Deep Sleepers: Quarterbacks

The Footballguys staff digs deep for sleepers at quarterback

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. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the top 150 players and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

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Player Receiving 13 Votes

Ryan Fitzpatrick, NY Jets

Sigmund Bloom: It's hard to see what changed for this borderline 2015 QB1 that has knocked him down to low QB2 status in drafts. He actually gained a great pass catching running back (Matt Forte), and Fitzpatrick still has one of the best wide receiver duos in the league to go with an offensive coordinator that tends to get the best out of his players (Chan Gailey). Fitzpatrick fits well as a matchup QBBC QB.

Jeff Haseley: Ryan Fitzpatrick may not have a rocket arm, but he's learned how to be an effective quarterback, especially with the Jets and their dominant receiving corps, led by Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Both Marshall and Decker combined for 26 touchdowns last year. All but one came from Fitzpatrick. Other, less productive quarterbacks are being selected before him and I'm not sure why? Perhaps people are afraid of his age? But he's only turning 34 this season. One man's loss is your gain. Plus the Jets have a favorable bye (Week 11) that they share with only three other teams (PIT, DEN, ATL) Don't shy away from Fitzpatrick as your QB2 this season.

Ryan Hester: I wrote the following during the previous installment of this series: “It's likely that this ADP is reflective of the fact that Fitzpatrick isn't actually employed right now. Even if he signs with the Jets and his ADP rises by a few places inside his position, he's still a good value play if he no longer qualifies as a deep sleeper. Last season, Fitzpatrick emerged into a plug-and-play every-week top-12 quarterback for a significant stretch of the season.” Despite his signing, Fitzpatrick is still being drafted as QB22 right now. His situation differs from 2015 only in the addition of Matt Forte for Chris Ivory and the return of tight end Jace Amaro from injury. When selecting a quarterback this late, “stream-ability” and top-12 upside should be the chief criteria for decision-making. Even if he doesn’t finish a top-12 quarterback for the whole season, he’ll have weeks inside that range.

Andy Hicks: Ryan Fitzpatrick has finally returned to the Jets. Now how will the 2016 season turn out? With a lot of veterans things could go south quickly and Fitzpatrick is clearly not the future of this franchise. All that being said he had a fantastic season last year finishing as the 12th ranked fantasy quarterback. He has a good rapport with his star receivers and the Jets added Matt Forte, the best pass catching back in the league. He shouldn't be a star quarterback, but will have good weeks and be startable in most matchups.

Stephen Holloway: After the long and drawn out process, Fitzgerald returns to the Jets. He still has Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who combined a year ago for 189 catches, 2,529 yards and 26 touchdowns. Wow! Jace Amaro returns and the team added Matt Forte, an excellent receiving back to replace Chris Ivory and they still have Bilal Powell, who is also a solid receiver. Fitzgerald definitely has the weapons to exceed his low considerations. He finished as QB12 a year ago.

Chris Kuczynski: Fitzpatrick had been ranked lower because of the uncertainty of his contract situation most of the offseason, but now that he has signed, his ADP numbers have not caught up yet. He posted 3900 yards and 31 TDs which are the most of his career and the most for any Jets QB. He still has Chan Gailey as his OC, who seems to have magic abilities getting the most out of Fitzpatrick, and of course he is still throwing to 2 top 25 WRs in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. There may be concern about his difficult early schedule, but don't you think that means the Jets will always be playing from behind and there's plenty of opportunity for garbage time points?

John Mamula: Ryan Fitzpatrick finished as the 11th best QB last season and he is currently not being drafted inside the Top 20 QBs. Stop the madness! Fitzpatrick had a career year last season with 3905 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. The Jets return basically the same offense under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Fitzpatrick understands the system having played under Gailey last season and for three seasons in Buffalo. The addition of Matt Forte will only help providing Fitzpatrick with a reliable check down option. Fitzpatrick makes for a strong QB who you can steal in the late rounds of your draft.

