Finding the Next Blake Bortles or Kirk Cousins
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Ben Cummins. You can follow him on Twitter @BenCumminsFF.
If you play in a 2QB or Superflex league… you don’t need me to explain the advantage you can gain over other owners if you draft both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. You already know that. The purpose of this article is to explore the possible advantages of waiting to draft one or both of your starting quarterbacks.
In economics, opportunity cost is defined as a benefit that must be given up to acquire something else. In order to gain an advantage at the quarterback position by drafting them early, you have to pass on drafting studs such as Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and Odell Beckham, just to name a few. Is it worth it? Those who drafted Blake Bortles and Kirk Cousins in later rounds or even picked them up off waivers last year would probably tell you no.
Every draft is different, but quarterbacks tend to fly off the board pretty early in 2QB and Superflex leagues. Studs at other positions are generally available longer than in standard leagues. Eventually though, that early run on quarterbacks is going to end and the other owners in your league will start to look at what running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends are available. While other owners are busy worrying about who their first and even second starting QBs are going to be, that is the perfect time to attack the non-QB positions on your roster. Don’t draft a quarterback just because it’s the fifth round and you feel like you need one. Take advantage of the value your draft presents at RB, WR, and TE. It’s a win-win. You can load up at those positions while also depleting the options other owners have to choose from.
The landscape of the QB position in recent years has made this draft strategy even more enticing. In today’s NFL, more and more quarterbacks are finding statistical success and becoming fantasy relevant. Blake Bortles and Kirk Cousins were afterthoughts last year going into fantasy football drafts. According to Joshua Lake’s August 2015 2QB ADP data, Bortles’ ADP was 125th overall. He was drafted around the same time as Nick Foles, Geno Smith, and even Ryan Mallett. As for Cousins, he didn’t even make Joshua’s list.
We all know what transpired in 2015. Bortles threw for 35 TDs which tied for second most in the NFL, quite an improvement from his 11 TD passes as a rookie. Cousins threw for 29 TDs in his first full year as a starter, which ranked him twelfth in the league. In just about any scoring system, both finished the year as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks. They led many owners to fantasy football championships. I was lucky enough to win a standard league after picking Kirk Cousins up off the waiver wire in early December. Yes Kirk, I like that!
Regardless of when you ultimately decide to draft your starters, it is important to hit on late round quarterbacks in 2QB and Superflex leagues for a number of reasons. If you’re able to do this, you can grab quarterbacks later in the draft after already stacking your squad with RB1s, WR1s, and even TE1s. You can obtain trade value throughout the season if you hit on a third quarterback. Finding value at QB late can also be extremely useful when your other passers don’t meet expectations, get hurt, or are on bye.
It’s never too early to start studying the outlook of the position as we try to figure out where that value can come from. Let’s take a look at some signal callers who should begin the 2016 season with tempered expectations and examine their chances of greatly outperforming their ADP, just like Bortles and Cousins did a year ago. If we hit on one or more of these late-round guys, our teams are going to be better off in 2016.
The Big Contract Believer: Brock Osweiler – Houston Texans
It doesn’t matter what you thought when you heard Brock Osweiler signed a 4-year, $72 million deal in free agency. The contract shows the Texans coveted Brock. He is now the unquestioned starter in Houston. Even so, Osweiler’s average 2016 redraft QB ranking on TwoQBs.com is 27.75. That ranking seems way too low. I believe in Bill O’Brien and expect him to get the most out of Osweiler’s talents. If he can make a throw like this in crunch time against the Patriots, just imagine what he’ll be able to do with Deandre Hopkins in 2016.
The Crystal Ball Play: Chase Daniel – Philadelphia Eagles
Almost immediately after the 2016 free agency period began, the Eagles inked Chase Daniel to a 3-year, $21 million deal that features $12 million guaranteed. With incentives, the deal could be worth up to $36 million. That isn’t your normal backup QB contract and it would suggest Philly coach Doug Pederson liked what he saw while overseeing Daniel in Kansas City for the past three years.
