About a half-decade or so ago, it wasn’t too farfetched to have a QB, say, Cam Newton or Peyton Manning, as the #1 player atop an overall fantasy football rankings list. It was equally as commonplace to see up to four QBs nabbed off the board before the second round even commenced. A lot has changed in the fantasy landscape over the last five years. Since then, there has been a myriad of different draft strategies employed, including loading up on RBs early, opting to take zero RBs, yet the first round QB approach never found it’s secure footing amongst the crowd. Let’s take a look at why that’s for good reason, and why that same mantra should hold not only for the first round but far beyond, while also taking a look at late-round QB value with immense value.
The NFL has transformed itself from the ground & pound, hard-nosed style league that made Jerome Bettis, John Lynch, and Brian Urlacher household names. Today’s league is built & primed for offensive, finesse type players to absolutely dominate their competition while running up the scoreboard in doing so. Defensive Linemen aren’t allowed to breathe on QBs. Cornerbacks and Safeties are doused with yellow laundry for simply laying a finger on opposing Wide Receivers. Linebackers are hitting RBs with the tenacity of a pee-wee football player’s flag pull. NFL offenses & their respective stars are flying high in today’s NFL – all the more reason why the QBs manning the controls (except Eli) have become a dime a dozen, and worth the wait when it comes to fantasy football drafts.
Late-Round QB Value
Per FantasyPros, in 2018 20 QBs averaged 15.0 or more points per game (min. 11 starts). For those 2018 QBs who were able to cross the finish line inside the top 12 at their position, only half of them had a preseason ADP of QB12 or higher. Why waste a top pick on a passer when that pick has a 50% chance of falling out of the top 12 altogether, and at least 20 QBs across the league are providing a formidable floor week to week?
On top of that, the QB spot offers the most depth & value across all of the major fantasy football positions. In 2018, 16 QBs finished inside the weekly top 5 at their position at least 3 times. Waiting on a late-round QB going outside the top 10 or 12 guys in your draft can pay huge dividends every week, as the variance of the top scorers each week is immense. Streamers can also be found aplenty on the waiver wire in dire times of need. See Allen, Josh, a waiver wire pickup who ended up being the #1 scoring fantasy QB over 2018’s final six weeks, leading countless teams to their fantasy crown.
In the new NFL, it’s all about protecting the QB, and availability has always been the best ability. RBs and WRs consistently miss more games per season year over year, which means it’s even more important to load up on them early and often in the draft. All in all, it’s best to sit & watch the competition reach for those “stud” QBs early on, while real value and upside can be had in the later rounds of the draft. Let’s take a look at a couple of QBs that present that late-round value (and former #1 overall picks) going in the 9th round or later, per their average ADP via the Fantasy Football Calculator.
ADP: #106, 9.08
What a turn of events! That same QB who was flying off boards at #1 overall just a half-decade ago is now being drafted in the back half of the 9th round – an absolute swindle at the price tag. He very well could be the best late-round QB value as things stand. The biggest question mark going into 2019 will be Newton’s shoulder injury – but I’m here to tell you not to worry. Via Cam’s doctor, a successful surgery was performed in January and no damage to his rotator cuff was found, which is a big break for Newton and his fantasy truthers (myself) alike. All signs point to a 100% healthy Cam Newton under center for Carolina starting week 1. Before the initial diagnosis of Cam’s shoulder woes in week 8 of last season, he was the QB4. Since 2012, he has finished as the QB4 or better four separate times over a full season and only finished outside the top 12 twice. Since the beginning of his career in 2011, Cam has never averaged less than 17 ppg over a full season, and still managed to finish as the QB12 last year despite missing the final two games of the season. If that’s not an elite level of consistency then I don’t know what is.
