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Value Plays: Quarterbacks

The Footballguys staff finds value at the quarterback position

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 6 Votes

Philip Rivers, LA Chargers

Phil Alexander: Rivers' early ADP is somewhat mind boggling. He finished 2016 as the cumulative QB6, and it's impossible to argue his situation has gotten worse. For starters, Rivers gets a healthy Keenan Allen back. In 38 career games played with Allen, Rivers' fantasy points per game average increases by more than 10%. Even if first round pick Mike Williams misses regular season games, LA boasts a loaded pass catcher group, which includes Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Melvin Gordon III. As young quarterbacks with unknown ceilings (Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota) continue to gain popularity, you can bank on Rivers to deliver his usual top-10 numbers from a more profitable draft position.

Chris Feery: You know what you’re going to get with Philip Rivers, but that’s not translating into a ton of enthusiasm in fantasy drafts. Rivers is going to throw the ball - a lot - and he’ll deliver a consistent return on a weekly basis. In 2016, Rivers threw for more than 250 yards in nine games, and he tossed multiple touchdowns in 12 of them. He can currently be had in the range of a QB2, but he’s more than capable of delivering Top 10 quarterback numbers. Rivers is a steal at his current value, and he’s an excellent choice for those that prefer to wait on snagging their lead signal caller.

Clayton Gray: Philip Rivers is always in (or at least near) the Top 10. He has multi-touchdown capability regardless of the opponent and will turn in a few game of four or more touchdowns. He threw for 33 scores last season despite barely getting to play with his best wide receiver and best pass-catching running back. In 2017, he has far more weapons at his disposal, but he's being downgraded. It makes no sense. Is there East Coast Bias in professional football? Maybe that's the problem - no one watches the Chargers.

Stephen Holloway: Rivers has averaged over 4,450 passing yards and 31 touchdowns over the past four years, even without top flight wide receivers. For 2017, he will have one of his recent favorite targets, Keenan Allen back healthy. He also has two excellent tight ends ( Henry and Gates) and an up-and-coming Tyrell Williams. The Chargers also drafted Mike Williams at #7 overall this year and although currently sidelined, he would further bolster the already talented group of receivers that Rivers has. Rivers is highly likely to maintain or even increase his recent production level as he impresses in his first season in Los Angeles.

Matt Waldman: Since 2005, there have been 31 seasons where quarterbacks have supported at least three pass catchers that were fantasy starters in most leagues. Rivers owns three of those seasons, including last year where he supported two starting tight ends—one of them a rookie—and a second-year receiver making his first starts. Rivers achieved this production despite losing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead and working with a Travis Benjamin who was playing through most of the year with an injured PCL. The fact that Rivers generated this kind of production and was the only one of two quarterbacks since 2005 to support two fantasy starters at tight end for an entire season is a testament to his skill. I expect another year with Rivers supporting 2-3 starters with his targets and generating top-12 fantasy production—something he has only failed to do as a starter twice in 11 years.

Jason Wood: Philip Rivers has been an elite passer for more than a decade, yet is consistently downplayed by the fantasy community. Rivers has seven Top-10 finishes in the last eleven seasons, including three Top-5 finishes. Although he’s turning 36 years old this season, Rivers hasn’t shown any signs of fall off. He ranked QB8 last season in spite of 21 interceptions (thanks for 4,390 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes). This season, Rivers has arguably the best receiving corps of his career. Antonio Gates can still catch touchdowns, but now Hunter Henry is ready to emerge as a difference-making tight end. Tyrell Williams broke out last year and checked every box as a difference maker, yet he’ll have to fight for snaps with Keenan Allen (returning from another injury) and Travis Benjamin. That’s to say nothing of rookie Mike Williams. Few quarterbacks have Rivers’ pedigree and the depth to produce even if he loses a key piece or two during the season. Draft Rivers as your QB1 with confidence, yet pay QB2 prices based on his ADP.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Kirk Cousins, Washington

Jeff Haseley: Kirk Cousins won't have Sean McVay as his offensive coordinator after he departed for the Rams head coaching job. He will have Matt Cavanaugh who is returning to the same role he had in 2015 when Cousins passed for 4,100 yards and 29 touchdowns. I don't expect Cousins to tail off due to the coaching change or the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The addition of Terrelle Pryor will give Washington size and speed at the position, including a threat in the red zone. Cousins was the second-ranked quarterback in the league after Week 10 last year. Keep in mind, he quietly had over 4,900 yards passing last year, which only a handful of players have done in NFL history.

