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5 Fantasy Football Quarterback Sleepers

Lamar Jackson

The old adage that fantasy football lifers are beginning to take to heart more and more is that you should always wait as long as you can before drafting a quarterback. There’s a reason why Patrick Mahomes won so many teams their leagues, besides the obvious fact that he threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 TDs. It’s because nearly half of the starting quarterbacks in the league were picked ahead of him, with some going five, six or even seven rounds previously. 

There is never a shortage of valuable quarterback options from which to choose, and this season’s crop might be the deepest yet. Amidst the endless sea of quality options, however, are a few going in the later rounds (if at all) with the potential to be more than just “quality.” They may just win you the league. Because of the depth at the position, you have the flexibility to target these players at their current ADP, with no worries as to whether or not there will be a fallback option.

 

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens

ADP: QB17, 121 Overall

The draft is winding down; some of your league mates have already taken backup quarterbacks, but you’ve been stocking up on depth at your other positions. You could take Tom Brady (QB14) or Philip Rivers (QB16) and have a perfectly serviceable QB to start the season, but in taking them you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s not a league-winning performer. It’s quite possible that Brady finishes ahead of Lamar Jackson in fantasy points this season, but again, at this point in the draft, there is no point in playing it safe. 

Jackson is expected to rush more than any quarterback has ever rushed in a season, which forecasts a particularly nerve-wracking, though nonetheless rewarding, QB1 season. Just as long as Jackson is able to markedly improve as a passer and can extend drives with his arm on occasion, there is almost nothing preventing Jackson’s trajectory towards becoming a fantasy superstar.

From weeks 11-17 last year, Jackson was fantasy’s QB7 despite throwing for over 200 yards just once. This, of course, was thanks to his average of 17 carries per game in that span — a rushing load topped by only three RUNNING BACKS who appeared in more than two games. It was a number that more than doubled any other quarterback’s rushing attempts. While that really isn’t a sustainable or advisable way for a quarterback to operate for a full season, if that number dwindles all the way to 12 rushes per game this season, Jackson will still have run the ball five times more per game than any other quarterback did last year. At this price, it’s well worth making the Mahomes-type upside pick that you didn’t make last year. 

 

Dak Prescott, Cowboys

ADP: QB18, 138 Overall

After a year and a half of disappointing play, Prescott was rejuvenated by the Cowboys’ acquisition of Amari Cooper. Dak averaged 19.3 PPG in weeks 9-17, compared to his 16-point average before the trade. When it was all said and done, Dak had put up a season’s worth of stats that much more closely resembled his 2016 Rookie of the Year season than they did his 2017 letdown season. With Cooper back for his first full year in Dallas, it should be no surprise to see Dak surpass the 4,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career. 

What is surprising, then, is to see Prescott being drafted as though the Cowboys never acquired Cooper at all. One of the most dangerous players in the NFL near the goal line, Prescott has rushed for six touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. He has as safe a floor as any quarterback and now possesses a moderately high ceiling. He should be firmly in the QB1 discussion.

Prescott’s value does rely somewhat on the presence of Ezekiel Elliott, but under the assumption that Zeke returns soon, Prescott is a total steal.

 
Jimmy Garoppolo
Credit: Sports Illustrated

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

ADP: QB21, 141 Overall

Remember Garoppolo? I’m not sure you do. The same Jimmy Garoppolo whose hype reached such levels that he was going as QB10 in 2018 drafts is now going undrafted in standard leagues, thanks to a torn ACL that he suffered back in Week 3. Granted, Garoppolo’s early results with San Francisco were mediocre at best, and he is surprisingly inexperienced in regular season action for a player who was drafted in 2014 (Sam Darnold has attempted more passes). Still, for a player who has shown the dominant ability Garoppolo has demonstrated, to go behind Mitch Trubisky or even Kirk Cousins is questionable, especially now that we know how good George Kittle is. The offense is loaded with talented pass-catching backs, who may not possess much value on their own, but they’ll certainly make Garoppolo’s life easier. Many are expecting a breakout season for Dante Pettis as well. It’s an offense primed to explode; the final ingredient to set it off is Garoppolo, and he’s finally ready. Don’t forget about him.

Garoppolo should under no circumstances be going as the QB1 he was going as last season, but he is the type of player who is intriguing enough to throw at the wall and see if he sticks.

 

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Matthew Stafford, Lions

ADP: QB25, 189 Overall

Yes, Stafford is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, but there’s no reason for that to put you off of him entirely. Stafford has proven himself time and time again to be a valuable fantasy quarterback, often throwing for well over 4,000 yards and 25 TDs. In 2018, he was drafted as QB11, following a 4,400-yard, 29-TD season. Fantasy football players love to draft based on what they’ve seen lately, which is why players who had exciting streaks last season, like Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen, can be overvalued at the expense of “boring” players like Stafford, who can sometimes slide through the cracks and become terrific values. We’ve all fallen victim to recency bias, but right now, Stafford is inexplicably going right alongside Derek Carr, and several rounds behind decidedly worse quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Trubisky. Take advantage.

 

Sam Darnold, Jets

ADP: QB24, 173 Overall

Besides Baker Mayfield, if there was any rookie who impressed with his passing ability last season it was Darnold. He didn’t get the headlines that Mayfield got, but he certainly looked like a quarterback who could handle himself in the league. Now, with the Jets introducing Le’Veon Bell, the best pass-catching back of his generation, Darnold has the elite piece he needs on a roster full of underrated weapons. The 4,000-yard threshold is well within reach for Darnold, whose upside with Bell isn’t getting enough recognition. Darnold is a talented player whose ceiling we have yet to discover, and with Bell entering the equation, there is no telling how high Darnold can fly. Remember, upside is all we’re looking for down in the dregs of the QB rankings.

 

Honorable Mention:

Andy Dalton, Bengals

ADP: QB31, 316 Overall

Okay, okay, hear me out. Please, just hear me out. Stop pointing and laughing at me… I’m serious.

Andy Dalton isn’t awful. He isn’t an exciting fantasy player, but he isn’t awful. In fact, before he got injured last season, Dalton was on his way to putting up what would’ve been a very respectable 3,700-yard, 30-TD season. He gets to play with two potentially elite fantasy receivers in A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, a very good running back in Joe Mixon, and who knows, maybe Tyler Eifert and John Ross show up for a few games this season. No, I’m not telling you he’s a really valuable fantasy asset, but if you’re in a deep 2QB league, you should be looking Dalton’s way before Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, which people somehow aren’t doing. Can we all agree he deserves that much? He deserves that on his job security alone.

His weapons move him up a couple more rungs, in my book. I’d rather have Dalton than Marcus Mariota, and possibly more than Nick Foles (if only for fantasy). I think I’d even rather have Dalton than Derek Carr, even if Antonio Brown’s tomfoolery seems to have subsided. Dalton is a solid quarterback in a good enough offense, and it seems that people have just forgotten about him. Let’s give him another chance before we cast him into the fantasy graveyard.

 

 

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