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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 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Players Receiving 9 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%. The Chargers selection of Mike Williams with the seventh overall pick in the draft adds to a loaded LA pass catcher group that also includes Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Melvin Gordon III. As young quarterbacks with unknown ceilings (Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott) 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 to a ton of enthusiasm in early 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 signal caller.

Jeff Haseley: Philip Rivers is quietly averaging 32 touchdown passes over the last four years while never passing for less than 4,200 yards in that span. The Chargers as a team have 5, 4, 9, and 9 wins in each of those years, which is likely why his ADP is just shy of QB15. The AFC West is one of the best divisions in the league, which points to more competitive divisional games and arguably, more points scored. Rivers as the 14th quarterback off the board is criminal, especially given his recent consistency.

Stephen Holloway: Rivers has averaged over 4,450 passing yards and 31 touchdowns for the past four seasons, even without top flight wide receivers. For 2017, he adds rookie Mike Williams (drafted at No. 7 overall) and should have Keenan Allen back. Rivers also has two excellent tight ends and is highly likely to impress in his first season in Los Angeles and improve over his recent already solid production.

Ari Ingel: Has a chance to be a top-7 quarterback if his offensive line and wide receivers stay healthy, something that has killed him two years in a row now. This offense is loaded with weapons (Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Dontrelle Inman, Melvin Gordon III) and is going to be a fun watch. It would probably surprise some people to know he threw the fourth-most TDs (33) last season and had the fifth-most passing yards (4,386) playing with backups.

Chris Kuczynski: Year after year, Rivers has consistently put up impressive stats, but he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in terms of rankings. The past two seasons especially, the offense has had to deal with more injuries than almost any other team, yet it has not significantly impacted his numbers as he averaged 4600 yards and 31 touchdowns with his No. 1 wide receiver Keenan Allen only playing in nine games. This year, he may have his most talented group of playmakers in Tyrell Williams, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, and rookie Mike Williams, along with Melvin Gordon III running the ball keeping defenses honest, so Rivers' numbers should remain high especially since someone in the offense will have to be in single coverage.

Darin Tietgen: The Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy quarterbacks. What does this guy have to do to gain some respect? Rivers finished in the top-10 yet again (assuming standard QB scoring) last season, despite losing his No. 1 WR in Keenan Allen, a host of offensive linemen, and his best safety outlet in Danny Woodhead. He continually does more with less, and this year - while Woodhead has departed - the team sought to stabilize the OL and got Rivers a big target in Clemson's Mike Williams. Rivers has always flourished with a big, rangy WR that can go up and get it. With a competent Melvin Gordon III behind him, Rivers should have yet another top-10 season and you don't have to pay much for his services.

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 two or three starters with his targets and generating top-12 fantasy production—something he has only failed to do as a starter twice in 11 years.

Mark Wimer: Rivers is a value at his current ADP - I think he'll have a top-10 season (he's eighth on my quarterback board). Rivers has a great cast of surrounding talent to throw at which is a nice mix of veteran savvy (Keenan Allen; Antonio Gates) with a leavening of youthful potential (Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry). Rivers is a consummate pro quarterback who should maximize the production of his receivers (and throw down for an excellent fantasy season as a result).

Players Receiving 5 Votes

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

Stephen Holloway: Winston played well as a rookie and improved slightly in his second season, particularly passing for 28 touchdowns and improving his completion percentage to 60.8%. In both seasons, he has passed for over 4,000 yards. He already had solid receiving options in Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Charles Sims out of the back field, but this year adds an excellent deep threat in DeSean Jackson (career average of 17.7 ypc) and rookies O. J. Howard (19th overall pick) and Chris Godwin (3rd round), who are already drawing rave reviews. Additionally, Doug Martin, the Buccaneers’ top running back is suspended to begin the season, so the offense may pass more often until he returns. Winston is also a running threat with 381 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns over his first two seasons.

Chris Kuczynski: If we strictly look at Winston’s stats and don’t even consider the roster improvements, its very surprising to see him only ranked as a borderline QB1 after being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4000 yards in his first two seasons. The Buccaneers already have a top-5 wide receiver in Mike Evans and a decent tight end who had a bit of a breakout last year in Cameron Brate. Then if you factor in the acquisition of Desean Jackson and O.J. Howard, even rookie Chris Godwin who could make an impact in his first year, its hard to imagine Winston’s numbers of 4100 yards and 28 touchdowns not increasing even further. Being in the NFC South with other great quarterbacks, you know there will be quite a few games where Winston is expected to throw much of the second half in order to keep up with those offenses.

Chad Parsons: Not only did Winston get speed demon DeSean Jackson in free agency this offseason, O.J. Howard fell to Tampa Bay at 19 overall in the NFL Draft. The secondary weapons to Mike Evans the previous two seasons were lackluster, but now bountiful for Winston entering Year 3. Winston also offers sneaky rushing potential with seven touchdowns on the ground and averaging more than 10 yards-per-game in his career.

