Quarterback preview

Do you want Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson on your fantasy team? Then, you should be prepared to draft one of them in the first two rounds. Or, you can do what my brother-in-law did – draft both of them. And then prepare to not win your league. It would be interesting to find out the percentage of owners who won their league last year with Mahomes on their team. Then, compare that to the percentage of owners who won the league with Lamar Jackson. 

I will bet you the first number is very low, and the second number much higher. The reason is that you needed to use a first- or second-round pick to get Mahomes last year. Jackson was available in the latter rounds of drafts. I’ve shared the concept of opportunity cost in the past. Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. This is a concept I’m familiar with as a financial advisor since it is frequently applied to investing.

Let’s apply opportunity cost to a draft. According to the NFFC ADP rankings, if you take Mahomes or Jackson, you are passing up Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, or one of the two elite tight ends, Travis Kelce and George Kittle. The NFFC represents the pros. On a recent ESPN mock draft, a participant took Mahomes with the 11th pick. He passed up Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Aaron Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Devante Adams.

It’s mind-boggling. I didn’t even list Joe Mixon and Miles Sanders, who also went after Mahomes in that draft. The other seven are players I would want on my team if I could select them in the second round. Mahomes was on a lot of championship teams after his breakout season in 2018, and the same goes for Jackson 2019. But the reason is because they were taken late in the draft. There was little opportunity cost lost selecting them, and they delivered huge value at their ADP.      

If you look at the numbers, the past NFL season was a validation of the old adage that you never take quarterback early in draft. Granted, Mahomes and Jackson have a higher upside than other quarterbacks. But I’ve said it repeatedly – quarterback is a deep position. In a Yahoo draft I participated in last Sunday, I waited until the 12th round to take my quarterback. I took Daniel Jones and then dropped him a few days later when I looked at week one matchups.

As you can tell, I am a strong proponent of the Late Round Quarterback strategy. In the draft I just mentioned, I took my quarterback in the 12th round, my running back handcuff in the 13th, my defense in the 14th and my kicker in the 15th. And I will readily drop everyone except the handcuff when bye weeks, or matchups dictate. Do you understand how freeing this is? There is never the need for me to pick up a second quarterback, and this frees up a roster spot for RBs and WRs.  

Okay, if you’re not convinced about the Late Round Quarterback strategy and are still going to draft Mahomes, or Jackson, you can stop reading. Go work out, or feed your dog. The rest of this column will not interest you. But for those of you convinced, or at least open to my argument, keep reading. I am going to give you a thumbnail sketch of 12 quarterbacks who will be available at the end of your draft, or to stream during the season in the matchup. Many will be on the waiver wire.

Please note that I am not providing coverage on Mahomes, Jackson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers because these quarterbacks are unlikely to be available in the late rounds. A few of them may be dropped at some point in the season, and you can always consider the merits of picking up that QB if and when the time comes. Here are the QBs I like with an ADP greater than 100.   

MATTHEW STAFFORD, DETROIT, ADP 103

The 2019 season started strong before he was injured, and some think it could be a sign of things to come. He was the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy through nine weeks. Stafford’s 8.2 yards per attempt was easily a career high and just the second time in his career over 7.6 yards per attempt. He’s might be a low-end QB1, or a high-end QB2. If you’re in a league where a number of owners roster two quarterbacks, it’s unlikely that he will be available after the ninth or tenth round.

DANIEL JONES, NY GIANTS, ADP 104

Volatility is a word to describe Jones, who had two of the top-10 single game performances by QBs in 2019. Jackson and Wilson are the only two other quarterbacks who did that. Jones had four games where he tallied 28-plus fantasy points, including three games over 30 points. But it wasn’t all pretty.  Outside of those four explosion games, Jones was a train wreck, finishing with 14.7 or fewer fantasy points in the eight other games he started. Pick your spots with Danny Dimes.

BAKER MAYFIELD, CLEVELAND, ADP 114

Mayfield was a draft darling in 2019 and was a huge bust. Some blame Mayfield’s problems on Freddie Kitchens. Kevin Stefanski should certainly be better for Mayfield’s efficiency, but Stefanski just ran one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL in Minnesota. And the Browns certainly behaved this offseason like a team that wants to run the ball. Mayfield should be better than he was last year, as should the Browns. You’ll have to pick your spots with Mayfield this year.   

