Juan Carlos Pena
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
by: Juan Carlos Pena
In fantasy football and in the real world, we tend to be critics and cynics about most topics. While we all enjoy a great debate about our favorite players and teams, having a glass half full approach feels the best. “I just look at the dopeness. But you, it’s like you just look at the wackness, ya know?” -Jonathan Levine. We are fully capable of building one player up, without breaking another player down. Here’s a dopeness based outlook for each presumptive starting quarterback heading into 2020. There’s a bit of pragmatism to go along with the dopeness, but little to no wackness.
Patrick Mahomes II:
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II is above superlatives. Generational is the only word that comes close, and even that word, is left wanting. Recency bias aside, in which we witnessed Mahomes converting on the infamous 3rd and 15 in Superbowl XLIV, Mahomes might just be the best quarterback any of us have ever seen. It is often said that a quarterback can make every throw. What they don’t often, and may never actually have said, is that a quarterback can make every throw as well or better than anyone has ever made it. Think about the quick release and velocity of a Dan Marino fastball. Picture the arch of an Aaron Rodgers deep ball or hail mary. Remember John Elway, on the run, like a shortstop in baseball, spinning a ball up and down over the linebackers but still under the safety, hitting his man in stride. The timing of Drew Brees comes to mind when you watch him hit an out route, and only guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are in his league pre-snap and adjusting to coverages. He is mobile enough to add value with his legs, at least enough to cover any mistakes that might make, which are also quite rare. He has all of that, and then you remember he’s only 24 years old. Paired with QB fantasy friendly head coach Andy Reid, his fantasy value is almost unrivaled. He was the MVP of the regular season in 2018 where he threw for 5,000 yards and 50 TD’s in his first full season as a starter. That’s where his fantasy value comes into focus. He was the QB 1 in just his first full season. Despite injuring his knee in the first quarter of a game in week 7 of 2019, which caused him to leave that game and miss the next 2, he still finished as the QB 7. After not losing any starters on offense this offseason, and gaining help in the back field, in the form of rookie 1st round pick LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, look for Mahomes to finish closer to 2018’s numbers. He should be the number one or two QB off the board, and after the first round, any time is a good time to reach for him.
Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the cheat code. Whether you look at him through the lens of real football, or fantasy, he is unprecedented. He is as good a skill player as there is in the NFL and has elite arm talent. When scouts graded him coming out of Louisville, some thought he’d be better served converting to receiver. Makes you wonder what type of wine they had with their crow? Jackson had one of the most efficient seasons in league history on his way to being named MVP in 2019. As a passer, Jackson grew by leaps and bounds, finishing the season with 36 TD passes and just 6 interceptions in just 15 games. While efficiency of that caliber will be very difficult to replicate, especially considering the fact that he only had 401 pass attempts, Jackson’s value is enhanced by his situation and his world class physical gifts. The Ravens believed in his talent, properly scouted his skill set, and made him the focal point of the offense. That offense ran the ball more than any other team in the league, (596 attempts, 98 more than 2nd place San Francisco). That commitment to the run and his efficiency as a passer make him a viable fantasy starter and a perennial MVP candidate on their own merit. Where the separation from other QBs is Secretariatesque is in the form of rushing ability straight out of a video game. His mind boggling and record breaking 1206 yards on the ground and 7 TDs were the type of stat lines that make defensive coordinators lose sleep and fantasy owners tilt. To put that into perspective, he finished just 344 yards shy of leading the league in Rushing. Building your fantasy team around Jackson by taking him at the end of the first, early 2nd, should not be considered a reach. He is currently being drafted at the end of the second round, and while one of the cardinal sins of fantasy is to take a quarterback early, Jackson isn’t just a quarterback. Jackson finished as the 2nd overall fantasy scorer last year. Even if a regression in efficiency occurs, he was still the number 1 QB by a wide enough margin to project him to finish as number 1 at the position again. And let’s face it, fantasy football is about fun, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more entertaining than Lamar Jackson to cheer for on Sundays.
Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott is coming off his best season. In 2019, Dak finished the season as the 2nd highest scoring QB only behind MVP Lamar Jackson. In each season since entering the league, Prescott has seen an increase in pass attempts. It is no coincidence that the increase in attempts has also led to a rise in fantasy numbers in each of the past two seasons. Last season he capitalized on that by producing an impressive 4,908 passing yards and 30 Touchdowns. If his natural progression continues, with the added bonus of pass friendly new Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Dak could be in for another year of career highs. The Cowboys also drafted Oklahoma standout WR Ceedee Lamb to what was already one of the most talented offensive skill units in the league. With three stand out wide receivers and one of the best running backs in the league, the ceiling for Prescott this season is somewhere between All-pro and prolific. While he could produce at the same level as Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, he will not cost as much in drafts and should be the first quarterback taken after the aforementioned top tier QBs.
Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kyler Murray is one of this year’s fantasy darlings, and it’s easy to see why. After coming in to 2019 as the number one pick in the draft, the two-sport phenom lived up to the hype. Voted as AP Rookie of the Year, he finished the season with 3,722 yards and 20 Touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. Where he showed the most promise was in completing 64.4% of his 542 pass attempts. The air raid system Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury is trying to implement could greatly impact the fantasy value of all of the Cardinals’ offensive players this season, but most of all, Kyler. The 22 year old QB provides the added bonus of a rushing floor after posting 544 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground last season. If all of those factors were not enough to keep the arrow pointing straight up, he also hit the offseason lottery. The Cardinals added one of the best receivers in the league in superstar Deandre Hopkins. With a similar skill set to Kyler, Deshaun Watson was a perennial top 5 fantasy QB with Hopkins as his number one wide receiver in Houston’s offense. The Kingsbury offense moves at a faster pace, which should result in more opportunity for Kyler to perform at an elite fantasy level. You can expect Kyler to take a massive leap forward and he should be in the conversation for the first quarterback taken in drafts after Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.
Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson is the safest draft pick in the middle rounds. Wilson is one of the most consistent fantasy quarterbacks in recent history. While the offense in Seattle is a run first attack, Russ still finds the time to be dangeruss! Wilson has expressed his desire to throw the ball more often, as most star quarterbacks are known to do. However, the Seahawks brass might be wise to listen. The emergence of D.K. Metcalf could be enough to embolden the play calling and allow Wilson more freedom to throw. Over the last 8 seasons, Wilson has started all 16 games and has finished in the top ten all but once, and that was 11th his rookie year. In four of those seasons he has posted a top 3 finish including last season when he finished at that exact spot. Although he hasn’t rushed for his customary 500 plus yards of years past, he still found a way to get over 300 yards on the ground and found the endzone an additional 3 times to bolster his fantasy numbers. He had arguably his most efficient season throwing 31 TDs to a mere 5 interceptions. Russell Wilson is a winner on the field and a solid fantasy asset for this season, especially if his value of 5/6th round ADP holds. He will remain on the short list of options behind Mahomes and Jackson in drafts.
Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan will be looking for his 10th consecutive 4,000 yard season. Coming off a season that saw the Falcons get decimated with injuries, Ryan is primed for a bounce back year. He still has one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL in breakout candidate Calivin Ridley and all-pro Julio Jones. The question marks surrounding the offensive line were valid, given the career high 48 sacks Ryan was subjected to last season. The Falcons addressed the issues via the draft in the last two seasons. In 2018 they added RG Chris Lindstrom out of Boston College and this season they added interior lineman Matt Hennessy out of Temple in the third round. While Hennessy may eventually replace pro bowl C Alex Mack, he will fill in at the left guard position to start his career. Book end tackles Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary paired with Mack’s leadership, can turn what was a much maligned unit, into one of the league’s best in short order. Look for Ryan to continue to throw the ball over 600 times this year similar to the last two seasons. Dirk Koetter’s offensive signal callers often border on prolific. Another issue last season was the running game, which also suffered due to subpar line play. Replacing RB Devonte Freeman with Todd Gurley II this offseason could prove to be the final piece of the puzzle. While questions remain about Gurley’s health, his talent and ability to draw in a defense should help keep Ryan putting up fantasy numbers at his customary rate. His current value in drafts is fantastic as he should be drafted with the 2nd tier of QBs. The difference between him and anyone not named Mahomes or Jackson is negligible.
Buffalo Bills Quarterback Josh Allen could be Cam Newton circa 2012. While that may be a lofty comparison, it’s not a hard one to wrap your head around. They are both similarly built, athletic, strong armed, provide a safe rushing floor and both have a nose for the endzone. On the flip side, they both hover around 60% completion percentage and are prone to turnovers. However, Cam’s story has been written, or is at least at this point in his career much closer to the climax. Allen is in the prologue. His situation in Buffalo is one that should be envied by his contemporaries. His team has been built around his strengths, while masking some of his deficiencies. Each of Allen’s first two seasons they have added a wide receiver in free agency or via trade in the form of standouts John Brown in 2018, and Stefon DIggs this past offseason. In the past two drafts, the Bills added running backs Devin Singletary in 2019 and Zach Moss in April’s draft. That should provide a solid ground game off of which the Bills will look to maximize Allen’s talents on bootlegs and play action roll outs. He will be fun to watch this year and if all of those weapons can gel, look for Allen to return to his top ten form and maybe even reach the top 3. His upside makes him a tempting option when the Quarterback run happens in the middle rounds of this year’s drafts.
Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson has been in the top 5 in each of the past two seasons. His rushing floor of around 500 yards more than makes up for the touchdown numbers which fall short of the other top tier QB’s. While not a runner by design, Watson works similar to Russell Wilson in that he scrambles for first downs and near the goal line as well. Watson has averaged over 4,000 yards passing and he has thrown exactly 26 touchdowns each of the last two years, but there is a good chance those numbers can rise. ‘The loss of Deandre Hopkins will hurt the offense’ has been the narrative. However, one could make the case that replacing Hopkins and RB Carlos Hyde with WR Brandin Cooks and RB David Johnson, will only help make the offense more fluid and less predictable. David Johnson creates matchup nightmares which will add unpredictability to the play calling. Cooks demands less targets than Hopkins but still offers elite ability. Those added targets can be spread out to talented veterans Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb as well as young deep sleeper candidate Keke Coutee. Houston is also banking on Will Fuller V coming through on his massive potential coming into his 5th season. While that may be too many weapons to choose a number one wide receiver for fantasy, Watson is primed to remain a QB 1. In what should be another stellar season, look for Watson to continue to showcase his talents on his way to a top 10 finish.
Tampa Bay Quarterback Tom Brady is going to have fun playing football again. There are dream scenarios, and then there’s this bit of serendipity. A quarterback who is in many ways unprecedented, is walking into a situation that is tailor-made for him. At 43 years young, Tom Terrific is inheriting an offense that saw Jameis Winston become just the 8th quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards. While Brady is already a member of that elite club, it has been nearly a decade since his numbers reached those heights. He is walking in on what is among the best set of skill players east of the Mississippi. The pairing of wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans is one of the most lethal duos in the league, with the former slated to play the Edelman role in the slot to provide Brady with a more athletic version of Edelman. As if that wasn’t enough, TE’s Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard were a nice pair, which grew into the best trio of Tight Ends in the league with the addition of Brady’s right hand man, future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski. The backfield features young athletic backs Ronald Jones II and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn who will be running behind a solid line that also added rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round of April’s draft. Bruce Arians will have more fun with this offense than he has ever had in his career, and will undoubtedly let Brady sling it all over the field. While Brady may be getting up there in age, the situation alone merits him top 10 QB and mid round fantasy draft consideration. Now add the fact that he’s the G.O.A.T. and there’s a chance we could be on the verge of witnessing Brady make even more history.
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees is one of the most prolific Quarterbacks in history and a legend of fantasy football lure. Amongst his many accolades, Brees boasts a record 5 seasons of over 5,000 yards. Considering that there have only been 12 such performances, Brees is in a league of his own historically. While we saw Brees miss some time last season, he has been otherwise a very durable quarterback and a reliable fantasy asset week in and week out. Questions about his declining arm strength were quieted by Head Coach Sean Payton’s implementation of a masterful quick passing game that features the league’s top receiver from a year ago Michael Thomas, and all purpose RB Alvin Kamara. Brees’ pin-point accuracy and seemingly telepathic anticipation will keep him productive for as long as he still wants to play. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders as a second receiving option gives Brees yet another weapon for the inevitable showdowns with Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, which will be some of the most closely followed fantasy shootouts this season. With a mid round ADP, Brees’ stock is a great value and will likely provide fantasy owners a top 10 finish with a steady floor, while still offering league-winning upside.
Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz did more with less in 2019 than any quarterback in recent memory. Injuries wiped out his entire receiving corps at various points of last season. His offensive line didn’t fare much better. Despite the missed time by key players on offense, Wentz showed flashes of the pace he was on in 2017, when he threw 33 touchdowns in just 13 games. Wentz has thrown only 7 interceptions each of the last 3 seasons which eliminates any turnover concerns. While the Eagles expect to have veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson back in the fold for this year, they didn’t rest on their laurels in April’s draft. The Eagles added speed at the wide receiver position in first round playmaker Jalen Reagor out of TCU and late round pick John Hightower out of Boise State. The tight end duo of Zack Ertz and Dallas Goedert are favorites of Wentz. Last year’s rookie breakout running back Miles Sanders provides Wentz with yet another weapon and should help keep defenses honest. Look for Wentz to perform closer to his 2017 form. With a full arsenal of weapons, you could make a strong case for Wentz to finish near the top 5. He is currently being drafted in the 9th round of most drafts which provides a great upside play if you don’t reach for one of the top 3 or 4 ranked quarterbacks.