Chad Parsons: Ryan Fitzpatrick is a glaring value since his expected return to the Jets. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker form one of the better 1-2 wide receiver combinations in the NFL. Fitzpatrick offers mobility, averaging more than 15 rushing yards per game over the past three seasons and multiple-touchdown upside on the ground each year. As a late-round target, Fitzpatrick offers top-15 potential and a steady veteran half of a quarterback committee or early-season streamer in shallow roster leagues.

Jeff Pasquino: If you are looking for a late quarterback with QB1 upside (and aren’t we all?), then consider Ryan Fitzpatrick. He finally signed his deal to go back to the Jets, and now Fitzpatrick has a very good shot at putting up similar numbers to last year, where “Fitzmagic” finished as a borderline fantasy starter for the season. Having Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as your two top targets allowed Fitzpatrick to throw 31 touchdowns in 2015, strong numbers for a quarterback that can be drafted long after the Top 15-20 names are scratched off the list in your league draft.

Daniel Simpkins: Fitzpatrick’s ADP has still not rebounded from his summer holdout scare. Very little has changed for the negative in New York’s offense from last season, with both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker returning to catch passes. In fact, things may have gotten better in the passing game with the addition of Matt Forte. Owners can grab “the Beard” in the late-thirteenth round, highlighting how deep the quarterback market truly is this year.

Matt Waldman: He was a top-12 passer last year with a receiving corps that's back this year. He still has a fine coordinator in Chan Gailey and he gets Matt Forte, a top receiving back who will be split wide a lot in this offense. What's not to like, his lack of top-5 upside? This I understand, but at the round you can grab him, Fitzpatrick has a high floor and should give you more opportunities to collect high upside depth at other positions.

Mark Wimer: I think Fitzpatrick was avoiding OTAs (which most veterans hate) and that he just wanted to sign close to training camp. Fitzpatrick is a good fit for Chan Gailey's offense and should continue to be highly productive in that system - he's got starting fantasy quarterback potential at a deeply discounted price thanks to his holdout earlier this year. I am mystified why he hasn't risen up the fantasy boards now that he's safely signed and in camp with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.

Jason Wood: Fitzpatrick was the 12th ranked fantasy quarterback last season, yet is going undrafted in many leagues. Even if you think Fitzpatrick is coming off a career season, you need to factor in massive regression to justify his current (low) ADP. Everything that worked in his favor last year remains in place. Same coaches. Same system. Same elite receiver tandem (Brandon Marshall and Erick Decker). As if that weren't enough, the offensive line was bolstered and Matt Forte – arguably one of the best receiving backs in the modern era – was signed in free agency. Fitzpatrick can give you low end QB1 numbers for the price of a late round QB2.

Player Receiving 7 Votes

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee

Phil Alexander: Injuries not withstanding, Mariota's rookie season couldn't have gone much better from a fantasy perspective. He finished as a weekly QB1 in 54.5% of his starts, which was the ninth-best rate in the league, and he flashed a tantalizing ceiling with four elite weekly rankings (25 fantasy points or more). If head coach Mike Mularkey had his way, the Titans would probably run the ball on all three downs, but the Titans defense ranked 23rd in the league last year and their first-team defense has looked awful thus far in the preseason. Mariota should find himself in plenty of pass-heavy game scripts where he'll be helped by an improved supporting cast of pass catchers including the underrated Rishard Matthews, polished rookie Tajae Sharpe, and even DeMarco Murray out of the backfield.

James Brimacombe: The Titans saw what they have in Mariota last season as he finished the season as the 22nd best fantasy quarterback in just 12 games as a rookie. Mariota finished the year with 2,818 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 252 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Mariota has upside especially with a year under his belt and his rushing ability. In a full 16 game season Mariota could be capable of posting QB15 type numbers which makes him a nice target late in drafts as your QB2.

Stephen Holloway: Mariota completed 62% of his passes in his rookie season and averaged 7.6 ypa. He also is a gifted runner, capable of rushing for multiple touchdowns. The fact that he missed four games is dampening expectations for this year. The team has talked a lot about exotic smash-mouth, but their defense may force the offense into a more wide open attack as they trail early and often on the scoreboard.

