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2017 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks Strength Of Schedule Preview

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks aren’t robots! Check out which ones face easiest defenses and which ones can struggle next year.

It isn’t too early to begin looking at the 2017 fantasy football season, whether you finished last hoping for a revenge season or you finished first hoping for a repeat season. Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on my extremely early fantasy rankings for next season already, but that is solely based on what the players have done in the past and what production tier they are in. In the coming weeks, I will be looking at how players in each position can do in 2017 based on their strength of schedule, and this week I’ll be looking at quarterbacks. These rankings are created by looking at how well a team’s 2017 opponents did against quarterbacks back in 2016, essentially summing up each defense’s fantasy points allowed (taken from NFL.com). 

This analysis isn’t perfect of course. This method it looks solely at the schedule and ignores how good each quarterback is. For example, the Bears might have a very QB-friendly schedule compared to the Packers, but there’s no way I’m taking Jay Cutler before Aaron Rodgers. Another problem with this method is that it ignores all the offseason changes that will happen prior to the season, but that is a problem that any fantasy article this early faces. What makes a strength of schedule (SoS) analysis useful is when deciding between two quarterbacks who are very similar in talent (in the same tier), but one guy has a much easier schedule than the other. 

The Data

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Above is the raw data for my rankings. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I felt like I should post my numbers for the sake of transparency. Every team in the NFL plays two games against division rivals (six total), one game against another division in the same conference (four total), one game against another division in the other conference (four total), and one game against the same seed in each division in the same conference (two total), for a total of 16 games.

What matters the most in the end is the last row which says “Total.” The higher the number, the easier the schedule (i.e. Vikings have the easiest, Redskins have the hardest). 

Discussion

Two things about 2016 are very obvious: NFC South teams were soft against quarterbacks, and NFC East teams were were tough against quarterbacks. As a result, NFC South quarterbacks benefit, and NFC East quarterbacks suffer from scheduling. I’ll go through every team and talk about each unique situation in a short blurb.

  • Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer played poorly last year, and I had him as a low-end QB2 in my rankings article. Looking at 2017, Palmer will have an average SoS at 20th easiest. He’ll likely go undrafted in standard leagues and will be a viable streaming option throughout the year.

  • Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan is already high-end QB1 for next year, and he’ll have the 7th easiest SoS. I can see him going around the 5th round.

  • Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco had his first 4000-yard season, but he still wasn’t that great of a fantasy QB. He’ll likely go undrafted, but with the 6th easiest SoS, keep him on the radar as a streaming option.

  • Buffalo Bills: So apparently Tyrod Taylor is leaving the Bills? Neither E.J. Manuel nor Cardale Jones are fantasy relevant, despite the 9th best schedule.

  • Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton took quite a step back from his MVP 2016 season, placing him as a low-end QB1 in my rankings article. However, with the 2nd best schedule, Newton looks like a better option than the others in his tier: Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, and Philip Rivers. I can see him taken in the 7th round.

  • Chicago Bears: The Bears have the 5th easiest SoS, so keep an eye out on Cutler/Hoyer. The QB will once again have a great supporting cast of runners, receivers, and blockers, and with an easy schedule, they’re worth at least a streaming consideration.

  • Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton turned in a better fantasy year than people thought, despite being inconsistent. Dalton will have the 18th best schedule, and with a healthy receiving corps, he is worth drafting with a late-round pick.

  • Cleveland Browns: They have a below average SoS, 22nd best; whoever starts for the Browns, be it Griffin or Kessler, will probably be undrafted with how the Browns are constructed currently. Griffin is worth a streaming option, but his fragility makes him a risky start any given week.

  • Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott is a good QB1, but with a year of film out there, he seems like a prime candidate to have a sophomore slump, especially with the 5th hardest schedule. I can see him go at around the 9th round.

  • Denver Broncos: Trevor Siemian will likely go undrafted, and with Kubiak retired, the Broncos offense situation is a bit murky. Their SoS is a slightly below average at 21st best.

  • Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford has the exceedingly average 16th best SoS. He’ll stay a high-end QB2, drafted in the late rounds.

  • Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers will likely be the first QB to go regardless (most likely in the third round), and the 8th best SoS is just an added benefit.

  • Houston Texans: If you’re starting Brock Osweiler, you’re truly desperate. He’ll go undrafted despite having the 13th best SoS.

  • Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck should go around the fifth round, but with a SoS at 26th, Roethlisberger in the same tier might end up be a better option.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s a mystery as to which Blake Bortles we’ll get, but he’s a high-end QB2 for now, likely drafted in the late rounds. His SoS at 14th is fairly average too.

  • Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith will go undrafted due to his game manager role. He also has the second-worst SoS. 

  • Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff will also go undrafted due to a poor rookie season in a poor offensive system. His 25th best SoS won’t help him either.

  • Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill will also likely be undrafted, but he is worth using as a streaming option, as the Dolphins’ offense has shown flashes of great play. His SoS is an un-noteworthy 17th as well.

  • Minnesota Vikings: It’s unclear how Teddy Bridgewater will play following his ACL injury, but he has the best schedule. Even though he has yet to have shown consistency, taking him in the last round isn’t a bad idea. 

  • New England Patriots: Tom Brady is a surefire QB1 with an ADP in the third or fourth round, and his 15th best SoS won’t change that.

  • New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees is a solid QB1 with an ADP in the fourth or fifth round regardless. Despite having the 3rd best SoS, I believe he’s had a relatively easy schedule for years now. His biggest issue is still his inconsistency in away games. 

  • New York Giants: Eli Manning had a shaky year and is a low-end QB2 next year. His 23rd best SoS doesn’t help either. I can see him getting drafted based on reputation, but he’s just a streaming option for 2017.

  • New York Jets: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg are all unreliable passers, despite their 11th best SoS.

  • Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr is a safe QB1 for next year. His 3rd worst SoS seems worrying, but he had a tougher schedule (221.02 points) this year than his projected schedule (249.54 points) next year, so don’t worry about drafting him in the sixth round or so.

  • Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz had a decent rookie year as a low-end QB2. With the 4th worst SoS, Wentz is pretty undraftable, but his big-play potential gives him streaming consideration.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is a safe QB1 with the 10th best SoS. Looking at the schedule, I might take him over Andrew Luck, somewhere around the fifth round.

  • San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers finished 14th among QB despite losing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. With at least Allen back, Rivers will be a borderline QB1/2 again, but with a tough SoS at 6th worst. He’ll likely be taken in the seventh or eighth round.

  • San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick actually was a decent quarterback last year, and I might draft him just in case he breaks out. He has a tough SoS at just 24th, but with a high upside, I can see him go from anywhere in the seventh round to undrafted. 

  • Seattle Seahawks: Who knows if Russell Wilson can put together an elite first half, but he’ll have the 12th best SoS, making him a decent, if inconsistent, QB1. With his reputation, he’ll probably go around the sixth round.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I will always recommend Jameis Winston, even though I have him as a borderline QB1/2 this year. He’ll have the 4th best SoS, and I think he’ll continue to improve in his third year. I see him taken at around the ninth round.

  • Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota had a solid 2016, finishing 13th among quarterbacks. He has a below average SoS at 19th, and this kid has star potential. I see him taken around the same time as Winston, in the ninth or tenth round.

  • Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins bet on himself to earn a big paycheck, and while the Redskins missed the playoffs, Cousins played well, ending up as the fifth-best fantasy quarterback. He has the most difficult SoS next year, but I don’t think that changes his value as a QB1, especially since the Redskins will get a healthy Josh Doctson. I still think Cousins will go around the sixth or seventh.

Overall, my quarterback rankings changed a little as Cam Newton and Jameis Winston rose and Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers fell. It is still a little early as the playoffs hasn’t even truly started yet (does Wild Card count?), and a lot can happen with coaches, free agents, and the draft. Regardless, it gives a better idea on which quarterbacks to reach and which ones to ditch. Good luck on your 2017 draft preparation (still too soon?) and enjoy the NFL playoffs!

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Vincent Choy.

SQuiz
Which team's defense allowed the fewest total offensive yards in the 2016 NFL season?
Created 1/10/17
  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Houston Texans

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