Fantasy Football Draft Duels: Quarterbacks

This fantasy football season, drafters will face many tough decisions among multiple players at certain positions.

Rankings and sleepers lists can’t always tell the full story: Sometimes, it makes sense to take a risk. That’s why fantasy football players could use input from numerous sources. 

We’ve gathered some RotoWire personalities to give their opinions on which fantasy quarterback they’d take when posed several matchups. Who do they prefer?

(Note: We used MyFantasyLeague Average Draft Position to compare players.)

Russell Wilson (ADP: 53.01, QB5)
vs. Matt Ryan (54.95, QB6)

While there’s no question Ryan is surrounded by better weapons, Wilson’s ability to scamper for additional yards makes him the better fantasy play, particularly in standard leagues that emphasize dual-threat quarterbacks. With Kyle Shanahan now in San Francisco, fantasy owners will be sorely disappointed if they expect Ryan to replicate his MVP numbers in 2017.
Wilson -Joe Bartel

Sure, Ryan will provide ample passing yards and touchdowns, but regression is likely with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan out of town. As for Wilson, health and a more consistent ground game should help him bounce back from last season’s career low on the TD front (22 combined passing and rushing).
Wilson -Eric Caturia

Wilson’s breakout (2015) resulted in 35 total touchdowns, while Ryan’s career-year (2016) resulted in 38. In each QB’s previous three seasons, Wilson averaged 26.7 TDs while Ryan averaged 25 TDs. Ryan loses offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan while Wilson regains his health after playing hurt last year.
Wilson -Jim Coventry

Can Ryan survive Kyle Shanahan’s departure? Can Wilson top his career high in pass attempts? I don’t like either of these options at this price and with these risks. For this exercise, however, I’d want the one who’s throwing to Julio Jones, protected by the better OL and doesn’t rely on rushing for much of his fantasy value.
Ryan -Tim Heaney

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Ryan has thrown for at least 4,500 yards for five consecutive years, including one in which Julio Jones played just five games. Aside from an unrepeatable 849-yard, six-score rushing season (2014) and a blistering seven-game stretch to finish 2015, Wilson, behind far-worse protection, remains a better quarterback in real life than in fantasy.
Ryan -Luke Hoover

Verdict: Wilson, 3-2

Jameis Winston (58.68, QB7)
vs. Marcus Mariota (65.72, QB9)

The battle of the 2015 NFL Draft lives on. While Mariota may be the better long-term prospect given his rushing capabilities, I’m all in on Winston. Bringing in DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard should help what was already a solid aerial attack, and with the running game in limbo, I expect Winston to solidify himself among the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks.
Winston -JB

Although Winston has outpaced Mariota in YPG (254 versus 231), rushing scores (seven versus four) and, ignominiously, INT% (3.0 versus 2.3) in their first two seasons, the latter’s efficiency forecasts sustainability, despite the offensive additions made by Tampa Bay this offseason. Expect Mariota to continue his upward trend.
Mariota -EC

In 2016, Mariota was efficient, posting 28 total TDs on 451 pass attempts while Winston totaled 29 total TDs on 567 attempts. However, the Titans D is improving, and the offense will remain run-heavy. Meanwhile, the Bucs added weapons to diversify their passing attack, giving Winston major upside.
Winston -JC

Both have high ceilings yet require loft investments. Tennessee, however, showcases an elite 1-2 backfield punch (DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry), and while this can help a mobile QB like Mariota, it limits how often he’ll get to chuck the rock. Winston should take a big step forward in Dirk Koetter’s vertically inclined attack.
Winston -TH

Winston has no conscience. He can make really big throws, but he will also make plenty of mistakes. Though Mike Evans gives him a trump card among receiving weapons, I’ll take Mariota’s far superior protection, better ground game to keep defenses honest and flawless red-zone performance (33 touchdowns, zero picks).
Mariota -LH

Verdict: Winston, 3-2

Kirk Cousins (73.79, QB11)
vs. Dak Prescott (78.55, QB12)

Prescott should have an opportunity to let loose in 2017, having thrown only 459 pass attempts in his rookie season. But the additional usage won’t be enough to unseat Cousins. Alongside offseason signing Terrelle Pryor and with former first round-pick Josh Doctson healthy, the Michigan State alum has plenty of options at his disposal in what amounts to the ultimate “prove-it” year.
Cousins -JB

The pass-happy Cousins trumps Prescott’s more balanced approach. The proof is in each team’s breakdown of plays, as the Redskins threw 62% of the time last season, as opposed to the Cowboys’ bottom-barrel mark (51%). Consequently, Cousins has a larger opportunity to strike through air than his divisional foe.
Cousins -EC

Cousins averaged 575 passes and 31.5 total TDs the last two years while Prescott threw 477 passes last year with 29 total TDs. Dallas is built to run, and defenses will be better prepared for Prescott, while Cousins is a proven fantasy commodity who simply produces.
Cousins -JC

The Cowboys are a run-first team, and any potential Ezekiel Elliott suspension wouldn’t change that. Prescott also will throw for more interceptions in his sophomore season as defenses continue adapting. Washington is a pass-first club now, having actually upgraded from DeSean Jackson by bringing in Terrelle Pryor, a blossoming stud.
Cousins -TH

Prescott’s offense is not designed for him to post prolific numbers, nor does he have the personnel surrounding him – except for Dez Bryant – with which to do so. Cousins, meanwhile, upgraded his targets with Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson replacing the departed vets. In another “prove-it” year, he will.
Cousins  -LH

Verdict: Cousins, 5-0 sweep

Others to consider

Matthew Stafford (89.28, QB13) vs. Ben Roethlisberger (90.84, QB14)

Stafford: EC, JC, TH

Roethlisberger: JB, LH

Verdict: Stafford, 3-2

Andy Dalton (108.9, QB16) vs. Carson Wentz (109.61, QB17)

Dalton: EC, JC, LH

Wentz: JB, TH

Verdict: Dalton, 3-2