Chris Kuczynski: Last year Mariota was battling injuries throughout the year and his season was ultimately cut short because of it. When he was healthy, he put up QB1 numbers in 6 of his 11 games that he played a significant amount of time. There has been talk of the offense leaning more toward a run-heavy approach so Mariota doesn't have to do as much by himself, which is all well and good, but the Titans will be trailing in many games so they will have no choice but to rely on Mariota's talented arm and considerable running ability. He still has one of the top TEs in Delanie Walker, and Rishard Matthews should be an upgrade over the WRs the team had last season. He is being drafted as a lower QB2, but can be effective if you choose to go with a QB by committee and play the matchups.

John Mamula: The Tennessee Titans want to emphasize the running game this season. The problem with that plan is that their defense grades out in the bottom tier of the league. The Titans will be playing from behind early and often this season and forced to abandon the running game. Thus, Marcus Mariota will be forced to pass more than planned. Mariota will also provide you with better than average rushing totals. Last season, the dual-threat QB racked up 252 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns. Mariota makes for a safe QB2 if you hold off at the position.

Daniel Simpkins: Though the Tennessee offense is not typically a place to look for fantasy value among individual wide receivers and running backs, it may offer value at the quarterback position. Mariota made fantasy waves as a rookie with Delanie Walker as his only reliable target. The additions along the offensive line, of reliable possession options in Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, and of competent runners in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are all likely to help Mariota do more this year. His mobility is also an asset that will make up for some of the deficits in this team’s passing attack. His early-round 13 ADP makes for a low-risk-high-reward proposition.

Jason Wood: Mariota is a two-pronged threat and his receiving corps is much improved from a season ago. He's got better weapons, a better offensive system, an improved offensive line and a running game that will not only keep opposing defenses honest, but will provide him with another safety valve when opposing defenses bring pressure. The value of running stats so overpowers passing stats in most leagues that it's almost a mathematical impossibility for Mariota to finish outside of the Top 15 if he can stay healthy.

Players Receiving 4 Votes

Joe Flacco, Baltimore

Andy Hicks: Before going down with injury Joe Flacco struggled last year with the absence of weapons. The addition of Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson should give Flacco weapons to at least be on fantasy radars. Steve Smith returns for a final season and Kamar Aiken improved when he had to. Flacco should be reliable in an emergency and the Ravens could have an offense that will improve during the year.

Stephen Holloway: Flacco returns from an ACL tear in week 11 last season and his first missed games of his career. It seems that he is healthy and the team already has Steve Smith practicing. Even if Breshard Perriman is not available at the beginning of the season, Flacco will have his best receiving options in a while. Mike Wallace seems to be a good fit, he has a nice young tight end in Maxx Williams and Ben Watson joins the Ravens after a career year in New Orleans.

Justin Howe: The Ravens threw the ball like madmen in 2015, and I don't see much regression coming. They return pass-happy (and effective) coordinator Marc Trestman. They still field a running back stable more suited to the passing game than the run. And they're likely to again be a mediocre team, one with passing-friendly game scripts often enough to make Flacco an occasional QB1. Armed with strong deep threats, he could post career numbers.

Jeff Pasquino: Taking a late backup quarterback can be a risky proposition, so it is always comforting to take one that has plenty of upside with minimal downside. That is virtually the definition of Joe Flacco, who never misses a snap if he can walk (or hobble) for the Baltimore Ravens. Last season he missed six games with a torn ACL in a lost year for Baltimore, the first time he has missed playing in eight seasons, but he is due back in time for training camp. Flacco is a near lock to start every game in Baltimore once again in 2016, and with the return of Steve Smith and solid running back and tight end options, Flacco has a reasonable downside in the passing game most every week. Even better, Flacco is one of those rare quarterbacks that can post 3-4 touchdowns in a single contest outside of the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL.

Robert Griffin III III, Cleveland

Sigmund Bloom: This is low-hanging fruit after Griffin's hot preseason start. He has a good offensive line, a great set of weapons, an offensive-minded head coach, and most importantly, his confidence back. He is even sliding at the end of runs. Griffin has the deep ball and running ability to contend for QB1 status, but he comes at the price of a QB3. With Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and Washington to open, Griffin deserves some streamer consideration.

