Waiting until the later rounds to draft a quarterback is a very reliable strategy due to sheer depth. Here are five quarterbacks that should reward fantasy owners who take them late in drafts this year.
Note: Only quarterbacks with an average draft position greater than round eight were considered for this article.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (8.06 ADP)
2006 : QB8 | 208.42 FP | 13.0 FPPG (11th)
2007: QB16 | 155.34 FP | 11.1 FPPG (25th)
2008: QB3 | 278.76 FP | 17.4 FPPG (3rd)
2009: QB7 | 269.16 FP | 16.8 FPPG (9th)
2010: QB5 | 281.60 FP | 17.6 FPPG (5th)
2011: QB9 | 254.56 FP | 15.9 FPPG (10th)
2012: QB21 | 208.24 FP | 13.0 FPPG (25th)
2013: QB6 | 287.42 FP | 18.0 FPPG (8th)
2014: QB12 | 265.84 FP | 16.6 FPPG (15th)
2015: QB12 | 284.52 FP | 17.8 FPPG (12th)
(according to fantasydata.com)
Some things just never change, and from looking back at Rivers’ numbers over the years, you know what you’re getting. Rivers has averaged 16.63 fantasy points per game over the last eight years. That’s including a terrible 2012 season.The outlook for Rivers is looking better after the Chargers made several moves in the off-season.
Off-season Roster Changes
One move that will go under the radar is the addition of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was Rivers’ offensive coordinator in 2013 when Rivers finished as QB6. Whisenhunt inherited a roster that finished 31st in total offense in 2012 and managed to finish fifth in total offense in 2013.
The Chargers boosted their wide receiving corps by signing Travis Benjamin in free agency. Benjamin gives the Chargers a much needed deep threat in the offense, which they have been lacking. In his NFL career Travis Benjamin has averaged 17.3 yards per reception. Benjamin grabbed 125 receptions for the Browns last year and turned them into 966 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. That was with a combination of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, and Austin Davis at quarterback. Benjamin should prove to be a very solid WR2 for the Chargers who can avert some attention away from Keenan Allen while stretching the field. Benjamin is a clear upgrade from 34-year-old Malcom Floyd who only managed 32 receptions for 598 yards last year.
There’s also a new face at tight end for the Bolts this year after San Diego did not re-sign backup tight end Ladarius Green. The Chargers selected All-American Hunter Henry with their second round pick of this year’s draft. Besides having a name like a country rock star, Hunter Henry profiles as a potential do-it-all tight end. Henry is a safe pick due to his reliable hands (0 drops on 51 targets) and clean routes.
The Big Picture
The Chargers have a very good offense for 2016. Travis Benjamin (WR30) and Hunter Henry join Keenan Allen (WR11 pace in 2015), Antonio Gates (TE11), and Stevie Johnson (WR43 pace, missed 6 games) to form a solid group. We all know the impact that Danny Woodhead (RB11) can have out of the backfield as he’s basically another receiver for Rivers (705 reception yards in 2015). How will Melvin Gordon respond in 2016 after a disappointing 2015 campaign? An improved offensive line should mean an improved running game.
One of the biggest knocks on the Chargers has been their patchwork offensive line in 2015. Thankfully for Rivers and the offense, it has improved since last season. The Chargers brought in guard Matt Slauson after the Bears surprisingly cut him this off-season after he finished as Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked guard in 2015. The Chargers also signed tackle Joe Barksdale in free agency this off-season. Barksdale finished as the 15th ranked overall tackle for Pro Football Focus. Rivers was sacked 40 times last year which was the eighth most sacks among quarterbacks.
Rivers is a good quarterback to target later on in drafts if you’re not a fan of gambling. His roster has shaped up well in the off-season with a revamped offensive line and the addition of new WR2 Travis Benjamin and TE2 Hunter Henry. Ken Whisenhunt has returned as his offensive coordinator which is a great sign. Rivers was a top-ten fantasy quarterback under Whisenhunt in 2013.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (10.01 ADP)
Tony Romo has quietly had a pretty consistent career. His career finishes among quarterbacks suggest he is a no-brainer year-in-year-out QB1 in fantasy.
2006: QB15 | 174.32 FP | 10.9 FPPG (played as a backup)
2007: QB2 | 295.34 FP | 18.5 FPPG (3rd)
2008: QB12 | 204.02 FP | 15.7 FPPG (8th)(14 GP)
2009: QB6 | 273.82 FP | 17.1 FPPG (7th)
2010: QB29| 99.10 FP | 16.5 FPPG (9th)(6 GP)
2011: QB7 | 275.96 FP | 17.2 FPPG (8th)
2012: QB8 | 278.92 FP | 17.4 FPPG (8th)
2013: QB10 | 260.14 FP| 17.4 FPPG (10th)(15 GP)
2014: QB11 | 266.30 FP | 17.8 FPPG (8th)(15 GP)
2015: QB42 | 40.66 FP | 10.2 FPPG (39th) (4GP)
(according to fantasydata.com)
When Tony Romo played at least 15 games he has averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game. He has hovered around being the seventh to the ninth-ranked quarterback in terms of points per game for the majority of his career. There’s reason to believe he can hit this mark again in 2016.
