In standard fantasy leagues, quarterback isn’t nearly as important as other positions, particularly running back and receiver, but two-quarterback formats — or superflex leagues — change that in a big way. In our February average draft position (ADP) data for standard leagues, no quarterbacks are among the top-45 overall players. In our two-quarterback rankings, however, ten passers are ranked inside the top 45.
Admittedly, quarterback has been the toughest position yet in this series, especially when looking for players to sell. While there are gobs of fantasy-relevant wideouts and running backs to mine through for a project like this, there aren’t many signal callers who are valued somewhat highly — making it worthwhile to trade them — in standard leagues. I’ll tell you right now I took some risks in an effort to give you quarterbacks who would be of relevance. I want the information in this article to be actionable, so rather than telling you to sell someone like Joe Flacco, I hit on a few of the highly-valued passers.
I know I’m probably going to get some pushback on the first two — they are unquestionably two of the most exciting players in all of the dynasty landscape right now — and I fully understand why, but I’m going to try to explain myself and my thoughts in a thorough manner throughout the piece. Please remember that in no way am I saying these are players you must trade away, but I encourage you to come into it with an open mind, look at the information, come to your own conclusion and maybe see what the young signal callers could net you if you put them on the block. Also, and this is important, in superflex leagues, I wouldn’t move the first two players below for anything less than a massive haul — read: a fairly large overpay — since quarterback production isn’t as easily replaceable in that format.
For clarity, all ADP info is pulled from our February 2018 ADP data, which includes incoming rookies. The ADP is for one-quarterback leagues, but it does serve as a good barometer for a quarterback’s ranking among his positional peers. To get a better feel for two-quarterback — and superflex — values, we’ll reference our two-quarterback rankings.
OK, let’s get to it.
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Deshaun Watson, QB HOU
Watson was amazing last year. The numbers he produced — in just his first season no less — were excellent, but there are a few issues.
One, the NFL sample on Watson is just 204 pass attempts, an incredibly small number, so we shouldn’t feel like we know too much about the player Watson is or will become. Two, some of Watson’s numbers, particularly his sky-high 9.3 percent touchdown rate, are wholly unsustainable. Lastly, Watson is coming off a serious knee injury. Alone, none of those things are super-alarming, but when you combine them with the fact Watson’s value is pretty high — 64th overall in one-quarterback leagues and a top-30 overall player in our superflex rankings — it’s enough to make me at least dangle him out there to see if someone is willing to break the bank for him.
Let’s dig into that touchdown rate, because even though the ACL injury and small sample size are red flags, it’s the touchdown rate that really gets me.
A 9.3 percent touchdown rate is nuts. If Watson had maintained that rate over a full season, it would’ve been the second-best clip since 2000 among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts in a season. In fact, there have been only 17 instances since 2000 of a quarterback posting a touchdown rate of 7.0 percent or higher in a season in which he threw 300 passes. For reference, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees — a pair of future Hall of Famers — each own just one such season.
If Watson hadn’t gotten hurt, his touchdown rate would’ve surely tailed off down the stretch, and there’s almost no way he can repeat that clip over a full season at any point in the future. I’m not at all saying Watson isn’t good — I think he’s very good — but I’m saying we may have a slightly inflated view of how good he is based off his incredible six-start stretch.
Let’s use Matt Ryan as a way to illustrate our bad habit of recency bias. Ryan won the MVP in 2016 with a monster season, one that led many to believe he was a new player, someone who was approaching the ranks of the elite quarterbacks. His dynasty ADP shot up to the QB8 at this time a year ago, up from QB16 after the 2015 season. But a big part of Ryan’s MVP campaign was his flukey-high 7.1 percent touchdown rate, a mark he was going to have a very hard time sustaining. Sure enough, regression hit in 2017 as Ryan’s touchdown rate dropped to 3.8 percent, resulting in 18 fewer passing touchdowns. That, as you’d expect, crushed his fantasy output as he didn’t have a single game of more than 20 fantasy points, and his value has cratered to QB20.
Ryan’s 2016 season was an outlier, one of those 17 campaigns since 2000 in which a passer had a touchdown rate greater than 7.1 percent, but it’s nowhere near the kind of outlier Watson’s six-game run was. It’s always a good gamble to bet against crazy historical outliers repeating themselves, and Watson — as talented as he is — may never have another six-game run like he just had in 2017.
Watson has a lot of things going for him, and he should be a highly-coveted fantasy quarterback. As long as he returns to full health, Watson’s skillset — his running ability and willingness to make high-upside throws, even if they’re risky — is tailor-made for fantasy goodness. But I’m not ready to say Watson is going to end up in the Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady tier of all-time elites, which is the kind of territory we’re talking about if you’re expecting him to come close to repeating his 2017 numbers over a full season at any point down the road. Rodgers, Brady, and Manning account for seven of the 17 instances of a single-season touchdown rate of 7.0 percent or higher since 2000, and they’re the only quarterbacks to do it more than once in that span.
