For the second straight year the NFL Draft opened with back-to-back quarterbacks—only this year the Rams and Eagles traded up to make their picks. Can the 2016 tandem live up to Jameis and Marcus? And will the rest of the quarterback class make an impact or are they destined to spend their career in the shadow of the Big Two? Here’s an overview of the short- and long-term fantasy prospects for this years crop of rookie quarterbacks..
JARED GOFF, RAMS 1.01 (CALIFORNIA)
The Rams traded up to make Goff the California face of their franchise, hoping he can erase memories of taking Sam Bradford first overall just a half decade ago. While Carson Wentz more resembles a typical Jeff Fisher quarterback, Goff gives the Rams an actual passing threat to team with running back Todd Gurley. The Rams also restocked their barren pass-catcher cabinet throughout the draft—and after, giving Goff a fighting chance at fantasy relevancy in Year One—assuming, of course, he can nudge aside Case Keenum for the starting gig.
CARSON WENTZ, EAGLES 1.02 (NORTH DAKOTA STATE)
Philly was so desperate for a franchise quarterback they traded for the No. 2 pick even before they knew who the Rams were taking first. The plan, assuming Sam Bradford is willing, is for the Eagles to bring Wentz along slowly—not unlike when current coach Doug Pederson was a stopgap starter who allowed Donovan McNabb to acclimate to the NFL at his own pace. Given that plan, it’s tough to put any redraft faith in Wentz’s fantasy prospects. Long-term, he has the size, rushing ability, and offensive scheme to put up Alex Smith-type numbers. That's not exactly a high ceiling, but it does establish a viable fantasy floor.
PAXTON LYNCH, BRONCOS 1.26 (MEMPHIS)
Lynch winds up as the heir to Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler in Denver, with size and a skill set that resembles what Osweiler brought to the table. He’s unlikely to put up vintage Peyton numbers in a Gary Kubiak offense, but his fantasy results should eventually exceed what Osweiler was delivering during his tenure as the starter last season. Mark Sanchez stands in Lynch’s way for playing time, and with a defense like Denver has there’s really no need to rush Lynch into the lineup before he’s ready. That of course dims his 2016 fantasy prospects; long-term there’s upside like the better fantasy seasons Matt Schaub posted in Houston, as the Broncos have plenty of receiver talent and Lynch’s game has a healthy amount of upside.
CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, JETS 2.20 (PENN STATE)
Which Hackenberg did the Jets get in the second round: the freshman prospect with NFL size and arm and unlimited potential, or the gun-shy passer who struggled with different coaching and a shaky offensive line over the past two seasons? The only upside to the Jets forcing Hackenberg into the lineup this season is one of the better receiver tandems in the league in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The better situation for all involved would be for Gang Green to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick on a short-term deal to handle quarterbacking duties while mentoring Hackenberg and letting him learn in practice rather than on Sundays. Like the Jets, a fantasy pick spent on Hackenberg is an investment in potential yet unrealized, with patience the operative word.
JACOBY BRISSETT, PATRIOTS 3.29 (NORTH CAROLINA STATE)
*2011 and 2012 stats at Florida
With Tom Brady facing a possible four-game suspension—maybe this year, maybe next, maybe never—the Patriots have Jimmy Garoppolo to turn to. But what if Garoppolo succeeds and the Patriots are able to turn him into a future first-round pick a la Matt Cassel? They’ll need a new Brady caddy, so might as well start developing one now in Brissett. His redraft fantasy value is nil, but if you were the guy who selected Ryan Mallett and/or Garoppolo in hopes of following the Patriots lead down the road and flipping him for future value, Brissett is your new stash.
CODY KESSLER, BROWNS 3.31 (USC)
Hue Jackson was apparently underwhelmed by the quarterback talent at the top of the 2016 Draft, settling instead for former first-rounder Robert Griffin III—and Kessler in the third round. His upside might be Andy Dalton, whom Jackson developed into a solid quarterback in Cincinnati, but in general he’s just what you’d expect in the third round: adequate size, average arm, enough athleticism to get by. His most endearing trait is his accuracy, but there’s just not enough supporting talent on the current Browns roster to get fantasy juices flowing—short or long term—for an average quarterback like Kessler.
CONNOR COOK, RAIDERS 4.02 (MICHIGAN STATE) - 6-4, 217
In a case of life imitating art, just like fictional fellow Big Ten quarterback Bo Callahan Cook’s draft day stock took a hit because apparently he’s not the most personable guy. The Raiders added him as an understudy for franchise QB Derek Carr, suggesting that the fantasy upside is developing in the background before parlaying brief exposure into a full-time gig elsewhere. You’d need a pretty big dynasty roster to have room for that type of player.
DAK PRESCOTT, COWBOYS 4.37 (MISSISSIPPI STATE) - 6-2, 226
Rumors of the Cowboys using the fourth overall pick on Tony Romo’s replacement were greatly exaggerated… but Dallas may have nabbed Romo’s eventual heir on Day Three. Prescott isn’t ready to step in for Romo this year, but his steady improvement from run-first college QB to SEC standout suggests there’s an NFL starting gig in his future. With studs like Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott in place, Prescott would be walking into a ready-made productive gig. However, the twin questions of just how much longer can Romo last and how quickly can Prescott develop make him a fantasy stash as opposed to an immediate helper.
CARDALE JONES, BILLS 4.41 (OHIO STATE)
Jones climbed the Ohio State depth chart via attrition to lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship before returning to the bench. His size, arm and athleticism make him an intriguing project, and Buffalo hasn’t exactly shown marriage-level commitment to Tyrod Taylor. However, much like the Bills you’ll have to invest time in Jones and hope he ultimately lives up to his outstanding tool set.
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