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH, ADP 122

Many are undervaluing the Steelers this year, and that includes Roethlisberger, who’s been rehabbing from an elbow injury. Training camp reports indicate he looks good throwing the ball. Roethlisberger has thrown at least 26 touchdowns in six of his last eight seasons and has averaged at least 7.5 yards per attempt each year from 2014-2018. But he has been horrendous on the road, averaging 15.22 fantasy points per game compared to the 22.19 fantasy points per game at home.

JARED GOFF, LA RAMS, ADP 124,

Goff is the guy I picked up off the waiver wire this week to replace Jones because I like the matchup against the Cowboys secondary, which lost cornerback Byron Jones over the offseason. I expect Goff to pass more this season, and he’s got Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee, their tight end, who caught 43 balls for 522 yards and two touchdowns in his last five games. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Goff emerge as a sleeper this year, but for now I’m looking at matchups.

JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI, ADP 131

Joe Burrow reported to the Bengals with a look of confidence that belied his rookie status. But he did just have one of the best collegiate seasons by a quarterback ever and was the No. 1 overall draft pick. Skeptics might recall Kyler Murray in a similar situation last year in Arizona. Burrow has plenty of wide receiver talent surrounding him. The offense that Zac Taylor ran last year presented plenty of opportunity. If he’s available, he is worthy of streamer consideration.

RYAN TANNEHILL, TENNESSEE, ADP 137

I picked up Tannehill midway through the 2019 season as a streamer and never dropped him. No one expected him to shine.  Consider that he averaged between 6.7 and 7.7 yards per attempt throughout their first six years, then jumps up to 9.6 yards per target last year. Tannehill’s 117.5 QB Rating in 2019 ranks as the fourth-best all-time. Working against him is the run-heavy Tennessee offense, but don’t sleep on Tannehill, who should be available on the waiver wire.

DREW LOCK, DENVER, ADP 149

Don’t judge Lock based on what you saw from him in his rookie season. He started late in the season, and Rich Scangarello was the offensive coordinator. Pat Shurmur has produced solid quarterback play in his time. The Broncos signed Melvin Gordon and then drafted wideout Jerry Jeudy in the first round, speedster KJ Hamler in the second round, then Lock’s former teammate, Albert Okwuegbunam, in the fourth round. Don’t forget about Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.

KIRK COUSINS, MINNESOTA, ADP 156

The Vikings took Justin Jefferson in the first round of the NFL Draft to replace departing Stefon Diggs, and I wonder if the offense might move toward a more balanced attach under Gary Kubiak. Cousins only threw 444 passes last year, in spite of lacking mobility, and still finished as No. 15 fantasy quarterback in 2019. In the three previous years, Cousins was QB12, QB6, and QB5. He’s trending in the wrong direction, but he’s still a viable streamer – especially if he puts the ball in the air more in 2019.

PHILIP RIVERS, INDIANAPOLIS, ADP 164

Anyone who has played fantasy football for a while knows that Rivers has been money in the past. He had an off year in 2019, and turns 39 in December. But consider this. He played behind a bad offensive line last year, something he’s done through much of his career. This year, he’ll play behind a top-three offensive line. He has already played under Frank Reich back when he threw for 4,286 yards and 31 touchdowns, then a career-high 4,792 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2015.

GARDNER MINSHEW, JACKSONVILLE, ADP 166

Minshew was within a point of matching Kyler Murray on a per-game basis last year, and his situation looks quite a bit better than it did in 2019. His new offensive coordinator is Jay Gruden, who led Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins to three consecutive top six fantasy finishes. The Jaguars also added Laviska Shenault, Tyler Eifert and Chris Thompson in the past few months. He’s an excellent quarterback to stream and has top-eight upside due to increased volume.

CAM NEWTON, NEW ENGLAND, ADP 179

Every time Newton has played 16 games, he’s been a top-five quarterback, and he was No. 12 in just 14 games as recently as 2018. He appears to have quickly dispatched Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, and if he’s even a shadow of the runner he was in the past, he has top-12 potential. If Josh McDaniels uses Newton as the red-zone rusher, there’s no reason to think Newton can’t be top five again. You wouldn’t be crazy to draft him in a later round.

You can followThomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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