Justin Howe: Many are down on Cousins due to the massive turnover in the Washington offense. Coordinator Sean McVay is gone, as are Cousins' starting wideouts from 2015-16. But I don't see much reason for concern. As strong as McVay's offenses have been, I'm confident that Cousins, a 28-year-old entering his third season as the starter, has most of his NFL game down. And I don't see his volume dipping much; Washington still "boasts" an underwhelming ground game that likely won't dominate the clock. And furthermore, I just don't see much drop-off in talent from Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. Crowder looks like a more efficient receiver than Garcon, while Pryor carries more size (and less injury concern) than Jackson. And with Jordan Reed still on board, Cousins' touchdown outlook still looks strong; I tend to view his recent red-zone woes as relatively fluky. That's not a very sticky stat, so it could easily swing back at any point. All told, though, the strongest argument for Cousins' value is ADP. Cousins is squarely in a wide-spanning and tightly-clustered tier of similar quarterbacks, yet his ADP lags well behind the likes of Derek Carr and Jameis Winston. To me, the multi-round discount from those guys is exquisitely valuable.

Matt Waldman: A good but not great college prospect, Cousins epitomizes the benefits of an organic approach to developing quarterbacks that runs counter to the popular force feeding that most organizations practice. 2016’s No. 5 fantasy passer, Cousins benefitted from his second year in the same system with the same surrounding talent. Cousins supported three fantasy pass catchers last year despite Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson missing a combined five games. Most of the time, I’d devalue a quarterback with two new perimeter receivers. However, Terrelle Pryor came from a system not much different than Jay Gruden’s offense and performed well with three quarterbacks less accomplished than Cousins. He may not repeat as a top-5 quarterback, but I believe he’ll be close.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

Ryan Hester: Dalton’s offensive line lost a lot of talent, but there’s still a case to be made. Cincinnati added a blazing-fast receiver and probably the most talented running back in the 2017 draft class; second-year man Tyler Boyd is still developing, and Tyler Eifert is much healthier now than at this time last year; and also, A.J. Green is still around. In the last two seasons, Dalton has thrown touchdowns on 5.6% of his passes when both Green and Eifert play. Last year, he threw touchdowns on just 3.2% of his total attempts. Buying Dalton is hoping both of his top touchdown-scorers are healthy, but even if that doesn’t come to fruition, he sure didn’t cost you much. And he plays a position that’s the most replaceable (other than defense or kicker) in fantasy football.

Andy Hicks: It is easy to overlook Andy Dalton as a fantasy option. Despite losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones Jr to injury and A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert for significant parts of the season to injury, he still ranked 12th in 2016. Here we are in 2017, and he will have his three injured players back and gets a first-round speedster in John Ross as well. Second-year, high-round draft pick Tyler Boyd should improve as well, in addition to a highly rated running back addition in Joe Mixon. The offense is there for Dalton to be a regular fantasy starter again and he will be great value.

Justin Howe: He's not sexy, and he carries a strong degree of downside, considering his only two proven playmakers are relatively injury-prone. But when A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert are available - as they'll both be to open the year - Dalton is a true QB1 option. Dating back to 2015, he's played 14 games alongside those two and has averaged 19.7 standard fantasy points over that sample. By my projections, that would be an overall QB6 finish in 2017, yet Dalton is currently being taken 17th at the position. That's serious value in a clustered-together tier of passers.

Eli Manning, NY Giants

Stephen Holloway: Manning’s production slipped a bit last year to 4,027 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. However in the two years prior, he averaged 4,423 passing yards and 32.5 passing touchdowns. The addition of Brandon Marshall in free agency and the drafting of the athletic Evan Engram at 23rd overall to play tight end, combined with the presence of Odell Beckham, one of the league’s top wide receivers, will provide Manning with an abundance of talent to target. The Giants’ rushing game again appears to be well below average and the strength of the offense is definitely the receiving corps. Expect Manning to bounce back solidly this year.

Chad Parsons: Manning buried in the QB2 zone of ADP all offseason has been a consistent quarterback target as drafts get to the double-digit rounds. Manning has been a QB1 most of the time since Odell Beckham's breakout in 2014. Now with Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram added to the offense, Manning has arguably the strong set of weapons in the NFL.

