. After 11 uneven starts last year following Matt Davis' season-ending ACL injury, Hicks lost weight this offseason in an effort to improve his mobility. Either he or Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey will direct a potent offense that features future NFL first-round pick WR Courtland Sutton.


  • Myers is a breakout candidate. I expected better things last fall, but perhaps he saved the coming-out party for 2017. Myers is a dual-threat who's schemed in such a way that he avoids mistakes. His career interception percentage of 0.021 ranks first all-time in school history (14 interceptions on 679 career attempts), and he ranks fourth all-time in program history in completion percentage (.605). Myers rushed for at least 50 yards five times last year. I expect that number to rise this season.


  • Brown is another breakout candidate. He was outstanding at the end of last season. Further improvement would bump him up at least one tier.


52. Brandon Harris (UNC)

53. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)

54. Nick Starkel (Texas A&M)

55. Malik Zaire (Florida)

56. Peyton Bender (Kansas)

57. Manny Wilkins (Arizona State)

58. Gus Ragland (Miami OH)

59. Chase Forrest (Cal)

60. Riley Neal (Ball State)

61. Arion Worthman (Air Force)

62. Nick Holley (Kent State)

63. James Morgan (Bowling Green)

64. Taylor Lamb (Appalachian State)

65. Quinten Dormady (Tennessee)

66. Matthew Jordan (Georgia Tech)

67. Andrew Ford (UMass)

68. Malik Rosier (Miami)

69. Stephen Johnson (Kentucky)

70. Zach Smith (Baylor)

71. Blake LaRussa (Old Dominion)

72. Hasaan Klugh (Charlotte)

73. Ryan Finley (NC State)

74. Shai Werts (Georgia Southern)

75. Justice Hansen (Arkansas State)




  • Like M. Night Shyamalan, Harris is a deep post-hype sleeper that I'm super high on. He was miscast as a game-manager in Les Miles’ risk-averse offense at LSU, but should fare much better in Larry Fedora’s quarterback-happy spread offense. Nobody expects the Tar Heels to do much this fall, so Harris should be free to put up big stats as the heir apparent to Mitch Trubisky. UNC is going to throw it plenty.


  • Bender is a Washington State transfer who began his career working with Mike Leach. Now, he’ll lead an Air Raid offense directed by former TCU OC Doug Meacham. Bender has one prime-time receiver to work with in Steven Sims.


  • Starkel has emerged as favorite to win Texas A&M’s starting QB gig. Despite the inexperience at QB, the Aggies' offense is going to strong, with a receiving corps led by Rd. 1 NFL prospect WR Christian Kirk.


  • Lamb has been a far better real-life quarterback than fantasy quarterback over the past three years. Since Appy State decided to get him more involved in the running game last year, Lamb can now be considered a viable second backup quarterback in standard two-quarterback leagues. Nothing more, though.


  • Holley and Wilkins are dual-threats who are worth rostering because of their ground numbers. Wilkins’ projection is dinged a bit because I’m not confident about his job security. Holley can’t throw, but he’ll top 1,000 rushing yards if remains healthy.


  • Neal threw for 2,541 yards and a 13/12 TD/INT ratio with 540 rushing yards (to rank No. 3 among MAC quarterbacks) last year. Neal (6'5, 217) is a lanky dual-threat with NFL potential, the poor-man's MAC version of Nick Fitzgerald. I feel like I should be higher on him, but I'm not. It's the same way I felt walking out of Wonder Woman. It was fine, but I wanted my two hours back.


  • Speaking of rushing stats, Worthman, Jordan and Werts all direct triple-option attacks.


  • Whoever wins the Florida QB derby -- the front-runner is Zaire -- will be somewhat intriguing from a fantasy perspective because the Gators have a strong running back and one of the FBS’ best receiving corps. Don’t go overboard, though. That offense has a long way before equaling its component parts.


  • LaRussa is currently battling JUCO transfer Jordan Hoy for the starting gig. The winner will have the keys to an offense that has been fantasy friendly in recent years.


  • Like Dru Brown, Ragland was killer down the stretch last season. Ragland threw for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one interception after returning from a torn ACL mid-season. He's fine as a fourth fantasy quarterback. Nothing more. Ragland caught a series of bad MAC defenses off guard in going 6-0 to close out the regular season. They'll be ready for him this time around.


  • Garrett Smith (UL-Monroe) and Tyler Rogers (New Mexico State) are a pair of Sun Belt signal-callers who just missed the top-75 cut. They're draftable only in extremely deep leagues.


  • Damien Williams (Texas State) was removed from this list after getting indefinitely suspended for “academic and personal” reasons on July 31. Texas State coach Everett Withers was a bit of a grouch when asked about the status of Williams and WR T.V. Williams, a Kentucky transfer whom Withers also suspended. “That’s the last time I’ll talk about that,” Withers said when announcing the news. “There’s no telling when they’ll get back or if they’ll get back.” Well then. Williams is a dual-threat who will theoretically put up good rushing numbers against a weak schedule if he’s reinstated. TSU’s offense was an abomination last year, and Williams will be the focal-point of it if he's cleared. Since "there's no telling" when he'll be back, he's now undraftable.

Thor Nystrom is a former associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
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