Of course, Watson’s numbers could drop quite a bit and still be really good, and that may very well be what ends up happening. But in one-quarterback leagues, with his value where it is now, I think it’s worthwhile to put Watson on the block and see what happens. For me, with the way I usually handle the quarterback position in standard formats, I have to at least entertain trading any quarterback who creeps up near the top-50 overall players. Watson is the 64th overall player right now, per our February ADP, and he’ll likely climb a bit once he’s back on the field and the dynasty community feels like the ACL injury is behind him. Like I said at the outset, in no way do you have to move Watson if you own him, but quarterback production isn’t all that impossible to replace in standard formats, so I think it’s worth it to see if you can move him for a good receiver or running back.
Carson Wentz, QB PHI
If I’m open to dealing Watson, then I should feel similarly about Wentz, because much of what I just said also applies to the Philadelphia Eagles’ star. I think Wentz is really good, so don’t get it twisted, but like I said in the previous paragraph, I have to look into moving a quarterback in standard (one-quarterback) leagues anytime their value gets into the range of the top-50 overall players. Wentz’s stock is right there as he’s the 48th player overall — taken as high as 43rd overall in one of our staff mocks last month — and the top-ranked quarterback.
Wentz is a gifted player who blew up in 2017 and probably would’ve won the MVP had he stayed healthy. But, like Watson, he’s a signal caller who likes to utilize his mobility, is coming off a torn ACL, and posted a tough-to-sustain touchdown rate in 2017.
Wentz’s touchdown rate of 7.5 percent was the fifth-highest mark since 2000 among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts in a season. He did it over 440 passes, a much larger sample than Watson’s, but we still have just 29 games (and 1,047 attempts) of data on Wentz. And that data is perplexing when we look at how drastically different Wentz’s two seasons have been.
Wentz didn’t take a step forward in 2017; he took a Carl Lewis-like leap.
Maybe Wentz’s poor first year can be attributed to growing pains, and his 2017 output is in the neighborhood of what we can expect moving forward — that seems like the narrative anytime a young quarterback breaks out. Or maybe he’s more like the rookie-year player than the 2017 one. Time will tell, but my guess is we should probably expect his future numbers to be somewhere between what he’s done in his two seasons, likely closer to 2017 than 2016.
Wentz’s 7.5 percent touchdown rate is the reason I have a hard time viewing his 2017 as a building block rather than a possible ceiling. I don’t want to regurgitate all the touchdown rate info I said earlier, but it applies here, as well. Odds are Wentz’s touchdown rate will fall — the great Tom Brady has a mere two seasons with at least a 7.0 percent touchdown rate across his illustrious career — and if his touchdown rate drops, his fantasy output will regress, as well.
There’s also this. Josh Hermsmeyer, the mastermind behind airyards.com, created a passing efficiency metric called Passing Air Conversion Ratio (PACR), which you can read more about here. It’s passing yards divided by air yards, with air yards being “the distance a pass traveled in the air as measured perpendicular to the line of scrimmage,” and the metric aims to be a predictive stat. Wentz’s numbers weren’t pretty last season as he ranked among the bottom of the barrel, per Hermsmeyer’s Adjusted PACR, which is another sign pointing at oncoming regression. (Watson’s marks were similarly bad, for what it’s worth.)
Again, Wentz is a good player and checks a lot of boxes; he should be one of the top-ranked fantasy quarterbacks. But like Watson, I think Wentz’s outlier season from a touchdown-rate perspective may be causing us to view him as the top quarterback when he should be a notch or two lower.
Obviously, having a young quarterback who looks poised to put up solid numbers for a while — even if regression hits — is a great thing, and if you’re someone who places a lot of importance on having a top-level signal caller in one-quarterback leagues, Wentz (and Watson) will be of great value to you. I employ a different strategy, usually going to the clearance rack for quarterbacks and trying to play matchups with two cheaper options, so when I stumble into a passer who ends up being a stud, I get an itch to move him for a really good receiver or running back. I think Wentz and Watson will be quality fantasy producers for the foreseeable future, but I’m also not fully convinced either player will be the next great quarterback based on their small samples, ACL injuries and likelihood for regression.
Case Keenum, QB FA
A journeyman backup prior to last season, Keenum was a revelation in 2017, setting career-high marks across the board. He posted 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, ranking in the top ten in passer rating (98.3), adjusted yards per attempt (7.63) and completion percentage (67.6 percent).
Despite his great real-world play, Keenum wasn’t quite as valuable in the fantasy realm, ranking as the QB15 in points per game. He had as many games with less than 10 fantasy points — three — as he did outings of 20-plus points.
