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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 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 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.

Jeff Haseley: 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 over the past four years, even without top flight wide receivers. For 2017, he adds rookie Mike Williams (drafted at #7 overall) and should have Keenan Allen back healthy. He also has two excellent tight ends and an up and coming Tyrell Williams. Rivers is highly likely to maintain that level of production as he impresses in his first season in Los Angeles.

Ari Ingel: Has a chance to be a Tier 2 QB if his offensive line and wide receivers stay healthy, something that has killed him two years in a row now, and perhaps (stupidly) the reason I don't have him ranked higher 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 4th most TDs (33) last season and had the 5th most passing yards (4,386) playing with backups. A true gunslinger, if the skill players stay healthy, this could finally be the year Rivers delivers as a top 5 quarterback.

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 number one wide receiver Keenan Allen only playing in 9 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 his numbers should remain high especially since someone in the offense will have to be in single coverage.

Matt Waldman: Since 2005, there have been 31 seasons where quarterbacks have supported at least 3 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.

Mark Wimer: Rivers is a value at his current ADP - I think he'll have a top-ten season (he's eighth on my quarterbacks' 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 youtful 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).

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 falloff. He rankedQB8 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), rookie 1st rounder Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin. 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: 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. 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.

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.

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 has his best collection of weapons to-date with the key additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram this offseason. Manning has been in the top-10 discussion since Odell Beckham broke out midseason in 2014. With a price as a matchup QB2, Manning is a no-brainer value in 2017.

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.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

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 3 injured players back and gets a 1st-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.

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.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee

Ryan Hester: Mariota was a nice surprise in 2016, 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 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 and tight end Delanie Walker. Not to mention depth pieces in Tajae Sharpe, Derek Henry 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 will 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. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, he should have a Top 12 QB weekly floor, so I’m buying.

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 season. His career highs include exceeding 5000 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns in a year. He 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 the sexiest quarterback to build your roster around, but he offers consistent 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, 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 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 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.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Joe Flacco, Baltimore

Ryan Hester: Do you know how many quarterbacks had more passing attempts than Flacco last season? One! And that player (Drew Brees) had only one more attempt than Flacco did. Flacco also only threw touchdowns on 3.0% of his attempts, putting him around the likes of Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler, and Carson Wentz. Jokes are made about Flacco being “elite,” but he’s better than those players. And his volume isn’t likely to decrease too significantly, considering the only notable transaction in the running back group was pass-catcher extraordinaire Danny Woodhead. Flacco won't finish the season as a top-12 quarterback. But he’s dirt cheap and will register at least a handful of top-15 weekly performances, something valuable for those who wait on quarterback, like to stream, or whiff on an early pick.

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.

Carson Palmer, Arizona

Stephen Holloway: In Palmer’s three healthy seasons with the Cardinals, he has averaged 4,393 passing yards, 28.3 passing TDs and 7.72 ypa. With Larry Fitzgerald returning and John Brown healthier than a year ago, and one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL, there is no reason to anticipate diminished production. 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.

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 in 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.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami

Jeff Pasquino: Last year at this time, we were all hopping on Tannehill as a value play with his QB2 status with upside. What happened? He disappointed to a degree in 2016, throwing for only 19 touchdowns with a dozen interceptions, but he did miss three starts due to injury. There are several reasons to believe that he could improve his numbers this year, starting with the Dolphins’ trading for tight end Julius Thomas. Head coach Adam Gase worked with Thomas in Denver, and both Thomas and Tannehill could see improved numbers under Gase. Miami also re-signed wide receiver Kenny Stills, who will either start outside or push DeVante Parker to improve and put up better numbers. Tannehill is virtually guaranteed to start all season long with no one pushing him for the position, so I see him as a solid QB2 with possible QB1 upside in good matchups this season.

Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo

Ari Ingel: The key with Taylor is Sammy Watkins, whose foot injury is apparently serious enough that the team just turned down his 5th year option. Outside of Watkins, their only viable receiving threats are rookie Zay Jones (who is injured already) and TE Charles Clay (who has concerning knee issues). They also signed free agent Andre Holmes, so they have a capable, but not overly exciting, trio at this point at least. Also keep in mind, the Bills barley re-resigned Taylor, so it is not inconceivable that we could see pro-ready rookie QB Nathan Peterman sometime this year. Tyrod has a solid floor due to his running ability, finishing first amongst all QBs in runs, yards and touchdowns on the ground, but what is concerning is that "Taylor’s pass attempts per game ranked 35th in 2015 and 33rd in 2016." as noted by PFF analyst Pat Thorman. He has been a Top 10 quarterback the past two seasons due to his running and if Watkins is healthy, Tyrod will finish in Tier 2, if not, this is around his floor.

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.

Russell Wilson, Seattle

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.