The NFL Draft is complete, free agency is basically over, and we still have some time before training camp is under way. In other words, it's the perfect time to start diving through your keeper rosters and planning for the upcoming season.
This series will focus on keeper rankings, starting first with the quarterback position. Whenever I'm compiling rankings such as these, I find it best to break players into tiers. I'll focus on round designations for this exercise, but I'll be glad to address salary leagues in the comments below, provided I know the amount of cap an individual would have overall.
As a result, I will be doing these rankings assuming it is a 10-team league that would start 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, with standard scoring included.
One final note - I think there is a vast difference between a "keeper" league and a "dynasty" league. Among other things, a dynasty league places more emphasis on age because you can keep a players indefinitely. Keeper leagues typically have shorter hold periods. That means someone like Tom Brady might have more value in keeper leagues, so long as he can avoid allegedly deflating more things. As a result, the rankings will reflect my thoughts on a 2-3 year span of the NFL, not a 10-plus window that might see Jared Goff valued as an useful QB.
Tier 1 – The Elite (Third round or later)
You could make a case for any one of these three sitting atop the keeper rankings, depending on how your league accounts QB rushing stats. Newton, last year's No. 1 keeper QB option is obviously the more proficient rushing QB, but both Luck and Rodgers present at least some tendency to scamper for additional yards. Given both Luck and Newton underwent offseason shoulder surgeries, Rodgers seems to be the safest of the three options, something I'd find vastly important if I were to invest in an upper tier QB.
Tier 2 – The "Up-and-Comers" (Fifth round or later)
Where Ryan ranks not just in keeper/dynasty value, but traditional standard leagues could be one of the more interesting fantasy debates of the year. There is no question Ryan put together an impressive season last year en route to winning the MVP. But there's reason to think Ryan's outstanding 2016 campaign was an outlier. Only once in the history of Ryan's nine-year career had he surpassed 30 passing touchdowns in a season. Last year, he threw 38. Only once did Ryan finish with fewer than 15 turnovers in a given season – his rookie year in 2008. He turned the ball over just nine times in 2016. Factor that in with Julio Jones gradual decline, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Ryan turns into an Eli Manning-type fantasy player – serviceable, but underwhelming.
Tier 3 – The 2015 NFL Draft plus last year's fourth rounder (Sixth round or later)
Both the Bucs and Titans spent the offseason splurging on offense which should benefit fantasy owners. But choosing between Winston or Mariota over a three-year span is a close call. That's exactly why I'll punt and pick both of them. Winston should have the more prolific set of weapons with Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, but a more polished, fleet-of-foot Mariota along with a developing receiving corps that boasts Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor (don't sleep on him), Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews is also in a good spot. In the end it may be the running backs who dictate where Winston and Mariota will fall in the upcoming seasons. Namely, the Titans have two studs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, while the Buccaneers have none. In all seriousness, Tampa Bay seems to be putting a premium on their aerial attack, whereas Tennessee would rather pretend it's 2001. Mariota's legs will always keep him flirting on the edge of fantasy superstardom, but I'll need at least another year before he jumps ahead of Winston.
Tier 4 – The Old Guard (Seventh round or later and competing)
A couple of things to note with this tier. I keep waiting for the wheels on the Cousins train to fall off, but it doesn't seem like it's happening anytime soon. If you told me Cousins would be on the Redskins for the next five years and have his current weapons, I would likely move him up a notch or two. But if he goes to the 49ers next year, he's a glorified Joe Flacco. Big Ben and Brees are only down as far as they are because of their age, and their not too subtle hints at retirement. I wouldn't pay a premium for either guy, but I would certainly acquire them for this year if I had title aspirations. Finally, Stafford is in a transition period - no longer the gunslinger with Calvin Johnson, but not yet in a decline phase. He needs more weapons around him, however.
Tier 5 – Why Are You Even Reading Here? (10th round or later)
Notice a theme? Not a single QB drafted in 2016 or 2017 is better than a top-15 option in my mind, and Watson only gets in this tier because he should start sooner than his 2017 contemporaries. I'm assuming if you're rostering a QB in this tier (or below) you are doing so because they're cheap.
Tier 6 – The Rest (Free agency)
Check out the rest of the updated rankings on the RotoWire Keeper section and be prepared for a breakdown of the RB section in the near future.