Keenum was very good for the Minnesota Vikings, but anytime an older player (he’s 30) has a breakout season seemingly out of nowhere, we should be at least a little skeptical. This marks two straight years that the Vikings’ quarterback has been a surprise performer, with Sam Bradford setting the completion percentage record in 2016, so maybe Minnesota’s offense is just a quarterback-friendly attack thanks to a solid offensive line, a good running game , nd two electric wideouts.
That’s exactly where we start running into some speed bumps when we get into Keenum’s outlook. Even if you want to buy into him being a late-bloomer who is a decent quarterback capable of thriving in a good situation, Keenum may not be back in Minnesota.
The Vikings have a very interesting and unique off-season on their hands. The roster is undoubtedly ready to compete for a championship, and Minnesota had three capable quarterbacks — Keenum, Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater — on their team in 2017. But all three of them are headed for free agency. (Bridgewater’s situation isn’t crystal clear, though it looks like he will likely be granted free agency). The Vikings’ front office has some big decisions to make, and to make matters even more complicated, there is growing speculation that Minnesota is a serious player — maybe even the frontrunner — in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes.
The Vikings’ quarterback situation could play out any number of ways, and certainly one of the routes they could go is to re-sign Keenum to be their starter — although they’ve haven’t sounded like an organization that’s fully sold on him. Reading reports from “sources” and the like is fun, but we can’t really rely on that stuff right now. All we know is that Keenum proved he can be a solid fantasy producer in Minnesota after looking like a subpar player elsewhere previously in his career, and of the many ways the Vikings can go this off-season, only one results in Keenum starting in Minnesota going forward.
Could he be a useful fantasy quarterback on another team if he gets a starting job elsewhere? Sure, but I’m not counting on it based off his track record prior to 2017. If you think otherwise and want to gamble on Keenum being a starter somewhere in 2017, then he is a good buy for you at his current cost.
Keenum doesn’t have much relevance right now in one-quarterback leagues as he’s currently the QB33. In superflex leagues, however, our rankings have him as the 113th overall player, and if you can find a quarterback-needy team who is willing to roll the dice on Keenum landing — and playing well in — a starting gig, you may be able to net a worthwhile return.
Drew Brees, QB FA
Brees has maintained pretty decent value in one-quarterback leagues despite the fact he’s entering his age-39 campaign and is coming off a mundane fantasy season by his standards. Going by points per game, he ranked as the QB13 with a clip of 16.4 points per outing. It was worst finish since 2005, his final year with the Chargers, and Brees is currently valued as the QB17.
The big change for Brees — who is a free agent but is expected to remain with New Orleans — wasn’t necessarily a loss in ability as much as it was a significant drop in volume. With a good offensive line and the dynamic duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the New Orleans Saints became a vaunted rushing team, and they also played much better defense than they had in previous seasons. Those two things meant the Saints weren’t as reliant on Brees as we’d grown accustomed to, which resulted in a dip in the future Hall of Famer’s counting stats as well as a much lower weekly ceiling.
Brees attempted 536 passes last season, his fewest since 2009, and he posted the fewest touchdowns (23) and yards per game (270.9) of his 12-year Saints tenure. Brees registered just three weeks of 20-plus fantasy points, and he didn’t go off for any of his signature blow-up games as his best single-game fantasy output of the year was a 22.24-point day.
For reference, Blake Bortles had just two fewer touchdowns last season while putting up five games of at least 20 fantasy points, and it’s not like Bortles had a standout campaign even by his modest standards.
Brees wasn’t terrible — 270.9 yards per game and 536 attempts are certainly numbers we can work with — but it’s not the huge volume he has consistently benefitted from in New Orleans. If he’s not going to be an every-week fantasy starter in one-quarterback leagues who can be a real difference maker, it becomes a lot harder to stomach him at his current cost once you factor in his age.
The Saints put together an 11-win season and came excruciatingly close to making the NFC title game, so I don’t think they’re going to go away from the more run-heavy offense they deployed in 2017. Injuries to Ingram, Kamara or along the offensive line could force New Orleans to revert back to a pass-happy attack, but the days of being able to count on Brees for 300-yard displays — something he did just three times last year after having 10 300-yard outings in 2016 — look like a thing of the past. He’s unquestionably still an every-week starter in superflex formats, but he’s no longer a set-it-and-forget-it option in one-quarterback leagues.
Approaching 40 and without the weekly upside he possessed for so many years, Brees is overvalued as the QB17, which is just two spots behind Tom Brady, a similarly aging quarterback who hasn’t lost an ounce of his elite ceiling. Now is a great time to move Brees, particularly in superflex leagues, where he’s the 67th overall player.