Mike Brown: Just when I thought I was out...Griffin has the best weapons at his disposal and the best situation he could have hoped for, considering how his last few years have gone. He has looked very good this offseason, and the Cleveland offense really looks poised to make the jump to the next level. For all of his faults, let's not forget the pedigree Griffin brought into the league. And if anybody can harness that ability, it's Hue Jackson.

Devin Knotts: A change of location could be exactly what Robert Griffin III III needs to return to the dominant quarterback that we saw in 2012. This is likely Griffin’s last chance as a quarterback in the NFL, and he has still shown the explosive ability to run the ball in the preseason which drives his fantasy value. Griffin is currently being taken as the 29th overall quarterback, and has the potential upside to become a top 12 quarterback as Cleveland’s wide receiving corp is young but immensely talented lead by the return of Josh Gordon and first round pick Corey Coleman.

Matt Waldman: Hue Jackson inherited Andy Dalton and did good work with a limited quarterback. Griffin has Dalton's analytical upside with a much greater base of physical and technical talent as a passer. If Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, and Terelle Pryor stay on the field, Griffin will have better tools than he had at Washington and with a similarly talented ground game. I'll take my chances, especially when the team's athletic ability is rare enough at the WR and QB spots to run a more defined offensive scheme and dare opponents to match-up physically.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Jay Cutler, Chicago

Andy Hicks: The departure of Adam Gase is likely to hurt Jay Cutler, but the fitness of last years unplayed first rounder in Kevin White and with Alshon Jeffrey also back to full health, Cutler will have the weapons he needs to be fantasy relevant this year. He shouldn't be a starter for any fantasy squad, but will be a solid backup and has a much higher floor than those that will be drafted around him.

Chris Kuczynski: While Cutler is not someone who will win you your league, let alone someone you should rely on to be your every week starter, this season’s huge pool of viable QBs is causing him to be in the undrafted range. Despite having a lack of options in the passing game much of last year with Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett missing large portions of the season due to injury, Cutler was still able to reach nearly 4000 yards. He will have the potential to deliver big games because the Bears will be playing from behind a lot and he will be getting a motivated Jeffery playing on a franchise tag, as well as finally having last year’s first round pick Kevin White as a 2nd target. If you miss a run on backup QBs, Cutler will fit in just fine as a quality QB2.

Jason Wood: Did you realize that Dowell Loggains – the Bears new OC – produced nearly identical numbers as the Titans play-caller that Gase delivered in Chicago last year? Everyone seems ready to abandon Cutler because of the OC-transition, but I don't see any evidence that Loggains is a material downgrade. Combine that with an improved offensive line, a healthy Kevin White and the ever-present mastery of Alshon Jeffery and I find it very hard to project Cutler as anything short of a mid-teens fantasy asset.

Alex Smith, Kansas City

Sigmund Bloom: Smith is being overlooked in fantasy drafts, and his conservative track record and offense seem to back that up. Digging a little deeper reveals that Smith had the most productive stretch in his career back in 2013 when OLB Justin Houston was out with an elbow injury. Fast forward to 2016, and Houston is going to miss a good part of the regular season as he recovers from ACL surgery. Smith opens with San Diego and also gets Pittsburgh in Week 4, so he works in a QBBC or streaming lead-off hitter role.

Chris Feery: If I told you that your QB2 was in line to threaten 3,500 passing yards, throw for 20 scores, have a shot at 500 rushing yards, and pound it in a few more times on the ground, you would probably sign up for that. Alex Smith brings that potential to the table, but is routinely disregarded because of his game manager reputation. Is he a game manager type of QB? Absolutely, and a pretty efficient one at that. He finished up 2015 at No.10 in terms of quarterback rating, and he’ll likely be just as efficient in 2016. The biggest downside to the Chiefs offense is the lack of another key cog beyond the big three of Jeremy Maclin, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce, but things may be changing in that regard. Chris Conley could take a leap forward this season into the WR2 role and draw some defensive attention away from Maclin as he continues to develop, and a healthy Charles instantly adds another option to the passing attack. Bottom line, you could do much worse than Smith as your QB2 on draft day.

