Before you know it, the long, whimsical days of July will be replaced by August’s humid, sticky embrace. While that sadly means summer is moving by at a blinding pace, it also means something wonderful: The return of football! With the return of football comes fantasy football and subsequently fantasy drafts, one of the most exciting parts of the fantasy season. So why haven’t you done your research yet?! It’s time to prove your mettle and show your league why you’re the best in the draft room. Your fantasy season starts now.
This is the fourth installment in a series of articles focusing on important fantasy football information for upcoming drafts. As a refresher, the purpose of these articles is to find value relative to ADP, or average draft position. The goal of drafting in each round should be selecting the player that provides the most value at that draft position, not simply the player who will score the most points. This concept helps explain why owners are opting to draft quarterbacks later and later; the gap in point scoring is smaller for quarterbacks than it is at other skill positions. Often, these will not be sexy picks or players you are super excited about drafting. And that’s probably why they’re valuable. There is typically something at play – whether a common misconception, recency bias or something of the like – that causes a player’s draft slot to fall unfairly low. When that happens, you can wring your hands and laugh maniacally as you swoop in and steal Larry Fitzgerald in the sixth round. With that said, here are some quarterbacks I believe are being drafted too low based on July ADP.
Click here to find wide receivers I believe are undervalued at their ADP. Click here to find running backs I believe are undervalued at their ADP. Click here to find tight ends I believe are undervalued at their ADP.
Quarterback value picks based on current ADP
*Note: All ADP data is from Fantasy Football Calculator and is based on 12-team PPR leagues unless otherwise noted.
Before we get into this, I’ll start by saying I’m a big proponent of the Late Round Quarterback drafting strategy popularized by numberFire.com’s JJ Zachariason. Essentially, because the NFL is a ‘passing league’ more and more each year, quarterback scoring is at an all-time high. This results in a more narrow points gap between the top point scorers relative to other skilled positions like wide receiver and running back. On top of that, there’s less positional scarcity and more room for quarterback streaming simply because most leagues only start one quarterback each week. In my favorite league last year, the championship game quarterback battle was fought between Tyrod Taylor and Philip Rivers – both of whom could be had after the eighth round – which allowed those fantasy owners to load up at more important positions. Of course, you should find the strategy that works best for you, and I will never fault or disagree with anyone drafting Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees somewhat early. But if you’re part of the LRQB crew, the below value picks should be some of your most sought after quarterback draft targets.
Russell Wilson (PPR ADP: 86, QB7; Standard ADP: 83, QB9)
While this may seem hypocritical in light of the above paragraph, the point of this is to find value, which I believe Russ will provide in spades. Wilson struggled to the QB11 finish last season despite battling through a sprained ankle, sprained MCL and pectoral injury while playing behind a bottom-five offensive line. His early season lower body injuries hampered his elite mobility, reducing his ability to extend plays and beat defenses by running the football. Wilson averaged a measly 16.2 rushing yards/game on only 3.6 yards per carry despite pre-2016 career averages of 38 yards/game and 5.85 YPC. He also only managed one rushing touchdown despite averaging three per season prior to 2016. If Russ had managed to hit paydirt just two more times on the ground like he’s done in the past, he would have finished the season at QB7 despite career lows in passer rating (92.6), QBR (63.2), and yards per attempt (7.7).
Russ is a prime bounce back candidate with a slightly improved offensive line and the healthy return of speedsters Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson, while the addition of running back Eddie Lacy should help open up holes in the running game. He is also primed for positive touchdown regression after managing a career-low 3.8% touchdown rate last season, significantly below his 5.6% career rate. It’s easy to forget Russ finished as a top-three QB in 2014 and 2015 and has a ceiling as high as any quarterback outside of Rodgers, without the basement-level floor of similarly-priced passer Cam Newton. Wilson arguably has the best passing game weapons of his career with elite slot receiver Doug Baldwin, athletic freak tight end Jimmy Graham, the aforementioned speedsters, second year wide receiver-turned-back CJ Prosise and 6’2″ 215 lb. third round rookie receiver Amara Darboh who burned a 4.45 forty yard dash at the combine. Seattle has increased Wilson’s pass attempts by an average of 38 passing attempts per season and is no longer shy of unleashing him in the passing game. Fantasy football savant Evan Silva of rotoworld.com has Wilson as his QB4, ahead of Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Newton and Marcus Mariota. Danger Russ is the perfect mid-round fantasy target this year.
