4 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks Primed to Break Out

Aug 10, 2018
4 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks Primed to Break Out

There’s something magical about waiting on a quarterback. Besting a league full of early-pouncers with a mid-round gem can be nearly as satisfying as hitting on a first-round pick or being the first to claim a breakout player off waivers. Last season, grabbing Carson Wentz in the 11th round nearly made up for starting the draft with Jay Ajayi and Mike Evans in one of my favorite leagues. Years ago, an aging Kurt Warner and emerging Jay Cutler in the 12th and 10th rounds, respectively, led my 2008 superflex team to an undefeated season.

Sometimes the value comes from an underrated veteran in a new situation, or maybe a steady option with limited upside. Other times, it comes from a young player who breaks out due to experience, better weapons, or a new coaching staff. Either way, there’s no reason to grab a quarterback in the early rounds, when middle-round options are abundant every year.

More Breakout Candidates: RB | WR | TE

Why do I always wait on a quarterback? Value. Well into the final rounds of the draft, you can still get players like Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, and Ryan Tannehill. Each of these players can be a valuable part of your lineup as a spot-starter or a viable matchup player. You can even take a committee approach to the position, drafting two late-round players with offsetting schedules that allow you to take advantage of matchups. For example, Tannehill and Eli Manning pair up nicely with Manning facing the Redskins, Titans, and Colts in weeks where Tannehill faces the Texans, Vikings, and Jaguars.

Conversely, the end of drafts at the running back position usually leads to backups who will only be valuable in the event of an injury. While it’s nice to have some security for your starters, it’s hard to get too excited about guys like T.J. Yeldon and Latavius Murray taking up valuable roster spots.

So how do we decide where to take a quarterback, and which players to look into? I took a look at average draft position (ADP) vs. total fantasy points over the last five years and found the sweet spot for quarterback value to be in rounds eight to 10.

2013-2017 Average QB FF Points by Round
Round Selected (12-Team League) Number of Players Average FF Points Average Position Rank
1 10 283.32 9.10
2 6 307.38 6.50
3 8 249.19 13.00
4 11 255.95 12.64
5 9 260.00 11.78
6 9 234.26 14.56
7 8 229.26 18.50
8 9 251.17 13.33
9 7 247.31 13.71
10 11 245.97 12.82
11 10 179.13 23.70
12 15 202.38 22.07
13 9 189.48 22.44
14 9 129.58 29.89
15 11 110.30 35.00
16 5 185.14 22.60
17 4 102.05 36.25
18 3 122.30 31.00
19 3 48.40 42.33

As you can see, the average fantasy points from players drafted in rounds eight to 10 ranged from 246 to 251 points. The difference between that and the first- and second-round quarterbacks is only 40–60 points and the numbers are right on par with any of the rounds in between. After round 10, there was a steep drop-off. Clearly, you can get value in the middle rounds.

I was curious which players were often exceeding expectations, so I took a look at which players from the data really stood out. I looked at all the quarterbacks drafted in rounds eight to 10, filtering for quarterbacks who finished in the top 12—starter material—in fantasy points.

2013-2017 Mid-Round QB Starters
Year Player Round Selected (12-Team League) FF Points Rank Total FF Points
2013 Andy Dalton 9 5 288.1
2013 Ben Roethlisberger 10 10 262.3
2014 Ben Roethlisberger 10 6 300.2
2014 Philip Rivers 8 12 265.8
2015 Eli Manning 8 9 289.5
2015 Philip Rivers 8 12 282.5
2016 Kirk Cousins 9 5 300.7
2016 Marcus Mariota 10 12 260.7
2016 Matt Ryan 9 2 343.5
2016 Matthew Stafford 9 7 277.8
2016 Philip Rivers 8 11 263.1
2016 Tyrod Taylor 10 8 266.9
2017 Alex Smith 10 3 295.2
2017 Jared Goff 10 12 255.5
2017 Matthew Stafford 8 8 271.6
2017 Philip Rivers 8 7 272.4

If you’re like me, you already want to draft Philip Rivers. Despite being drafted in the eighth round in each of the past four seasons, he’s finished no lower than 12th during that span and he finished seventh last year. Rivers’ ADP is 112 (as of this writing), placing him in the ninth round of 12-team leagues.

Rivers still has a great arm at age 36, and he has excellent weapons to work with in Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon. He’s had over 4,000 yards passing in nine of the past 10 seasons, and he should have an improved offensive line with the additions of guard Forrest Lamp, who missed his entire rookie season with an injury, and free agent center Mike Pouncey.

I know who I’m targeting this year.

However, Rivers isn’t exactly a breakout candidate, since he’s such a known quantity. After looking at the data above, the last two seasons saw Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota emerge as starters. Both players benefitted from additional experience. Goff got some added help on the coaching staff as well. So while I’m definitely targeting Rivers in the ninth round, here are a few other mid-round quarterbacks I’ll be looking at due to their breakout potential:

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs, ADP: 113

Mahomes is a bit of an unknown quantity after spending his rookie season watching Alex Smith enjoy a career-year. He’ll be given the reins to the offense this year, however, as Smith was shipped off to Washington. He played in one meaningless game last season, throwing for 284 yards and an interception, but he flashed the incredible arm talent that made him a first-round pick out of Texas Tech. He threw for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns his final year in school, so he’s not afraid to air it out. The Chiefs are still run by Andy Reid, one of the best quarterbacks coaches of this century, and the Chiefs added Sammy Watkins to the roster. Mahomes has a ton of risk associated with him, but he’s well worth the risk at the mid-round price tag.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans, ADP: 121

Continue reading to see why Marcus Mariota is primed for a breakout campaign in 2018, as well as two more quarterbacks Brandon is targeting in fantasy drafts...

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