Off-season Roster Changes
Not everything on offense is completely the same. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with their first round pick this year. Lost in the hype for Elliot’s prospective chances of being an elite fantasy option is the impact he could have for Tony Romo. Elliot will immediately come in as the Cowboys best pass-blocking and pass-receiving back, perhaps the best back Romo’s ever had regarding these skills.
Another welcomed change is the fact that Dez Bryant is finally healthy. Dez Bryant’s foot is healed and he is ready for training camp. Bryant remains a top-5 wide receiver who averages 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns a year with Romo on the field.
The Big Picture
The rest of the roster surrounding Romo is definitely enough to maintain his value. WR2 Terrance Williams is coming off a season where he accumulated 840 receiving yards in 12 games without Romo.Williams was on pace for 1,048 yards with Romo on the field last year.
Jason Witten, who finished as TE12 last year, was actually on pace to be TE7 with Tony Romo on the field (119.6 FP). He looks like he hasn’t lost a step. Cole Beasley isn’t the most exciting slot receiver in the league but he has been slowly improving over the last couple of years (368 rec. Yards in 13’, 420 rec. Yards in 14’, 536 rec. Yards in 15’). Romo has finished as the 8th quarterback in terms of average fantasy points per game with a similar offense in 2014. His stock could ascend further than that with Terrance Williams taking another step and Elliott unleashing his potential.
Romo’s main concern is his durability, which is somewhat concerning. He missed 13 games in the last two years (transverse process fracture in 14′, broken collarbone in 15′, shoulder injury in 15′), but Romo himself considered last year “a fluke”. Sportsinjurypredictor.com says Romo has an 8% chance to be sidelined next year. Tony Romo seems fully recovered from his physical ailments as he has participated in every practice session so far this off-season.
Barring injury, Romo is almost a lock in my eyes to return value at his 10.01 ADP price tag. He has shown the ability to put up good numbers with a similar supporting cast. He has one of the most underrated offenses in the NFL and his offense could be better than 2014’s Cowboys when Romo finished as QB11. That hinges on Terrance Williams maintaining his 2015 pace and Ezekiel Elliott unlocking his potential. The main concern will be Romo’s durability in 2016.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (11.10)
Taylor’s 2015 season caught everyone off-guard.
Tyrod Taylor ran his way up the stat sheet and finished 2015 with 3,035 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and just 6 interceptions in 14 games. That translated to a QB16 finish. His performance was good for a 99.40 quarterback rating, which was the seventh best QB rating among NFL starters.
Taylor ended up as the eighth-ranked quarterback in terms of fantasy points per game with 19.3. One of the main reasons he accomplished this feat is due to his running ability.
There’s a reason Tyrod Taylor’s nickname is T-Mobile. Taylor rushed the ball 104 times for 568 yards last year. That’s a 5.5 yard per carry average. T-Mobile’s rushing prowess is pretty similar to another quarterback–Russell Wilson (103 attempts for 553 yards, 5.4 average).
Here are Tyrod Taylor’s combine results just to put into perspective how athletic he is:
[table id=39 /]
The Big Picture
The Buffalo Bills offense is a pretty formidable unit in its own right. Sammy Watkins has dodged a serious injury to his foot and will enter his third season in NFL looking to build on his sophomore campaign. Watkins has the pedigree of a number one receiver and the stats to back it up (1,047 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns last year). Injuries will be the only concern coming into 2016 as Watkins is still recovering from a foot injury. He was on pace for a 73/1,288/11 season if he finished all 16 games in 2015.
That’s impressive considering he only averaged 7.38 targets per game. Hopefully, his usage goes up for Tyrod’s sake. The Bills game-plan seemed to involve Watkins more after the bye week. He suddenly averaged 63.25 more yards per game with only four more targets per game in the second half of the season.
The Bills running offense certainly won’t drag down Tyrod’s value. LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams did an admirable job running the ball in 2015 with 895 and 517 rushing yards respectively.
The rest of Taylor’s offense has considerable upside. Charles Clay, who signed a huge contract last year (5 years, 38 million), didn’t blow people away with his 2015 performance. He ended up with 51 receptions and 528 yards, which is average. He ended as the TE20 last year after a TE16 finish in 2014 and a TE7 finish in 2013. He certainly is a capable third option for Taylor and could return to his previous form.
