Quarterbacks to Target & Avoid in 2019
Author: Kiel Messinger (@KielMessiFFA)
Youtube: Fantasy Football Advice
Last season, the top three fantasy finishers at quarterback were all drafted outside of the top 12. Few predicted that Patrick Mahomes would have a higher completion percentage with his left hand than Tom Brady with his right, that choking a 28-3 lead would not forever end Matt Ryan's fantasy relevance, or that Ben Roethlisberger would continually force the ball into places. Though, to be fair, given the history of Big Ben, we should have seen the third one coming. It is no secret in the fantasy world that there is value to be had with late round quarterbacks. I mean, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the league in fantasy points over the first three weeks of the season, and Nathan Peterman provided TONS of fantasy points to opposing defenses in his two weeks as a starter. In the modern NFL, with teams calling plays like they're the Seahawks in the Super Bowl at the two yard line, plenty of quarterbacks will provide fantasy value. With that in mind, here are the guys I am targeting at their current ADP.
Carson Wentz (ADP: QB #8)
Ok, I have to preface this by saying I am an Eagles fan, or shall I say fan of the GREATEST FRANCHISE IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS. So, similar to how the Patriots’ success has a slight dose of cheating, this analysis may have a slight dose of homerism.
Like Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz was playing injured for the whole season, clearly not fully healed from his ACL. Yet, he still improved his game in terms of yards per attempt and completion percentage before going down with a broken back. Though his back injury could carry over to this season, all reports out of mini-camp were glowing, and letting go of Nick Foles along with the extension of Wentz shows confidence that the injury is nothing serious.
So, let's do what any good Eagles fan would do, and flashback to the 2017 season, where Wentz was the MVP favorite before tearing his ACL, and in case you guys forgot, Nick Foles leading the Eagles to Super Bowl glory. Wentz was a top 3 fantasy option, and his weapons have only improved since then. If Wentz stays healthy, and gets his rushing back, he has a realistic chance to lead the league in fantasy points. Yes, I am a homer, but at least I'm not a Cowboys fan, am I right?
Jameis Winston (ADP: QB #13)
You don't always have to be good at something to succeed, you just have to be in the right place. Just ask anyone who takes the seat next to the smartest kid in the class on the day of the math final. Winston is not an elite NFL quarterback, but he is in the ideal place for fantasy stardom.
Winston has been solid for fantasy in the past. Since the start of 2018, Winston has the highest percentage of 300 plus yard games among quarterbacks with 20 or more starts. Him and the GOAT Ryan Fitzpatrick combined for the 2nd most fantasy points among quarterbacks last season. Similar to Fitzmagic (learning from the best), Winston throws the ball deep, finishing 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in average depth of target (aDOT) over the past three seasons. New head coach Bruce Arians is famous for his "No risk it, no biscuit" approach to play-calling, which goes well with Winston's "f**k it, just chuck it" approach to playing quarterback.
Arians style has made guys like Carson Palmer fantasy relevant in the past. With elite weapons, an atrocious defense, and his NFL career on the line, Winston's fantasy production will be like the Patriots super bowl victory last season, definitely not pretty, but gets the job done.
Dak Prescott (ADP: QB #17)
Just to prove am not that much of a homer, the Cowboys’ Prescott is also a great value this season. In all seriousness, Dak has been a QB1 every year in his career, and after gaining Amari Cooper, was top 6 last season. He also has at least six rushing touchdowns in every season of his career, giving him a great floor. With his combined rushing and passing ability, Dak doesn't have to improve at all to be a steal in drafts, but as we saw last season, he has borderline top 5 upside as well.
He also gives you a lot of options for stellar team names, which is what fantasy football is really about, let's be honest. "Dak and Cheese", "Orange is the new Dak", "Dak in a box", the list goes on...
Jimmy Garoppolo (ADP: QB #18)
Extraordinarily handsome. Big arm. Extremely likable. These are just some of the traits Jimmy G and I share. However, unlike me, Garoppolo was on pace for just under 5,000 yards when starting in 2017 and was being drafted as a borderline top 10 quarterback for fantasy in 2018. Though he was slightly disappointing before getting injured last season, that was an extremely small sample size.
