2023 QB Landscape on Underdog

Last year, having one of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Jalen Hurts gave fantasy players a massive advantage on a week-to-week basis- but for 2023 what does the QB Landscape look like? For context, Josh Allen had 6 weekly finishes outside the top-12 in the 2021 season when he ended the year as the overall QB1. In 2022, Allen, Mahomes, and Hurts COMBINED for only 4 weekly finishes outside of the Top-12 QBs during the fantasy season.

In ESPN leagues, 65.4% of Jalen Hurts-led teams, 60% of Patrick Mahomes-led teams, and 58.6% of Josh Allen-led teams made the fantasy football playoffs in 2022. The dominance and consistency of these 3 quarterbacks was unprecedented, and it’s shaken up fantasy football rankings heading into 2023.

This time last year, Josh Allen was the only quarterback being taken within the first 32 picks on Underdog. In 2023, Mahomes (20.9 ADP), Hurts (25.2 ADP) and Allen (27.5 ADP) are all being taken within the first 28 picks. There are 6 QBs being taken within the first 50 picks on Underdog at the moment, while at this time last year only 3 QBs fit that same bill. 

Everyone is craving that sweet, sweet week-to-week advantage of having a top-flight fantasy quarterback after years of drafting QBs late with great success. Are we over-correcting our rankings based off of one year of top-heavy dominance? Is it worth it to invest an early draft pick in a QB? Can anyone take a major leap, a-la Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen? Here are my 3 main observations of the Quarterback landscape on Underdog right now.

With a top-3 pick, it’s hard not to invest in an elite QB early

The top 3 picks on Underdog right now are Justin Jefferson, Jamarr Chase, and Christian McCaffrey. These 3 players are almost guaranteed to finish top-3 at their position in fantasy barring injury, so who does it feel right to pair them with as a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick? Personally, I love virtually guaranteeing a home run with 2 of my top 3 draft picks by pairing one of these elite players with Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, or Josh Allen.

Drafting two players with legitimate and viable paths toward being top-3 at their position provides a great baseline for your fantasy team, and by the end of the 2nd round, there are a lot of question marks surrounding players at other positions.

The receiver position, in particular, thins out quickly by the end of the 2nd round on Underdog. When I’m making a pick within the first 3 rounds, I’m trying to find guys that can be consistently dominant. I’m not convinced that someone like Tee Higgins, DeVonta Smith, or even Chris Olave (if he falls a bit) are worth taking so early with some of the question marks they come with.

My favorite strategy with a top-2 pick has been to take one of Jefferson or Chase and pair them with the best running back on the board and Jalen Hurts in the 2nd/3rd round.

Jalen Hurts (PHI)

Hurts had the highest points-per-game of any player in fantasy in 2022 (26.8), and there’s no reason to believe that his success won’t continue. He’s progressed as a passer every year of his career going back to his time at Alabama, and the Eagles run such a dominant QB sneak (the “tush push”) that there was speculation as to whether it would be outlawed over the offseason. Hurts squats 600 LBs, and behind the best offensive line in football the Eagles are virtually unstoppable (93% success rate) while pushing Hurts forward to try and gain a yard. This helped Hurts end the season with 13 rushing TDs, the 2nd most in a single season for a QB all-time.

While Hurts’ rushing ability gives him an extremely high fantasy floor, the Eagles could get better from a fantasy perspective in this upcoming 2023 season. In the 15 fantasy-relevant games that Jalen Hurts started in 2022, the Eagles led in 8 of them by double-digits going into the 4th quarter. In 6 out of those 8 games, the Eagles were winning by 15 or more heading into the final frame. The Eagles still have a superb roster, but a tougher strength of schedule and natural regression in 2023 should lead to more competitive games for Philadelphia. This can only mean good things for Hurts’ fantasy stock, with the Eagles being forced to throw and score more in 2023.

In previous years, I would have never considered taking a quarterback this early. But in 2023, give me the almost guaranteed dominance of Jalen Hurts in every draft I can get him.

For reference, Hurts’ draft ADP on different platforms:

ESPN: ADP 28 (QB3)

Yahoo: ADP 23 (QB1)

Sleeper: ADP 24 (QB3)

Everyone is chasing the 3rd-year breakout

Justin Fields (49.2 ADP) is being taken in the late-4th/early-5th round right now on Underdog as the QB6. For reference, the QB6 at this point a year ago was being taken at pick 64.3 as an early/mid 6th-rounder. Ironically, that QB6 in 2022 fantasy drafts was Jalen Hurts. It’s ironic for a few reasons:

Justin Fields’ high price-tag is partially a result of two very similar situations over the past 3 years with Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts. Allen and Hurts had drawn warranted criticism over the first two years of their careers for being lackluster as passers, but they had both shown elite traits as runners that put them on the map in terms of fantasy football. There was still plenty of skepticism about each of them heading into each of their respective 3rd NFL seasons.

