Quarterback Sleepers, Values, and Targets
If there's one theme that has been (almost) universally accepted by the fantasy football community over the past several 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 double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts. To put things into perspective, our No. 21 quarterback, Dak Prescott, is only projected to score 13 fewer points than our No. 10 passer, Jimmy Garoppolo. Our No. 9 quarterback, Drew Brees, is projected to score 10 fewer points than our No. 3 ranked-quarterback, Deshaun Watson.
Over the past five seasons, 26 of the 60 (or 43%) quarterbacks finishing the season in the top 12 were drafted outside the top 12 at their position. Moreover, 11 of the 30 (37%) quarterbacks who finished in the top six were drafted outside the top 12. In other words, there are always passers available deep into the draft who will go on to provide strong QB1-type numbers.
As a result, the nearly-unanimous recommendation for leagues with typical scoring systems is to wait as long as possible to draft a quarterback, either by targeting one of the last few fantasy starter-types off the board or by ignoring quarterback until the later rounds and either stream the position (plucking passers with good matchups on a weekly basis) or play Quarterback By Committee (QBBC), the practice of drafting two or three QBs late in the draft with the idea you'll play the best matchup each week. Which path you choose has more to do with the quality of the position on the waiver wire than anything else. If you play in a league where only 12-16 quarterbacks are rostered at any given time, then streaming is a good option. If the waiver wire in your league is pretty bare on a weekly basis—due to league tendencies and/or roster size—a quarterback committee is a good idea.
Those owners in multiple leagues may want to consider drafting a good quarterback 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 a Wednesday night is scour multiple waiver wires hoping to find that Blake Bortles 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 a handful of 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 owners can draft an additional middle-round running back, receiver, or tight end who could turn out to be the difference at the end of the year.
I’m going to break this article into three sections: Sleepers, Values, and Targets. Let’s start with my primary targets at the position:
Matthew Stafford, Lions (in the ninth or 10th round)
I wrote about Stafford in plenty of detail for a June article, but here is the Cliffs Notes version: Stafford has a history of meeting or beating his (ADP) price and Jim Bob Cooter is back as the offensive coordinator. In 41 games since Cooter has taken over the play-calling duties, Stafford has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for a 7.51 yards-per-attempt average. He has posted a 4.9 percent touchdown rate and a 1.6 percent interception rate in that span. Compare that to the 61.0% completion/7.19 YPA/4.3% TD rate/2.5% interception rate that Stafford posted in his previous 71 games dating back to 2011, and his numbers are up across the board now that Cooter is coordinating the offense.
I currently have Stafford ranked No. 8, so if he falls into the No. 10 to No. 12 range, I’ll take him in a heartbeat. He really is the Jan Brady of the quarterback ranks—so overlooked.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (in the 11th round)
Like Stafford, I wrote about Patty Mahomes extensively in another article. He’s athletic and the offseason buzz out of Kansas City has been consistently positive. The Chiefs made quite the statement when they traded away Alex Smith, who was coming off of a rip-roaring No. 3 finish, to give Mahomes a clear path to the starting job. It’s a risky move, but it certainly underlines what the franchise thinks of Mahomes. When we extrapolate his limited appearances in the preseason and regular season, he would produce 4,083 yards and 24.2 touchdowns over a 16-game season, while rushing for an additional 327 yards. These are top-10 numbers at his position. Moreover, since taking over for the Eagles in 2000, Andy Reid’s quarterbacks have finished with an average fantasy ranking of 11.3.
Mahomes’ ADP has continued to rise, but he’s still being drafted as a high-end QB2 (No. 15). I currently have him ranked No. 14, so I’ll gladly take him in the double-digit rounds while other owners are focused on their RB/WR depth.
Continue reading to see who John has as his value plays at the quarterback position this year, as well as which signal-callers make up his sleepers list...