New York Giants Quarterback Daniel Jones did almost enough in his rookie year to quiet the skeptics. Drafting Daniel Jones at number six overall in 2019’s draft garnered the Giants widespread criticism. Once he got on the field, it was evident he could play. In just 12 games, Jones threw 24 touchdowns. That’s 4 more than AP rookie of the year Kyler Murray and just 3 shy of the rookie record 27, held by Baker Mayfield. What’s more impressive about Jones’ production was the fact that he did it while missing key skill players throughout most of the season. In fact, in the 7 games that Jones played with Running Back Saquon Barkley, Jones was on pace to throw 38 touchdowns. This offseason, the only thing the Giants did was improve. While coaching changes can often hinder a young quarterback’s growth, this change is different. Newcomer Joe Judge, in typical Belichikian fashion, has put former head coaches in key places. Former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is in charge of just the tight ends. While that may be a demotion for Kitchens, it is a boost to the stock of Evan Engram. New Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett, can focus solely on the offense, which should take Jones to new heights in 2020. The speed at the skill positions for the Giants ranks tops in league based on 40 times, which should make for a more explosive version of the offense we saw in Dallas the last few years. The addition of first round tackle Andrew Thomas out of Wisconsin, coupled with the growth of Will Hernandez at guard, should provide Jones plenty of time to work the ball down the field to maximize on the speed on the outside. The questions about the Giants defense should only add to Jones’ projections as they should be in more shoot-out type game scripts. Currently being drafted in the 9th or 10th round, Jones is the kind of upside play that can win your fantasy league. In his rookie year, Deshaun Watson flashed, ultimately finishing as QB 26, only to jump to number 4 his second year. Guess where Daniel Jones finished last year?
Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford is a popular pick to finish well above his current average draft position. In just 8 games played in 2019, Stafford threw 19 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. While that pace may not seem easy to replicate, we have to take into consideration the fact that Stafford has been elite before. He has posted seasons of 4,967 yards in 2012 and 5,038 yards 2011. In six of the past nine seasons Stafford has posted top 10 fantasy finishes and up until his injury last season, Stafford had not missed a start since 2010. Although it has been a few years since we have seen Stafford be elite, he seems to have figured it out last year. It comes as no coincidence that he was hitting his stride at the same time as some of his weapons started to develop as well. Star wideout Kenny Golladay took a major leap forward and was on a path to stardom until Stafford’s injury. Last year’s rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson showed promise and flashed his talents early in the season. Via the draft the Lions added Georgia running back D’andre Swift, which in addition to Kerryon Johnson provides Stafford some relief. Look for Stafford to finish in the top 10 again with the pedigree and weapons to rise even higher.
Los Angeles Rams Quarterback Jared Goff may have been a victim of the Super Bowl blues. The Rams as a whole were subject to injuries, but no group suffered more than the offensive line. Those struggles translated to a downturn in offensive production but an uptick in pass attempts for Goff. In both 2018 and 2019 Goff threw for over 4600 yards and set career highs in pass attempts. However, in 2018 he finished in the top 10 among QBs and last season he was on the outside looking in. Touchdown regression was the cause of that as he threw 10 less in 2019 and was picked off 4 more times than the previous year. So the question becomes, will we see 2018 Goff, or last years’ version? Smart money is on 2018 Goff if for no other reason than his head coach. Sean McVay figured out the offense’s struggles late last season and switched the game plan to feature more two tight end sets. Goff produced 5 consecutive multiple touchdown games and averaged over 300 yards per game. McVay’s creativity and adaptability will keep Goff’s fantasy floor in the top 15 range with top 10 potential year in and year out.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for a league high 5,129 yards and added 34 passing touchdowns (both career highs) in his last full season when he finished as a top 5 fantasy quarterback. While you have to consider the fact that Big Ben is 38 years old this year, and is coming off a season ending elbow injury and a subsequent surgery, he is still Big Ben. The Steelers brass have stated how impressed they are with his rehab. Ben has also held offseason workouts with wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner, in which he felt comfortable throwing, which points to Ben being on his way to full health. Upon his return, Ben will find that sophomore wideouts James Washington and Dionte Johnson have developed quite well. He will also have new red zone targets in veteran free agent tight end Eric Ebron, and big bodied rookie wideout Chase Claypool, who the Steelers selected in the second round of April’s draft. The Steelers offensive line ranks among the most solid in the NFL despite the retirement of long time starting guard Ramon Foster. It is still anchored by pro bowl caliber veterans Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Big Ben and the Steelers as a whole. Ben should be right back on a top 10 level similar to 2018 and should be considered a solid QB 2 or a low end QB1. At his current 11th round price tag, he is a great option for those who adopt the “wait on QB” philosophy.