Robert Woods is a decent WR2 for Tyrod who managed 552 yards despite starting only 9 games. One of the exciting stories this off-season for the Bills is Dezmin Lewis. He grabbed the attention of the Bills’ coaches so far during practices. “For my money, Dez Lewis is the guy,” Rex Ryan said to Bills reporter Joe Buscaglia. “He’s taken off.” Taylor’s fantasy stock would jump up if Lewis manages to breakout.
Off-season Roster Changes
Hopefully for Tyrod Taylor, Lewis does take off. Chris Hogan has left Buffalo for New England which leaves the WR3 job wide open. Kolby Listenbee, who is a four-time All-American sprinter at TCU, who was drafted in the 6th round (4.39 40 time, 19.9 YPC in 15′ at TCU), will join Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Marcus Easley, and Leonard Hankerson to compete with Dezmin Lewis to be the third wide receiver for Taylor.
The addition of Listenbee gives Taylor a weapon that specializes in his greatest skill: throwing the deep ball. Taylor was the most accurate deep ball thrower through week 13 last year (60% completion percentage during that time frame).
It seems like Taylor is picking up where he left off last season. “During the off-season workouts, Taylor has done a couple things that he really didn’t show during the season last year: throwing the ball over the middle of the field, and making tight window throws,” Buffalo reporter Joe Buscaglia told WKBW-TV. “Again, it’s way early, but the Bills have to be incredibly optimistic about Taylor’s potential progress as they get closer to camp.”
Sammy Watkins proved he was a game changer with more targets. Buffalo’s running offense is one of the best in the NFL and will help shoulder the load for Tyrod again. It would be a bonus if Dezmin Lewis and Kolby Listenbee can make a splash for the Buffalo offense. There’s every reason to believe he can have another top-ten finish.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (11.03)
Things are pointing up for Marcus Mariota in 2016. He averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game in 2015. That’s including a week 15 game against the Jets where he left early with a sprained MCL. There’s reason to believe he can improve this season with an improved roster.
Off-season Roster Changes
A huge addition to Mariota’s offense is running back DeMarco Murray. Mariota will now have a potential featured running back who can shoulder some of the load, which is quite an upgrade from last season. In 2015 the Titans shuffled between Bishop Sankey, David Cobb, and Antonio Andrews, which didn’t give Mariota a viable running game. Murray appears to be a good fit in head coach Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” offense. Tony Romo finished as QB11 in 2014 when Murray rushed the ball 392 times. Murray himself has proclaimed that he feels much more comfortable in Mularkey’s scheme.
“It’s strictly downhill and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to my entire life,” Murray said to CBS Sports Radio. “I’m very excited for this upcoming season.”
In the draft, the Titans added Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Massachusetts wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. Henry, who won the Heisman trophy last season, will provide much-needed depth if Murray goes down with an injury. Tajae Sharpe has been given 1st team reps in practices so far and has been “the most consistent receiver” according to Mularkey. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews has also been brought over from the Dolphins via free agency. Matthews posted an impressive 2.18 points per target in 2015, which was actually higher than his former teammates DeVante Parker (1.87) and Jarvis Landry (1.50). Matthews is an underrated WR2 for the Titans this season.
The Big Picture
There’s every reason to believe Mariota takes another step this year. Delanie Walker will return for his tenth season after making the Pro Bowl with Mariota last year. He gives Mariota an arguably elite safety blanket-option as he comes off a TE5 finish last year. His 2015 season performance is impressive considering he is 31 years old. Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has the makings of a go-to receiver (6’6″, 237) who could propel Mariota’s stock. DGB is a former five-star recruit who showed some flashes when given playing time last season. He finished with a 32/549/4 line in 16 games with only 5 starts. An increase in snaps for DGB will likely help out Mariota, especially in the end zone.
Green-Beckham will pair with Rishard Matthews to give Mariota a much better wideout duo than he had last year. Harry Douglas, who only managed 29.4 yards per game as an occasional starter, will be relegated to a bench role. Slot receiver Kendall Wright, who is just 26 years old, is two years removed from a 94 reception 1,079 receiving yard season. The Titans will have a very deep receiving group if Tajae Sharpe proves to be as consistent as Mularkey is suggesting.
Another bonus to Mariota’s stock is his mobility.He is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league as he sports a 4.52 forty yard dash time. Mularkey wants to put his running ability to use. “Designed runs for the quarterback and my feelings are he can protect himself much better running the football than he can standing in the pocket, and you’ve seen it over time,” Mularkey told Pro Football Talk Live. “We’re not going to run him like they run Cam Newton with some of those designed counter plays and things up the middle that are going to expose him by any means, but I think he’s such a threat in the run game for defenses. It gives you an advantage.”
I’d have to agree with Mularkey, Mariota was quite a threat in his rookie year. He accumulated 252 rushing yards on just 34 attempts which were good for an average of 7.4 yards per carry.
