Swing for the fences: The highest-upside QBs at every ADP
When your pick comes up on draft day, you will know the ADPs and hopefully have your tiers laid out as you see them, but you still have to determine which player to target at that spot. Will you go with safe and steady performer or will you shoot for the stars and chase the upside?
More often than not those owners that hit on the guys that break out and get good value on them wind up winning fantasy leagues. So it’s at least worth attempting to know who has the extreme upside.
The top quarterbacks don’t really fit the bill here as they all have enormous upsides. However, they each will come with a steep investment. Aaron Rodgers (3.03 ADP, per FantasyFootballCalculator.com) and Tom Brady (3.07) are both going off the board in Round 3, while Drew Brees (4.11) is lasting a round-plus longer.
While Rodgers’ dual-threat ability has him atop the rankings, Brady has the highest ceiling in 2017 of the trio. The Patriots are as loaded as they’ve ever been at the skill positions. The acquisition of Brandin Cooks and a healthy return of Rob Gronkowski will provide a big boost to the passing game’s production.
While those three are all practically locks for big seasons, it won’t be that easy to decide which quarterback to grab as the draft goes on.
Let’s take a look at fantasy quarterbacks and identify the “upside” guys:
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (5.08)
Luck was making a strong push to be considered as a Tier 1 option, but lingering questions around his recovery from shoulder surgery have caused his stock to drop nearly two rounds since early May. Lost in the Colts’ disappointment a year ago was a nice bounceback effort that Luck turned in before his late-season injury, as he passed for 4,240 yards and 32 touchdowns in 15 games. The injury concern is legit, but don’t question his durability. Aside from his injury-riddled 2015 campaign when he missed seven contests, Luck has only missed one other game in his five seasons in the league.
Indianapolis improved up front during the offseason and that should not be understated. No quarterback in football had a clean pocket less often than Luck (55.6 percent) in 2016 and as his 112.0 QB rating (fifth) when the pocket was kept clean indicated, he will do some damage when given time to throw. Luck’s ability for big plays through the air also makes him a high-upside fantasy option. His 1,161 deep passing yards led the AFC in 2016. Add in the fact he’s averaged 20.5 rushing yards per game in his career and the case gets even stronger for Luck.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (8.08)
In what could be his final year in Washington, Cousins is unquestionably a signal-caller on the rise in drafts this year. Only Brees and Matt Ryan threw for more yards than Cousins did a year ago, and Washington’s starter has finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback in each of his past two seasons, including a top-five effort a year ago.
As good as Cousins’ numbers were last season, they could’ve been even better. Inside the 10-yard line he struggled, completing just 14 of his 41 pass attempts for eight touchdowns and two interceptions. If those struggles turn out to be a fluke and he can return to his production from that part of the field he saw in previous seasons, the sky is the limit. The fact that he is also gambling on himself by turning the down a long-term deal and accepting a franchise tag for a third straight season only sweetens the pot.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8.09)
Winston has already eclipsed 4,000 passing yards in each of his two seasons and is an upside-play for sure entering 2017. During his second year, the Bucs’ passer saw in increase in key passing stats – yards (4,090), touchdowns (28), and completion percentage (60.7 percent). With the free-agent signing of deep-threat weapon DeSean Jackson and the addition of tight end O.J. Howard in the draft Winston will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.
In addition to his 50 career touchdown passes, Winston has rushed for seven scores. The fact the Bucs did little to upgrade their running game make it even more likely that this is Winston’s offense to rule. He has averaged 2.49 fantasy points per game on the ground alone during his two years in the league. Coupled with his likely uptick in pass attempts and it’s easy to see why Winston’s fantasy stock is soaring.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (9.03)
Mariota had fewer turnovers and more explosive passing plays during his second season, including a seven-week stretch where he was one of the league’s top fantasy signal-callers. There is some injury concern to monitor as he underwent offseason surgery for leg fracture he suffered in Week 16. He’s expected to be able be ready for training camp and we should have a good feel on where he’s at in his return as the preseason unfolds.
His quick release and precision accuracy has translated into nice production inside the red zone, where his 69.5 completion percentage puts him ahead of any passer in the league with more than 10 attempts. He owns a 64.5 percent completion rate and a 33:0 TD:INT ratio inside the 20-yard line for his career. He only finished the year 13th in fantasy scoring at quarterback. However, in the 24 career games that Mariota has started and finished, he’s been a top-five scoring quarterback in eight weeks and finished inside the top 10 in 12 of those contests.
As you move the down the draft board you eventually wind up in tiers where every player has some cons associated with them. The same can be said for this group. Here are two late-round options to consider:
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (11.10)
Buffalo opted to bring Taylor back for a third season as their starting quarterback, albeit at a reduced rate. While there are questions whether or not he can lead the Bills on a deep playoff run, Taylor’s ability to do damage with his legs make him a valuable fantasy asset. He led all quarterbacks last year with 580 rushing yards and tied Dak Prescott for the lead at the position with six rushing touchdowns. He scored at least 20 fantasy points in seven of his 15 contests in 2016.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (12.01)
The second-year Eagle has benefited this offseason by some upgrades in the receiving corps as Philadelphia signed Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. It’s unlikely he gets into QB1 range this season, but he could easily ascend into high-end QB2 range as he takes another step forward.
DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans (14.08)
The rookie Watson seems to rise to the top from the NFL draft class of 2017. Despite playing in run-oriented offense, the former Clemson Tiger is surrounded by some dangerous wide receivers, including DeAndre Hopkins. Expect the two-time Heisman finalist to leapfrog Tom Savage sooner rather than later on the Texans’ depth chart.