As you plan for your draft, quarterback looks crazy deep. Joshua Lake looks at 2016 QBs to draft, looking at how late you can wait. …
August is here! That means fantasy football draft season is upon us. What a glorious time of year.
Because I focus on 2QB and Superflex leagues, much of my preseason preparation involves the quarterback position. I run the numbers, project the coming season, and consult my intuition; all in the hope of finding the next Blake Bortles or Kirk Cousins. After all that work, I have now settled on a few QBs I plan to target heavily this year, players I trust to provide value at their draft prices.
I share five (Editor’s Note: Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending injury) names in this article, and I expect to own each in many of my leagues. I want to emphasize, nevertheless, that these are not my top five quarterbacks. For that sort of analysis, check out our QB rankings page. This is simply a set of players I like a lot based on where I will need to draft them, and each fits a different role for my fantasy teams.
So let’s kick this thing off with a name that won’t surprise anyone who has followed my work this offseason. Here is the first of my QBs to draft in 2016.
The man behind the bolo tie has been a QB1 in half his games. Not just last year. Not just the last two years. From 2008-2015, Philip Rivers has finished as a QB1 in 55% of his games. Rivers is consistent, and he is consistent at a high level.
Last year before Keenan Allen went down, Rivers had six top-12 finishes in his first nine games. He was QB3 before Allen was injured. He was on an incredible pace.
Over the three years Keenan Allen has been in the league, Philip Rivers has averaged 292 yards and 2 touchdowns in games where Allen gets at least three targets. I’d take those QB stats any week, and they’re just the average.
This year, the Chargers brought back offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who struggled as a head coach in Tennessee. But the last time Whisenhunt was the San Diego OC, he helped Rivers finish the 2013 season with a 69.5% completion rate, nearly 4,500 yards, and 32 touchdowns. Now, the two reunite, and Keenan Allen — a rookie in 2013 — is healthy and primed for a strong fourth season in the league.
The Chargers lost Malcom Floyd, one of Rivers’ favorite targets in recent years, to retirement this offseason, but they added Travis Benjamin, last year’s breakout speedster in Cleveland. Deep passing has not been Rivers’ strong suit, and his accuracy struggles beyond twenty yards. But, in small samples, he succeeds most often to the deep left side of the field, which is also where Travis Benjamin excelled. If Benjamin can maintain his progress from last year, he could provide a nice field-stretching dimension to the San Diego offense.
Right now, the community drafts Philip Rivers as QB12, according to our 2QB ADP (month of July). At such an affordable price, Rivers offers both consistency and upside, and he won’t break the bank. Rivers is my favorite quarterback for 2016, and I will be drafting him as my QB1 in most of my 2QB leagues. In Rivers, I get a reliable QB1 several rounds after most owners have drafted theirs. That discount should allow me to build a stronger roster at the skill positions, without taking on much extra risk at quarterback.
Andy Dalton has been a top-ten quarterback in two of his last three seasons, in points per game, but he now gets drafted as QB17! What gives? Let’s start with the arguments against Dalton for 2016.
First, the Cincinnati Bengals have a new offensive coordinator, and some worry that Dalton will struggle with the transition. That change does not worry me much, however. The Bengals are one of the most stable franchises in the modern NFL, led by the same head coach since 2003; they are not likely to promote a coach internally then have him radically transform the offense. I expect the gameplan to look much the same as it did in past years.
Second, Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu left the team in free agency, and Tyler Eifert looks like he might miss time at the start of the season. Fears of 2014 creep up, as fantasy owners remember Dalton’s struggles that year when his teammates looked like the walking wounded. I will admit that I would be much more hesitant about Dalton if it looked like Eifert was going to miss the whole season like he did in 2014, but right now his injury looks far less severe.
Dalton has matured as a passer and still has elite weapons around him: A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, along with Giovani Bernard. As you can see below, outside Tyler Eifert, the rest of Dalton’s weapons have been quite similar in production. Marvin Jones sits atop that second tier, but he is not far ahead of Jermaine Gresham or Jerome Simpson, and none of us would argue their loss crippled Dalton’s fantasy prospects.
Assuming Tyler Eifert is healthy early in the season, I do not fear Dalton’s fantasy prospects, but particularly not when his price is QB17 or cheaper. I will take that value in every league, and I expect to roster Dalton in quite a few. He’s one of my top QBs to draft in 2016.