Jeff Pasquino: The Giants added another strong receiving option in Brandon Marshall, who can be a WR1 in his own right, but will be simply a “WR1B” in the offense compared to “WR1A” Odell Beckham Jr. The run game remains a question mark for New York, so Manning will have to rely on his arm to move most of the offense. Grabbing a savvy veteran with QB1 history well after 12 quarterbacks go off the board screams value to me, so sign me up.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee

Ryan Hester: Mariota was a nice surprise in 2015, passing for over 3,400 yards in 15 games played. He can make plays with his legs as well as in the passing game, and his team added plenty of pass-catching weapons in the draft and free agency, showing that they want to be more than the “exotic smashmouth” offense they were last season. Excluding Week 17, Mariota finished as QB8 last season, a number he could potentially surpass with an upgraded receiving corps.

Ari Ingel: This team is loaded with weapons and Mariota is by far the biggest beneficiary for fantasy purposes. He now has Erick Decker, to go along with highly touted rookies Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, Rishard Matthews, running back Demarco Murray, Derek Henry, and tight end Delanie Walker. Not to mention depth pieces in Tajae Sharpe and Harry Douglas. Last season he averaged more than 21 fantasy points a game and went on a solid run from Week 5 through 12 where he had at least two touchdowns a game, finishing as a Top 12 QB in every week. Per PFF, Mariota also has had the best red zone passer rating in the league over the past two seasons (35.1%); besting both Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. The downside to Mariota is that this team supposedly still wants to stick to its exotic smash-mouth brand of football and he has ended the past two seasons on IR. Additionally, while they may play in more three receiver sets than in the past (they were near the bottom of the league last year), their pace of play may still remain slow. All that said, if he can stay healthy, he could absolutely blow up in his third season as a top 5 quarterback, especially if starts adding some more yards on the ground, which would be shocking if he didn’t. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, he should have a Top 12 QB weekly floor, so I’m buying.

Daniel Simpkins: In the same vein as Jameis Winston, Mariota received major upgrades to his targets this offseason. In this year’s Draft, the team added Corey Davis, who will start from day one and provide Mariota with the true alpha receiver that he’s never had in his career to date. The Titans also added Eric Decker, who is past his prime, but who can still provide solid production in the slot and mentor the rookie Davis. Rishard Matthews can slip back into being the number two wideout, which he is better suited for. The Titans ran the least number of three wide receiver sets in the National Football League in 2016 and there has been a real emphasis in their training camp practices to add this dimension to their offense. Defenses will also have to respect the potent running game led by one of the better offensive lines in football, DeMarco Murray, and Derrick Henry. With his trademark accuracy and mobility, Mariota will carve up defenses that are stretched thin trying to cover all of these quality options.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Andy Hicks: Matthew Stafford has eight, soon to be nine, years of NFL experience and will still be under 30 at the conclusion of the 2017 season. He has exceeded 5000 passing yards in a year, as well as 40 passing touchdowns in a season. He surprisingly even averages two rushing touchdowns a year. In five of the last six years, he has ranked in the middle tier of QB1s and that includes 2016 when he lost his dominant receiver in Calvin Johnson to retirement. Stafford may not be who you hope to build your roster around, but he offers consistent QB1 production. Well undervalued.

Matt Waldman: For five of his last six seasons, Stafford has delivered top-10 fantasy production at his position and he hasn’t missed a game during those 6 years. He lacked consistency last year, but he lost his top running back to injury and his (arguably) best receiver, Marvin Jones Jr, played hurt during his first year while learning a new system and defenses bracketing him after a great start. That’s enough reason for me to remain optimistic that Stafford’s ADP on this list does not match his history as a player.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

Daniel Simpkins: Many have said that Winston needs to take the next step this year. He is the only quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in his first two seasons. Arming him with a multiplicity of weapons should help him progress. The DeSean Jackson signing will aid Winston by giving him an option that can stretch the field and work in the slot. O.J. Howard joins Cameron Brate in the Buccaneers’ two tight end system; he will provide another large red zone target. Third-round pick and draftnik favorite Chris Godwin is already making noise in camp and may end up winning the third wide receiver job. Adding all these options in addition to Mike Evans bodes well for Winston’s chances of ascending into the elite quarterback ranks.

