The 6 Best Quarterback Values in Fantasy Football
With plenty of folks drafting quarterbacks late this year, the general question becomes, "Which one is the best value in fantasy drafts?"
We've written about plenty of quarterbacks this offseason. Whether it was about Jay Cutler's ability to be a top-five quarterback, or Jake Locker's deep, deep sleeper status, in-depth looks on signal-callers can be found all over the numberFire.com site. But in a nice, quick-to-consume article, here are six players a handful of our writers like this year at the quarterback position.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals' new franchise quarterback could be one of the more interesting players to follow in the upcoming years. Entering the fourth season of his career, Andy Dalton managed to secure himself a nice big contract that should boost his confidence a bit.
In real life, Dalton is an average quarterback, doing little to push himself to the upper echelon of our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. However, in fantasy football, he has a nice track record of (moderate) success, and has managed to improve from year to year. Dalton has finished as a top-12 fantasy signal-caller the last two seasons, though his weekly consistency has been an issue.
Dalton is currently being drafted in the middle of the 11th round in fantasy drafts, which will provide nice value if he's able to play at a more consistent level week to week. If the Bengals utilize Giovani Bernard in the screen game, this could provide a nice floor for Dalton that will be less dependent on game flow. At his worst, Andy should be a good quarterback-by-waiver-wire candidate who can exploit good matchups, as he did last year.
I would be surprised if the Bengals' quarterback finished outside of the top-12 fantasy quarterbacks in 2014 (though our projections disagree), and he’s currently the 17th quarterback off the board. To me, that is instant value.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
When it comes to the late-round quarterback strategy, one should keep in mind that part of the strategy is finding value at the quarterback position, not just waiting as long as possible. And one of my favorite values right now, despite not going in the 13th or 14th round, is Ben Roethlisberger.
Why Big Ben? Just because the team has been struggling over the past few years and don't have notable receivers outside of Antonio Brown doesn't mean Roethlisberger should be pushed aside. In fact, as Tony DelSignore points out, Roethlisberger has finished within the top 10 of our Passing NEP metric in each of the last five years – that’s no small feat.
So why do I like Roethlisberger’s value? Whether you play in a standard or two-quarterback league, Roethlisberger will bring in consistent fantasy points for your team. Last season, he had just as many top-12 performances - QB1 days - as Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, and he finished the season off strong. In fact, from Week 11 on last year, Big Ben was fantasy football's fifth-best quarterback.
In your standard league, Roethlisberger is being taken at the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th rounds right now. If you’re targeting him, you’ve been able to build depth at running back and wide receiver and his consistency could be a great match for your team.
If in a two-quarterback league, Roethlisberger can fit within your team in two different ways. If you like to take an elite quarterback in the first or second round, he can fit in your team as a strong second quarterback. Or if you want to employ a late-round or committee strategy in this format, Roethlisberger could be a strong anchor to your team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans
By Leo Howell
There's a quarterback who, in 2013, threw better than Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Robert Griffin III according to our metrics, and ran better than Terrelle Pryor, E.J. Manuel and Aaron Rodgers. Yet, this quarterback is going undrafted in most fantasy football leagues.
That quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's running uncontested (come on, people, Case Keenum isn't good) for the role of starting quarterback for the Houston Texans. That means he gets to play quarterback for Bill O'Brien, an experienced leader of very good offenses, and he gets to throw to Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, one of the more talented receiver duos in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick has improved in our Net Expected Points metric as a passer every year since 2011 before setting career highs in every category in 2013, including as a rusher. Fitzpatrick cracks the Konami Code as a runner, while posting passing numbers on par with quarterbacks being taken in the eighth round in some fantasy drafts this season.
He doesn't have any real competition for his job, and he has better weapons than he had last season in Tennessee. Everything is pointing up for Fitzpatrick, and you can get him for free in a fantasy draft. That's the definition of value.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
By Joth Bhullar
Carson Palmer’s 2014 campaign was a tale of two halves. In the first eight games, it looked as if Palmer was one bad turnover or hit away from being forced into retirement. His elbow injury seemed to be lingering, and he simply didn’t display NFL caliber arm strength.
But Palmer seemed to turn things around after the Cardinals Week 9 bye, and played tremendously well in the second half. He had 14 touchdowns and 8 picks in the latter half of the season, as opposed to 10 touchdowns and 14 picks in the first half. Palmer also averaged 295 passing yards per game in the second half, an improvement on the 239.1 yards he averaged in the first half.
If you were to extrapolate Palmer’s second half numbers to a full season, he would’ve posted a line of 4,720 yards passing with 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. As our own JJ Zachariason documented, Palmer’s efficiency ratings ranked top five in the league in the second half of the 2013 season.
Palmer’s turnovers will limit him from being an elite fantasy option, but his yardage totals will make him usable in fantasy on a weekly basis. With huge targets in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald coupled with a coach in Bruce Arians who loves to push the ball downfield, look for Palmer’s yardage and touchdown totals to be near the top of the league.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
In his sophomore campaign, Ryan Tannehill quietly finished the year with 3,913 yards (10th most in the league) and 24 touchdowns. While his -2.44 Passing NEP was uninspiring, it was a significant increase from his -22.63 Passing NEP from his rookie campaign.
Miami didn’t have a great offensive showing last year, which led to the firing of Mike Sherman and the hiring of Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator. Lazor worked under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, the mastermind behind the fast-paced scheme which will be introduced in Miami in the 2014 season. It’s all about speed in that offense, which we saw last season with DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy having career seasons. Miami has comparable speed players with Lamar Miller, who ran a 4.40 40-yard dash compared to McCoy’s 4.50, and Mike Wallace, who ran a 4.33 compared to Jackson’s 4.35.
From an athletic standpoint, Tannehill is a better fit for the offense than Nick Foles. Yes, Foles had a great statistical year, but no one ever expected Foles to tuck and run 41 times. That's not Foles using his 6’6 243-pound frame to take off on broken plays, either. That's the makeup of the offense which includes designed runs when everyone thinks the running back is going one way, and the quarterback takes off in the other direction.
The original plan last season in Philly was to have Michael Vick command this offense, but he went down with an injury early in the season. He played five full games and ran 33 times. That's 6.6 times per game, and would total 105.6 times over a full season, which would have led the league in rushing attempts at quarterback.
Foles ran 41 times in 11 games, which equates to 60 rushing attempts. Only seven quarterbacks had 60-plus rushing attempts last season, and Tannehill is in line to eclipse that mark.
Tannehill is due for a drop in attempts, as the read-option offense is more run-focused. However, his decrease in pass attempts is offset by an increase in efficiency and rushing potential. In 12-team leagues, Tannehill is going in the late, late rounds. With the potential to be a top-five rushing quarterback, and the potential to get 3,500-plus yards and 20-plus touchdowns, the price is right. Sign me up.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
In case you missed it, Alex Smith rushed for 431 yards last year. You can hate on his small hands, his tendency to dump the ball off to Jamaal Charles and his general mediocre play at the position. But don’t ignore Alex Smith in fantasy football, mostly thanks to the Konami Code.
Last year, Smith finished with the 17th-ranked Passing NEP score in the league. But in terms of Rushing NEP, baby hands had the fifth-highest score. That ability to run with the football pushed Smith to high-end QB2 territory, finishing the season as the 13th-best fantasy quarterback.
Smith brings a good mix of weekly consistency and upside to your fantasy squad. He ended the 2014 season with as many top-12 weekly performances at the position as Nick Foles, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson, and in terms of top-6 performances, Smith had as many as Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Matthew Stafford.
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Alex Smith is free, because teams aren’t even drafting him. That’s a mistake.