Welcome back to the quarterback edition of “Who’s Got the Edge”! Last week, we discussed some key running backs (check it out here if you missed it). This week, we’ll be taking a look at quarterbacks flying off the board at similar ADPs, and which QB you should choose when it’s your turn to draft.
MATT STAFFORD vs. ANDREW LUCK
Andrew Luck is a big name coming into this season, as he put up some great numbers in 2016, before injuring his shoulder and missing the 2017 season. Luck returns to captain the Indianapolis Colts this year, looking decent in his preseason debut last Thursday. He even took a big hit from Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, popping right back up without missing a beat, just as he did when he took a sack from rookie Rasheem Green. Luck finished his preseason debut with 64 yards on 6/9 passing, setting the Colts up for two field goals.
A lot of Andrew Luck truthers were elated to see him take the field and look like his old self, but pump the brakes on the hype train here. Luck didn’t complete a throw longer than twenty yards, and four of his completions were caught behind the line of scrimmage. At this point, he could be nothing more than a check-down quarterback for all we know. It’ll take more than a few screen pass completions for Luck to prove he’s ready to be an elite quarterback again.
Matt Stafford, on the other hand, has been the picture of consistency. In 2017, Stafford finished with the 7th most fantasy points among quarterbacks. He’s been a top ten quarterback in fantasy in four of the last five years. Stafford also consistently outperformed Luck in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, and passer rating. Although Luck did have a better adjusted completion at 74.6%, Stafford edges him out in almost every other category.
Stafford came in at 14th in points per dropback, while Luck came in at 29th in 2016. Stafford is also playing behind an offensive line ranked 28/32 in pass blocking efficiency, while the Colts were ranked 31/32 in 2016 and 29/32 in 2017. Neither offensive line situation is pretty, but Detroit still gives Stafford the upper hand here.
We also have to look at who is on the other side of these quarterback’s throws. Andrew Luck has TY Hilton, one of the NFL’s top receivers when Luck is healthy, but it is pretty slim pickings after that. The tight end Jack Doyle is a bit of help, with Ryan Grant and Chester Rodgers rounding out the wide receivers group after rookie Deon Cain suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Outside of Hilton and Doyle, the rest of the receivers are largely untested, having only seven career touchdowns between Grant and Rogers.
Meanwhile, Stafford has Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate catching his passes, who ranked ninth and 12th respectively in receiving yards last year (min. 100 targets). Stafford has a far superior group of receivers, with Kenny Golladay and tight ends Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo adding some depth to the pass catchers.
Andrew Luck has the potential to surpass Stafford, but for now, Matt Stafford has the edge.
CASE KEENUM vs. DEREK CARR
Derek Carr had a little bit of a down year last year and Case Keenum has arrived in his new home at Denver, so those oddities throw a bit of a wrench into evaluating these players. They are both consistently being ranked as in the early twenties or quarterback rankings, and both have more than a few question marks surrounding their teams.
The Denver Broncos were dreadful last year, mostly due to their awful quarterback play, which they are hoping Keenum can revitalize. It is easy to forget that Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were both top wideouts when they had a competent quarterback, as the 2015 season seems like it was ages ago.
The Broncos also added rookies Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, River Cracraft, and will get tight end Jake Butt back after missing his rookie year with an injury. Keenum is used to playing with an elite wide receiver duo after spending last year in Minnesota with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
In Minnesota, Keenum had an adjusted completion of 76.5%, and a 7.3 yards per attempt average. He also has an under-pressure completion of 55.7%, which he’ll need to keep up since Denver’s line is shaky at best. Keenum’s preseason debut was underwhelming to say the least, only completing one pass for five yards. In Keenum’s defense, it is only the first preseason game, and the Broncos had to face one of last year’s best defenses on their first snaps of the 2018 preseason.
Keenum finished as the 14th fantasy quarterback overall last year, and if the offensive line can get it together, he may be able to surpass that with the talented receiving corps he has in Denver.
Derek Carr had a down year, mustering his lowest statistics in almost every category since his rookie year. Carr threw for 3,496 yards, threw 13 interceptions, and had 31 catchable balls dropped by his receivers. While Carr’s offensive line was very efficient (6/32), he still managed to get sacked 20 times and have only a 72% adjusted completion rate. Although Carr had capable receivers last year, it just seemed like he could never get anything going with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (who is now in Baltimore). This year, he’ll have a new weapon, Jordy Nelson, to work with, along with Ryan Switzer and Martavis Bryant, if Bryant can manage to stay on the field.
Honestly, I give Case Keenum the edge here. Despite the offensive line woes, Keenum showed last year that he can get his receivers the ball, and this wideout group has much more upside than Carr’s. This is probably considered a “hot take” as most analysts prefer Carr, but give Keenum a chance to settle in, and he’ll be a great value, as he isn’t getting drafted until around the 13th round.
PHILIP RIVERS vs. BEN ROETHLISBERGER
This quarterback battle was probably the most interesting of the three. These two older quarterbacks are consistently ranked right near each other in the 10th-15th overall quarterback range. The similarities between these two QBs are striking: both have elite wideouts to throw to in Keenan Allen and Antonio Brown, both have top-ten running backs in LeVeon Bell and Melvin Gordon, and both are typically considered pocket-passing veterans. In fact, Philip Rivers only scrambled out of the pocket twice in all of 2017.
They do have their differences, though. Rivers and Roethlisberger both completed 360 passes for 28 touchdowns during the regular season last year, but it took Rivers a few more pass attempts to do so (Rivers had 575, Roethlisberger had 561). Other than that discrepancy, Rivers barely beats out Big Ben in most of the other measures. Rivers threw 10 interceptions and was sacked 18 times, and was under pressure on 222 of his throws. Meanwhile, Big Ben was only under pressure on 163 of his throws but still took 21 sacks in the regular season. Roethlisberger did have the better pass blocking efficiency, with his offensive line ranking third out of all 32 teams. Despite this, Big Ben still scrambled 10 times and had 13 of his passes batted down. Rivers had an adjusted completion rate of 75.4%, while Big Ben barely trailed at 72.2%.
These players are very similar in almost every metric, which makes the decision of who to draft even harder. Rivers was able to finish eighth in overall fantasy points for quarterbacks, with Roethlisberger just behind him at 10th overall.
If Rivers still had Hunter Henry for this season, he might be the better choice, but Roethlisberger has a better well-rounded receiving corps to throw to, so this one has to go to Ben Roethlisberger.
Check back next week for the Wide Receiver edition of Who’s Got the Edge!