Long-shot Rookie Quarterbacks in Dynasty
Editor’s Note: This post was written by guest writer Mike Valverde — follow him on Twitter @RFLRedZone.
Shockingly, and for the first time since 1999, five quarterbacks were taken in the opening round of the 2018 draft. In 1999, the first-round quarterbacks had great futures. Two had strong careers, but three became busts. Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper were on the positive side, while Akili Smith, Tim Couch, and Cade McNown landed on the other. Aaron Brooks was picked in the fourth round by the Packers. Having little need for a third-string quarterback behind Brett Farve and Matt Hasselbeck, the Packers traded Brooks to the Saints in 2000.
Brooks took over for an injured Jeff Blake in Week 11 and was terrific in the Saints’ opening round playoff win against the Rams. Brooks was 16-of-29 for 266 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He took over the starting role in 2001 and finished sixth in fantasy points. Brooks would go on to repeat that performance in 2002, while finishing fifth and eighth in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Brooks was top-10 in both touchdowns and yards each of those seasons. Even though Brooks was a lesser known quarterback at the time of the draft, he yielded a solid performance for fantasy owners. Here is a look at highlights from his 2000 season.
Fast forward to 2018. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson were the five quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the draft. Their NFL success levels are yet to be determined, but what about the other incoming rookie quarterbacks? Can they make a difference in your 2QB and Superflex dynasty leagues?
Out of Oklahoma State, Mason Rudolph is 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. He went in the third round to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who traded up to ensure they landed the quarterback. Rudolph, who has good size, will stand in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. He isn’t afraid to take a hit and will deliver the ball accurately since he won’t need to relocate the receiver.
Rudolph will find the clean launch points and use progression reads to make the play. He is also cognizant of where his receivers are and waits for them to clear traffic. He throws a wonderful deep ball allowing the wide receivers to run under it and keep going.
Here we see Rudolph stand tall with his eyes looking downfield, even with an oncoming rusher two yards away and no blocker in front of him.
Rudolph does not have the strongest arm, and his video game numbers could either be a reflection of his talent or the sieve of Big 12 defenses he faced. I think it’s both. Quality quarterbacks take advantage of what defenses give them. Rudolph certainly did that over his career at Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, he struggled against an NFL-style Cover 2 defense when facing Texas. He will learn how to read those formations or face being a career backup, if not completely out of the league.
Most importantly for his success in Pittsburgh is the retirement status of Ben Roethlisberger. With Big Ben taking up the pocket, Rudolph will have to watch from the sidelines. If and when Rudolph does take over, he will join his college teammate and receiver James Washington. As Ryan Ghost points out in his Orange Juice report: “this familiarity would pay excellent dividends in the near future.” At this point, I have no problem placing Rudolph on my roster in dynasty startups or seasonal leagues.
Kyle Lauletta is a 6-foot-3, 222-pound quarterback out of Richmond (FCS). This pro-style quarterback became the Giants’ fourth-round pick. He has excellent footwork and sets up a nice play-action fake. Throwing on the move isn’t a problem for Lauletta, and he is accurate when hitting his intermediate targets. He also puts a nice spin on the ball, helping his receivers catch it.
Lauletta on this play-action fake has the ball shown to the defense. Good extension of the arm sells it as a run play.
After the fake handoff, Lauletta cuts back to the opposite side of the field. Notice the defense and how it shifts to the opposite side — Lauletta sold it. He doesn’t take a wide angle, as his 180 degree turn is sharp and keeps the defense from closing in.
Now here is the pass. Lauletta has put himself into a nice position and has a clear throwing lane. His front foot is planted and he is pushing off the back to give the ball momentum. Lauletta twists his body to put power into the throw
Lauletta is a precision passer, and was named team captain the last two seasons, showing his excellent leadership skills. A talent in manipulating the defense with his eye, Lauletta moves linebackers out of passing lanes. He was the first quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in three straight seasons for Richmond.
He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he is capable of making all the throws. Lauletta will need to improve his internal clock while in the pocket. His happy feet will get him in trouble, and his eyes drop under pressure. Scrambling isn’t a strong suit, which makes him like a pole in wet cement. Lauletta will need to get accustomed to the difference in speed between the FCS and NFL.
For fantasy purposes, I like Lauletta as a late pick in dynasty leagues. I don’t see a problem with him becoming Eli Manning’s backup and beating out Davis Webb, who struggled to beat out Geno Smith last season. Manning’s career outlook remains a question. His contract expires next season and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. Even though Lauletta is not a scrambler, he does have some straight line running ability. He is a big-body quarterback who can truck defenders, but he is more of a pocket passer than anything else.
Mike White is a fifth-round pick out of Western Kentucky, now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
White has excellent size and his arm matches. He can get the ball into tight windows with accuracy. His throws can go over the heads of defensive backs and drop nicely in the bucket. White has good rhythmic passes and can hit the outer hash on deep balls.
Unfortunately, White has heavy feet. He was under pressure all last year, so can he bounce back? White’s teammate, Dak Prescott, had similar issues at Mississippi State, but has had a couple of nice seasons in the NFL.
To make the change, White will need to recognize the blitz better and translate that into quality decisions. When the pocket pushes on him, he tends to look down and doesn’t have good mobility to escape. But he does do a solid job reading his progressions and manipulating defenders when he has the time. Matt Waldman discusses those characteristics here.
White is a fumbling machine, and that will need to stop. His 12 fumbles last season made him look like the worst version of JaMarcus Russell. White will also need to understand that locking onto targets is just another way to say “pick-six.” He threw only seven interceptions last year, but playing against professionals will make that stat jump even higher.
White’s opportunity is slim with Prescott at the helm in Dallas. However, Prescott struggled when Ezekiel Elliott had to serve a suspension. Defensive coordinators may now have a solid read on Prescott. White needs to improve on his problem areas, and if he does, he could be the steal of the draft at quarterback. He does have a late-second or early-third round skill set. White is a pure pocket passer, so forget about rushing bonuses for your fantasy squad. At this point, White is free agent fodder, but I wouldn’t hold picking him against you if you like to gamble.
Mason Rudolph and Kyle Lauletta are your best hopes among rookie quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round. Rudolph will get you points in both the passing game and the running game. However, you will need to sit on him for a year or more. This ties into his value, so you should be able to get him cheaper than his talent indicates.
Lauletta is the oncoming train who will either speed out of control or surprise everyone as he barrels down the competition. He can become another great quarterback drafted later than the big names. If the Giants give Lauletta a chance, he could light it up like Aaron Brooks did in 2001 when he threw for 3,832 yards and 26 touchdowns, en route to a fantasy QB6 season.
Mike White is the grey horse. I would be a lot higher on him if Prescott was with another team or on the verge of retirement. White will have to beat out the incumbent starter and incumbent backup Cooper Rush when given the opportunity. White has all the tools that make coaches drool, he just needs to put them together. If you are looking for other fantasy lawn darts, try Luke Falk (Tennessee), Logan Woodside (Cincinnati), and Tanner Lee (Jacksonville).