Who Are The 2020 League-Winning Quarterbacks?
Over the last several weeks I have done profiles on both league-winning running back and wide receivers.
By looking at some data from the ESPN “Most Common Players on Championship Teams” and comparing preseason ADPs vs. final rankings, you can start putting together profiles of what these different players look like. So, using the same tools, it is time to look at quarterbacks.
I reviewed the following sources from a three-year period (2017-2019):
· ESPN’s “Most Common Players on Fantasy Championship Rosters”
· FantasyPros Final Season Rankings PPR points/game
· Fantasy Football Calculator 12 team, PPR ADPs
The basic profile that emerged of the league winning QB is one taken outside the top 10 in ADP but finished as a QB1 and 10 or more spots higher in the final season’s standings. The one exception was Jameis Winston who had an ADP of QB 12 but finished as QB5. Looking at 2017-2019, there were 14 players that fit this profile.
Youth is king
Just like with RBs and WRs, it is always smart to bet on youth if you want those big hits. Of the 14 players in the profile, 7 were either rookies or in their second year (Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Jared Goff in 2017, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky in 2018, and Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen in 2019.) Mahomes and Jackson didn’t start until their second year. Wentz, Goff, Trubisky and Allen all were pressed into action as rookies and were fairly underwhelming (Wentz had the highest ADP going into their second year at QB17). Watson was the only rookie and unfortunately his incredible season was limited to just seven games.
As far for the veteran QBs…
I think youth still played a part, just in a different way. Looking at the seven veteran QBs in this profile, all got a boost from a young wide receiver that made a significant jump.
Alex Smith (2017) – Tyreek Hill (finished as WR8 after an ADP as WR22)
Matt Ryan (2018) – Calvin Ridley (rookie year, 10 TDs)
Ben Roethlisberger (2018) – JuJu Smith-Schuster (finished as WR9 after an ADP of WR 18)
Dak Prescott (2019) – full year of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup (finished as WR17 after an ADP of WR46)
Matt Stafford (2019) – Kenny Golladay (WR12 after an ADP of WR20)
Jameis Winston (2019) – Chris Godwin (finished as WR2 after an ADP of WR16)
Ryan Tannehill (2019) – A.J. Brown (finishes with 1,000+ yards and 8 TDs)
Effect of new coaches
The other common thread is coaching. The four veterans from 2019 all had new head coaches or OCs (Tannehill was obviously with a whole new team). The three from 2017 and 2018 all had OCs in their second seasons so you could argue they were still getting comfortable with the system.
The effect is also seen with the young guys. Four of the seven had a new head coach or OC (Goff, Mahomes, Trubisky and Jackson) and two had an OC in their second season (Wentz, Allen).
So, let’s begin by looking at quarterbacks with a ranking of QB11 or lower and focusing on these traits:
· In their first two seasons in the league
· Have a potential breakout candidate at wide receiver
· New head coach or OC
The Young Guns
Daniel Jones (current ADP of QB15)
· Second year (made twelve starts as a rookie)
· New head coach in Joe Judge and OC in Jason Garrett
· The Giants don’t have a traditional breakout candidate at WR but this a case where it might be quantity over quality. Jones has five legitimate weapons in the passing game (Tate, Shepard, Slayton, Engram, and Barkley) and it might be a case where the entire offense takes a leap, as opposed to one or two players.
Outlook: By just looking at the ADP, Jones would have to finish in the top five to provide league-winning value, but I think it is definitely in the range of outcomes. Jones flashed serious potential in his rookie season, with four top-3 QB fantasy performances. Similar to Drew Lock, he is in an offense loaded with young skill talent. I think the change in OC is a downgrade as I prefer Shurmur to Garrett. One significant factor in Jones favor is the Giants defense. On paper, this looks like a weak unit and should provide plenty of negative game script and shootout potential for Jones.
Drew Lock (current ADP of QB22)
· Second year (made five starts as a rookie)
· Breakout WR candidates in 3rd-year Courtland Sutton and rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler (both of which are apparently playing well early in camp). Also have breakout TE candidate in Noah Fant.