Marcus Mariota (PPR ADP: 107, QB12; Standard ADP: 102, QB13)
Only 24 in October, Marcus Ardel Taulauniu Mariota improved across the board in his sophomore season, most notably in touchdowns (26), adjusted yards/attempt (7.9), QBR (64.9), sack percentage (4.9%) and wins (8). Even after a slow start and with a below-average receiving corps, Mariota finished 12th in per-game fantasy scoring and is therefore being drafted at his floor, always music to the ears of keen fantasy drafters. Tennessee boasts Pro Football Focus’ fourth-ranked offensive line and seriously boosted Mariota’s weapons arsenal with the addition of fifth-overall pick Corey Davis – a true potential #1 wide receiver – and touchdown-hog Eric Decker, in addition to third round picks slot receiver Taywon Taylor and athletic tight end Jonnu Smith. It’s odd Mariota’s ADP hasn’t risen from his 2016 finish despite a clear personnel improvement along with projected growth from the third-year passer. The number one fantasy quarterback from weeks 5 – 12 last year, Mariota offers a higher rushing floor than several quarterbacks going ahead of him. He’s the ideal QB1 target with a ninth or 10th round price.
Philip Rivers (PPR ADP: 117, QB13; Standard ADP: 112, QB14)
Philly Rivs is a perennial member of this list considering he has finished as the QB12 or better seven out of the last nine seasons. Rivers low ADP is likely attributed to his increasing interception rate and consecutive late-season tail-offs. He finished as the QB14 last year (so he’s being drafted at his floor again!) despite losing his route running technician Keenan Allen in week one, receiving specialist Danny Woodhead in week two, slot receiver Stevie Johnson in the preseason, and also saw Travis Benjamin and Antonio Gates miss time throughout the season. That was in addition to playing behind one of the most injury-ravaged, talent-deficient offensive lines in the NFL for two straight seasons. Rivers still somehow ranked fourth in touchdown passes (33) and fifth in passing yards (4,386). Everything is trending upwards about the Chargers offense this season, and yet his ADP hasn’t budged from last year’s impressive finish.
The Chargers atrocious offensive line finished 2016 ranked 31st in Pro Football Focus’ end of season offensive line rankings, yet they lept up to 21st in PFF’s pre-2017 rankings with the addition of veteran LT Russell Okung and highly regarded rookie interior linemen Forrest Lamp (second round pick) and Dan Feeney (third). These additions not only enhance the collective talent of the group but also crucially improve the line’s overall depth, which has been lacking in recent years. Los Angeles drafted stud rookie receiver Mike Williams with the seventh overall pick and gets Allen back and healthy, not to mention unearthed yards after catch-fiend Tyrell Williams last year. Rivers arguably has his deepest, most talented collection of weapons when you also add in young tight end stud Hunter Henry, the Hall of Famer Gates, the 4.36 burner Benjamin, a solid pass/run combo back in Melvin Gordon III and another solid slot receiver in Dontrelle Inman. Per Evan Silva, Rivers hasn’t missed a start in 12 seasons and has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in nine straight years. He’s a steal at his tenth round ADP and the kind of quarterback you should be waiting for.
