2017 pre-draft rookie QB fantasy rankings
Heading into the draft, Jeff Ratcliffe ranks his top 23 rookie draft-eligible quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL draft for fantasy football leagues.
2017 pre-draft rookie QB fantasy rankings
With the 2017 NFL draft rapidly approaching, it’s time to finish up this year’s fantasy scouting reports. Below you’ll find the pre-draft fantasy evaluations of the signal-callers in this year’s class. It isn’t one the most star-studded groups, but there are some players who figure to be future fantasy factors. The fantasy shelf-life of quarterbacks is by far the longest of the skill positions, so it’s important we have a good grasp of each player in this year’s class. The links are to the PFF scouting reports on the players, when available.
Remember, ranking players is a process that continuously changes as we get new pieces of information. The biggest piece won’t come until late April, when the player is either drafted, signed as an undrafted free agent, or passed over by the 32 NFL teams. For now, all the incoming players exist in a vacuum without a team and can be compared on even ground.
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1. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame — Big (6-4, 230) and athletic, Kizer assumed starting duties as a redshirt freshman and threw for 2,884 yards and 21 scores in 11 starts. His numbers increased in 2016 to 2,934 yards and 26 scores (just nine picks), but his completion percentage regressed from 62.1 to 58.7 percent. Was actually benched at times for Malik Zaire. Notre Dame went just 4-8 last year. Completed 23-of-61 deep balls for 769 and nine scores (39.3%). Competed 44.8 percent of his passes under pressure, but was slow to throw at 2.83 seconds. Not a burner, but has dual-threat ability with 18 rushing scores over the last two years. Struggles with short-area accuracy and can exhibit sloppy footwork and mechanics. Size and arm comp to Steve McNair, but he comes into the league unpolished. That said, he profiles as a high-upside fantasy option.
2. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina — Sat behind Marquise Williams for the first two years of his college career, but exploded as the starter in 2016. Very athletic. Completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards and 30 scores with just six interceptions. Had 68.2 percent of his yards come in the air. Capable deep-ball thrower. Attempted a deep ball on 17 percent of his throws, completing 28-of-76 for 1,026 yards and 12 scores. Effective under pressure, he completed 53.4 percent of his throws when pressured (ranked fourth in the nation). Dual-threat ability with 308 yards and five scores. Not massive, but decent size (6-3, 220). Ran nearly all of his plays out of the shotgun with a lot of run/pass options. He isn’t a perfect prospect, but he has the tools to be a future QB1.
3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson — Once viewed as the potential No. 1 overall pick, Watson’s stock slipped after an inconsistent 2016 campaign that culminated in a fourth quarterback comeback win in the national championship. Topped 4,000 yards in each of the last two seasons with 76 touchdowns over that span. Decision-making can sometimes be an issue, as he threw 17 picks in 2016 and 13 in 2015. Has the ability to avoid sacks, taking a sack on just 11 percent of his pressured dropbacks. A capable runner, Watson had 21 scores and 1,734 yards on 372 attempts in the last two seasons. Didn’t play in a pro-style offense, and was mostly out of the shotgun at Clemson. On the thin side at 6-3, 215. Watson has the athleticism and upside to be a long-term fantasy asset, but he isn’t the best bet in this year’s class to be a future QB1.
4. Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech — Prolific spread offense quarterback who put up 11,252 passing yards and 93 scores with only two full seasons as a starter (he started the final four games of his freshman year). Special arm talent who can make any throw from every type of platform and arm angle. Topped 5,000 passing yards and tossed 41 scores with just 10 picks in 2016. Saw pressure on 36.3 percent of his dropbacks and completed 44 percent of his passes when under pressure. Has NFL size (6-3, 215). Capable runner with 131 carries in each of the last two years. Comes from a spread system and has a tendency to play undisciplined football. Has drawn comparisons to Jay Cutler. That could be very good or very bad for fantasy purposes.
5. Davis Webb, California — Started his career at Texas Tech, but lost the starting job to Mahomes. This led to him to Cal as a grad transfer. Put up 4,295 yards and 37 scores (12 picks) in 12 games as a starter last year. Big build (6-5, 229). Played in a spread at both colleges. Completed 36-of-102 deep ball passes for 1,186 and 18 scores. Only sacked on 11.5 percent of pressured dropbacks. Only 6.9 yards per attempt. Has NFL skillset, but could end up being a Brock Osweiler type for fantasy purposes.
6. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh — Started his career at Tennessee, but suffered a broken hand in 2013 and was passed by Josh Dobbs. Graduated in three years and played last two years at Pitt. Played in a system that had him roll out on 19 percent of his snaps (fourth-highest in FBS), but was able to display good accuracy outside the numbers at Sr. Bowl practices. Experience in a pro-style system. Strong deep ball thrower who completed 21-of-42 for 825 yards and eight scores. Was only sacked on 11.3 of his pressured dropbacks. Excelled under pressure with a passer rating of 114.7 when pressured. Doesn’t have the biggest arm. Has future starter potential. He’s a player worth stashing in deeper dynasty leagues.
7. Brad Kaaya, Miami — Three-year starter who put up 9,968 yards and 69 touchdowns. Posted his best completion percentage in 2016 (62%) and only tossed seven picks (27 touchdowns). Comes from a pro-style offense. Struggled on deep balls with just 26 completions on 74 attempts in 2016 (39.2%). Completed 46 percent of his intermediate passes (35-of-76). Sacked on 22.9 percent of pressured dropbacks and completed just 32.9 percent of throws under pressure. Comps to Cody Kessler as a smart player who is capable of running an offense, but is better suited to a backup role. Could eventually surface on the fantasy radar, but isn’t likely to be an asset early.
8. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee — Athletic player who is capable of using his legs to gain yards. Very intelligent individual who majored in aerospace engineering. Posted 2,946 yards and 27 scores through the air to go along with 831 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in 2016. Completed 25-of-52 deep ball passes for 872 yards and 16 scores last year. Ran a 4.64 40 time at the combine, which was second-fastest at the position. On the thinner side (6-3, 216). Threw seven interceptions on 71 attempts to the intermediate area of the field in 2016. As a developmental prospect, Dobbs isn’t a good bet to surface on the fantasy radar in the short term. That said, his dual-threat ability makes him a name worth monitoring over the long haul.
9. Chad Kelly, Mississippi — Jim Kelly’s nephew has a big arm but was inconsistent at the college level. Originally played at Clemson, but was released from the program in 2014 after having multiple incidents with the coaching staff. Also had an altercation with a bouncer at a Buffalo restaurant in 2015. Suffered a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in November 2016. Threw for 4,042 yards and 31 scores in 2015. Lacks prototype size (6-2, 224) but is a capable runner. Racked up 509 yards and 10 scores on 106 carries in 2015. Impressive deep ball. Notched 1,218 yards and 16 scores on passes over 20 yards downfield in 2015. Prone to making poor decisions and lacks discipline both on and off the field. Kelly’s athleticism and upside are appealing, but he’s a longshot to surfaces as a fantasy option.
10. Seth Russell, Baylor — Athletic with decent size (6-3, 213). Never managed to play a full season in college. Suffered a neck injury in 2015 and an ankle injury last year. Was under 60 percent completions in each of the last three years. In 2016, he managed just 54.7 percent with 2,126 yards and 20 scores. Capable runner, he racked up 908 rushing yards and 14 scores over the last two years. Very much an unknown, but his freakish athleticism makes him a dark horse to surface on the fantasy radar.
11. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech — Big (6-3, 232) and athletic. Transferred to Virginia Tech from the junior college level and played just one year. Put up strong numbers completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 3,546 yards and 29 scores in 14 games as a starter. Also ran 204 times for 846 yards and 12 scores. His limited resume and lack of experience in a pro-style system are knocks, but Evans dual-threat ability make him at least worthy of attention in deep dynasty formats.
12. C.J. Beathard, Iowa — A two-year starter who regressed statistically as a senior, though his receivers were banged up for a bulk of the year. Posted 2,809 yards and 17 scores in 2015. Followed that up with 1,929 yards and 17 scores last year. Completion percent dropped from 61.6 percent to 56.5 percent. Powerful arm, but sometimes struggles with touch. Threw 80 percent of his picks in the short and intermediate areas of the field last year. Only completed 10-of-29 throws over 20 yards downfield. Played in a pro-style offense. Has drawn comps to Tom Savage. Has the trajectory of a backup who isn’t likely to ever make a fantasy impact.
13. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan — A four-year starter who appeared in 50 games in college. Finished his career with 12,891 yards and 90 touchdowns. Doesn’t have the biggest arm, but did attempt 81 passes over 20 yards downfield in 2016. He completed 33 for 1,098 yards and 12 scores. Cerebral player who majored in actuary science. That will help his cause at the pro level, but he’s a longshot to ever be a fantasy factor.
14. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss — A prolific passer who maxed out with 4,476 yards and 38 scores in 2015. Numbers dipped to 3,272 yards and 24 scores last year, but did miss two games due to injury. Super tough player who played through a bone popping through the skin on his throwing hand. Very small (6-1, 187) for the position and does not possess NFL arm talent. Unlikely to ever be fantasy relevant.
15. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan — Productive signal-caller who threw for 3,000-plus yards in each of the last three years. In 2016, he posted 3,533 yards and 33 scores with only four interceptions. Extremely accurate, he completed 69.8 percent of his throws in 2016. Lacks prototype size at (6-1, 209) and had the benefit of throwing to Corey Davis. Has the makings of a future third-stringer who won’t be a fantasy factor.
16. Alex Torgersen, Pennsylvania — Ivy leaguer who threw for 2,231 yards and 17 scores in 2016. Has an NFL body (6-3, 230) and displayed mobility as a runner in college with 18 scores and 516 yards on the ground. Despite the tools to be a pro prospect, how he’ll fare against better competition is up in the air. Doubtful he ever makes a fantasy impact.
17. Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin — Small-schooler who was a four-year starter. Threw for 2,534 yards and 25 scores to go along with 757 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground in 2016. Took advantage of weaker competition and is small for the position (6-1, 225). Has intriguing athleticism, but isn’t likely to be a fantasy asset.
18. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota — A three-plus-year starter who has NFL size (6-3, 226). Never completed more than 60 percent of his passes and his numbers regressed from 2,701 yards and 14 scores in 2015 to 2,169 yards and eight scores in 2016. Capable runner who scored 33 times on the ground in his college career. His accuracy issues bode poorly for him ever surfacing as a fantasy option.
19. Wes Lunt, Illinois — Big (6-5, 225) pocket passer who comes from a pro-style offense. Started his college career out at Oklahoma St. and transferred to Illinois. Consistently dealt with injuries, and only managed one full season (2015). He threw for 2,761 and 14 scores that season. Has a good arm, but is very statuesque. A camp body type who may never surface on an NFL roster.
20. Sefo Liufau, Colorado — A four-year player who took over the starting job as a freshman. His best statistical year came as a sophomore, when he posted 3,200 yards and 28 scores. Injuries slowed him over the last two years of his college career. Ran the ball 165 times for 494 and eight scores in 2016. Has a big frame (6-3, 232), but lacks a big arm. Only attempted 44 passes 20-plus yards downfield last year. Isn’t likely to land in the NFL.
21. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati — Has an NFL body (6-4, 225), but a checkered resume. Initially attended Notre Dame, but transferred after one year. Put up big numbers in his sophomore year with 3,254 yards and 31 scores. Injuries slowed his 2015 campaign. Last year, he only started three games and was behind two sophomores for most of the year. Despite looking the part, Kiel’s recent history suggests he won’t be an NFL option.
22. Dane Evans, Tulsa — Strong-armed signal-caller who put up the second-most deep-ball yards in 2015 with 1,609 and 16 scores. Numbers regressed in 2016, but he still managed to top 3,000 yards for the third straight year. Tossed 84 touchdowns in his college career. Played in an offense that relied heavily on run/pass options. Could be destined for the practice squad early in his career.
23. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M — Athletic, but undersized (6-1, 219). Led quarterbacks in nearly every event at the combine, including a 4.54 40-yard dash time. Played as a grad transfer last year via Oklahoma. Only completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2,432 yards and 19 scores, though he did injure his throwing shoulder during the season. Also ran the ball 102 times for 614 yards and 10 scores. Despite his appealing athletic profile, his inaccuracy doesn’t help his chances of playing at the next level.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.