Tennessee Titans Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the fantasy revelation of 2019. After seven tumultuous seasons in Miami, Tannehill accepted a backup role with the Titans. Many had written off the then 30 year old, and he was widely considered as merely a solid backup to incumbent QB Marcus Mariotta. What no one saw coming was the emergence of a fantasy football darling. In the ten games he started for the Titans, Tannehill threw 22 touchdowns and ran for 4 more. In six of his 10 starts he passed for over 250 yards and provided multiple touchdown performances in 9 of them. He benefits from having the league’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry and one of the strongest offensive lines in football. That affords Tannehill plenty of time in the pocket and play action opportunities galore in which he thrived, finishing third in completion rate (75.6%) and first in passer rating (143.6) off play action. In 2019 we saw the birth of a star in rookie wideout A.J. Brown, which gives Tannehill a weapon that can turn short passes into big gains. While his ten game pace from last season may be hard to replicate, Tannehill is primed to have a solid season and should be a high end QB 2 with the opportunity to crack the top 10. With an ADP in the 14th round range, few players offer the value that Tannehill does at his position.
Denver Broncos Quarterback Drew Lock could be one of the steals of fantasy drafts this season. His size and skill set could finally let John Elway off the hook. After missing on previous picks at the quarterback position, there is reason for Broncos and fantasy fans alike to be optimistic about Lock. Late last season Lock showed flashes of top end QB play and possesses sneaky athleticism that should translate to a good fantasy floor moving forward. The Broncos have given Lock plenty of weapons and a real opportunity to achieve success. Although running back Philip Lindsay ran for a thousand yards in each of the past two seasons, the Broncos added star RB Melvin Gordon in free agency to solidify the ground game, which is a young quarterback’s best friend. Wide Receiver Cortland Sutton provides Lock with at true X receiver who can win vs man or zone. Lock showed instant chemistry with fellow rookie Noah Fant who is quickly climbing the tight end ranks. In April, the Broncos had the good fortune of having Alabama starlet WR Jerry Jeudy, considered by many to be the best route runner to come out of college in recent years, fall to them in the draft. They went a step farther and added 2nd round speedster K.J. Hamler out of Penn State, as if Lock didn’t have enough weapons. At his current 13th round ADP, Lock should be viewed as a potential breakout candidate with great value.
Carolina Panthers Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is getting his chance. After betting on himself and accepting a backup role with the Saints in 2018, Bridgewater was biding his time. He had an opportunity to showcase his abilities and remind everyone that he is indeed a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. The Panthers new additions at Head Coach Matt Ruhle, and at the Offensive coordinator position young Joe Brady, saw enough to sign him and hand him the keys to the offense. Bridgewater inherits arguably the best weapon in the game in Christian McCaffrey, who is coming off a legendary season. His weapons on the outside are among the fastest and most exciting young trios in the NFL featuring D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and newcomer Robby Anderson, who is reunited with coach Ruhle from his days at Temple. Joe Brady’s system in LSU was highly effective and fits Bridgewater like a glove. It is a spread system with quick, short to intermediate passing with the occasional deep shot. The system also features the running back in the passing game which is obviously a plus given CMC’s ability. If the Panthers offense can achieve anywhere close to the level of efficiency we saw in Baton Rouge, that will surely result in fantasy success for Bridgewater. He is currently being drafted in the 14th round behind players with more questions and less upside. Consider him a dark horse to finish top 5 and a sure bet to outperform his current ADP.
Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a perennial top ten fantasy QB. Even at age 35 he’s still at the top of his game. He threw 26 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions in what was one of his most efficient seasons. While new Head Coach Matt LaFleur has a history of wanting to run first, Rodgers was still afforded the opportunity to throw as often as he did in previous seasons. In fact, his 569 pass attempts were the 4th highest of his career. A dearth of weapons on the outside caused Rodgers to dump the ball to the running backs more frequently, lowering his yards gained per pass attempt to 7.0, which was the 5th lowest of his career. The results were still similar as far as yardage production, due to running back Aaron Jones and others making plays after the catch. Rodgers finished in the top 10 among QBs as usual. While the Packers did little in adding to the talent at the receiver position, the progression of young wideouts Allen Lazard and Marques Valdez-Scantling was promising. Green Bay also recruited free agent wide receiver Devin Funchess, who should provide some relief to number one wide out Devante Adams. Rodgers is currently being drafted in the 8th or 9th round of drafts. While there is value later in drafts, it may be unproven, while Rodgers is a safe bet to be a high end QB2 to low end QB1 for as long as he laces them up.
