Fantasy Football: 3 Late-Round Quarterbacks to Target
There are many prevalent draft strategies in fantasy football -- from zero-RB to handcuffing to not drafting a defense. One of the most agreed-upon strategies in the fantasy community is waiting until later rounds to draft a quarterback in one-passer leagues The value of available running backs and wide receivers decreases much more drastically as the draft goes on than does the value of quarterbacks, meaning you should stock up on receivers and backs early on.
There are a handful of quarterbacks available in the back end of drafts who have the potential to offer huge upside and be every-week starters, and with how easily replaceable the position is, you should be targeting upside with your quarterback pick (because if you're wrong, you can find another serviceable guy on the wire and/or stream the position).
Our numberFire projections are especially high on a few players as opposed to where they’re currently being taken in drafts. All average draft position (ADP) data comes from Fantasy Football Calculator and is for one-quarterback leagues.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
numberFire rank: QB10
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired quarterback-whisperer Bruce Arians as their new head coach this offseason. He is most known for his aggressive offensive play-calling, which bodes well for Jameis Winston's fantasy stock.
However, Arians may not be as drastic of an upgrade for Winston as many believe. It’s not a knock on Arians as much as it’s a compliment to former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
With Monken calling plays last year and Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick splitting time under center, Tampa Bay finished top-five in passing attempts, yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and deep completions. The team finished with the fourth-most passing yards in NFL history (5,125).
Winston checked in with a top-five finish in various Next-Gen Stats figures, including average completed air yards, average intended air yards, and aggressiveness percentage. He finished 13th in numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) per play and 8th in Pass Success Rate.
Tampa Bay’s passing offense was already elite last season, and Winston has proved that he can put up impressive statistics. Per Pro Football Focus, in games in which he played at least 75% of the snaps last season, Winston had the sixth-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks.
Even if the offense simply continues its course, Winston should be an explosive fantasy player, but hopefully Arians will be the final piece of the puzzle to unlock Winston's full potential.
In Arizona, Arians revived Carson Palmer's career and propelled him to a top-five fantasy finish in 2015. Arians also coached quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck to Pro-Bowl appearances. It will be exciting to see if Winston can join the list of previous quarterbacks who have enjoyed success under Arians.
Beyond Arians, Winston has been set up for massive fantasy success by his current environment. Tampa Bay has several excellent pass-catchers, no backup quarterback threat, and minimal running back production. We have their defense projected as the fourth-worst D in the league last season, and they face the easiest schedule of pass defenses this year, per Sharp Football Stats.
Tampa Bay finished third in scoring last season and is a good bet to finish near the top of the league again this year. Winston was already in a fantasy-friendly environment, but with Arians at the helm, his potential is sky-high. With an ADP of just QB14, Winston is an obvious draft value as the starting quarterback of what could be the league’s highest-scoring offense.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
numberFire rank: QB12
Lamar Jackson has the largest gap between our projections and ADP for any quarterback. He became Baltimore's starter in Week 10 last season, and from then to the end of the year, he finished with the 11th-most fantasy points among quarterbacks. His 18.59 fantasy points per start would have ranked 13th among quarterbacks last season and is the 6th-highest per-game clip by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
His fantasy success has been almost completely dependent on his rushing production. Per Action Network, Jackson had the most rushing attempts (147) by a quarterback in NFL history and the fourth-fewest passing attempts (170) among qualifying quarterbacks since 2000.
Fortunately for Jackson, recent rushing quarterbacks have had massive fantasy success despite the league’s pass-heavy progression.
Since 2010, there have been 13 instances of a quarterback with at least 12 starts and 100 rushing attempts. They all finished as a top-17 fantasy quarterback, with seven of the 13 (54%) coming in as a top-five fantasy quarterback. Since 2010, there have been eight instances of a quarterback with at least 12 starts and 600 rushing yards. They all finished as a top-17 quarterback, including seven of them (88%) being a top-five option.
Our models have Jackson accumulating 192 rushes for 900 yards this season, both of which easily surpass the marks mentioned above.
There are several other factors that can benefit Jackson this season. According to Sharp Football Stats, Baltimore has the 2nd-easiest schedule against run defenses, the 12th-easiest overall schedule, and the 6th-easiest jump in schedule from 2018. With the addition of multiple receivers in the draft, a full offseason to work with dual-threat quarterback guru Marty Mornhinweg, and a dominant defense to hopefully provide positive game scripts, the arrow is pointing up for Jackson.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
numberFire rank: QB20
Last season, Mitchell Trubisky finished 11th in fantasy points per game and 15th in total fantasy points among quarterbacks. He was the seventh-highest scoring fantasy quarterback from Week 1 to Week 10 before suffering a shoulder injury. Despite this, he is rarely selected in fantasy drafts and is oft regarded as an afterthought.
While many expect the Bears to regress this season, Trubisky’s fantasy numbers should be expected to progress for a number of reasons.
One of the strongest points for Trubisky is the stability of the offense from last season. The Bears are one of eight teams to return all five starting offensive linemen -- a unit that ranked seventh in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate.
Chicago also has a sizable group of talented pass-catchers returning, including Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller. Most importantly, Matt Nagy is entering his second season as head coach after he won 2018 Coach of the Year and helped Trubisky’s completion percentage increase by 7.2 percentage points from the year prior.
But while Chicago’s offense remains familiar, their defense does not. Chuck Pagano is replacing Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, two starting defensive backs left in free agency, and their league-leading defensive efficiency is bound for negative regression.
Per Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked second in time of possession with the lead last season. Chicago passed 15% less often when leading or tied than they did trailing, per Sharp Football Stats.
Furthermore, the Bears have the second-hardest jump in schedule from 2018 -- the fifth-hardest jump in schedule of opposing offenses and the seventh-hardest jump in schedule of opposing rush defenses, per Sharp Football Stats. However, their schedule of opposing pass defenses remains easy (23rd-toughest).
All of these factors indicate that Trubisky will have to air it out more often in 2019.
Another positive for Trubisky is his production on the ground. Trubisky was one of five starting quarterbacks to rush for more than 30 yards per game. He ranked second in Rushing NEP per play and third in Rushing Success Rate among qualified quarterbacks. We project Trubisky to run 70 times for 422 yards and 3 touchdowns this season, which is the equivalent of 60 additional fantasy points.
Maybe the biggest argument for Trubisky as a late-round target is his ability to put up monster games. He scored 30-plus fantasy points three times last season, which was one fewer time than Patrick Mahomes did. Trubisky ranked sixth among all quarterbacks in boom percentage (percentage of games resulting in a top-five fantasy finish), per FantasyPros. He also recorded the best single-game fantasy performance by a quarterback all year, when he scored 43 fantasy points in his six-touchdown explosion against Tampa Bay.
Here’s what we know -- Trubisky’s offense experienced very little turnover from last season, and he will face a soft schedule of opposing pass defenses for the second year in a row. Chicago’s defense also faces unavoidable regression, which will likely require Trubisky to throw more and score more. He is one of the more explosive fantasy quarterbacks in the league, and his legs provide extra production.
Despite all of this and the fact that Trubisky finished as QB15 last season, he is currently the 21st passer off the board in fantasy drafts. When drafting a quarterback late, you should aim for a quarterback who has league-winning upside. Trubisky fits the bill.