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, so arming him with a multiplicity of weapons should help him do just that. 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 to provide another large red zone target. Third-round pick and draftnik favorite Chris Godwin is already making noise in organized team activities 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 touchdown 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 who can also protect Winston’s blindside. Rookie Chris Godwin looks NFL ready in early mini-camps 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.

Russell Wilson, Seattle

Phil Alexander: Wilson was the most efficient fantasy scorer at his position from 2012-2015. He finished 2015 as the QB4 and was drafted in 2016 as the QB3. Yet all of a sudden he's being treated like a middling starter based solely on last year's disappointing numbers? Wilson played a significant chunk of 2016 through ankle and knee injuries that should have kept him out for at least a month. He was robbed of his mobility -- both inside and outside the pocket -- resulting in a 58% decline in rushing yards from his previous career average, and only five weekly QB1 finishes (the same number as Sam Bradford and Joe Flacco). This is a classic case where fantasy owners should be looking at more than a single season's worth of cumulative stats to form their opinions. By Week 15, Wilson was beginning to resemble the player who tied Cam Newton for the league lead in fantasy points during the second half of 2015. Assuming a full offseason was plenty of time for his injuries to fully heal, Wilson is as good a candidate as any to finish as the top overall quarterback.

Sigmund Bloom: Don’t let Russell Wilson’s 2016 stats dissuade you from paying the very reasonable mid-round price for his services in fantasy leagues. He was hurt for the first two months of the season, but ended up putting up numbers good enough to be the No. 3 fantasy quarterback from Week 9 on, which is important because that’s when head coach Pete Carroll “unleashed” him, deeming his injuries healed enough to let Wilson play his game. He had top-five finishes in five of his final eight games, giving the kind of edge that makes it worth your while to not be one of the last to draft your quarterback.

Jeff Haseley: Last season, Russell Wilson was the fourth-ranked quarterback from Week 10 to the end of the season - and that didn't include any rushing touchdowns. Wilson has shown the ability to produce on his own, but now Seattle is opening up the playbook effectively unleashing his passing ability. I expect that we will see a more wide-open passing game in 2017, which of course favors Wilson. After finishing third in 2015 and 10th last year, I expect him to jump back into the Top 6, if not Top 4 in 2017.

Jeff Pasquino: When Russell Wilson is allowed to be a freelance quarterback, he is capable of being a top-5 quarterback, as evidenced by his finishes in 2014 (fantasy QB5) and 2015 (QB3). All too often we are jaded by one year of performance, but if you were told that you could get a quarterback that has finished as a top-5 quarterback two of the past three seasons after six or seven others were drafted, you would be jumping at that opportunity. Wilson offers that exact chance in 2017. Couple that with his finish in 2016 (QB3 from Week 9 through Week 17) and the lack of a true lead back for the Seahawks, and Wilson could be the key in both rushing and passing once again for Seattle this season.

Jason Wood: In five seasons, Russell Wilson has finished QB9, QB8, QB3, QB3, and QB11. Too many fantasy owners are looking at last year’s 11th place finish and assuming it’s a new norm. It’s not. Wilson remains an elite, top-5 fantasy commodity. Last year’s uncharacteristic ranking relates entirely to injury. Most quarterbacks – dainty flowers they may be – would have sat out with any of the three injuries Wilson endured: a high ankle sprain, a sprained MCL and a strained pectoral. The Seahawks fearless leader toughed it out, which led to inconsistencies and a lack of rushing productivity. Wilson is healthy again, and that means his baseline returns to the quarterback who ranked third in 2014-2015. Seattle added Eddie Lacy to stabilize the ground game, which means defenses won’t key on the passing game as they did for most of 2016.

PLAYER RECEIVING 4 VOTES

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

Sigmund Bloom: Dalton is unlikely to cost you a pick in the top 10-12 quarterbacks even though he was top 13 or better in 6 of 8 games with a healthy AJ Green. This year, Dalton adds deep threat John Ross and do-everything back Joe Mixon to an already potent offense, which will hopefully mask issues with an offensive line that lost its two top performers in free agency. Even if the line makes Dalton a bust, the discount price makes him an excellent pick as your first crack at solving quarterback at a fraction of the price paid by your leaguemates.

Andy Hicks: It is easy to overlook Andy Dalton as a fantasy option. Despite losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones Jr to free agency and A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Eifert for significant parts of the season to injury, Dalton still ranked 12th in 2016. Here we are in 2017, Dalton will have his three injured players back and get 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 added in Joe Mixon. The offense is there for Dalton to be a regular fantasy starter again, and he will be great value.