Las Vegas Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr is going almost undrafted as of the writing of this article in most drafts. He is the consensus 28th ranked quarterback. That feels really low. Carr has never finished lower than QB 20 in his career. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. While 21 touchdowns and 4,000 yards isn’t anything to write home about, it does provide a decent floor on which to build. He is entering the third year of playing in the Jon Gruden system which isn’t the easiest to learn. The offensive line only allowed Carr to be sacked 29 times which is a big improvement over the previous season where they allowed 51. The improvement on the offensive line also gave room for 1st round running back Josh Jacobs to break out. That progress can only help Carr put up better fantasy numbers this year. The only thing missing was weapons. While tight end Darren Waller balled out, Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow were not enough to propel Carr to fantasy stardom. This April, Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock did everything they could to rectify that. The Raiders added three rookie wide receivers in speedster Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama in the first round, followed by back to back 3rd round selections, South Carolina standout Bryan Edwards, and an exciting multifaceted weapon Lynn Bowden Jr. from Kentucky. What may have once seemed like a dearth of talent, suddenly seems like one of the most exciting offenses in football. Carr is in his make or break season. If he doesn’t perform given the talent around him, the Raiders may have to pull the plug. However, his efficiency and consistency should allow him to thrive and finish well above his ADP, and he will provide some week-winning performances.
New York Jets Quarterback Sam Darnold deserves a mulligan. In what was supposed to be a breakout sophomore season, Darnold struggled. The 23 year old was introduced to a new offense after the Jets brought in Head Coach Adam Gase. Historically it takes a bit of time to learn a new system, especially for younger quarterbacks. Early last season Darnold missed 3 games in weeks 2 through 5. Upon returning, Darnold flashed the talent that made the Jets draft him to be their franchise quarterback. He can make all of the throws and moves well enough to attain a decent rushing floor. He should be expected to bounce back in 2020. The Jets offense as a whole have one more season under the new system and should be more efficient as a unit. To help Darnold develop, the Jets addressed positions of need. They drafted 6-7 364 pound left tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round. Not only is he the dream size and weight of a left tackle, he ran the 40 yard dash at this years’ combine in an eye popping 5.1 seconds. That is not a typo! With the 59th overall pick they gave Darnold his receiver of the future in Denzel Mims. Mims projects to be a true X receiver and will give Darnold another weapon to go along with returning slot receiver Jamison Crowder, field stretching free agent addition Breshad Perriman, and tight end Chris Herndon. Le’Veon Bell will also be a huge asset for Darnold’s fantasy stock as he is still elite after the catch. Darnold has the talent to outperform his ADP and should be in consideration as a QB 2 with upside.
San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could be labeled as a game manager, especially as far as fantasy football is concerned. However, is that really such a bad thing? The perception of a QB who doesn’t throw for over 4,000 yards and throw for 30 TDs is that he is a back up, late round flyer, or streaming option. In the case of Jimmy G, he finished just 22 yards short of 4,000 and 3 touchdowns short of 30 in what was his first full season at the helm. The Niners had the 2nd most rushing attempts in the league in 2019 and although that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, there will be room for the passing game to be more productive. Trading for all-pro left tackle Trent Williams from Washington this offseason is one of those under the radar moves that helps a team in a substantial way. In the draft the Niners addressed the loss of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders by drafting Arizona State standout Brandon Aiyuk. While the Niners are young at the wide receiver position, they have great depth and athleticism in Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, and Dante Pettis. It also doesn’t hurt to have arguably the best tight end in football, George Kittle. In 2019 Jimmy G produced three monster performances in which he threw for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in each game. While he won’t be anyone’s first choice in drafts, he will be more serviceable than perceived, as he will have the second best strength of schedule during fantasy playoff time. He may be too inconsistent to be a QB 1, but he is a great stash or early season waiver pick-up to fill in your bye weeks.
Cleveland Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield has all of the ammunition needed to bounce back. There is no denying that Baker struggled last season. But, before we get too caught up in hyperbole, we should dig a bit deeper to find the answer as to why he struggled. Last season Head Coach Freddy Kitchens didn’t do Baker any favors. The play calling was suspect to put it mildly. There were too many occasions where you saw Baker taking deeper drops than most successful quarterbacks. His timing with star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was never really there, which we can attribute largely to OBJ not being healthy enough to get in the reps needed to build chemistry. The offensive line struggled to keep him upright as he was sacked 40 times, 15 more than his rookie season. We all know the old adage about excuses, but those excuses sound legit. The best way to quiet the critics is to turn it around, and that’s what the Browns are doing. Enter new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski with what appears at first to be a run heavy offense. However, Stefanski will look to put his own stamp on the system now that he’s not under defensive minded Coach Mike Zimmer. The Browns addressed the offensive line issues by signing right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and drafting Alabama standout left tackle Jedrick Wills with the 10th pick in April’s draft. Now, what was once a weakness could be a position of strength. Expect the timing with OBJ to improve after a whole season to gel. The addition of former Atlanta Falcon tight end Austin Hooper via free agency, gives Baker another great option in the red zone. Look for Baker to finish closer to 2018’s numbers when he had 27 TD to 11 interceptions. He is currently being drafted in a tier that league-winning talents are scarce. Baker has a very real opportunity to win some lucky fantasy owner a league given his current ADP of 122 overall. He is in a favorable situation, has number one overall pick draft stock, and a Heisman trophy to boot.