Kirk Cousins, the man with top-five upside, according to Ben Cummins, was QB14 in our July 2QB ADP. I talked myself onto the Kirk Cousins bandwagon this offseason but have to admit some hesitance at a QB14 price. Cousins looks like a strong play for 2016, but I will be more patient toward him than I will Dalton, given their prices. I will be drafting Cousins in leagues where he falls, but I am not willing to reach too far ahead of his QB14 price. All that said, let’s talk about what there is to like:
This will be Cousins’ first full offseason as a starter in the NFL. It feels like a generation ago, but just last year RG3 was the incumbent starter heading into camp. We only learned Cousins would start at the very end of the preseason, after most fantasy drafts have come and gone. The full offseason should help Cousins improve his grasp of the offense, and it should build confidence in the young starter. Last year, Cousins improved remarkably in the second half of the season, speaking to his ability to improve with increased snaps.
This year, Cousins steps into an offense with nearly the same offensive weapons. He lost a declining Alfred Morris, but the team added rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson. (Over at RotoViz, Tim Talmadge argued that Doctson looks primed for a rookie season like Kelvin Benjamin had two years ago.) Cousins shocked the world last year, finishing the season with 4,000 yards and a completion rate bordering on 70%. This year, he appears to have a nearly identical situation, and he enters the season with more experience and maturity.
J.J. Zachariason, the late-round quarterback himself, recently dubbed Kirk Cousins the LRQB to own in 2016, and he offered four arguments in his favor. Those arguments aren’t far from what I see; Cousins has proven his talent, he’s in a team built for passing production, and his weapons are strong.
In five seasons running offenses – three in Cincinnati and two in Washington – Jay Gruden’s pass offenses have always been humming. Outside a bad first year in Washington, Gruden teams have always finished 13th or better in passing touchdowns, and have ranked 8th or 11th in passing yards each of the last three years. Yards and touchdowns – the ways a quarterback scores fantasy points. I like my chances with a coach who has gotten the best out of Andy Dalton and Cousins himself.
I talked myself onto the Kirk Cousins bandwagon, and now I have to decide just how committed I am. At QB14 or later, I’m in. If his price goes up as August progresses, I will have to reevaluate.
Through ten healthy weeks last year, Joe Flacco was QB11, despite a god-awful bedwetting in Week 1, where he scored 0.68 fantasy points. Marc Trestman transformed the offense and had Flacco throwing an unprecedented number of passes.
Now, Flacco costs a QB23 price — soon to become QB24, as Ryan Fitzpatrick and his new contract pass Flacco on draft boards. He doesn’t need to even come close to his 2015 pace to provide value on that cost.
Like everyone else, I have concerns about the Baltimore depth chart, but they have a healthy stockpile of young talent. I expect they will put together good weapons, even if we don’t yet know which ones will rise to the top. Flacco, who hadn’t ever missed a game until last year, looks like a reliable option with plenty upside to spare. I expect to own him as a late QB2 pick in several leagues.
Teddy Bridgewater was QB23 last season, despite what most consider a dreadful year of football. This young quarterback now has additional NFL experience, added a talented wide receiver, and looks primed to improve. But his price fell!
Last week, a Twitter rumor blossomed, suggesting Nick Foles was told he could compete for the starting job if he signed with Minnesota. For my part, I put no stock in that report, but here is where it started:
Hearing that Nick Foles has been told he will get a chance to compete for starting QB job if he signs with Vikings.
— Patrick Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) July 28, 2016
Drafters took Teddy Bridgewater as the 28th quarterback off the board last month, before that rumor started! 28th! Paxton Lynch, with no guarantee of starter’s reps, was drafted eight picks before Teddy Bridgewater. Carson Wentz, who looks likely to get a redshirt year in 2016, went just three picks after Teddy! I feel tempted to say there’s no rock bottom deeper than where Teddy’s ADP has fallen, but will this Nick Foles rumor bump it even lower? We shall see whether that rumor has legs.
Back to the actual Vikings quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater is an ideal QB3 for anyone looking for the boring, reliable, guaranteed starter archetype. In my opinion, he looks like a lock to start all sixteen games, should he remain healthy. And that reliability can be a valuable thing in itself.
I believe Teddy Bridgewater lacks upside — although Jeff Dumont makes the argument otherwise — and I am drafting him on that assumption. If my team composition needs upside at QB3, I won’t take Teddy. If I just want a reliable bye week fill-in, Teddy is my man. The price couldn’t be better, he’s priced for regression rather than progress, and there is no true challenge to his starting job. I will own Teddy Bridgewater on several teams this year.