Fantasy football rookie preview: Quarterbacks

Fantasy football rookie preview: Quarterbacks

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Quarterbacks

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Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2019 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Note: Updated May 9 to address Cody Kessler’s release.

Rookie previews: RB | WR | TE

Quarterbacks

(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Kyler Murray | Arizona Cardinals | 5-10, 207 | Oklahoma

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Texas A&M
9
121
72
59.5%
686
5
0
8
109.2
2017
Oklahoma
7
21
18
85.7%
359
3
0
0
276.5
2018
Oklahoma
14
377
260
69.0%
4361
42
7
18
199.2

There won’t be any competition, which is always nice to not have as a worry. Murray, chosen No. 1 overall to replace Josh Rosen, has familiarity with Arizona’s rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury. After praising Murray’s skills recently on The Jim Rome Show, in what was some of the most laughable coach speak in recent memory, Kingsbury said we will have to see whether Murray starts Week 1 and then tossed out Brett Hundley’s name with a little lip service. Where’s that face-palm emoji?

Murray is starting. Period. This offense will resemble the collegiate “Air Raid” system that emphasizes quick, short passing in a hurried manner, often going long stretches without huddling. At its best, Air Raid relies on the quarterback’s ability to diagnose a defense presnap and bark out the correct audible to exploit flaws he sees across from him.

The frenetic pace creates defensive mistakes through confusion and tiredness, all while doing its best to prevent defensive substitutions. As much as 75 percent of the play calls favor passes after a look at any random contest. Sounds great for fantasy stats, right? Well, in theory, it should be … but how long can this work in the NFL? Can Murray handle all of the mental side from Day 1 as a rookie? Are the Cards capable of holding up in pass pro? This offense works best when defenses don’t know what you’re going to do in any situation. How effective can it be when Arizona is down 10 points and the script is more obvious than the ending of Avengers: Endgame? (Yeah, I went there!)

Murray will post a few big games — probably yardage-dependent based on volume. And he’s going to run around like crazy, scoring touchdowns along the way. But how good can he be with so little with which to work at wide receiver? After Larry Fitzgerald, whose age is catching up to him, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams and Kevin White are the only receivers with any playing time — and we’re talking about like seven minutes combined. Rookies Andy Isabella (Round 2) and Hakeem Butler (Round 4) offer blazing speed and fantastic size, respectively. They’re still rookies.

There more likely than not will come a day in which Murray is a household fantasy name, ubiquitously cheered on Sundays by the most casual of players. We’ll see signs of it in 2019. Objectively, though, those glimpses will come in spurts and be pocked with moments of insurmountable adversity. Unless you play in a format that either starts two quarterbacks or is so deep rostering three is the norm, Murray is going to be on the cusp of ownership in traditional settings.

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

Dwayne Haskins | Washington Redskins | 6-3, 218 | Ohio State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2017
Ohio State
8
57
40
70.2%
565
4
1
3
173.1
2018
Ohio State
14
533
373
70.0%
4831
50
8
20
174.1

Can we just get this out of the way and call him the starter? It’s that obvious, isn’t it? Haskins, despite only one year as the man in college, faces journeyman Case Keenum and career clipboard bearer Colt McCoy, whose summer will be spent rehabbing surgery to compensate for Washington trying to rush him back from a broken leg last year. And then there’s Alex Smith. Sigh.

Here’s the unfortunate aspect of Haskins’ prime opportunity: Washington’s offense stinks. Like really bad. This team is going to run as much as humanly possible if Derrius Guice (ACL), Bryce Love (ACL), Chris Thompson (third-down back) and Adrian Peterson (Methuselah) can combine into a Voltron-like super committee.

Receivers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson don’t even scare Scooby-Doo. Tight end Jordan Reed can’t be counted on at this point. Rookie wideouts Terry McLaurin (Round 3) and Kelvin Harmon (Round 6) have potential, but how often do rookie quarterback-receiver groupings create anything special, or even watchable? At least Haskins has chemistry with McLaurin, for whatever it truly is worth as their heads spin trying to acclimate to the NFL.

One day, maybe even in 2020, if Washington can attract bona fide wide receivers, Haskins will play up to his ability for fantasy purposes. … It ain’t happening in 2019.