New England Patriots Quarterback Cam Newton has a strange ring to it. Much like ‘Tom Brady is a Buccaneer’ took a little time to flow from your lips, Cam and Belichik will take some getting used to. Cam Newton is a 31 year old former MVP, but he is coming off an injury plagued season. When healthy, we have seen Cam thrive in fantasy football. In his last 16 game season, 2017, Cam finished as the QB 2, with 754 yards on the ground and 28 total touchdowns. His rushing numbers may have dropped in the past few years due to injury, but he will still produce enough yards on the ground to offer a solid floor. At 6’5 245 pounds, Cam’s prowess near the goal line is the stuff of fantasy lore. There are questions about the talent at the skill positions in New England, but Cam has thrived with less during his time in Carolina. Cam has already been working out with last year’s number one pick N’keal Harry and should transition seamlessly with veterans Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu. The backfield in New England is a huge drop off from Christian McCaffrey, but they still feature a committee like Cam saw with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams that got the job done. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will have a lot of fun designing plays for an athlete like Cam. The question, aside from health, which is always a variable is, how will they use him? Since that question has a high variance in it’s attempted replies, his stock in fantasy drafts this summer has been among the hardest to pin down. While he may end up being drafted as a low end QB 1 or high end QB2, he has a league-winning pedigree and a great chance to return to fantasy stardom.
Los Angeles Chargers Quarterback Tyrod Taylor will be a great value in fantasy drafts this year. Taylor is not being drafted in most leagues, but he should be. In his 3 seasons as a starter in Buffalo, Taylor was highly efficient. He never had more than 6 interceptions in any of the three seasons and averaged over 500 yards on the ground. While two situations cannot be compared directly, you can deduce that he will be efficient and provide a solid floor with his legs. Where the differences lie between the two situations is in talent. The Chargers have some of the best playmakers in the game. Austin Ekeler out of the backfield, wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry are better than the receiving options he’s had in the past, and it’s not particularly close. Taylor finished in the top 15 in fantasy scoring all 3 years in Buffalo with lesser talent and even made the top 10 in 2016. At his current price, he’s the ideal QB 2 for someone who drafts an older or injury prone QB1.
Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins is a model of consistency. In each of the last five seasons, Cousins has finished in the top 15 among qualifying QBs, including 3 straight top ten finishes in 2015-17 while he was in Washington. He has not thrown for less than 25 touchdowns in any of the last 5 seasons. In 2019 Cousins attempted 162 less passes than in 2018. That was mostly due to a run first philosophy and the success of said run game. Despite the dip in attempts, Cousins was efficient enough to produce 26 touchdowns to just 6 picks. While he’s rarely called upon to throw the ball as much as other quarterbacks, he threw enough to have four 300 yard games and 7 games with multiple touchdowns. He is currently being drafted in the 15th round of drafts, which is a nice value spot to grab a guy who has finished in the top 15 for the last five years
Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow is coming off the single greatest college season in history. That’s not hyperbole, that is a fact. Burrow threw for a mind numbing 5,671 yards to go along with a mere 60 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. He did that in 15 games against the conference that produces the most NFL talent each year. While no one is projecting that level of efficiency to translate to the NFL, that’s a solid resume upon which to build. The Bengals have had their struggles be well chronicled, but there should be reason for optimism. Left tackle Jonah Williams was last year's 11th overall pick but did not play as a rookie due to injury. He is for all intensive purposes a rookie this year. In this April’s draft, Cincy added Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins to give Burrow his future X receiver. While Higgins faces the rookie learning curve, all-pro veteran A.J. Green and solid young route runner Tyler Boyd give Burrow trustworthy targets to rely on. Running back Joe Mixon will give defenses something to think about, which should allow Burrow plenty of play action opportunities. While his name and recency bias may cause his ADP to be too high for some, he could be the gamble of the year that pays off. All Burrow has to do is come close to Andrew Luck’s passing yardage record for rookies of 4,374 and/or Baker Mayfield’s rookie TD record of 27, in order to exceed expectations and reach the top 10 like Luck did as a rookie and Kyler Murray in 2019.
