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The Fantasy Optimist: What Are the Highest Ceilings Among the Second Tier of Fantasy QBs?

NFL Fantasy



Michael Dolan

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Fantasy football championships aren’t won in the early rounds of drafts. Anyone can draft a stud with their first- or second-round picks, but finding consistent production as the draft goes on is a much more daunting task. Typically, the person who wins your league is the one who found a gem (or a few) in those mid-to-late rounds and received top level production for well below a top-level price tag.


In this miniseries, I’ll walk through some of the less heralded fantasy players, identify what their ceilings are, and discuss the likelihood of them reaching those ceilings. To start this series off, I’ll evaluate the quarterbacks ranked 11th-15th in the FTN Fantasy rankings.

QB11: Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Ceiling: Overall QB1

The last time Deshaun Watson played football was 2020, when he started all 16 games, led the league in passing yards and finished as the QB5 in fantasy. There’s a lot of non-football concern with Watson, but whenever he ultimately steps on the field, he should have no problem putting up elite numbers in what should be a very good Cleveland offense.

On the field, Watson has everything you’d want from a top-tier fantasy QB. He has rushing upside, a proven track record and a legit No. 1 option in the passing game in Amari Cooper. With the Browns, he’ll have the best offensive line and coaching staff that he’s ever worked with, and if he makes it on the field at all this year, he has the upside to win fantasy championships.

Likelihood: Low

Even though nothing has been announced yet, the odds of Watson playing a full season are slim to none. If he misses any meaningful time, it’ll be tough for him to crack the upper echelon of quarterbacks. He could potentially be the No. 1 option on a per-game basis (assuming he takes to his new offense and new surroundings right away, which is an entirely separate concern), but if we’re measuring by total points, even calling Watson a long shot would be generous.

QB12: Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford 2022 Fantasy Football Optimist QBs

Ceiling: Top 5

In his first season with the Rams, Matthew Stafford finished as the overall QB5 – his best finish since 2013. He, Cooper Kupp and Sean McVay formulated a devastating passing attack that led the Rams all the way to a Super Bowl title. This dynamic trio will be back in Los Angeles for the long haul, and a repeat performance in 2022 is anything but unlikely.

The offense will look a little different this offseason with some new faces along the offensive personnel and coaching staff. One of the Rams’ key offseason moves was the addition of Allen Robinson. Robinson had a disappointing 2021 season, but the 28-year-old has been a 1,000-yard receiver multiple times throughout his career. If he can regain his top form this year in Los Angeles, there’s no reason to believe Stafford and the passing offense can’t pick up right where they left off.

Likelihood: High

Stafford finished the 2021 season third in passing yards and second in passing touchdowns. With essentially zero rushing upside, Stafford’s going to have a very hard time climbing even further up the fantasy rankings with just his arm. We likely witnessed Stafford’s ceiling already last year, but his current price tag may be underestimating his ability to repeat that performance.


QB13: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Ceiling: Top 3

We’ve seen Aaron Rodgers overcome the loss of a star receiver a few times in the past, but this season will provide him with his toughest test yet. Luckily, even prior to Davante Adams’ breakout campaign in 2016, Rodgers was no stranger to the top of fantasy football rankings. 

The Packers seem to have a knack for pulling receiver production out of thin air, and that’s exactly what they’ll have to do without a clear heir apparent to Adams’ #1 role in the offense. It’s still unclear who their new No. 1 will be – Allen Lazard, Christian Watson and even Sammy Watkins all have a puncher’s chance – but if there’s one quarterback in the game we can trust to make things work among some uncertainty, it has to be Rodgers.

Likelihood: Moderate

While Rodgers doesn’t possess the rushing upside that may be required to achieve overall QB1 status in 2022, he has the arm talent to get pretty darn close. A top three finish would be familiar territory for Rodgers, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the league’s back-to-back MVP overcome the loss of his star receiver without missing a beat.

QB14: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Trey Lance 2022 Fantasy Football Optimist QBs

Ceiling: Overall QB1

If there’s one quarterback outside the top-10 rankings with enough upside to break fantasy football, it has to be Trey Lance. The 49ers traded three first-round picks for the opportunity to draft Lance last year, and in 2022 they appear to be finally ready to unveil what they paid for.

Lance’s dual-threat skillset makes his rushing upside as tantalizing as guys like Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray. Pair that rushing talent with a genius head coach/playcaller in Kyle Shanahan, and the 49ers’ quarterback has a real chance to stuff the stat sheet week in and week out. Even when Lance is operating strictly as a passer, he’ll have an elite supporting cast he can rely on to make his job easier as well.

Likelihood: Low

While Lance’s upside may be 2019 Lamar Jackson-esque, his range of outcomes this season comes with some extreme volatility. He’s still an unproven player at the NFL level, and there’s a real chance that he struggles in his first year as a starter.

QB15: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

Ceiling: Top 8

For most of his career, Derek Carr has had a hard time cracking the top 10 quarterbacks list in fantasy football. This offseason though, the Raiders put him in a position to level up by bringing in an offensive-minded head coach and more importantly a superstar wide receiver. 

The addition of Davante Adams provides an immediate boost for Carr and the entire Raiders’ passing game. With Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller forming a terrifying trio for opposing defenses, Carr’s route to fantasy points is easier than it’s ever been. Throw in the fact that the Raiders play in the high-powered AFC West, and it’s likely Carr finds himself playing in quite a few shootouts that lead to some serious spike weeks.

Likelihood: Low

While everything around Carr is breaking right this offseason, he’s still ranked as QB15 for good reason. The best fantasy finish of his career is just QB10, and that was all the way back in 2016. Adams should help elevate Carr’s performance to an extent, but we’ve seen enough from the Las Vegas quarterback to know that his upside is somewhat limited.

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