With a young group of talented weapons like George Kittle, Dante Pettis, and Deebo Samuel, Garoppolo maintains that elite passing upside. While the lack of rushing limits his ceiling, an improved touchdown rate, another year with Kyle Shanahan, and better weapons should offset that.
Josh Allen (ADP: QB #21)
Remember what I said earlier about Jameis Winston? It's gonna be ugly, and this time I mean like don't even watch ugly, but Josh Allen could be great in fantasy this season. While Vontae Davis retiring at halftime was the most memorable part of the Bills 2018 season, Josh Allen notably had a five game stretch where he was 2nd in fantasy points among quarterbacks. His rushing ability and big arm can lead him to fantasy success despite not being able to throw the ball six yards to an open receiver. The Bills improved their weapons and will be forced to pass the ball due to game script.
Allen is not someone to be comfortable with on a week to week basis, but at his price, his massive ceiling makes him worth the risk.
Mitchell Trubisky (ADP: QB# 22)
Trubisky is my poster-boy for the "wait for a quarterback" strategy in 2019. Last season, despite being a 2nd year quarterback in a new offense with completely new weapons, Trubisky finished top ten among QBs in fantasy points per game. That was above guys like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Philip Rivers, who are all being drafted ahead of him. While all those guys could go down, there is no place but up for Trubisky. The Bears defense was amazing last season, and as we have seen with elite defenses in the past (Jaguars 2017, Vikings 2016), they are unlikely to maintain that level of success. Trubisky should therefore see slightly more favorable game scripts this season.
He is also now in the 2nd year with Matt Nagy, Allen Robinson is more than a year removed from his ACL, and Anthony Miller will most likely not separate his shoulder every other week this season. With the opportunity to improve through the air, and a stable, underrated rushing floor, don't be surprised if Trubisky repeats as a top 10 option with the potential for more.
It's hard to predict quarterback busts because the truth is, most of them will be fine. It is why fantasy experts all over the industry advocate waiting for your quarterback. Last season, many fantasy owners were disappointed by Kirk Cousins. Yet, he finished as the QB 13 fantasy. Not horrible? Despite doing so to his NFL team, Cousins didn't kill your fantasy team. And as long as you didn't take a quarterback in the first five rounds, whoever you drafted probably didn't kill your team.
The reason you were disappointed with them is because they were replaceable. Unless you had one of the standout guys, the rest of the quarterbacks were sort of grouped together. The difference between the QB 4 and QB 21 was less than 4 points per game, and less than 1 point per game separated the QB 13 and QB 21. Due to the depth at quarterback, there are plenty of guys that will be usable in fantasy, but a lot of them will be replaceable week to week, with better options to stream on the waiver wire. With that in mind, a lot of the guys on this list are guys I expect to have good seasons, and are very safe, but are likely to be replaceable week to week, and therefore not worth their price.
Baker Mayfield (ADP: QB# 5)
Possibly the saddest story of the 2018 football season, aside from Alshon Jeffery dropping that ball in the NFC Championship, was the end of the Cleveland Browns quarterback drought. It seems like the city of Cleveland has finally found their post-Lebron golden boy in Baker Mayfield. And I like the kid, I really do. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Baker is a solid player, and has a lot of upside, but he isn't elite, at least not yet. Sure, when Kitchens took over last season, Mayfield was phenomenal for a rookie, and a low end QB1 in fantasy, but he still averaged an interception per game. The team will likely run the ball more with a dangerous backfield both literally and figuratively (Sorry, Kareem). With the addition of Odell Beckham Jr, many are expecting Mayfield to make a big jump, but let's not forget Beckham hasn't stayed healthy since 2016. Though Mayfield will be solid this year, with the potential to be great, he is being taken above guys with similar upside, but more proven.
Drew Brees (ADP: QB# 7)
Drew Brees is phenomenal. He is probably the most accurate quarterback I have ever seen. However, last season, for the first time since 2005, he finished with below 4,000 yards. This wasn't at the fault of Brees. With his highest yards per attempt since 2011, and the best interception rate of his career, Brees was extraordinary. However, he threw under 500 times for the first time in his career (seasons with 12 or more games).