Dan Hindery: Whether you are looking for a safe QB2 with upside or targeting a QB1 using a late-round QB strategy, Dalton offers a strong combination of solid floor with legitimate upside. In 2015, Dalton was a top-5 fantasy quarterback through the first 13 weeks of the season (before suffering a season-ending thumb injury on the first drive in Week 14). With a full cupboard of weapons, he scored just a few points less than Aaron Rodgers. Dalton had an underrated 2016 season on the field, but just didn’t have the weapons. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert missed long stretches of the season and were only healthy at the same time for a couple games. Both are back and will be ready to go Week 1. In addition to getting back his star targets from injury (add Gio Bernard to this list), the Bengals have added a number of dangerous passing game weapons this offseason with John Ross in the first round and Joe Mixon in Round 2. Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell are also entering their second year in the offense and provide solid depth.

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.

Player 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. Jordan Reed is healthy again, Jamison Crowder is an underrated possession receiver and Josh Doctson is coming into his own. It all points to solid production from Cousins, who was the second-ranked quarterback in the league after Week 10 last year.

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. Last season’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.

Mark Wimer: Cousins is an outstanding value at his current ADP - he should challenge for a top-five fantasy finish this season (he was the fifth-best fantasy quarterback last year) and easily finish among the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks. The departure of DeSean Jackson was offset by the arrival of Terrelle Pryor (fresh off a 1,000+ yards receiving effort for the lowly Browns), and Josh Doctson appears to be past his Achilles woes entering 2017. Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis round out a nice cast of receivers who'll snag Cousins' passes.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Eli Manning, NY Giants

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

Jason Wood: The Giants offense fell short in the red zone last year, much to the chagrin of rookie head coach Ben McAdoo and veteran quarterback Eli Manning. McAdoo – who got promoted after several years revitalizing the Giants offense – lost track of the narrative coping with the additional duties of being the head coach. This year, expect the team to re-find its equilibrium particularly if the offensive line can play better. Manning was a top-10 fantasy passer in 2014 and 2015, so it’s not a leap to think he can return to fringe QB1 status. The additions of veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and rookie first-round tight end Evan Engram give Manning an excellent collection of pass catchers; allowing less reliance on Odell Beckham when teams are keying on the All-Pro receiver.

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 multiple pass-catching weapons in the draft, 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.

Chad Parsons: Mariota has been an underrated fantasy option through two seasons despite below-average weapons around him plus missing five games. His rushing upside rivals all but Cam Newton at the position. Mariota's efficiency numbers were above-average across the board in 2016. Corey Davis is added as the top wide receiver off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft and Jonnu Smith offers upside beyond Delanie Walker at tight end. Mariota finished as a fringe QB1 last season and is priced near his floor in 2017.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Ari Ingel: People hate on Stafford, but he’s a top-level quarterback in an offense that is still built on passing the ball, especially in the red zone. Injuries to Marvin Jones Jr, Eric Ebron, Ameer Abdullah, and Theo Riddick all worked to hamper what started out as a great season last year. If all his weapons can stay healthy, his new offensive line should provide him with adequate time to be a reliable top notch starter for you. Their only weakness is left guard Laken Tomlinson, but he is entering his third year and is a former first round pick. Hope abounds especially if third round wide receiver pick Kenny Golladay pans out and if the Lions pick up another receiver such as Jeremy Maclin, Vincent Jackson, or Anquan Boldin.

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 six 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 spot as QB15 on this list does not match his history as a player.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Derek Carr, Oakland

Andy Hicks: Derek Carr is an ascendant quarterback in the NFL. He is likely to break into the fantasy elite this season with even just minor improvement. He has a proven rapport with his two leading receivers, Oakland added a solid receiving tight end in Jared Cook, and they have one of the best lines in the NFL. Carr was smart with the football and started unleashing the deep ball in 2016 which showed an increased confidence in his ability. More deep balls should result in higher yardage totals, and with another off season, the Raiders plan should all come together in 2017. Ride Carr with confidence this season.

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% in 2016 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

Ryan Hester: After a 2015 season in which he finished as the top fantasy quarterback, Newton came crashing back down to earth to the tune of 3,272 passing yards, 353 rushing yards, and 5 rushing touchdowns. If that’s truly crashing down, then the bar is set pretty high for Newton. The only statistic that lagged behind was passing touchdowns, as he only threw 19. With just three more touchdowns, Newton is a QB1. Some regression was bound to happen after magical 2015 and the unsustainable touchdown rate that came with it. But the pendulum may have swung too far the other direction in 2016. Newton is still one of the game’s elite playmakers with his feet, which can always buoy fantasy production for quarterbacks, and his passing touchdowns should increase this season.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

Andy Hicks: When ranking 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 a season. A minimum of 12 games, in this offense gives us a lot to work with. More than that and you get value. 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.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Sigmund Bloom: It might seem odd to brand the one of the first quarterbacks off of the board a value play when fantasy football continues to trend towards late quarterback drafting, but Rodgers presented first round VBD value after the Packers lost Eddie Lacy last year, and they didn’t bring him back this offseason. Rodgers was almost an unfair advantage, finishing as a top 3 quarterback in seven of his last ten games. Unless the Packers use their trio of third-day pick rookie backs to re-establish balance, Rodgers has a good chance to provide that kind of advantage again this year, at a very reasonable price for an elite performer.

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.