Josh Allen was the QB11 in PPG in 2019, and the addition of Stefon Diggs propelled Allen to a QB1 finish in fantasy in 2020.

Jalen Hurts was the QB7 in PPG in 2021, and the addition of AJ Brown propelled Hurts to finish as the QB1 in PPG in 2022.

Justin Fields was the QB5 in PPG (20.5) in 2022, so what can the addition of DJ Moore do for Fields’ fantasy production in 2023?

Justin Fields (CHI)

Looking deeper at Fields’ season in 2022, there are some really encouraging signs for Fields heading into 2023. Following a Week-6 loss on Thursday night football, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy admitted to installing plays that he stole right from the Ravens playbook heading into week 7 against New England. From week 7 on, Fields only finished outside of the top-10 QBs in fantasy one time and finished with over 23 points in 6 out of his last 9 starts. That included two QB1 finishes, a 42.7 point outing against Miami and a 40.4 point outing against Detroit in back-to-back weeks. This increase in fantasy production for Fields didn’t come by accident, it was a direct result of the coaching staff understanding what they had in Fields as a runner.

Yes, Fields finished as the QB5 in PPG in 2022, but one could easily argue that his skillset wasn’t being optimally utilized for the first 6 weeks of the season. An already great fantasy season could’ve been even better. Now with DJ Moore joining the fold, there are high expectations for Fields going into 2023.

Unlike the breakouts for Hurts and Allen going into their 3rd years, drafting Fields won’t come at such a discounted rate for the upcoming season. So is it worth it? No one can be completely sure, and running for over 1,000 yards isn’t something Fields intends on having to do every year.

But Fields is a quarterback that has shown massive rushing potential and will be adding a #1 receiver to his arsenal of weapons going into his 3rd year. No one else in fantasy football matches that blueprint going into 2023, the same blueprint that led to elite fantasy success for Allen and Hurts in years past. You’re going to have to pay more of a premium for Fields than you did with Allen and Hurts, but you should always be looking to target players in the mid-rounds that are potential league-winners. If Fields can improve incrementally as a passer with the addition of Moore, the sky is the limit.

For reference, Fields’ ADP on different platforms:

ESPN: ADP 56 (QB7)

Yahoo: ADP 48 (QB5)

Sleeper: ADP 44 (QB6)

Daniel Jones (NYG)

I often notice that previous narratives surrounding different players are reflected in their draft position in fantasy football, and this is perfectly exemplified with Daniel Jones being taken in the late 9th/early 10th round at the moment on Underdog. No one wants to buy into a QB who was a turnover machine and the butt-end of jokes prior to his 4th season in the NFL, but we so often forget how much supporting cast matters for players.

Jones had dealt with awful coaching and personnel through his first 3 seasons in New York, and general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll helped turn things around immediately. Just the addition of Daboll in 2022 made Jones look competent despite still playing with a bottom-5 offensive line and a bottom-5 receiving corps. With Darren Waller and a few complimentary pieces added to the receiver room and offensive line, Jones should be better going into year 2 in Daboll’s system. But he’s still going as the QB14 for no explainable reason besides people being unable to change their opinions on the quarterback.

The public narrative surrounding Jones is forcing him into the later rounds of fantasy drafts, despite finishing as the QB7 in 2022 and showing legitimate potential as a passer and a runner in his first season under Daboll. We’re all praising Daboll for how he turned this team around last year, so why are people so critical of the money he gave to Daniel Jones? Daboll and Schoen don’t strike me as individuals that would make offseason moves they weren’t confident in, especially when shelling out 40 million a year to a quarterback without much prior success.

If it isn’t enough that Jones finished as the QB7 with Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins as his top 2 receivers behind an abysmal offensive line, just look at the QBs going around Jones in fantasy. He’s being taken behind Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins, two QBs who don’t have nearly the same rushing upside as Jones. You can copy and paste that statement when referring to the 3 QBs being taken behind Jones (Geno Smith, Aaron Rodgers, and Jared Goff). Jones’ rushing upside provides a fantastic floor, and I project this New York passing attack to be significantly better with their new offseason additions. Jones’ passing stats may not have looked pretty last year, but when actually watching the Giants last year you could see that they would be nowhere close to a 9-win team without the 4th-year QB.

If I’ve been unable to get an elite QB early on in drafts this summer, I’ve been happy to take Jones as my QB1 as part of 3-QB builds on Underdog. I often come away looking at those teams as some of my favorites, as punting the selection of a QB to round 9/10 has led to some stacked position groups at WR and RB. Take advantage of the negative public media narrative around Jones, because I have a strong feeling we won’t be getting him this late in drafts again next year.

For reference, Jones’ ADP on different platforms:

ESPN: ADP 104 (QB12)

Yahoo: ADP 100 (QB9)

Sleeper: ADP 146 (QB16)

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Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff – USA TODAY Sports