Shortly after the signing, NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported that the Eagles plan to give Daniel every chance to take the starting job from Bradford. Pederson denied Breer’s report, but of course he had to. Days before signing Daniel, the Eagles gave Sam Bradford a 2-year, $36 million deal. Bradford’s deal makes him the clear favorite to start Week 1. If he does and he keeps the job, Bradford could actually end up being the Bortles/Cousins-esque fantasy value. However, those odds aren’t as likely as you may think.
It has become very evident this offseason that Eagles general manager, Howie Roseman, has tried to erase any evidence of the Chip Kelly era from the Eagles’ roster. DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and Mark Sanchez have all been shipped out. Bradford’s two year contract shows the Eagles didn’t want to commit to him long term and it is fair to wonder where he stands with the organization moving forward.
Daniel could beat out Bradford for the job, Bradford could get hurt (would that really surprise anyone?), or Bradford could struggle like he did at times last season. File Daniel’s name away and pay attention to reports coming out of Philly moving forward.
The Chip Kelly Truther: Blaine Gabbert – San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick’s situation with the 49ers is still very much up in the air. If he does stay in San Francisco, he could actually end up being the draft day value, but Kaepernick is more likely to be traded. If so, Blaine Gabbert is the next man up. Gabbert failed to live up to the high expectations that came with being a first round pick in Jacksonville. Many laughed, including myself, when he was named the starting QB in the middle of the last season. Yet Gabbert actually performed competently during the eight games he played in, throwing for 2,031 yards with 10 TDs and 7 INTs.
Now, Gabbert gets to play in a Chip Kelly offense that should make him even more productive. In Philadelphia, Chip Kelly’s roster decisions simply did not work out. Still, Kelly knows offense. He made Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, and Sam Bradford all fantasy relevant at times during his tenure with the Eagles. Gabbert could be the next beneficiary if he gets the starting nod next season. Pay attention in late April though, as the Niners could be selecting a QB early in the draft.
The Reclamation Project: Robert Griffin III – Cleveland Browns
The last time we saw Robert Griffin III in the regular season, he struggled going through his progressions and playing within the pocket. He threw only 4 TD passes with 6 INTS over a nine game span in 2014. Last year, who could forget that disastrous preseason game before he was officially benched for Kirk Cousins. All of that is in the past now as RGIII gets a fresh start in Cleveland. Josh McCown is still on the roster and the Browns could draft a QB come the end of April. Regardless, I expect RGIII to begin the year as the starter.
Fantasy points could be coming, especially if Josh Gordon is reinstated. Hue Jackson is a great offensive mind and probably the best thing that could’ve happened to RGIII at this point in his career. Even though RGIII now has the dreaded “injury prone” label, his body has had an entire year off from taking hits in games. He should still have some scrambling ability and rushing production left in the tank. Keep an eye on reports coming out of Cleveland to see what happens with RGIII, Josh McCown, and a possible high QB draft pick.
The Leader of The Super Bowl 50 Champs: Denver Broncos Starting QB
Trade negotiations with the 49ers regarding Colin Kaepernick are still pending. This is another QB situation worth monitoring. Whether the starting quarterback is Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, another veteran, or a rookie drafted at the end of April, that player will have value. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders make up one of the best WR duos in the NFL.
Verdict: The Next Blake Bortles or Kirk Cousins
After breaking down these different bargain basement QB options, my best bet to similarly replicate a Bortles/Cousin-esque 2015 is Brock Osweiler. In fact, Osweiler’s career path is more comparable to 2015 Kirk Cousins than some may realize. Osweiler and Cousins both entered the NFL in 2012. Before starting all sixteen games in 2015, Cousins played in six games the year before, throwing for 1,710 yards, 10 TDs, and 9 INTs. Barring injury, it’s safe to say Osweiler will start all sixteen games in 2016. He played in eight games last year, throwing for 1,967 yards, 10 TDs and 6 INTs. Osweiler was taken 45 picks before Cousins back in 2012. It is possible that it just took an extra year for all the pieces to fall into place. Jay Gruden certainly helped Cousins produce in 2015. There’s a chance that Bill O’Brien could do the same for Osweiler in 2016.
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