Let’s take a look at a few quarterbacks you should have your eye on in 2017 drafts:
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (ADP 44), Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 54) and Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (ADP 68)
I can already hear the “late quarterback contingent” screaming at their computer as they read these three names — but hear me out! I lumped these three together because at their current average draft positions they represent the best potential values for elite quarterback options in 2017. Statistically they all had great 2016 campaigns, all finishing in the Top-4 in total fantasy points, Top-5 in passing touchdowns and Top-8 in both passing yards and completion percentage. I have Drew Brees in here as the most logical option if you want one of the trusty old elite quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are simply getting too expensive these days at their respective ADPs of 23 and 30 overall. With a current ADP of 44, Brees is right in the range where you’ll need to start making tough decisions between trusty, assured points and guys like Tyreek Hill, Carlos Hyde and Michael Crabtree to name a few, and Drew Brees. All of them should produce but Brees is a far safer bet for the price. Crabtree was a starter all year for Oakland and he had a good year. He finished as the 11th-highest scoring wide receiver, putting up 150 fantasy points in 2016. Brees scored 399 fantasy points last season, fourth-most in the NFL out of any position. Obviously this is comparing apples to oranges but it points out the difference in return on investment. After Brees, only two other quarterbacks were within 30 points of him – Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins. In comparison, there were 23 receivers with at least 120 points (maintaining that 30-point differential we used with Brees). Positional scarcity isn’t an issue with quarterbacks as a whole but it is with elite quarterbacks.
As far as Luck and Ryan are concerned, there are question marks but they are safer bets than those being drafted around them. I’d much rather take a high-yield passer than take a chance on guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Ameer Abdullah and Bilal Powell. Again, all could/should be useful but there is relative safety at the quarterback position in this range. Looking at the numbers, both Ryan and Luck’s pass attempts were down in 2016 compared to the previous two years but they both posted the highest completion percentages of their careers. It’s easy to signal a potential regression for Matt Ryan with the departure of Kyle Shanahan but I don’t think we should instantly assume that will be the case. This offense is in its prime from top to bottom. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is learning this offense, not the other way around. You don’t light up the scoreboard the way Atlanta did in 2016 and come in to revamp things. Will there be tweaks? Of course, but the core of what Atlanta does offensively will be intact and it all starts with Ryan.
The biggest knock on Andrew Luck right now is health. He opened training camp on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list with a shoulder injury but should be ready for Week 1. Until we see him practice his ADP will continue to drop, so take advantage of this! If I’m drafting today I’d be happy to take Luck and pair him with a late-round upside quarterback just in case.
As a closing point in defense of taking one of these three passers, consider the following – the difference between QB2 (Matt Ryan) and QB12 (Russell Wilson) was 88 points last season. Over 16 weeks that’s 5.5 points per game and could mean the difference between winning and losing. Matt Ryan at his current ADP is the best value at the position in 2017. I don’t know if he’ll score 402 points again this season but he is a safer investment than many of those being taken around him in current drafts. It’s fair if you want to pass on these guys but all three should at least be considered on draft day.
Speaking of late-round quarterbacks, let’s take a quick look at a few of the guys further on down the trough for those who like to wait it out.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 89)
The 2016 numbers aren’t stellar. His 18 interceptions were second only to Philip Rivers’ 21 picks. He posted the 10th-worst completion percentage among the Top-32 passers and finished 12th in passing yards on 567 attempts. He was out-rushed by Andy Dalton and tied in fantasy points with Blake Bortles. Let that sink in. So why is he being mentioned here? Potential and price. He has excellent talent around him with the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard and still has Mike Evans to bail him out. The running backs are a question mark at best right now so it’s likely Tampa Bay will lean on Winston to step up this season. His 33 interceptions over the past two seasons is atrocious but if he can cut down on that he could flirt with Top-5 numbers. He’s not far off, having finished ninth in 2016 and 13th in 2015 – his arrow is pointing up.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (ADP 96)
You can’t possibly talk about Jameis Winston without bringing up Marcus Mariota. Everyone can recall his ridiculous run from Weeks 5-12 last season where the bulk of his 2016 numbers were earned. During that span he racked up 180.65 points, averaging more than 22 points per game. That potential for explosiveness is the main reason he is on this list. He adds plenty with his legs, finishing sixth in rushing among quarterbacks and now is surrounded with more receiving weapons than he’s ever had. I expect the passing numbers to continue to rise with the additions of Corey Davis via the draft and Eric Decker via free agency. Both are dynamic playmakers that Tennessee has desperately needed to boost their passing attack. It’s true the Tennessee rushing attack accounted for nearly 40 percent of its total offense last season but Mariota accounted for 16 percent of that by himself. DeMarco Murray is a huge piece of the offense but he also plays a big part in the passing game, further boosting Mariota’s output. The workhorse back finished last season sixth in receptions with 53 catches on 67 targets good for 377 yards. The 67 targets were eighth-most among running backs and there are a good number of third down backs ranking ahead of him. Murray doesn’t hurt Mariota’s value, rather both are centerpieces in this scheme. There is room for both to put up big numbers again in 2017.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (ADP 97)
Top-6 in fantasy scoring a year ago, Cousins comes into the 2017 season with his future in Washington once again in flux. He has played pretty well under these circumstances before and I see no reason he won’t do it again. I absolutely love his current ADP especially when you consider his supporting cast. DeSean Jackson is gone but he is replaced by the dynamic Terrelle Pryor Sr. Pryor Sr. is already lighting up the highlight reel in training camp, pulling down a one-handed snag using every bit of that 6-foot-11 inch wingspan to his advantage. Pryor Sr. is probably the most athletic and versatile receiver Cousins has had at his disposal, and the two should produce big time dividends in 2017. Factor in 2016 holdovers Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed and I see no reason Cousins can’t repeat or improve on his 4,917 passing yards (third-most) and 25 touchdowns. Only five quarterbacks attempted more passes in 2016 than Cousins, so the volume is there.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 132)
Going back to the well with this one but I just can’t shake Carson Wentz as a deep sleeper. If you want to wait until the bitter end to take a quarterback or if you are in a two quarterback/super-flex league, the Philadelphia signal caller needs to be on your radar. Volume is king in fantasy as you can be the best player in the world but it won’t matter if you don’t get the touches. Wentz threw the ball 607 times last season, good for fifth-most in the NFL. He now finds himself surrounded with a decent arsenal to pepper with those targets in Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles and Torrey Smith. Considering he was a rookie without a true No. 1 receiver and a B- team ground attack, his 2016 numbers were solid. He finished just shy of 4,000 passing yards, and the addition of LeGarrette Blount should ease some of the pressure. I’m not taking Wentz as my primary option but I’ll absolutely be looking to him as my QB2 given his upside. He’s a cheap investment who could turn into gold with the supporting cast around him.