The days of the 5,000 yards, 40 touchdowns are over. With an improved defense, the team is trending more run-heavy, which greatly limits his ceiling. Sure, last season he was still the QB 8 in fantasy even with this decrease in volume. However, that was with his highest touchdown rate since 2011, along with a career high 4 rushing touchdowns, making last season likely his ceiling. He is also hard to trust on the road, with half the touchdowns and nearly 500 fewer yards last season when out of New Orleans.
Though Brees will likely finish around the top 10, he does not have the ceiling I am looking for, especially at his ADP.
Russell Wilson (ADP: QB# 10)
Despite never "scoring" off the field, Wilson scored at ridiculous rates on the field last season. However, with a career-high 8.2 touchdown percentage, he was still only the QB 12 in terms of fantasy points per game. Wilson has been efficient throughout his career, but his career rate is 6.0 percent. That would take away almost 10 touchdowns from last season’s total.
The reason for Wilson's fantasy decline has been due to the pass attempts, as Seattle is one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL. They look to do the same this season, with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in line for major work. Though Wilson used to be a major part in the rushing game, that also decreased under new offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer, as the team constantly hands the ball off, preventing Wilson from getting rushing yards from scrambles or designed runs.
Though he could still increase his rushing, regression in passing along with the loss of Doug Baldwin could offset that, making last season closer to his ceiling than his floor.
Philip Rivers (ADP: QB 14)
Rivers has been a model of consistency over the past five seasons, with at least 4,200 yards, 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and at least three new kids every year. I mean, birth control is like the Super Bowl to him, in the way that Rivers is never going to get either.
In fantasy, Rivers lacks elite upside, as he hasn’t finished in the top 8 in fantasy since 2013. You know what you are getting from Rivers, a borderline QB1, but as I noted in the introduction, that is replaceable. He finished with 17.8 points per game last season (14th), but there were over 20 quarterbacks that finished with at least 17, making streaming a better option than just starting Rivers. Though he is an extremely safe QB2, aim for higher upside in this range.
Tom Brady: (ADP: QB 15)
Tom Brady is good at football. Just wanted to say that before I bash his fantasy value this year. Last season, he was 17th among quarterbacks in points per game, and only had three weeks where he finished as a QB1. And he just lost this guy named Rob Gronkowski, who is also good at football.
Though the team drafted N'Keal Harry in the first round, rookie receivers generally aren't very productive. They also drafted Damien Harris, hinting at Belicheck's desire to go even more run heavy. Though some say that father time hasn’t caught up to Brady especially given that his two fathers, Nick Foles and Eli Manning, are still in the league, anyone who watched Brady last season knows he isn’t the same. Last season was one of his worst in every statistic, deflation in efficiency, attempts, and sadly for Brady, not the football.
Sure, it's Tom Brady and the Patriots. Would I be surprised if Brady put on his infinity gauntlet and snapped away half the NFL and finished the season as the QB1 overall? Not at all. However, in the assumption that Tom Brady is not an alien with superpowers, which is like assuming that the Earth is round (crazy, I know), he will be at best a high end QB2 in fantasy this season. Though being drafted in that range, I want someone with mid to high end QB1 potential, and in my mortal eyes, Brady no longer has that.
Ben Roethlisberger: (ADP: QB 16)
Big Ben finished in the top 3 among fantasy quarterbacks last season. This came from an absurd, league-leading and top 12 all-time number of pass attempts (675). There is simply no way the Steelers throw at that rate once again. My biggest concern for Ben is the loss of Antonio Brown. Aside from the 100 plus receptions, 1200 plus yards, and double digit touchdowns Brown leaves on the table, his value for the offense, and specifically Roethlisberger, cannot be quantified. The chemistry between them is on another level, and Brown got Roethlisberger out of numerous poor situations last season, and throughout their career. Brown also takes on double or even triple coverage, allowing the rest of the offense more space. If you watched Roethlisberger last season, he was not a good quarterback, often just chucking 50/50 balls up, and trusting his receivers. They also produced a ton for him after the catch. With Brown no longer there, the offense could take a massive decline this season.