Chicago Bears Quarterback Nick Foles is getting a new lease on life. After an injury saw him miss time to start his tenure as a Jacksonville Jaguar, Foles lost his job to a little known late round rookie Gardner Minshew. Bears incumbent starter and number 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky struggled in 2019 to the point that they brought in the veteran Foles to compete for the job. Working under the assumption that Foles will win the starting role, it could be a good year for old Nick. We have seen Foles excel on the real field and fantasy in the past. He is an accurate quarterback and doesn’t turn the ball over. If Nick gets the chance to play all 16 games, he will provide some good fantasy performances given the level of talent around him. He is currently undrafted in drafts, but will most likely be on everyone’s waiver radar to start the season.
Dwayne Haskins Jr.:
Washington Football Team Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. will have an opportunity to succeed. New Head Coach Ron Rivera is the new sheriff in town. His deputy Scott Turner may be the perfect offensive coordinator to capitalize on Haskins 1st round draft stock. Haskins flashed that talent last season, even if it was in small doses and on a run heavy attack. While Turner will no doubt use the running game to help bring the young Buckeye along slowly, he will let Haskins spread his wings and utilize the speed they have at the skill positions. Sophomore breakout candidate Terry McLaurin leads a young cast of athletic playmakers. As of this article being published Haskins is going undrafted in most leagues and could be a fun dart throw late, or a waiver wire pick up to cover the bye weeks of your starter. Look for Haskins to have success in fantasy versus division opponents due to the shootout nature of the projected game scripts of those games. His best game in 2019 was against Eagles in which he threw for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns. That sounds like a decent bye week or injury replacement.
Gardner Minshew II:
Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Gardner Minshew II is a cult hero. After stepping in for injured veteran Nick Foles early in week one of 2019, Minshew was a fantasy rock star. He had multiple passing touchdowns in 50% of his games and finished the year with 21 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions as a rookie. That’s one more touchdown than AP rookie of the year Kyler Murray. Jay Gruden will be taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator which makes a run happy script become run ecstatic. Minshew projects to attempt around 500 passes which given his efficiency, could lead to even more success than he saw as a rookie when he finished top 20 in just 14 games. The development of third year breakout wideout D.J. Shark, the athleticism of Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, along with the drafting of Laviska Shenault out of Colorado at number 42 overall, gives Minshew an athletic set of pass catchers. Veteran running back Leonard Fournette makes defenses stack the box which should give Minshew ample time to find the aforementioned weapons down the field. Currently, Minshew is being drafted in the 18th round but should be considered more of a must draft for owners with question marks with their 1st choice QB. He will post some week winning performances along the way and could develop into even more of a cult hero.
Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Philip Rivers could be primed for a bounceback season. After struggling with turnovers last season, Rivers finds himself on a new team after 16 illustrious seasons with the Chargers. Rivers threw for 4,615 yards last season and 23 touchdowns. Those numbers on their own are more than decent, but with 20 interceptions, his fantasy value plummeted. In his defense, the Chargers offensive line allowed Rivers to be sacked 34 times. Now he gets to play behind what is considered by many as the best offensive line in football. While he did have great weapons in L.A. last season, his new weapons are just as dynamic. Veteran Wideout T.Y. Hilton gives Rivers a trustworthy and sure handed route runner to rely on. Second year wideout Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. should develop at a faster rate with the veteran Rivers at the helm. The Colts will feature a heavy dose of the run behind 2,000 yard rookie Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin, and incumbent starter Marlon Mack. The offense should gel quickly considering Head Coach Frank Reich’s close relationship with Rivers, and he could be back to his old form. 2019 was the first time Rivers finished outside the top 15 since 2012. At his current ADP in the 13/14th round range, he could be a value if he eliminates the turnovers and the Colts can have a more efficient offense than the Chargers did a year ago.
Miami Dolphins Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can still conjure up some Fitzmagic on occasion. In 2019 Fitzpatrick finished inside the top 20. Although that’s not high praise, it does point to the chance that Fitz can help your team. He posted four games over 300 yards last year and added six multiple touchdown games. The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the 5th overall pick in April’s draft to be their future signal caller. However, that doesn’t seem to be this year. Running Backs Jordan Howard and Matt Breida were brought in via free agency to help what was an anemic run game, which should help Fitzpatrick have more time to throw. Given the rising stock of wideout Devante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki, there is a good chance we see some Fitzmagic at some point this year. As a bye week fill-in, you could do a lot worse.