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

Daniel Jones | New York Giants | 6-4, 215 | Duke

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2016
Duke
12
430
270
62.8%
2836
16
0
29
126.3
2017
Duke
13
453
257
56.7%
2691
14
11
28
112.0
2018
Duke
11
392
237
60.5%
2674
22
9
28
131.7

Here’s the million dollar question for the No. 6 overall choice: Does Eli Manning get benched? This one really can go either way. It mostly comes down to how well he’s playing as a game manager within an offense that most definitely will orbit Saquon Barkley’s freakish skills and ask Eli to keep drives alive rather than drop bombs all day. The NFC East is arguably up for grabs, even if it feels like the Giants are poised for earning a high draft pick in 2020. As long as New York is “in it” and the coaching staff doesn’t feel the need to spark the offense with Jones, Manning should be safe.

If Pat Shurmur starts feeling his buns getting a little toasty, say after a miserable start in which Eli is just so-so, then all bets are off on the veteran finishing out the season as New York’s starter. In the speculative world where Jones is indeed the starter for even eight games, no one on this list below him realistically has a shot at outplaying the opportunity in front of the even-keeled rookie. Starting 16 games wouldn’t put him in the conversation of being draft-worthy in 2019 leagues, however … too raw, not enough weapons, and a current philosophy featuring the backfield.

Trace McSorley | Baltimore Ravens | 6-0, 201 | Penn State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Penn State
7
40
20
50.0%
185
2
0
1
105.4
2016
Penn State
14
387
224
57.9%
3614
29
8
23
156.9
2017
Penn State
13
427
284
66.5%
3570
28
0
27
153.7
2018
Penn State
13
361
192
53.2%
2530
18
7
27
124.6

For as much as it pains me to rank McSorley ahead of basically everyone below him on this list, he’s in a decent situation for playing time, albeit in unconventional ways. He rushed for 23 touchdowns in the last two years at Penn State, and he has 30 in his NCAA career. McSorley has a total of 1,697 rushing yards over 473 attempts to make him one of the more versatile prospects at his position. Lamar Jackson is etched into stone as the starter, and McSorley is a country mile away from being ready for that gig anyway. Sure, injuries could come into play with a running quarterback like Jackson, but Robert Griffin III would block that avenue to playing time.

Where McSorley best stands to see action is as a trick-play specialist in what figures to be a ground-heavy, gimmick-laden system in 2019. Think of how Sean Payton utilized Taysom Hill last year. The Ravens need to find creative ways to hide Jackson’s deficiencies as a passer and accentuate his legs without getting him killed. While McSorley could be an asset around the goal line, his only notable fantasy value is as a sheer flier in DFS action. If Ryan Finley and/or Drew Lock see three or more starts, both players will rise above McSorley in production.

Ryan Finley | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-4, 208 | N.C. State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2014
Boise State
5
27
12
44.4%
161
2
1
2
111.6
2015
Boise State
3
70
46
65.7%
485
1
4
6
117.2
2016
NC State
13
402
243
60.4%
3059
18
8
15
135.2
2017
NC State
13
479
312
65.1%
3518
17
6
12
136.0
2018
NC State
13
484
326
67.4%
3928
25
11
11
148.0

Just Andy Dalton stands in Finley’s way (sorry, Jeff Driskel) after the Bengals traded up to land the rookie in Round 4. The Red Rifle has looked more like a cheap water gun in recent years, and he has failed to play a complete slate in two of the last four seasons.

Dalton hasn’t thrown for more than 25 touchdown passes in any one campaign since going for 33 in 2013. He hasn’t mustered a winning record three years straight, and Dalton is 0-4 in the playoffs. With a new coaching staff finally in place, Cincinnati’s veteran starter could find himself as a reserve by the year’s end. His contract runs through 2020 but is also free of dead money should he be released or traded next spring. The point being, Finley has a reasonable chance to start at some point in 2019, although gamers should keep their distance in single-season setups.

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

Drew Lock | Denver Broncos | 6-3, 228 | Missouri

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Missouri
12
263
129
49.0%
1332
4
0
25
90.5
2016
Missouri
12
434
237
54.6%
3399
23
10
13
133.3
2017
Missouri
13
419
242
57.8%
3964
44
13
11
165.7
2018
Missouri
13
437
275
62.9%
3498
28
8
13
147.7

Lock easily could vault as high as No. 2 on this list if given enough playing time — the natural ability is there to make all kinds of noise in fantasy. However, he will need time to improve his accuracy through mechanical tweaks and wiser choices. The arm talent cannot be questioned, but it only gets one so far in the pros.

