Fantasy Football Fallout: Ranking the High Upside QBs
Fantasy Football season never ends. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ebbs and flows to the season. Right now is the down period between the NFL Draft and training camp. This is the time of the football season where you should be jumping in some best ball drafts to help you learn the player pool and help you craft the perfect draft strategy – luckily for you, you can join one on Fantrax for as little as $10! But this is also the time of year where I begin to do my deep rankings dive. I have a pretty good idea of the players I like and those whose situations I want to avoid – but the ranking process is so much deeper than that. You basically have to do a deep dive for all fantasy relevant players, as well as all 32 teams. But, no matter what every year there are certain players that are harder to rank than others, none more so than a growing group of young high upside QBs we are seeing I believe in being transparent and this year I want to write about some of the players that I am having difficulty ranking.
This will be an on going series the next couple of weeks breaking down some closely ranked players, that I am going back-and-forth on. Feel free to tell me how you would rank these players on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio!
Looking to change things up in 2019? Check out the recent Fantrax SuperFlex Mock Draft.
Ranking the Young Dual-Threat High Upside QBs
There are four young QBs that possess high upside due to their rushing ability. Two of these four led all quarterbacks in rushing yards last year, while one was inside the top five and the other has yet to play in the NFL but we know he can run. The four are: Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Mitch Trubisky. All four we know possess sky-high upside due to their legs. But the four are also relatively unproven and far from the prolific passers that will be getting drafted around them. First, let’s dive into each individually, before diving into the position as a whole and deciding where to rank these high upside QBs.
Lamar Jackson led all QBs with 695 rushing yards last season. That becomes way more impressive knowing that he did not start until Week 11. From Week 11 on, Jackson averaged 18.59 fantasy PPG, along with 79.4 rushing yards per game. He scored four rushing touchdowns in those seven games. The downside? He averaged just 159.1 passing yards per game, with just five passing touchdowns and three interceptions.
There are obvious steps he needs to take in the passing game, but the rushing ability gives him a high floor and even higher ceiling every week. The Ravens hope adding Marquise Brown will stretch the field, helping Jackson both as a passer and a rusher. If he can improve as a passer, the potential he has in fantasy leagues is sky high.
Josh Allen was second among QBs in rushing yards with 631. He averaged 55 rushing yards per game as a starter and scored eight rushing touchdowns in those 11 games. But like Jackson, he did the bulk of his damage with his legs. He averaged just 181.8 passing yards per game and threw 10 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. The one big difference between Jackson and Allen? Most of Jackson’s yards came on designed run plays, while Allen largely resulted from scrambling when no receiver could get open downfield.
The Bills, however, added some talent that should play well to his game. They now have John Brown and Robert Foster, both of whom are down the field burners and should help open things up near the line of scrimmage, allowing Allen to still be able to scramble. Still, it is harder to trust the rushing numbers with Allen, but I still expect the Bills to let Allen use his strong arm to take a ton of deep shots, which will help open those running lanes for him.
Mitch Trubisky finished fifth among QBs in rushing yards with 421. He averaged 36.3 rushing yards per game in the first 11 weeks, including five games with over 40 rushing yards. That equates to a free passing touchdown or 100 passing yards in standard fantasy leagues. After returning from a shoulder injury in Week 14, he only averaged 14.5 rushing yards per game and did not rush for over 30 yards in any of those games. If the Bears actively try to limit his rushing to protect his health, it is a huge hit to his fantasy value.
On the other hand, he averaged 230.2 passing yards per game and threw 24 touchdowns for 12 interceptions. That would make him the best passer of the three high upside QBs we’ve talked about so far. Additionally, he is now in the second year of a Matt Nagy led offense, easily the best of the three offenses listed so far. I expect Trubisky to take the next step in the passing game, but if he loses the rushing ability that made him fantasy relevant last season, I would not select him ahead of those more proven, boring vets.
Kyler Murray has the best skill set of any of these high upside QBs. He was the top passing AND rushing QB in college football last year according to Pro Football Focus. He has a cannon, is accurate, and has a great rushing ability. The big concern is his size and if he can hold up at the NFL level. That is the risk in selecting him. But the upside is that you drafted the modern-day version of Mike Vick.
Think I am exaggerating? Last year at Oklahoma he threw for 4,36 yards with 42 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and added 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns with his legs. The Cardinals then selected him as the top pick and traded last year’s top-10 pick Josh Rosen to clear the spot for Murray.
New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury is all in on Murray. With David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk already in place, the Cards went out and added a lot of talent in the draft by selecting Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson. Murray is entering the league as a more polished passer than Jackson and Allen and a better runner than Trubisky. The risk involved is if he can hold up at the NFL level and the fact that we have yet to see him play and people tend to devalue the unknown.
How to Rank these Four
I do believe that all four have high upside due to their rushing abilities. I currently have the four of them ranked in a tier between spots 13 and 16. That is behind names like Jameis Winston and Carson Wentz and ahead of names such as Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. While I like those proven players and would have no issue starting them every week, I know they simply will not give me anything with their legs. Due to that, I decided to group the four high upside QBs together (at least for the time being) due to the rushing ability. The way I see it, the quarterback position is the deepest position in fantasy football and it is also the deepest it has ever been. If you are playing in a one-QB league, shouldn’t you be chasing the highest ceiling, since if your starter flops or gets hurt you can easily find a replacement on the waiver wire? If that is the case, should I be bumping Kyler Murray up even higher since I think his upside is even higher than the other three?
This is a conundrum I keep going back and forth with. Should I have these four ranked as my top QB2’s, allowing owners to take one of the first 12 as a starter and pair with the upside of one of these four? Should I have them higher since you can make the case that they have more upside than some of the names ahead of them? Or should I have the safety of the proven vets ahead of them?
I ultimately believe it comes down to the type of drafter you are and your preferences. If you prefer the safety you will look at my rankings and go with the safer guys (and likely question why I have it ranked the way I do). It is hard for me to blame those who do that because there is some solace in going the safe route.
When I have been on the clock and decide to take one of those high upside QBs over the proven talent I always pause for a second. Again, it is hard to leave a tried and true proven commodity out there and grab on to the unknown. However, I constantly tell myself that I can draft a safe QB as a backup in my best ball drafts, and find another QB off the waiver wire in leagues that I will play out. In one best ball draft, I selected Lamar Jackson over Roethlisberger and then was able to get Big Ben as my QB2 later on.
While it feels risky to rank these guys highly, the depth at the position constantly makes me think if I am not taking the shot on the ceiling I am doing it wrong.
Make sure to let me know what you think on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!
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