· New OC in Pat Shurmur
Outlook: Lock checks all the boxes. Currently going in the 14th round, he could provide league-winning value if he finishes as a QB1. The five starts he made in 2019 were not impressive (only one 300+ passing yardage game and 13+ fantasy points) but they were better than Goff or Trubisky’s rookie seasons.
He now has a full offseason as the starter, young potential stars in Sutton and Fant, major talent additions through the draft (Jeudy and Hamler) and free agency (Melvin Gordon), and what should be a significant upgrade at OC. Former OC Rich Scangarello was in his first season as a NFL OC last year and, by all accounts, struggled with play calling. Pat Shurmur is a veteran OC with experience coaching young QBs (including Daniel Jones last year).
Gardner Minshew (currently undrafted)
· Second year (played in 14 games as a rookie)
· New OC in Jay Gruden
· The Jaguars have a very popular potential WR breakout candidate in D.J. Chark, who was WR19 in PPR points/game in his second year. They also added Laviska Shenault in the second round of this year’s draft and he’s drawing early praise in training camp.
Outlook: Minshew showed some promise in his rookie season, with four QB1 performances, including three in the top eight. Similar to Lock, a finish as a QB1 would qualify as league-winning value at this current undrafted ADP. Can he provide a Trubisky-like stat line from 2018 (3,200 yards, 24 TDs passing, 420 yards, 3 TDs rushing)? Minshew was 5th in rushing yards/game for a QB so the rushing ability is there.
Dwayne Haskins (currently undrafted)
· Second year (played in 9 games as a rookie)
· New head coach in Ron Rivera and OC in Scott Turner
· My favorite WR breakout candidate: Terry McLaurin
Outlook: Haskins had the least encouraging rookie season of this group, with only one QB1 performance and just three total that were in the top 24 for that week. There is also some added uncertainty now that he could lose the starting job if Alex Smith continues his miraculous recovery. He’s definitely a longshot to finish as a QB1 but the same things were said about Goff after his rookie year. The stats are similar (yards/game: 151 vs. 156, Y/A: 6.7 vs. 5.3, TD/INT: 7/7 vs. 5/7).
While you can make a case for a few of them, I am just going to focus on my two favorites.
Ryan Tannehill (current ADP of QB20)
· Second year with Tennessee
· OC Arthur Smith is in his second year
· WR breakout candidate: A.J. Brown (along with potential TE breakout in Jonnu Smith)
Outlook: Could Tannehill repeat as a league-winning value? He finished as the QB9 in points/game after taking over for Marcus Mariota. That included eight QB1 performances in only ten starts. The advanced metrics support the QB1 stats. According to Player Profiler, he ranked #1 in True Passer Rating, Play-Action Completion %, Production Premium, and Adjusted Yards per Attempt. He was #2 in Fantasy Points per Dropback. He was top six in completion %, both under pressure and with a clean pocket. But the biggest reason for optimism? A.J. Brown. If he can make a similar jump that Hill, Smith-Schuster, Golladay and Godwin made, then Tannehill can definitely get back into the top 10.
Teddy Bridgewater (current ADP of QB25)
· First year with Carolina
· Head coach Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady are in their first seasons
· WR breakout candidate: D.J. Moore
Outlook: Bridgewater is one of my favorite targets this year, at any position. The skill position talent is very deep and like New York Giants and Denver with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson and Ian Thomas. New OC Joe Brady led one of the most dominant college offenses of all-time last year at LSU. And Carolina has a weak defense in a division filled with strong offenses (Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta). If Moore can continue to progress and emerge as top-six WR, I feel safe in predicting a QB1 finish for Bridgewater.
My Draft Plan
Like most people, I’m trying to employ a late-round QB strategy unless one of the top guys just drops too far and becomes a value. My favorite combination of the above would be Daniel Jones in the 11th round and Teddy Bridewater in the 14th round. I think it’s a good bet that one of them will finish as a QB1 in 2020.