Could Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields finish as 2023’s top quarterback?

ECR stands for “Expert Consensus Ranking,” which means the average rankings of the fantasy football industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site-to-site). This ongoing positional series will highlight some big differences between ECR and my own ranks.

[2023 Fantasy Rankings: Overall Top 300 | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DEFs | Ks]

Quarterbacks I like more than consensus

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles (ECR = QB3 vs DDD = QB1)

Hurts led all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-15 before a shoulder injury cost him two games and limited him in another to end last season. He got 8.0 YPA and was second in expected rushing touchdowns (11.2) last season (that’s including RBs!), which is a pretty sick fantasy combo.

He scored 10 TDs from inside the two-yard line, and the “push play” somehow remains legal. Moreover, Hurts was 32nd among QBs in dropbacks per game (just 12.9) in second halves; he ranked 34th in fourth-quarter pass attempts — fewer than Mike White and the same as Cooper Rush! Game scripts are sure to regress — the Eagles won 14 games last year but have an over/under of 10.5 wins in 2023.

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With increased passing volume and a ton of rushing upside that Patrick Mahomes doesn’t match, Hurts is my top fantasy QB.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (ECR = QB6 vs DDD = QB4)

Fields takes far too many sacks and has a long way to go as a passer, but we rarely get this type of running quarterback to draft in fantasy. Fields has averaged the most rushing fantasy points per game ever by a QB, including somehow leading all players in runs for 20+ yards. Fields had more designed runs per game than D’Andre Swift last season and was No. 1 in fantasy points per snap.

Fields should naturally improve during his third year in the league (and second in the same system), and the addition of DJ Moore will be huge. Chicago’s offensive line and secondary pass catchers should be better in 2023 as well. Moreover, Fields gets the most improved schedule of any fantasy QB this year.

I’m closer to putting Fields as my top fantasy QB than I am lowering him in my ranks.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins (ECR = QB11 vs DDD = QB8)

Tagovailoa comes with additional health risk, but his 8.9 YPA was one of the 10 best season marks since the 1980s. He gets to play with two legitimate superstar wide receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and benefits from an innovative offense that features a ton of motion and has a high pass rate over expectation. Tagovailoa threw as many touchdown passes as Tom Brady in 333 fewer attempts last season, matching Patrick Mahomesleague-high TD%.

YPA that good has been historically unsustainable, but Tagovailoa can regress 10% and still lead the league. Removing games he left injured, Tagovailoa’s season pace was 37 touchdown passes.

We just need him to stay healthy, and Tua can be an MVP candidate this season.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants (ECR = QB12 vs DDD = QB10)

Jones is a very good runner who had the fifth-most rushing yards among QBs last season (and the fifth-most designed carries). He also had an NFL-high 81.1% adjusted completion rate. Jones could really break out in Year 2 in Brian Daboll’s system while greatly benefiting from Darren Waller’s addition. Jones has thrown mostly to scrubs throughout his career, but the Giants enter 2023 with a much improved pass-catching group. Rookie speedster Jalin Hyatt has really impressed early on, and Jones is an underrated deep thrower.

You don’t have to draft him in nearly the same range, but I’d give Jones a 50/50 chance at scoring more fantasy points than Justin Herbert in 2023.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks (ECR = QB14 vs DDD = QB11)

Smith led the league in completion percentage above expectation last season. He also had the best completion% on passes of 20+ yards despite attempting a high number of “Hero Throws.” Smith also led all quarterbacks with 45 end-zone targets, so touchdowns should be there in 2023. Seattle enters with one of the league’s best offensive lines, and most importantly for Smith’s fantasy outlook, drafted budding star Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round. JSN will make an immediate impact.

[Where expert rankings go wrong: QB | RB | WR | TE]

Smith finished as the No. five fantasy QB last year and now gets to throw to a third elite receiver, so he’s a dark horse MVP candidate (Seattle could easily finish with one of the NFC’s top seeds, too).

Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts (ECR = QB18 vs DDD = QB12)

Richardson enters with fewer than 400 career college pass attempts but has immediate fantasy upside (and floor) given his rushing ability. AR is quite frankly an athlete the QB position has never seen before. While raw as a passer, Richardson doesn’t take sacks, has a strong arm and should really thrive playing for Shane Steichen. He also gets to play indoors and with a solid pass-catching group (Michael Pittman Jr. is a future star who’s better than his stats indicate). Richardson’s ECR is simply way too low.

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers (ECR = QB25 vs DDD = QB15)

BCB is in the world’s best system and led all QBs in fantasy points per dropback last season. He just posted the best Passer Rating ever by a rookie, leading the league in touchdown passes after taking over SF’s starting role.

Purdy doesn’t possess the same fantasy upside as Trey Lance given he won’t run as much, but it’s clear Kyle Shanahan is sold on Purdy as his guy (and it’s hard to argue with the results). Purdy looks fully healthy after elbow surgery, and he’s going to put up QB1 fantasy stats thanks to his system and throwing to Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey.

Quarterbacks I like less than consensus

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns (ECR = QB9 vs DDD = QB14)

In 2020, Watson led the NFL by a wide margin with 8.9 YPA on a poorly coached Houston team that didn’t have DeAndre Hopkins. While significant missed time figured to hurt Watson, he was a completely different player after returning last season, getting badly outplayed by Jacoby Brissett. Watson averaged the same EPA/dropback as Zach Wilson. Wind contributed to some of his woeful inaccuracy last year, but Cleveland weather will remain an issue moving forward.

Watson is still just 28 years old and will likely be much better in 2023 after a full offseason with the Browns (and with the addition of Elijah Moore), but he’ll need to dramatically improve to be worth drafting as a top-10 QB.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (ECR = QB13 vs DDD = QB18)

Maybe Cousins improves during his second year in Kevin O’Connell’s system and with the addition of rookie Jordan Addison, but I can’t get behind drafting someone who doesn’t run and just got 7.1 YPA as a borderline fantasy QB1. Cousins was great in “Quarterback,” but I do not like his ECR.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (ECR = QB24 vs DDD = QB30)

Murray remains without a timetable to return from January ACL surgery, and there’s a chance he could miss half if not more of the upcoming season. The Cardinals are underdogs in every 2023 game and are the favorites to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft, and Caleb Williams looks like a truly special QB prospect. With a new regime in Arizona with zero ties to Murray, the team may not rush his return (and the new OC is likely to run a much slower pace).

Murray is also highly unlikely to run like he did before after returning, at least in the short-term, and he struggled mightily as a passer last season (6.1 YPA!) before suffering the serious injury. He’s also had big splits with and without DeAndre Hopkins on the field throughout his career, and D-Hop is now in Tennessee (Arizona has one of the weakest offensive supporting rosters in the league).

Oh, and Murray’s ECR is higher than Purdy’s!

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