Joe Flacco is entrenched as the starter as long as Denver is competitive. Given the divisional uncertainty after Oakland undoubtedly improved and KC seemingly regressed, the Broncos have an attainable playoff goal in what looks like Los Angeles’ AFC West to lose. All told, with a mostly raw cast of targets and a first-year tandem of head coach and offensive coordinator, Lock’s talent won’t be enough to win over fantasy hearts just yet.

Will Grier | Carolina Panthers | 6-3, 215 | West Virginia

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Florida
6
161
106
65.8%
1204
10
3
13
145.4
2017
West Virginia
11
388
250
64.4%
3490
34
12
14
162.7
2018
West Virginia
11
397
266
67.0%
3864
37
8
24
175.5

There is a great deal about Grier’s game that translates to the pros and could lead to a successful fantasy career — accuracy, decision-making, and natural ability come to mind. It’s all about getting an opportunity at this point, and Cam Newton coming off of shoulder surgery provides a crack of daylight for Grier. There is no way Newton sits if he is healthy, of course. And Grier still must overtake Taylor Heinicke, which seems like a foregone conclusion given the third-round pick spent to land the former Mountaineer. Should Grier actually play in 2019, count on him being extremely conservative as the offensive design will be to shield him from big mistakes.

Jarrett Stidham | New England Patriots | 6-2, 210 | Auburn

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Baylor
10
109
75
68.8%
1265
12
2
9
199.0
2017
Auburn
14
370
246
66.5%
3158
18
6
35
151.0
2018
Auburn
13
369
224
60.7%
2794
18
5
23
137.7

On one hand, Tom Brady is 42 years old this upcoming season. On the other hand, Tom Brady is 42 years old this upcoming season and it doesn’t seem to matter one bit. A lengthy injury or precipitous implosion early on by the GOAT would be the only ways Stidham’s name is mentioned in single-year leagues — and that assumes Brian Hoyer is leapfrogged and Danny Etling is cast aside.

(Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)

Easton Stick | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-1, 219 | N. Dakota State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
North Dakota State
11
147
90
61.2%
1144
13
4
7
150.3
2016
North Dakota State
14
288
169
58.7%
2331
19
0
15
142.2
2017
North Dakota State
15
264
164
62.1%
2466
28
0
22
169.5
2018
North Dakota State
15
281
175
62.3%
2752
28
7
11
172.4

Short of an injury to Philip Rivers … and then Tyrod Taylor … and maybe even Cardale Jones, Stick will be stuck on the bench or practice squad. The rook should at least get an earnest chance at knocking Jones off of the roster this summer.

Clayton Thorson | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-4, 225 | Northwestern

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2015
Northwestern
13
295
150
50.8%
1522
7
0
22
95.9
2016
Northwestern
13
478
280
58.6%
3182
22
9
38
125.9
2017
Northwestern
13
434
262
60.4%
2844
15
12
30
121.3
2018
Northwestern
14
489
299
61.1%
3183
17
15
35
121.2

The upside is Carson Wentz has been quite fragile in this NFL career, and Nick Foles is now with the Jags. Nate Sudfeld currently stands in the way of Thorson seeing starter’s work if Wentz goes down. The weapons are in place for relevancy, yet the opportunity, even if presented, likely would result in a managerial command of the offense.

Gardner Minshew | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-1, 220 | Washington State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Comp
Comp%
Yards
TDs
INT
Sacked
Rating
2016
East Carolina
7
202
119
58.9%
1347
8
0
9
124
2017
East Carolina
10
304
174
57.2%
2140
16
0
8
129.1
2018
Washington State
13
662
468
70.7%
4779
38
9
13
147.6

After paying Nick Foles a king’s ransom, Jacksonville is theoretically set at quarterback. Injuries happen, of course, so a peek at the backup stable of passers likely puts Minshew in a fourth-place tie with 2018 undrafted free agent Alex McGough to be a practice squader. Tanner Lee (2018 sixth-rounder) stands in his way after the release of Cody Kessler.

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