The big wave of Free Agency is over, as is the 2023 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to look forward. Over the next few articles, I’ll be looking at the team’s fantasy units by conference, ranking the groups. Today I move on to the AFC quarterback group. In comparison, even the bottom of the heap in the AFC would do OK in the NFC. Today I look at No. 16 to No. 9. As always, groups appear in ascending order.
No. 16: Tennessee Titans
On the Roster: Ryan Tannehill, Will Levis, and Malik Willis
About: The Titans have a quality starter in Tannehill. He’s even been somewhat successful. In four years with the Titans, Tannehill is 36-19 as a starter, having thrown for 12,831 yards and 89 touchdowns. But Tannehill is coming off an injury, and it seems that his long-term future with the Titans is far from certain. In fact, the team has spent a second-day pick on a high-profile quarterback prospect each of the past two seasons. So, why are the Titans not higher? Some thought Willis could be a First Round pick a year ago, but his performance was so poor when he got on the field in 2022 that the Titans replaced him with an off-the-street free agent, and his hold on a roster spot is tenuous. Levis is this year’s potentially promising quarterback prospect. He slid to the Second Round but could be the future in Tennessee. I wasn’t as high as others on Levis in the draft process, and I’m still not incredibly bullish. There are some interesting names in Tennessee, but I’m not confident enough to bump them up the standings.
No. 15: Las Vegas Raiders
On the Roster: Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell, and Chase Garbers
About: The Raiders bet a lot on Jimmy G. After releasing Derek Carr, the Raiders gave Jimmy a three-year contract. It’s easy to see the upside. In his time with the 49ers, he was 38-17 as a starter, taking the 49ers to a Super Bowl and an NFL Championship Game along the way. The problem has always been health. He appeared in 12 or more games in only two out of his five seasons as a starter. Behind him, the Raiders have a veteran backup in Hoyer and two developmental players in O’Connell and Garbers. Jimmy is a quality starter when on the field, but if he misses, the Raiders won’t be a dynamic team. Given the risk, they fall lower in my rankings.
No. 14: Houston Texans
On the Roster: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, and Case Keenum
About: The Texans had the second overall pick and used it to get a future franchise player in Stroud. That’s a good start, but for these rankings, you need more. Indeed, the Texans invested in the room. The team still has Davis, a Third-Round selection in 2021. Mills has started 26 games over the past two seasons. Though Mills might not be the future of the franchise, he’s a battle-tested veteran. So, too, is Keenum, who has started 64 games for six teams over his career. So, the Texans have a promising rookie and two experienced options behind him. They might have slightly less upside in 2023, but that’s a solid set of options.
No. 13: Pittsburgh Steelers
On the Roster: Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, and Tanner Morgan
About: Pickett was the lone First Round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, leading the Steelers to a 9-8 record. He showed some promise and got plenty of experience, starting 12 games. That gives him a leg up heading into his second season. Behind him, the Steelers have a veteran backup with plenty of starting experience. Trubisky’s days as a franchise player are over, but he has started 55 games for the Bears and Steelers. It was a close call, but I gave this duo a slight edge over the experienced group in Houston.
No. 12: Indianapolis Colts
On the Roster: Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew, and Sam Ehlinger
About: Richardson was the third quarterback taken in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he might have the highest potential ceiling. He’s been a trendy early pick in rookie drafts, including going 1.01 in some Superflex Dynasty leagues. I like his potential, but I’m still cautious when it comes to how high I can rate this group in 2023. That’s why the Colts landed here, above the quarterbacks below this list but still not in the Top 10. They can get there, but Richardson will need to develop and hit on that potential. Behind him, they have some experience.
This is a team that had Matt Ryan and Nick Folles last season. Now, the most experienced player is Minshew, who is 8-16 as a starter for the Jaguars and Eagles. He is familiar with the system and had some upside early in his career, but it’s hard to have a lot of faith. Ehlinger, meanwhile, was a Sixth Round pick in 2021 that was a woeful 0-3 starting last season for the Colts. Richardson’s potential got them here, but it’s still just mostly potential at this point.
No. 11: New England Patriots
On the Roster: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Trace McSorley, and Malik Cunningham
About: Jones isn’t the most thrilling starter, but he has been successful. He has just about as much upside as any player on the list so far. He’s 16-15, having started all but three games the past two seasons. And that’s come despite a middling supporting cast. Behind him, Zappe was an interesting pick in last year’s draft. But, when called upon, he stepped up. He went 2-0 as a fill-in starter, and some even wanted to see him keep the job. That gives the Patriots a couple of strong options, with development players in McSorely and Cunningham. It’s not a sexy unit, but it should be efficient.
No. 10: Jacksonville Jaguars
On the Roster: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, and Nathan Rourke
About: Lawrence was the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After a rough rookie campaign, he stepped up under the direction of Doug Pederson in year two. Lawrence looked like a franchise player, guiding the Jaguars into the playoffs. They’ll head into 2023 a strong playoff contender, and that’s largely thanks to Lawrence. They aren’t higher on the list because he doesn’t have much behind him. Beathard has started 12 games in his career—all with the 49ers—where he’s a woeful 2-10. He has some experience but has thrown just 13 regular season passes in the past two seasons for the Jaguars. Rourke’s never thrown a regular season pass. So, Lawrence is skilled, but the Jaguars might be in trouble if he goes down, keeping their grade in the bottom half of the AFC.
No. 9: Denver Broncos
On the Roster: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, and Jarret Guarantano
About: The final team on the list today is the Broncos. I might get accused of being a homer, but I think if it weren’t for last season’s bad taste in our mouths, we’d easily consider Wilson the best quarterback on this list. He’s won a Super Bowl and has a 108-64-1 record as a starter, even with last year’s 4-11 campaign. He’s paired with Sean Payton this year, and I’m hopeful we see more of a return to form. Behind him, the Broncos invested in Stidham as a backup. He went 0-2 in his only two career starts at the end of the 2022 season, but he looked good doing it. I see the potential, which is part of why he got a solid contract. The Broncos don’t have anything of note down the depth chart, but Wilson’s resume is enough to have them in this position for me.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.