Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and 4 Other Rookie QBs You Should Know About
With the NFL Draft now less than a month away, it is time to take a deeper look at some of the players that will be comprising this vaunted draft class. If you play in a dynasty or keeper league, you know this group of rookies has been viewed with reverence for some time now.
But can it live up to the hype?
In this four-part series, I’ll break down each of the four key fantasy football positions, looking at what dynasty and keeper leaguers can expect when drafts kick off this off-season.
We’ll begin with the quarterback position. While NFL teams are willing to give up almost anything for the chance at finding a franchise quarterback, fantasy owners are not nearly as desperate. In fact, even in a strong year for rookie quarterbacks, it is difficult to trust these players thrust into the NFL and handed an NFL playbook for the first time. Unfortunately, this year’s crop of rookie signal callers, while somewhat deep, lacks the sure-fire talent we have come to expect from the position. Here’s more about the players expected to have the biggest impact among the rookie quarterbacks this season.
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Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson established himself as one of the greats of the college game after leading the Tigers to back-to-back title games over the past two seasons, including a major upset over the Crimson Tide to win the most recent National Championship. Watson has developed a reputation for coming up huge in the biggest of games, and he will need those types of intangibles to make up for his sometimes-questionable play on the field.
Watson is certainly athletic enough to play in the league. He can leave the pocket and run the ball well, totaling over 800 rushing yards and 12 scores during his junior season.
He is a capable passer but prone to inconsistency, especially when forced from the pocket. His 17 interceptions in 2016 are the highest of any quarterback viewed as a potential day-one or day-two NFL draft pick.
Many of Watson's best characteristics cannot be reliably measured. He is well-known for his leadership, work ethic and poise on the biggest stage, as evidenced by a stellar 54.8% conversion rate on third and fourth downs in 2016, ranked second among this season's top quarterback prospects.
Watson will almost certainly be a first-round selection because of his intangibles and due to the pressure felt by NFL teams to find a franchise quarterback. That doesn’t mean he should be on the radar of dynasty and keeper owners, however. The most recent dynasty startup ADP data from Dynasty League Football ranks Watson as the 29th overall rookie and the 21st quarterback off the board. This is a reasonable range to acquire Watson in a new league. In an existing league holding a rookie draft, Watson should not be considered until the third round, given the depth and talent of the other skill players in this draft.
Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
In just one year, Trubisky has gone from backup quarterback for the Tar Heels to being strongly considered as the favorite to be the first quarterback off the board in the draft. That happened largely in part to Trubisky’s strong play this season, his first as North Carolina’s starter. But his rise was also aided by the somewhat disappointing season from Watson and other quarterbacks in the class.
Trubisky has been knocked for his limited experience, but displayed the traits of a long-term starter throughout the season. He is an accurate passer who threw only six picks on the season. He was also strong in the face of pressure from opposing defenses, completing 66.7% of his passes while under pressure, according to PFF. Despite possessing average arm strength and not being known as a strong deep ball passer, he displays above average accuracy on short and intermediate throws. Trubisky is viewed as a safe pick for NFL teams despite his limited experience.
The story with Trubisky is the same as with Watson and all other quarterbacks in this class: He’s not worthy of consideration in dynasty rookie drafts until the top 25 players are off the board, making him a third-rounder in most leagues. While most project Trubisky to be the first signal caller off the board in the NFL draft, he’s falling behind Watson in early fantasy drafts. According to Dynasty League Football, Trubisky's ADP is 223.5, making him the QB27 and 37th rookie selected. As with Watson, this says more about the current state of the quarterback position in dynasty and keeper leagues than it does about the talent of the top tier of rookies this year.
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
After the top two, opinions on this quarterback class vary widely. A recent riser is Mahomes, the son of a former Major League pitcher of the same name. It should be no surprise then that the younger Mahomes is also well-known for his arm strength. Often compared to Brett Favre, Mahomes has played in an up-tempo offense that has allowed him to improvise and make decisions on the go. The fast-paced offense led to some monster numbers from Mahomes, including over 5,000 passing yards and 41 scores. In addition, he was dominant with his legs in the red zone, adding 12 rushing touchdowns. He also played well in the clutch, completing nearly 63% of his passes on third and fourth downs.
Mahomes is tough to gauge when it comes to long-term fantasy value. He is truly a boom-or-bust prospect and currently sits atop the quarterback ranks for many draftniks, who have warmed to his upside. He needs to land with the right team so that he can further develop. The concern is that his gunslinger mentality won’t translate to the professional ranks. He currently is not being selected in dynasty startup drafts and would fall into the third or fourth round range of rookie drafts, but if the reports of his ascension among NFL teams is true, he could vault ahead of the other signal callers in this class in dynasty and keeper drafts.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
After claiming the starting job for the Fighting Irish midway through the 2015 season, Kizer shot up draft boards. After a solid start to the 2016 season, some were even projecting him as the top overall pick in the NFL Draft. Although Kizer does have an ideal frame at 6’4”, 233 pounds, scouts and coaches around the league are concerned about investing a high pick after his disappointing play through much of this season.
Kizer has a good arm, but often seems to panic, which results in off-target passes. His accuracy is also under scrutiny after he completed less than 59% of his passes in 2016. He did throw just nine interceptions, but also took 24 sacks, which was among the highest of the top quarterback prospects this year.
While Kizer certainly has some upside, he’ll need to land in the first round of the NFL Draft to earn the attention of dynasty owners. If that doesn’t happen, it is possible that Kizer goes undrafted in typical dynasty rookie drafts and sits on the waiver wire for the early part of the season. His landing spot will go a long way toward determining his dynasty value.
Brad Kaaya, Miami
The former Hurricane is another quarterback once viewed as a potential first round draft pick, but he ultimately failed to impress in his final collegiate season. Kaaya does have the experience that some in this class lack, as he started for all of three seasons in Miami. Accuracy is a major concern for Kaaya, as he enters the NFL having completed just 62% of his collegiate passes. He struggles even more under pressure, where his completion percentage drops to 41.3% and he took 24 sacks, per PFF. He also lacks arm strength and struggled with deep balls.
Unless there is a major surprise and Kaaya lands in the ideal spot in the second round, he will not be worthy of a roster spot in the typical one quarterback dynasty/keeper league.
Davis Webb, California
After transferring from Texas Tech, Webb concluded his college career for the Bears of California, stepping into the role left by Jared Goff a year ago. Webb put up some gaudy numbers, but much of that was volume-based, as he attempted 620 passes. Despite that, he managed nearly 800 fewer yards than his former teammate, Mahomes. Like Mahomes, Webb has been reportedly moving up the board and is even in consideration late in the first round. Webb also sports the strongest arm in the draft, yet still struggled with deep ball accuracy, completing juts 38.2% of his passes traveling 20 or more yards, according to PFF.
In similar fashion to Kaaya, Webb will most likely be undrafted in most rookie and keeper drafts as owners opt for fliers at other positions late in the draft. If he does somehow land in the first round of the NFL Draft, he will also gain value in these fantasy leagues and be a reasonable target late in the third round of rookie drafts.