What makes Cam so special, and nearly as impossible to defend as a Pat Mahomes no-look pass, is his truly transcendent rushing ability. If we go back to his last full season, 2017, he finished as the #1 QB in the following categories, per SharpFootball: Carries, Redzone Carries, & Rush TD’s. The year prior in 2016, he was #1 in red zone carries as well and trailed only Dak Prescott in TDs. He is also efficient in the clutch: he finished 2017 with a rushing success rate of 43% in the red zone, and 58% in 2016, per SharpFootball. Newton will continue to build on his 57 career red zone rushing TD’s this year, while the added presence of emerging superstar Christian McCaffrey only aides his prowess with the threat of the zone-read at Cam’s fingertips.
Aside from his rushing mastery, Newton should continue to improve in the passing game with McCaffrey corralling balls out of the backfield, as well as the growth of the Panthers’ pair of young speed demons outside, D.J. Moore & Curtis Samuel. McCaffrey alone accounted for 107 catches and helped lead Newton to a #9 overall finish in completion percentage above expectation at +3.1%, per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. With his shoulder fully healed & not a major concern, an arsenal of young talent surrounding him, and a continued utter dominance on the ground in the red zone, expect Newton to deliver significantly above his current ADP, and even to fantasy stardom at a QB1 ceiling.
ADP: #114, 10.03
Let’s move to the next former #1 overall pick (not in fantasy football). Jameis Winston is coming off of the board in the top half of round 10 despite putting on a fantasy fireworks display in the weeks when Ryan Fitzpatrick & his trusty beard weren’t taking the NFL by storm. The whimsical show put on by Bucs passers in 2018 was not just an outcome of a consistent and surprisingly successful deep ball (which we’ll get to later) – it was a byproduct of their porous defensive unit. Per SharpFootball, the Bucs allowed a 110.9 team passer rating last year & a 110.0 rating on deep throws, both the worst marks in football. They were also dead last in average explosive pass play rate allowed, coming in at 10%, and second to last in average explosive run play rate allowed at 14%. Bottom line: the scoreboard will be run up to infinity, and Winston, Bruce Arians, and co. will have to find a way to keep pace, or simply reap the benefits of “garbage time” which can be just as fruitful.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tampa Bay is loaded with talent on the outside. Mike Evans is a bonafide #1 WR flanked in the slot by emerging talent & popular sleeper Chris Godwin, while athletic freak O.J. Howard mans the TE position. The loss of DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia hurts some, but there are plenty of candidates like Breshad Perriman, to welcome Winston’s deep ball with open arms come September. Speaking of the deep ball, SharpFootball outlines the differences in QB Passing yards as either Yards In Air (YIA) or Yards After Catch (YAC). Winston leads all QBs in YIA % over YAC, meaning his balls traveled further than any other QB in the league before they settled into a WR’s hands. Per PlayerProfiler, Jameis ranked #2 out of all QBs in 2018 & 2017 in Air Yards per attempt as well.
As if the scenario couldn’t get any more pitch-perfect, enter Bruce Arians. Long known as the QB whisperer, Arians couldn’t take the mundane environment of the color analyst booth and threw his hat back into the NFL coaching ring – presumably intrigued by the challenge in fixing the former Florida State phenom. The running theme with Winston is his deep ball excellence, which conveniently parallels with Arians’ specialty. Per PFF, since 2015, Winston has finished 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in average depth of target per throw, while Arians’ respective Cardinals QBs have finished 1st, 6th and 7th, with 2018 being his year away from the NFL. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me. Don’t let the turnovers scare you off. Combining Tampa Bay’s atrocious defense, a shared affinity for the deep ball, and an injection of talent and fresh air in the locker room, expect Famous Jameis to post top-8 fantasy numbers in 2019, at just a fraction of the cost.
These are just two of the diamonds in the rough to be uncovered in the later rounds of your draft. Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, and the aforementioned Josh Allen are a few other late-round QB value plays that fit the bill. Don’t fall into the petty trap of reaching for a shiny new QB in the first 6, even 8 rounds of your fantasy draft this year. The pass-happy, rules-friendly NFL will reward your patience with low risk, high reward players that just might be the missing piece in that championship-caliber squad.
Drop me a comment or tweet me your reactions: @themurph34!