19 Quarterback Sleepers & Values
Updated 8/30, new text is indicated in red.
If there's one theme that has been (almost) universally accepted by the fantasy football community over the past few seasons, it's that the quarterback position is extremely deep. More and more, the NFL has become a passing league and there is no shortage of quality throwers, even when we get into the #18-#24 range in the rankings. To put things into perspective, our #24 QB, Alex Smith, is only projected to score 33 points fewer than our #7 QB, Ben Roethlisberger, who has been going about 10 rounds earlier.
As a result, the nearly-unanimous recommendation for leagues with typical scoring systems is to wait as long as possible (or comfortable) to draft a QB, either by targeting one of the last few fantasy starters off the board or by ignoring the position until the later rounds and either stream the position (plucking QBs with good matchups on a weekly basis) or play Quarterback By Committee (i.e. drafting 2-3 QBs late in the draft with the idea that you'll play the best matchup each week). Which path you choose has more to do with the quality of the QB position on the waiver wire than anything else. If you play in a league where only 12-18 quarterbacks are rostered at any given time, then streaming is a good option. If the waiver wire is pretty bare on a week-to-week basis – due to league tendencies and/or roster size – you may want to put together a committee on draft day.
Those owners in multiple leagues may want to consider drafting one of the top 12 in the middle rounds in order to minimize their weekly waiver wire work. I sometimes fall into this category due to the sheer number of leagues I'm in (along with my weekly duties here at 4for4). The last thing I want to do on Wednesday night is scour the various waiver wires hoping to find that Blaine Gabbert is available. Going QBBC will also work, but owners will still have to decide which quarterback to start, adding another decision they have to make every week.
However, owners who don’t mind the work (or are only in 1-2 leagues) will find that streaming quarterbacks or playing QBBC can result in solid QB1-type output without having to spend an early- or middle-round pick on the position on draft day. This means that owners can draft another mid-round RB/WR/TE who just might be the difference between winning a championship. For example, Brandon Marshall, Allen Robinson, Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins, John Brown, Danny Woodhead, Giovani Bernard, Larry Fitzgerald, Darren McFadden, Tyler Eifert, Devonta Freeman, Delanie Walker and Eric Decker were all drafted in the 5th-9th rounds last year (per FF Calculator) and turned out to be difference-makers at their respective positions.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton (QB1), Blake Bortles (QB4), Carson Palmer (QB5), Eli Manning (QB9), Phillip Rivers (QB12) all finished in the top 12 while being drafted in the 9th round or later. And don’t forget about Kirk Cousins (QB10) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB11), who went mostly undrafted and finished with starter-quality numbers.
I’m going to provide my general thoughts about most of the players ranked #8 through #25. I’ll start with the Values (ADP in the 8th-12th range) and then move on to the Sleepers (13th or later).
Manning has finished #10 and #8 in the last two seasons, respectively, and has five top 10 finishes in his last seven seasons. But it is his splits with Odell Beckham that make him such an attractive pick this year. In 27 games over the past two seasons, Manning has averaged 282 yards and 2.0 TD with Beckham in the lineup. Those are low-end QB1 numbers. It doesn’t hurt that he hasn’t missed a start in the last 11 seasons, either. For more on Eli, click here.
Bortles finished as the #4 QB in his second season, compiling 4428 passing yards and 37 total touchdowns (35 pass, 2 rush). The fantasy community is expecting Bortles to regress in his third season due to his outrageous share of total touchdowns (taking part in 37 of the team’s 40 offensive touchdowns), the addition of Chris Ivory as a short yardage threat and a boatload of free agency money and draft picks thrown at the defensive side of the ball. Still, as the 10th or 11th QB off the board, he’s a solid pick given his weapons in the receiving game.
It was a tale of two seasons for Rivers, who was the #2 QB through the first eight weeks. After losing Keenan Allen to a season-ending injury, Rivers posted #22 numbers over the final eight weeks of the season. The team lost Ladarius Green and Malcom Floyd, but Allen is healthy again, Antonio Gates is back for another year, and the team added Travis Benjamin in free agency. He’s a good target for owners who want to pick up a quality passer in the 10th or 11th round.
Taylor missed a couple of games which serves to depress his season-long numbers. The main concern is that the Bills haven't fully committed to him as their franchise quarterback. From a production standpoint, there's a lot to like. He only threw for an average of 217 yards per game, but he had a 20-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio and his yards per attempt (7.99) was 5th in the league. However, what really makes him a fantasy producer is his ability in the running game. On average, he rushed 7.4 times per game for 41 yards and 0.29 rush TD. Assuming that he has a favorable offseason, and Sammy Watkins’ foot isn’t an issue, owners looking for 2014 Russell Wilson or 2015 Carson Palmer should consider targeting Taylor in the later rounds.
Cousins was the #17 QB through the first seven weeks of the season, but really started to produce after his Week 8 bye, averaging 20.9 PPG in his final nine games. That was the 4th-highest per game average during that stretch. He averaged 9.28 YPA in that span and threw at a 4318-yard, 36-TD pace. The team added Josh Doctson to an already talented receiving corps, so Cousins could offer top 10 numbers again in 2016.