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QUARTERBACKS: Steals Under Center – Top Value Picks in 2020

Two years ago, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs became just the second quarterback in NFL history to top 5,000 passing yards and throw 50 touchdown passes in the same season. Last year, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens broke the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. Both finished as the top fantasy signal-caller and led more than a few teams to championships.

However, what made Mahomes and Jackson such massive fantasy studs wasn’t just all the points they racked up—both also carried relatively modest asking prices in drafts that year. In 2018, Mahomes’ average draft position at Fantasy Football Calculator was 15th among quarterbacks. The following year, Jackson came off the board 11th at the position.

Both were object lessons in the wisdom of waiting to draft a fantasy quarterback.

Now, expecting another quarterback to come off the board outside the top-10 and not only vastly exceed his asking price but dominate the position isn’t entirely reasonable. But there are a number of signal-callers coming off draft boards late who have the potential to be massive steals in 2020.

In fact, you could be the last drafter in a 12-team league to select a quarterback and still land an option under center capable of functioning as a rock-solid every-week starter—at least.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (ADP: QB13, 10th Round)

After playing in all 16 games eight consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2018, Stafford missed half of the 2019 campaign with a back injury. However, as Elisha Twerski wrote at NumberFire, before Stafford got hurt the 32-year-old was quietly peeling off one of the better seasons of his career.

“Despite playing in just eight games, Stafford had finishes of QB3, QB4, QB4, QB5, and QB6 last year. For those keeping track, that’s five top-six finishes in eight contests,” Twerski said. “In terms of points per game, only Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott finished ahead of Stafford’s 21.45 average in 2019. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs, Stafford ranked fourth in both Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense).”

A few points to consider:

  • Stafford was on a pace last year that would have netted him nearly 5,000 passing yards and 38 scores.
  • The same supporting cast that Stafford had success with a season ago will be back in 2020.
  • Stafford is that much more familiar with Darrell Bevell’s offense.
  • Last year’s injury aside, he has been a durable player over his career.
  • Stafford and the Lions will likely be playing from behind with some regularity.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants (ADP: QB15, 11th Round)

Among second-year quarterbacks, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals is getting most of the run in 2020 as a breakout candidate. He also has the fantasy price tag (QB4) to match. However, David Solow of G-Men HQ cautioned fantasy managers not to overlook  the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft.

“Jones scored over 35 fantasy points in four of his twelve starts last season. In those four games, the rookie had more than 300 passing yards, 4 Total TDs, and 0 INTs,” he said. “No other rookie quarterback has done this more than once. Jones did it four times. In his first-ever NFL start, Jones threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. It is rare for a rookie quarterback to have four outstanding games like Jones did. With more experience and a better supporting cast, the A+ performances could become even more common.”

Consistency and turnovers were both issues for Jones as a rookie—he threw 12 interceptions and fumbled a jaw-dropping 18 times. But with a year’s experience under his belt, an improved (and healthy) array of passing-game weapons at his disposal and a better offensive line ahead of him it’s not hard to imagine Jones taking a significant step forward in his sophomore season.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: QB16, 11th Round)

Roethlisberger’s 2019 season was over almost before it started—he suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. That injury and Roethlisberger’s age (38) have relegated the veteran to mid-range QB2 status in drafts. But per Liz Loza of Yahoo Sports, doctors don’t believe that Roethlisberger is at any increased risk of re-injury—and that creates the chance for a bounce-back year in 2020.

“Surrounded by dynamic pass-catchers and working behind a solid offensive line,” Loza said, “the vet absolutely has a top-12 fantasy finish in his range of possible (to likely) outcomes. Let’s not forget that he was fantasy’s eighth-most productive QB in 2017. Better than that, he posted top-TWO numbers in 2018. If the good doctors are right about his elbow and the season begins as gently as it should … then Ben will be back to winning big.”

As recently as two years ago, Roethlisberger paced the entire NFL with 5,129 passing yards and tossed a career-high 34 scoring passes. If his elbow is 100 percent (or at least relatively close) then Big Ben is a good bet to outperform his ADP in 2020….Big-Time.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.

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