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 team’s fantasy units by conference, ranking the groups. Today I’m finishing up with my Top 8 AFC groups. To see 9-16, check it out here. It’s all about the upside here. Honestly, outside of the Eagles, I might take any of these units over any other unit in the NFC.
No. 8: New York Jets
On the Roster: Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle, and Chris Streveler
About: Rodgers is in New York, and he’s undoubtedly going to be in the Hall of Fame. But is he still one of the best QBs in the league? His 2022 season wasn’t incredible. The Packers finished 8-9, Rodgers threw for less than 4,000 yards and tossed 12 Interceptions, one off his career high, and the first time since 2010 he hit double-digits. Was it an off year or a sign of decline? Will moving teams impact him? It’s unknown right now. So, with Rodgers’ potential, I have the Jets here. Behind him is the former second-overall pick. Wilson hasn’t looked sharp, but maybe a year behind Rodgers will help. Some might vault the Jets up this lineup, but this felt right to me.
No. 7: Cleveland Browns
On the Roster: Deshaun Watson, Josh Dobbs, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Kellen Mond
About: The Browns bet a lot on Watson, signing him to a $230 million guaranteed deal. In 2022, the team didn’t get a big return on investment. Between a suspension and rust, Watson struggled in his six starts, going 3-3 and throwing for less than 60 percent completion rate for the first time in his career. His last full season as a starter was 2020. It’s fair to still have some doubts, but if a full off-season and regular season help him shake off the dust, Watson has some Top 5 upside. Behind him is a solid No. 2 in Dobbs, who looked strong closing out 2022 for the Titans. After that are developmental guys in Thompson-Robinson, a rookie, and Mond, who likely won’t make the final roster. Still, I like Watson’s potential slightly more than Rodgers’s at this point, so I have the Browns a spot higher.
No. 6: Miami Dolphins
On the Roster: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson, and James Blackman
About: Upside is baked into this ranking, too. As is the risk. That risk is the injury risk for Tua, who missed four games in 2022 thanks to concussions. Tua mulled retirement but ultimately got cleared and will return. Still, his upside isn’t without risk. Through 16 weeks in 2022, Tua was QB12 on a points-per-game basis, averaging 18.4 points per game. But he’s a risk. Behind him is White, who showed flashes for the Jets down the stretch last season. The Dolphins also have Thompson, who, as a rookie, started the regular season finale and a playoff game. That’s a good deal of experience and upside behind Tua, should something happen. That was reason enough for me to land the Dolphins here.
No. 5: Los Angeles Chargers
On the Roster: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick, and Max Duggan
About: Herbert is a solid starter. He has a decent crew and a new Offensive Coordinator in Kellen Moore. I like his potential, but the AFC is loaded with top passers. So, here it comes down to the rest of the depth chart. Stick was a Fifth-Round pick in the 2019 draft who’s thrown a single NFL regular season pass. Duggan is a rookie late-round selection. In short, behind Herbert is a set of complete unknowns. That’s why the Chargers are in this spot.
No. 4: Baltimore Ravens
On the Roster: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown, and Nolan Henderson
About: Jackson is talented enough to be in this spot, possibly even higher if he reaches his ceiling. He’s also got an injury risk, which is part of the reason I have the Ravens a touch lower than the three units above them. Behind Jackson, unlike the Chargers, the Ravens have some experience. Huntley doesn’t have an incredible record as a starter the past two seasons, but he’s played well enough that he made the Pro Bowl team last year. That’s not the ultimate metric of success or ability, but it’s something other teams don’t have. We didn’t get much out of Brown when he was pressed into service last year, but Jackson’s upside and Huntley’s experience were enough for me to put the Ravens here.
No. 3: Cincinnati Bengals
On the Roster: Joe Burrow, Trevor Siemian, and Jake Browning
About: Burrow has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. I was tempted to put the Bengals above the No. 2 team on this list. It’s a close call. I love Burrow as a passer, and he helps the Bengals land high on this list. Behind him, the team added Siemian. That might not move the needle much as a QB1, but Siemian is an experienced quarterback who has started 30 games for four different teams. He even has an 8-6 season as a starter under his belt. That gives the Bengals a degree of experience and security behind Burrow, helping cement the group in this spot.
No. 2: Buffalo Bills
On the Roster: Josh Allen, Kyle Allen, and Matt Barkley
About: Josh Allen is a talented player. I debated but ended up ranking him just above Burrow. You could quibble, but those two are relatively close. The Bills also have more experience in the room. Kyle Allen has started 23 games for three different teams. We’ve seen him as a long-term fill-in for the Panthers and Commanders, and he’s had some success. That gives the Bills a veteran backup. Then there’s Barkley, who might be one of the most appealing third-string options in the league. Barkley has been in the league for ten years, playing for three different teams, and has started seven games. That’s a luxury for Buffalo and one of the reasons I cemented them at No. 2.
No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs
On the Roster: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert, Shane Buechele, and Shane Oladokun
About: Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL. In his six NFL seasons, he’s 64-16, thrown for 24,241 yards and 192 touchdowns while winning two Super Bowls and going to five straight AFC Championship Games. He’s No. 1, and it’s not particularly close. So, that gives the Chiefs a huge advantage here. The Chiefs lost veteran backup Chad Henne to retirement, which was a blow. But the team backstopped him with Gabbert. Gabbert is a solid veteran, having started 48 games and played for five teams in his NFL career. He’s thrown for more than 9,000 yards and more touchdowns than interceptions. That makes him one of the better backup quarterback options in the league, just locking the Chiefs in at the No. 1 spot in the AFC and the NFL in general 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.