Let’s face it, we got seriously spoiled a couple years back when Andrew Luck and RG3 rolled into the NFL and took the fantasy world by storm. On the heels of Cam Newton’s top-five fantasy QB season as a rookie in 2011, Luck and RG3 turned in top-10 fantasy QB efforts and Russell Wilson was starter-worthy as well.
Last year? Not so much. Geno Smith, Mike Glennon and EJ Manuel all started for at least half a season but none finished better than 20th among quarterbacks in either total fantasy points or fantasy points per game.
The 2014 NFL draft class saw three quarterbacks go off the board in the first round, and two of the three are expected to receive first-team snaps in their respective exhibition openers. But what is the potential fantasy fallout for this year’s rookie class?
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles is already being written off by fantasy owners—in part because the Jaguars have already indicated they would prefer he sit and watch his entire rookie season, in part because the Jags’ receiving corps is being gutted by injury and suspension and in part because their offense is so fantasy-unfriendly anyway. He’s a stash in dynasty leagues, especially if you think Justin Blackmon gets his act together and returns to the Jaguars in the foreseeable future.
Teddy Bridgewater is not only the closest of his rookie brethren to earning a starting job, he also has the most immediate fantasy upside. That said, the plan in Minnesota remains riding Matt Cassel for as long as possible—plus, the Vikings offense is an Adrian Peterson joint anyway. While there’s a chance he wins the job in camp and thus achieves low-end fantasy value in redraft leagues, the more likely possibility is the Vikings are out of the playoff chase by their Week 10 bye and Bridgewater takes over for the final six games. It’s not an overly favorable schedule—at Chicago, Detroit and Miami; home to Green Bay, Carolina and the Jets—so his redraft value remains minimal as well.
In Cleveland Brian Hoyer sits atop the depth chart but both he and Johnny Manziel are expected to see first-team snaps in the preseason opener. Cleveland has an early (Week 4) bye, a natural schedule break that allows an extra week of prep time for a rookie signal-caller, but overall their schedule is brutal for quarterbacks. Manziel is a polarizing figure, but you’d have to be firmly in his camp to think he can take what’s left of the Browns’ offense and squeeze fantasy value out of it. Best case for him would be getting Josh Gordon back for the second half of the season, though there are few breathers anywhere on the Cleveland schedule.
David Carr is turning heads in Oakland, though like the Jaguars the Raiders would prefer to have him hold a clipboard for a year while acclimating to the pro game. If that timetable is expedited, Carr could take over for Matt Schaub after a Week 5 bye and be rewarded with a pair of somewhat friendly home games (Chargers and Cardinals). Then he’d get Joe Haden and the Browns and Richard Sherman and the Seahawks, both on the road. Odds are he won’t be on any redraft rosters after that brutal fortnight, and the rest of the slate isn’t so bad that you should be discouraged from adding him as a plug-in play.
Perhaps the sneakiest redraft rookie QB can be found in Houston. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the expected starter, but he’s been lousy in training camp and could quite likely limp into the Texans’ Week10 bye on the heels of brutal visits to Pittsburgh and Tennessee with the fans clamoring for the future. If Bill O’Brien has coached up Tom Savage properly, the Texans finish with home games against the Bengals, Titans and Ravens and trips to Jacksonville and Indy—a stretch in which he could get to know Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins very well, indeed.