Mark Wimer: Smith is a solid, veteran quarterback who also makes a lot of plays running the football for the Chiefs. He's not starting fantasy quarterback material, but he is a solid backup with the ability to step into the starting lineup when the matchup is good. He should be a solid player for fantasy owners (again) this year. Also reports out of Chiefs' training camp indicated that Smith is more comfortable throwing the deep ball this year, which could mean more long-gainers for Smith and his receivers.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

Jeff Pasquino: Here is another quarterback that can be had outside of the Top 20 that offers some solid bye week filler and some QB1 upside in good matchups. Teddy Bridgewater has a stud tight end in Kyle Rudolph and good young prospects at wide receiver (Stefon Diggs, rookie Laquon Treadwell, Charles Johnson). Bridgewater only threw for 14 touchdowns last year, but he added three on the ground and he has some upside in the right matchups for 2-3 scores in a given week. He also offers the added bonus of being the unchallenged starter for his team, so you know he will be under center when you need him.

Matt Waldman: He was pressured a league-high 42 percent of his drops and when those snaps are factored out, he's grading out as one of the 12 best passers last year. He also had a great QB rating two-minute drills. His offensive line is mostly healthy, his deep ball has improved, and he's had a full season with work with Stefon Diggs. Kyle Rudolph won't have to remain at the line to block and Laquon Treadwell, Adam Thielen, and Charles Johnson are good enough to help Bridgewater earn low-end QB1 production. There's even greater upside but to get the Vikings quarterback in the 15th round and get low-end QB1 potential based on reasonable factors, is worth the risk.

Brock Osweiler, Houston

Mike Brown: Osweiler probably won't light the league up in his first full year as a starter. But it can't be blamed on a lack of weapons. He's got one of the best wide receivers in the league in DeAndre Hopkins. He's got a running back poised to join the ranks of the elite in Lamar Miller. He's got some good experience playing in highly pressurized environments as the Broncos made their Super Bowl run. For a very low cost, Osweiler makes a decent backup if you feel like waiting awhile on quarterback.

Mark Wimer: First of all, there is a lot of talent surrounding Osweiler in Houston. The Broncos let Osweiler walk AFTER he gained almost seven games worth of experience as a starting quarterback. His best years are ahead of him, and though he was not routinely stellar, he threw more interceptions than TDs only once during his time on the field, while going over 300 yards passing once and over 269 yards passing three other times during that seven game span. I think that Denver will rue trading Osweiler away. Lamar Miller is a good receiver, and reports out of training camp indicate that Jaelen Strong looks good as the #2 option at wide receiver behind all-world talent DeAndre Hopkins. This is a young offense on an upward spiral in my opinion.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco

Daniel Simpkins: Many in the organization believe that Gabbert will win the job over Colin Kaepernick. The reports that Kaepernick is suffering from “dead arm” as he tries to come back from offseason surgery only make this outcome more likely. Much like last year, the lack of quality on this team causes us to expect the 49ers to face a lot of garbage time situations in 2016. Chip Kelly's up-tempo system produced the most offensive snaps for two consecutive years in a row in Philadelphia. We can expect the same in San Francisco, meaning Gabbert will have ample opportunity in the late game to post fantasy relevant lines. He also has rushing ability, something that Kelly tends to put to good use in his scheme. Gabbert is going largely undrafted in leagues, but could be the perfect spot starter or streaming option at certain points.

Jimmy Garoppolo, New England

Mike Brown: While he obviously won't be a seasong-long option, Garoppolo inherits a perfect scenario for any quarterback. A bunch of weapons, the best coach of all-time, and a hugely efficient system that even Matt Cassel was able to take advantage of and put up nice numbers. If you're one of the people who likes to wait on a quarterback and then grab someone off of waivers early in the season, Garoppolo will likely hold down the fort pretty well in September while you sort it all out.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

Ari Ingel: Blaine Gabbert has been dreadful so far and it is just a matter of time before Kaepernick gets his shot, almost by default. While he won't light the world on fire, playing under Chip Kelly should provide him the opportunity to put up decent Fantasy numbers as the duel threat quarterback Kelly knows how to take advantage of.

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