The NFL is a QB-driven league. It’s possible for teams to have success without elite play at the position; there have even been teams that have gone on to win the Super Bowl with the likes of Trent Dilfer and Doug Williams under center. But for the most part, teams will go exactly as far as their quarterback will take them.
That’s not the case in fantasy football. Sure, the top scoring player overall in most leagues is usually a quarterback—in 2020 it was Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. But more often than not, the first team that drafts a quarterback in fantasy isn’t the one that hoists the championship trophy at season’s end.
The reason is simple—scarcity, or more appropriately—lack thereof. With most fantasy leagues only starting one signal-caller, in any given week only 12 quarterbacks will be in starting lineups, as opposed to 24 running backs and 24 or 36 wide receivers. The pool of talent at quarterback is just deeper than at those other positions.
In fact, teams that do grab one of the first few quarterbacks off the board often wind up regretting it. Using a second-round pick on Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (his current ADP) may give your fantasy team one heck of a quarterback, but it also digs a hole at running back, wide receiver and/or tight end—a hole that’s bigger than any “advantage” drafting an elite quarterback may provide.
Patience is a virtue at quarterback in fantasy—one that can pay off quite nicely on draft day. Three to keep in mind on draft day that continue to slide are:
Russell Wilson of the Seahawks has top-five upside available over three full rounds after Mahomes is being drafted. Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles offers dual-threat appeal available at the back end of the top-10 at the position. Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans was 10th at the position in fantasy points last year in Sharks League Scoring and just added Julio Jones to his array of passing game weapons—and he’s not even being drafted as a fantasy starter.
You can be the last team in a 12-team league to draft a starting quarterback and still find plenty of upside at the position. In fact, there is more than one passer going outside the top-20 who could conceivably serve as at least a platoon option—and maybe as a weekly starter. Here are three more to consider late in your drafts that can outshine their current average draft positions in 2021.
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints (ADP: QB22, 156)
This is the most speculative call of this group of late-round quarterbacks, if only because at present we don’t know that Winston will be the starter under center when the Saints open the regular season at home against the Green Bay Packers. While appearing on the Adam Schein Podcast on SiriusXM (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis made it clear that Winston has work to do to beat out Taysom Hill to start. But also talked up the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.
“He’s going to be in a competition with Taysom,” Loomis said. “So, you know, we’re really excited and high on Taysom just as we are on Jameis, and it’s going to be interesting to see how that, you know, shakes out. Listen, Jameis has been fantastic, and you have these impressions of guys afar, that when you get them in your building, you really learn a lot about them. He did just fantastic — fantastic as a teammate, fantastic representative of the organization. He’s a smart, smart football player. He’s hardworking. Just everything you would want. So I’m excited to see how this shakes out.
Here’s an unavoidable fact—Winston is light-years better throwing a football than Hill is. He just is. The likeliest conclusion to this camp battle is Winston winning the job, while Hill slots back into the same “gadget” role he filled the past few years. Expecting Winston to throw for 5,000-plus yards and post top-five fantasy numbers (as he did in his last season as the starter in Tampa in 2019) isn’t especially realistic. But finishing inside QB1 territory is an accomplishment well within reach.