Marcus Mariota is a potential franchise quarterback who had a pretty good rookie year (17.5 FPpG). His front office has surrounded him with a better cast to help him take the next step in his sophomore year. Rishard Matthews will join breakout candidate Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright to form a good wide receiver corps. Delanie Walker will likely remain Mariota’s main target and is showing no signs of slowing down. DeMarco Murray gives Mariota a proven running back that can help alleviate pressure. The Titans now have an offense with room to grow. If Mularkey allows Mariota to run more then we can expect a considerable uptick in fantasy points as well.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (13.03)
Tannehill didn’t light it up last year but he did finish as the 17th ranked quarterback in Bill Lazor’s scheme. Adam Gase has been hired and put in charge to implement a new offensive scheme.
Gase’s track record should give you some optimism for Tannehill’s upcoming season. In 2015, Jay Cutler averaged 17.22 points per game with Alshon Jeffery on the field. That was with, I think, a worse receiving corps than the Dolphins currently have. Adam Gase is the same person that Peyton Manning lauded as one of the reasons he had his record-breaking season where he finished as QB1 in 2013.
2012: QB24| 182.86 FP | 11.4 FPPG
2013: QB16| 238.32 FP | 14.9 FPPG
2014: QB8 | 278.06 FP | 17.4 FPPG
2015 QB17 | 257.40 FP | 16.1 FPPG
Tannehill was gradually progressing until the Dolphins collectively face planted last year. The combination of their off-season moves and the arrival of Adam Gase could mean a good year for Tannehill.
Off-season Roster Changes
The Dolphins drafted Alabama running back Kenyan Drake, Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo, and Texas Tech wide receiver Jakeem Grant this past year. Kenyan Drake gives Tannehill a very good change of pace back that doubles as a receiving threat (5.3 YPC, 9.5YPR in 2015). Carroo will be in the mix to replace former WR3 Rishard Matthews. Carroo totaled 809 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games despite dealing with sub-par quarterback play at Rutgers. Jakeem Grant is also no stranger to putting up monster numbers. He recorded 90 catches for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tannehill said Grant is “the fastest guy I’ve ever seen”.
Lamar Miller’s departure from the Miami offense means an obvious downgrade in their running game for 2016. Jay Ajayi, who is replacing Miller, managed .38 fantasy points per carry, compared to Miller’s .44 fantasy points per carry. The good news is Ajayi could be a good check-down option in the passing game. Ajayi averaged 12.8 yards per reception and 2.28 points per reception in PPR leagues. That was more than Miller’s 1.84 points-per-reception.
Another positive sign for Tannehill’s stock is a change made to the offensive line. Tannehill was sacked 45 times for a loss of 420 yards in 2015. That was the largest loss of yards from sacks in NFL. The Dolphins drafted tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was in the running for the first overall selection, at #14 overall.
The Big Picture
Carroo and Grant will look to add to a pretty respectable group of receivers. Second-year receiver DeVante Parker, who took off during the second half of last year’s season, will give Tannehill a potential do-it-all option (6’3″, 220). Parker averaged 10 standard fantasy points per game in the last six games of the year when he appeared to be over his foot injury (74.17 yards per game). He also posted an impressive 1.87 fantasy points per target. Jarvis Landry enters his third year in the NFL after making the Pro-Bowl in the previous season and there’s no doubting his ability. He finished as WR15 in 2015 with 110 receptions and 1,157 receiving yards. They have the potential to be a dynamic duo in 2016.
Kenny Stills disappointed last year with a 27/440/3 line. At the least, he gives the receiving group a good depth option that can take the top off a defense (16.5 YPR in his career). He’s coming off a disappointing season but still has potential. Stills finished as WR37 in 2014 and is still young (24 years old).
Another intriguing piece to Adam Gase’s offense is tight end Jordan Cameron. Cameron went missing in action last year under Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell as he recorded only 30 catches and 346 yards. Gase appears to have a plan for Cameron next year.“The tight end position in this offense has been one of the strengths as far as match-up issues with safeties and linebackers,” Gase said. “I’m interested to see what we can do with him and what his strengths are. I need to flex him out and see what he feels comfortable doing.”
Cameron is three years separated from a TE5 finish. It’s entirely possible that Cameron could revive his career and at least be useful under a coach that can properly utilize him. Gase has been successful with athletic tight ends such as Julius Thomas and Martellus Bennett who were constantly flexed out in his formations.
Tannehill’s stock has nowhere to go but up after his last season. He finally has a quarterback-friendly head coach. DeVante Parker possesses first-string wide receiver ability and will join Jarvis Landry to make a very good duo. If Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron can revive their careers under Adam Gase then Tannehill’s stock could soar. Ryan Tannehill has finished as a top-10 quarterback before and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he finishes in the top-10 again. With a 13th round price-tag, you could do far worse than running with Tannehill as your QB1.