Top 5 Late Round QB Options
A lot of people are waiting on quarterbacks this season. Current average draft position (ADP) information from myfantasyleague.com suggests you can select potentially elite options like Tom Brady or Russell Wilson in Round 8.
Some drafters will consider this the “late round quarterback” approach. I tend to believe if you’re picking any of the Top 15 quarterbacks or drafting a quarterback in the single digit rounds, then you’re simply employing value-based drafting. And there isn’t anything wrong that. In recent memory, there’s never been a season where quarterback felt more irrelevant. This is the main reason why the 2014 PFF Draft Guide recommends avoiding Peyton Manning.
On the other hand, if you continue to find quality players on your board in Rounds 7-10, you may still prefer the relatively contrarian strategy of relying on inferior passers. For those drafters, I offer the Top 5 LRQB options.
1. Andy Dalton – Current ADP 123
Earlier this offseason I explained why Dalton isn’t just a solid starter, he might be a full blown franchise quarterback. Despite finishing as QB3 in 2013, fifteen signal-callers are more popular so far this season. It’s easy to see this as a case of emotion over logic, but all 15 players represent solid options in their own rights. However, Dalton is an equivalent player to many in that group, and you should generally target the cheapest player who can deliver similar production.
Much has been made about the Bengals becoming more run-heavy, but we’re now hearing rumors that they’ll play with better tempo. Almost any comparison of Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson suggests they’ll also be more efficient. (The last time Jackson coordinated an offense, his Raiders finished sixth in points despite starting Jason Campbell with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy as the top two receivers.) Dalton finished 12th in fantasy points per drop back in 2013, and his healthy floor is probably a low end QB1.
2. Ben Roethlisberger – Current ADP 138
Big Ben is going off the board in Round 12 even though he finished as QB8 last season. At 7.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) for his career, Roethlisberger is one of the most efficient passers in NFL history. Under the much-maligned Toddy Haley, his attempts have risen. He dropped back 639 times in 2013, the tenth best number in the league.
Roethlisberger could have better targets in 2014 as well. I’m not particularly high on either Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton, but it won’t take much to replace Emmanuel Sanders. The new Bronco played 810 lackluster snaps last season and averaged a paltry 1.34 yards per route.
Roethlisberger has consistently been a borderline QB1 during his career, but we’ve never seen him combine efficiency with volume. Should he do so in 2014, you’re looking at truly elite numbers with minimal draft cost attached.
3. Alex Smith – Current ADP 161
Of the 42 quarterbacks who played in at least 25% of their team’s snaps, Smith finished with the lowest average depth of target (aDOT). His passes traveled an average of 6.9 yards in the air. That’s actually good news, in that it helps you get a very solid fantasy starter for free. Smith averaged 0.45 fantasy points per drop back in 2013, the exact same number as Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger and far better than Tom Brady or Matt Ryan. The Chiefs were adjusting to a new head coach and new quarterback last season. Smith has claimed he wasn’t allowed the full playbook until the season’s home stretch.
It’s probably more narrative than sustainable trend, but Smith did catch fire late. He averaged .57 points per drop back beginning in Week 11. That corresponded with a favorable portion of the Chiefs schedule, but it gives a glimpse at what Smith can be expected to accomplish in plus matchups. Despite numerous caveats going forward, Smith presents great value late in the draft.
4. Josh McCown – Current ADP 189
McCown was the fifth best fantasy quarterback on a per drop back basis in 2013. Only the ridiculous performances of Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers received higher PFF QB Ratings. His 77.8% accuracy percentage was better than Manning. McCown accumulated these stats during a soft part of the Bears schedule and playing in an elite offense that featured Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte. Even when you mentally adjust for the favorable environment, his 2013 performance was astonishing.
McCown moves over to Tampa Bay where they appear determined to run a similar style offense. Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins will give him triple towers to target. With Charles Sims joining Doug Martin in the backfield, there should be a strong pass-catching back on the field at all times. The Bucs offense will be young and working through the vagaries of installing a new offense. There’s still a ton of upside here.
5. Geno Smith – Current ADP 210
The Jets hung Smith out to dry as a rookie. Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and David Nelson led New York in routes, but the situation deteriorated even further when Santonio Holmes was healthy. The oft-injured malcontent posted a 38 WR Rating. Passes intended for Holmes resulted in one touchdown and six interceptions.
Even surrounded by incompetence, Smith averaged the same number of fantasy points per drop back as Robert Griffin III. He bested players like Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco. A lot of that had to do with his six rushing touchdowns, but those points count. In 2014 he’ll have Eric Decker and Jace Amaro at his disposal. Chris Johnson may provide an explosive dump-off threat out of the backfield. Smith represents a free way to play the dual threat quarterback phenomenon.