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McFarland: 2020 fantasy football quarterback rankings tiers

Ranking players by position is an important part of fantasy football preparation, but grouping them into tiers is crucial to identifying the value you might be leaving in the draft room. If you're on the clock and looking at several quarterbacks in the same tier, it could make sense to wait a round — someone equally as good will probably be available with your next pick.

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Tiers can also help group players with similar expectations, whether that means grouping the reliable vets or the risky young players with upside. Either way, we don't want to pay more than the next drafter for a similar player. After going through my running back tiers, wide receiver tiers and tight end tiers, here are my quarterback tiers for 2020.

TIER 1 – QB1: TOP PASSER AND TOP RUSHER

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Mahomes checks all the boxes of an elite fantasy quarterback. He can attack every area of the field with accuracy (sixth of 35), has an elite group of weapons, adds value on the ground and plays for a coach who is willing to peg the passing-game speedometer.

Dropback Scenario 2018 2019
Total 60.9% (6th) 61.9% (7th)
Leading (>3 points) 56.2% (3rd) 53.3% (7th)
Close (within 3 points) 66.3% (4th) 69.4% (2nd)
Trailing (>3 points) 66.9% (11th) 65.6% (14th)

*Two-minute warning excluded.

Mahomes' production decreased significantly from 2018, but the 25-year-old missed two and a half games with a knee dislocation and was without Tyreek Hill for four weeks. His fantasy points per dropback only fell from 0.67 to 0.57, and his yards per attempt (YPA) remained healthy at 8.3 (8.8). Touchdowns per attempt took the most significant hit falling from an other-worldly 8.3% down to good (5.4%).

Despite the challenges, Mahomes was on pace for a top-six fantasy finish. He is a threat to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, making him the consensus QB1 in PFF's rankings.

Lamar Jackson won many 2019 fantasy leagues as a late-round pick. Since 2007, His 1,206 rushing-yards dwarfs the next best season by 352 yards. While the Ravens dropped back to pass a league-worst 48% of plays, Jackson was extremely efficient. The second-year quarterback threw a touchdown on 9% of his passes and averaged 7.8 YPA. Jackson finished outside the top-12 fantasy quarterbacks just once and led all with 11 top-six outings (73%).

The Ravens' scheme creates optimal opportunities for Jackson to thrive, utilizing trick-play looks (fifth) and play-action passing (first) to keep defenses off balance. Jackson ranked 29th out of 35 in accuracy percentage (within the receiver's frame) — his 56% mark was 2.7% below the NFL average. Additionally, Jackson ranked 32nd out of 35 in catchable-inaccurate-passing percentage, often missing behind his receivers.

It will be interesting to see how the league adapts — Jackson could run into challenges if forced to throw to the outside thirds beyond 15 yards. Out of 34 quarterbacks to attempt a minimum of 25 passes in this area, Jackson posted the third-worst adjusted completion percentage (38.5). The Ravens sport the fifth-friendliest schedule for quarterbacks over the first twelve weeks, which might offset concerns.

The Ravens have a group of young ascending skill position players. Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown both battled injuries last season and still performed — now they are healthy. Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay could also get in the mix in 2020. Jackson carries stratospheric upside with a solid floor but grades out slightly behind Mahomes due to concerns around accuracy and opposing defensive adjustments that could force him out of his comfort zone in 2020.

TIER 2 – QB1: MAKE IT RAYNE

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Rayne Dakota Prescott is still looking for his payday after passing for 4,901 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2019. In Kellen Moore's offense, the Cowboys pushed the ball downfield often with 76 attempts (13%) of 20 yards or more, with Prescott eclipsing his previous career-high aDOT by a yard (9.8). Prescott added 277 yards and three touchdowns rushing — down from six each of the last three seasons. He was one of only seven fantasy quarterbacks to finish in the top 12 in 60% or more of his games — and six of those were top-six performances.

The Cowboys moved to a new head coach, Mike McCarthy, and added an electric new weapon in the first round in CeeDee Lamb. McCarthy wants to keep much of the 2019 offense in place with a few tweaks. Expect an even heavier dose of 11 personnel with Jason Witten (free agency) and Jamele Olawale (opt-out) gone. In their base offense, the Cowboys will line up with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Lamb, Blake Jarwin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Technically, Prescott fits the description of the tier below but earns his own because he is the most likely to push for Tier 1. He is a proven fantasy performer — finishing second, 10th, ninth and sixth — with elite weapons and a great schedule — and he is playing to make it Rayne. Prescott provides a three- to four-round discount versus Jackson and Mahomes and is a priority add when he slides into the seventh round or later.

TIER 3 – QB1: ARMS, LEGS AND WEAPONS

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