Fantasy Football Quarterback Sleepers, Values and Targets
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 double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts. To put things into perspective, our No. 16 quarterback, Philip Rivers, is only projected to score 17 fewer points than our No. 6 ranked passer, Cam Newton.
Over the past four seasons, 21 of the 48 (or 44%) quarterbacks finishing the season in the top 12 were drafted outside the top 12 at their position. Moreover, nine of the 24 (38%) quarterbacks that finished in the top six were drafted outside the top 12. In other words, there are always passers available deep into the draft that will go on to provide strong QB1-type numbers.
Last year, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota were all drafted in the 11th round or later and they all finished in the top 12. Andy Dalton just missed the top 12 and had an ADP in the 13th round.
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 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 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 the various waiver wires hoping to find that Joe Flacco 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 that owners can draft another middle-round running back, receiver or tight end that could turn out to be the difference at the end of the year.
I normally break this article into two categories: Sleepers and Values. This year, I’m going to include another section, Targets, which discusses my primary targets at the position in 2017.
Marcus Mariota (in the 8th)
In his first 27 NFL games, Mariota has averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game, which would have extrapolated to about what Dak Prescott scored last year as the league’s #6 fantasy quarterback. When his six-attempt game against the Patriots (from his rookie year) is removed, his average jumps to 18.3 fantasy points. He’s a dual threat who can score points as a passer (career 5.5% touchdown rate) or as a runner (career 22 rushing yards per game). With the addition of Corey Davis, the No. 5 overall pick, and TD-machine Eric Decker, Mariota now has Davis, Decker, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker to throw to. The Titans have invested heavily in the passing game, which is an indicator that the team is willing to open up the offense. If he plays a full season, a top-5 season is well within reach. This makes Mariota an excellent value in the middle rounds.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (10th/11th)
Dalton finished as the No. 12 passer in 2016, was the No. 4 quarterback in 2013, and actually has three QB1 (top 12) finishes in the last five years. A.J. Green is healthy, Tyler Eifert should be ready for camp, and the Bengals added speedster John Ross and the versatile Joe Mixon in the draft. In the last two seasons, with a healthy Green available for 23 games, Dalton has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 261 yards (8.1 yards per attempt) and 1.57 touchdowns (with just 0.57 interceptions) per game. He also scored an average of 0.26 rushing touchdowns per game during that span. The resulting 18.4 points per game would have been good for No. 7 quarterback numbers in 2016, so Dalton is looking like a terrific value as the 16th or 17th passer off the board. Given his average draft position, Dalton can be paired with another passer to form a potent committee, or an owner could forgo a backup and use Dalton as their sole quarterback.
Continue reading for one more Target, three Sleepers, and four Values...