Andy Dalton ( Standard ADP: 142, QB19)
Arguably my favorite late round quarterback this year, Dalton is a classic example where an unsexy fantasy name is clouding drafting judgment. Dalton finished as the overall QB13 last season and the QB16 in points per game despite only having AJ Green and Tyler Eifert available at the same time in three games last year. Three! This is after his next two best receivers Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu left in free agency and doesn’t include the six games receiving back Gio Bernard missed to end the season. With Jeremy Hill plodding all season long, Dalton was left to shoulder the load with an injured passing core and clearly isn’t talented enough to do so. The Bengals have since drafted Joe Mixon, who will simultaneously require more run game attention from defenses and act as an above average talent in the passing game. AJ Green and Tyler Eifert offer the best receiver/tight end combination in football and both are expected to be healthy to start the season. Similar to Wilson, Mariota and Rivers above, Dalton now has arguably the most talented offensive arsenal of his career when Green, Eifert, Mixon and Bernard are combined with solid sophomore slot receiver Tyler Boyd, rookie speedster John Ross who set the all-time forty yard dash record, and decent depth receiver Brandon LaFell. The only concern facing Dalton is the loss of two premier offensive linemen, but this should help keep his ADP low and may force a quick-throwing passing game that could actually boost his numbers.
If you’re still not convinced, Dalton – who has missed only three regular season games in six seasons – is a prime positive touchdown regression candidate considering his career-low 3.2% touchdown rate last season is bound to recover. Per Evan Silva (who also loves Dalton as a late round option), Dalton has finished as a top-seven per game fantasy scorer in two of the last four years and has been a season end QB1 in three of the last five. That’s incredible value in the 12th round.
Tyrod Taylor is going as the 18th quarterback off the board despite finishing in the top ten in quarterback points scored in back to back seasons. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Having a healthy Sammy Watkins back only boosts his value. I’m not as high as some are on Dak Prescott (QB13), but Ezekiel Elliott may be facing a suspension and Vegas thinks Dallas won’t win nearly as many games this season, which all should result in more passes thrown. Dak put together a historically efficient rookie season, offers a nice rushing floor, plays behind an elite offensive line and is tied to the best end zone receiver in football. It’s odd he’s not even being drafted as a starting fantasy quarterback.
Big Ben Roethlisberger (PPR QB8; Standard QB9) has only played a full 16-game season three times in thirteen seasons, but his in-game fantasy ceiling is as high as anyone in football. It’s simply wrong that his ADP is slightly lower this season despite the return of athletic touchdown machine Martavis Bryant (WR22) and a suspension-free start for premier running back Le’Veon Bell (RB2). In the ten games Ben, Bell, Antonio Brown and Bryant all played together in 2014, Roethlisberger’s 16-game pace was (would-be career highs) 5,374 yards and 38 touchdowns on only 10 interceptions. The Steelers drafted receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round, who has garnered comparisons to Anquan Boldin due to his big frame and strong hands. Pittsburgh also boasts a top-ten offensive line and a solid group of sub-package receivers in slot man Eli Rogers, deep threat Sammie Coates and six-foot-seven tight end Jesse James. Oh, and he throws to Antonio Brown who happens to be the best receiver in football.
Kirk Cousins (QB10) has significantly outperformed his ADP in consecutive years and is going in the ninth round despite a per-game QB6 finish last year. Cousins finished third in the ultra predictive yards per attempt metric in 2016, behind only Tom Brady and MVP Matt Ryan. His ADP is likely so low based on the loss of boundary receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, which is puzzling. While it’s tough to lose two solid receivers, Terrelle Pryor is likely an improvement upon the 30-year-old Jackson and actually ran a faster forty time at the draft combine, while 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson’s ceiling is much higher than Garcon’s ever was. With those two in tow, an elite tight end in Jordan Reed and a shifty slot receiver in Jamison Crowder, Cousins is a solid bet to beat his ADP.
Carson Palmer (QB20) is only one year removed from a QB5 finish, gets a healthy John Brown and has the best receiving back in football. As I touched on previously, Palmer was the QB12 from weeks 8-17 last season despite playing behind an injured offensive line. He’s a great backup option this year with a very low price tag. Two of my favorite 2-QB league options are Sam Bradford (QB25) and Brian Hoyer (QB28). Generally underrated, Hoyer’s best years have come with Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and he’s likely to be playing catch up for most of the year. Bradford enjoyed a career year last year despite playing in a new offense behind the league’s worst offensive line and without the support of a running game.
Think I’m wrong? Feel free to tweet your disagreements to @eweiner_bball.
Statistics courtesy of rotoworld.com, pro-football-reference.com, fantasypros.com and footballguys.com.