2024 Underdog Fantasy Must-Draft QBs

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2024 Underdog Fantasy Must-Draft QBs

Scott Barrett and Ryan Heath join forces to bring you the best fantasy football value picks and essential quarterbacks to draft for Underdog Fantasy's Best Ball Mania 5.

Must Draft

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

ADP: QB7, Round 7

Burrow was severely limited by a calf strain to start last season. This injury, intimated by former OC Brian Callahan, constrained the offense and shrunk the playbook, forcing the team to play exclusively out of shotgun and get the ball out as quickly as possible. If we throw out just his first four games of the year as well as his final game of the year (when he tore a ligament in his wrist), then he averages 23.3 FPG over his last 25 games and has averaged at least 20.5 FPG in each of the last three seasons. For perspective, only Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts have hit 20.5 FPG in each of the last three seasons, and only Allen averages more than 23.3 FPG over his last 25 games (23.9). And yet, somehow, Burrow is priced as only the QB7 on Underdog. This is one of the best injury discounts in fantasy history, and Burrow represents a near-must-draft pick at his current cost.

Jayden Daniels, QB, Washington Commanders

ADP: QB11, Round 9

Daniels averaged 40.0 FPG in his Heisman-winning 2023 season, which ranks 2nd-most of any Power 5 QB since at least 2016. And his 1.20 fantasy points per dropback also ranks 2nd-best since 2014.

Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, up-tempo, pass-heavy offense seems like the ideal fantasy environment for Daniels – Kingsbury's Cardinals ranked 1st in situation-neutral pace of play, 1st in no-huddle rate, and 4th in dropbacks per game (41.2) throughout his 4-year tenure. Kingsbury also isn’t afraid to let his QB run wild; Kyler Murray averaged 8.3 rushing attempts per game and 25.8 FPG under him in 2020.

Basically, I like Daniels for many of the same reasons I was so high on Anthony Richardson last year. Although the results weren’t great, I know the process was on point — Richardson is now priced as the QB6 (up from QB12) despite only playing in two full games last year. And betting on Daniels feels like a free re-roll of that same +EV bet.

Top Values

Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

ADP: QB6, Round 5

Since Richardson’s rookie season was abbreviated to just four games (and 10 full quarters), the most predictive stat we have to go on for him is fantasy points per dropback. And well, Richardson’s 0.76 mark paced all QBs in the 2023 season and ranked best by any QB since Lamar Jackson in 2019.

Richardson averaged 29.9 fantasy points, 54.4 rushing yards, and 6.8 designed rush attempts per four full quarters. If those were his per-game numbers, all three would have ranked best at the position last year, and 29.9 FPG would have been the best by any QB ever. And maybe that shouldn’t have been surprising; Colts HC Shane Steichen has an impressive track record of getting the most out of every QB he works with.

Even beyond Steichen’s ability as a QB-whisperer, the Colts’ offensive environment is extremely underrated from a fantasy perspective. They ran plays at the 5th-fastest pace last year and did not select a defensive back (by far their biggest need on defense) until Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Yet another bottom-five finish in points allowed — and therefore plenty of shootouts — could be in the cards.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

ADP: QB9, Round 8

After Dallas’ Week 7 bye, the team abandoned the run, going from a -0.9% pass rate over expectation (24th) to +8.4% (1st). Over that span, Prescott averaged 24.0 FPG, 2nd-most behind Josh Allen (by 0.8) and +1.8 more than QB3 Lamar Jackson. If you were surprised at how pass-heavy the Cowboys were in 2023 with a suddenly ineffective Tony Pollard leading the backfield, imagine how many times they’ll ask Prescott to drop back with Rico Dowdle and a 29-year-old Ezekiel Elliott as the alternatives.

But Prescott’s success wasn’t merely a product of sheer dropback volume; his 0.60 fantasy points per dropback after Week 7 ranked 5th-best — an impressive feat for a QB lacking hyper-mobility. But what Prescott lacks in rushing, he makes up for in touchdown equity: the Cowboys ranked top-3 in pass rate inside the 10-yard line following their bye, allowing Prescott to easily lead the NFL in passing touchdowns from that point on (he had 8 more TDs than the next-closest QB). His QB9 ADP bakes in some TD regression, but that may not be wise; he’s maintained about a 6.0% TD rate over each of his past three seasons.

Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers

ADP: QB10, Round 8

Last season, Jordan Love ranked 5th among all QBs in fantasy points per start (19.4). And he seemed to get better as he grew in experience, hitting at least 17.5 fantasy points in 8 of his last 9 games (average: 21.2). (Keep in mind, this was despite both Christian Watson and Luke Musgrave missing the near entirety of the second half of the regular season.)

Over this stretch, Love ranked top-6 in fantasy points per dropback (0.59), handily beating players like C.J. Stroud and Kyler Murray going a full round or more ahead of him. Love will benefit from newly healthy weapons, the league’s youngest receiving corps gaining an extra year of experience, and the position’s most-improved strength of schedule (+0.90). He seems like a safe bet to pay off his QB10 ADP.

Will Levis, QB, Tennessee Titans

ADP: QB24, Round 16

Levis was strictly managed as a rookie, dropping back only 32.4 times per game (28th). In contrast, new Titans HC Brian Callahan’s offenses have ranked top-10 in neutral pass rate over each of the past three seasons. If the signings of Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd didn’t make it obvious enough, it’s clear Callahan’s focus is on the passing game by his impulse to go directly to receiving ability when asked about his RBs.

The team’s apparent commitment to building around Levis — opting for a tackle over J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix in the NFL Draft — is exactly what he needs. A long leash could mean we get a full season of Jameis Winston-like play — tons of fantasy-friendly deep balls (which Levis threw at a 20.8% rate last year, the most of any QB) interspersed with turnovers (which matter much less in fantasy, and especially so on Underdog, where interceptions are worth only -1.0 fantasy points). His QB24 ADP does not appropriately account for the likelihood that he leads the league in attempted air yards — especially for best ball formats, he is a spike week waiting to happen.

Bo Nix, QB, Denver Broncos

ADP: QB31, Round 18

Priced as the QB31 on Underdog, Nix is the cheapest (nearly) guaranteed starter available in drafts. And that is enough reason by itself to hammer him as your QB3 in Underdog drafts.

You’re getting a discount on him because everyone thinks he stinks. And maybe he does, even though he averaged more fantasy points per dropback in 2022 and 2023 than in any season from Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy, or Michael Penix. But the key point here is that even if he stinks, there’s minimal risk of him getting benched. And even if he stinks, I don’t know how much it matters when Sean Payton is his head coach and play-caller, as Payton has coaxed fringe-QB1 production out of many backup-caliber talents throughout his career and with a worse or comparably poor supporting cast.

Lesser Values

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

ADP: QB13, Round 10

Last season, Brock Purdy led all QBs in fantasy points per opportunity (0.60), and also ranked 7th-best in FPG (19.3). And he wasn’t just a one-year wonder either – in his rookie season, he ranked 8th in fantasy points per start (18.6) and finished 1st in fantasy points per dropback (0.63) from Week 14-on (playoffs included). Playing alongside the best supporting cast in football (which includes the GOAT QB-whisperer/playcaller Kyle Shanahan), Purdy is a strong high-floor value, priced as just the QB12 in Underdog drafts. But as an added bonus, he has an underrated ceiling when points matter most, offering the position’s best fantasy schedule from Weeks 15-17 (+2.0).

Kirk Cousins, QB, Atlanta Falcons

ADP: QB18, Round 12

Cousins has finished as a QB1 by FPG in each of the last four seasons and in 7 of his last 9 seasons. Even just last year, he ranked 6th in FPG (19.3) while leading all qualifying QBs with 38.9 pass attempts per game. He joins an Atlanta Falcons offense with comparable weapons to what he had in Minnesota, with OC Zac Robinson (a Sean McVay disciple) likely to run the same system Cousins has played in his entire career. Even if the Falcons are merely average in dropback volume this year, Cousins’ efficiency from 2023 would result in 18.2 FPG, a solid low-end QB1, although he’s currently priced as just the QB18.

Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers

ADP: QB26, Round 17

The argument for Young is basically that he’s exceedingly cheap (QB26) with minimal risk of getting benched, and that it’s almost impossible for things to go as poorly as they went last year. But beyond that, Dave Canales might just be the new Mike McDaniel. And targeting pedigreed sophomore QBs after a disappointing rookie year has always been a potent fantasy cheat code. For instance, the following QBs all saw a massive jump in fantasy points per start in their sophomore seasons: Jared Goff (+103%), Justin Fields (+63%), Carson Wentz (+56%), Lamar Jackson (+48%), Trevor Lawrence (+41%), and Kyler Murray (+31%).