Jason Wood: Winston is poised to enter the quarterback elite. The former Florida State Seminole showed growth in his second season, becoming more decisive and raising his TD rate to a near-elite 4.9% (28 touchdowns) while also improving his completion rate (60.8%). It’s reasonable to think Winston has further growth ahead, merely by his maturation and game experience. The Buccaneers personnel department opted to stack the deck in his favor. Veteran DeSean Jackson joins stud Mike Evans in forming the best receiver tandem in Winston’s career. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard joins Cameron Brate to give the team multiple intermediate weapons which can also protect Winston’s blindside. Rookie Chris Godwin looks NFL-ready and adds much-needed depth. Adding a bevy of talented pass catchers to an already emerging offense will accelerate Winston into every-week, QB1 status.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

Jeff Pasquino: Andrew Luck was the top fantasy quarterback in 2014, and he finished fourth last season after a disappointing 2015. Injuries cost Luck nine games that year, and he was not 100% last season either. Luck just had surgery in January to correct the issue (shoulder), so if he can return to 2014 levels then taking Luck after a few bigger names go off of the draft board gives you a reasonable shot at the top quarterback on the cheap. Luck offers top performance quarterback throwing value and has the skill to run the ball a few times a contest as well. Given the aging backfield for Indianapolis (Frank Gore), Luck’s rushing ability (and a lack of protection at times) affords him extra value and production at the quarterback position.

Cam Newton, Carolina

Jeff Haseley: I am convinced Cam Newton is hell-bent on redemption this year. He has a series of offensive weapons for the first time in his career and you can use his shoulder rehabilitation as a means to acquire him after 10-12 other quarterbacks have been selected in your draft. He is one year removed from a 15-1 MVP season with improvements all over the offense, designed to make Newton's job easier. He's definitely a value as the 12th quarterback off the board.

Carson Palmer, Arizona

Stephen Holloway: In Carson Palmer’s three healthy seasons with the Cardinals, he has averaged 4,393 passing yards, 28.3 passing touchdowns and 7.72 YPA. With Larry Fitzgerald returning, John Brown healthier than a year ago, and David Johnson, one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL in Arizona, there is no reason to anticipate Palmer to have diminished production, other than injury. In those same three healthy seasons, he has finished as QB17, QB5, and QB 16. He has a solid opportunity to perhaps cap off his excellent career by again contending for a top twelve quarterback ranking.

Dak Prescott, Dallas

Jason Wood: Prescott’s ADP is absurd. In spite of being inserted into the lineup late in the preseason, Prescott finished as the 6th best fantasy quarterback. As a rookie. Prescott’s accomplishments last year were historic:

  • 335.6 fantasy points = 4th most in NFL history for a rookie passer
  • 7.99 yards per attempt = 2nd best among qualified rookies
  • 67.8% completion rate = 1st among qualified rookies
  • 5.0% touchdown rate = 5th best in NFL rookie history
  • 0.9% interception rate = 1st all-time among qualified rookies
  • 104.9 passer rating = 1st all-time among rookie passers

The knocks on Prescott revolve around two issues: 1) his six rushing touchdowns are hard to repeat, and 2) he wasn’t asked to make difficult throws often. Both concerns are ridiculous. These SAME arguments were made, verbatim, about Russell Wilson after his rookie year. Wilson ranked 11th as a rookie and has finished 9th, 5th, 3rd and 10th in the four subsequent seasons. Let’s be clear, Prescott has the best rookie PASSING season (from an efficiency standpoint) in NFL history, and it came with a gimpy star in Dez Bryant and no credible second receiver. It would be odd for a quarterback to peak as a rookie. Prescott is going to get better this year. The speed of the game will slow down. He has his entire supporting cast back including the league’s best offensive line. And he’s already established a baseline as a fantasy QB1. Depending on how quickly the team takes the reins off Prescott, he could push for the overall top spot at the position sooner rather than later.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

Andy Hicks: When considering Ben Roethlisberger, it is easy to factor in missed games into the equation. What gets overlooked is what he does when he plays. He is a top 6 fantasy quarterback when he is fit, and despite his injury-prone tag has never missed more than four games in a season. A minimum of 12 games, in this offense gives us a lot to work with. If he gets closer to 14 or 16 games, you will get way more than you paid for. Pittsburgh has a deep roster of playmakers and even if it is his last year, which I doubt, he will put up yardage and touchdowns. Get a good backup and you have elite production for the year.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia

Jeff Pasquino: Philadelphia actually had over 600 passing attempts in 2016, pushing Wentz all the way up to fifth on the list of quarterback passing attempts last season. While that stat is impressive, it does not speak to the caliber of the players on the receiving end of those passes, or more exactly, the lack of talent of those receivers. The Eagles addressed this problem in the offseason, adding two wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery (Bears) and Torrey Smith (49ers) to the mix. Philadelphia has a large committee of tailbacks for their rushing options this year, but one theme in common with most of them is the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays in open space. Wentz is primed to make a push for a QB1 finish this year with the additional influx of talent and a full year of experience under his belt.