Underrated Upside: Quarterbacks


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Underrated Upside: Quarterbacks

Hopefully by now, you’ve already read my recent tome, “Upside Wins Championships,” and have come to the conclusion that that title implies. Today’s article will be a less-philosophical, more-actionable accompaniment to that piece, and the first part of a larger series where we highlight the top-four players (across four different ADP tiers) with league-winning upside at each position. Today’s article will focus on the quarterback position.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

ADP: Early (QB6)

Through eight NFL seasons, Wilson has finished top-four in fantasy points per dropback six times. To illustrate how utterly absurd that is, the next-closest quarterback (Cam Newton) had only three such finishes over this span, and he was one of only three other quarterbacks to finish top-four more than once.

Though Wilson stood unrivaled as the league’s most fantasy-efficient passer, he was always at a detriment in terms of volume. Over this span, Seattle ranked bottom-12 in dropbacks per game in all but two seasons, with four bottom-four finishes over this span.

If Seattle had ranked just league average in dropbacks per game in each of these seasons, Wilson would have exceeded 22.75 FPG five times. For perspective, 22.75 FPG would have been enough to finish second-best at the position last year.

Maybe Seattle’s defense takes a major step back in 2020 as it did in 2017 (Wilson’s only season ranking in the top 12 in dropbacks per game) when Wilson led all quarterbacks in fantasy points. Or, perhaps, Pete Carroll finally realizes that he’s been leaving too many points on the table by foolishly committing to a slow-paced run-first approach with a top-five quarterback. I’m not sure how it happens, but the upside is there, and, priced below where he finished last year, so is the margin of safety.

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

ADP: Middle (QB13)

Jones’s upside is apparent in two ways.

First, he’s already flashed a sky-high ceiling, eclipsing 32.0 DraftKings fantasy points in four of his 12 starts. For perspective, only six other times in the history of football – Lamar Jackson (2019), Deshaun Watson (2017), Peyton Manning (2013), Drew Brees (2012), Mike Vick (2010), Daunte Culpepper (2004) – has a quarterback eclipsed 32.0 DKFP in at least 33% of his starts. Keep in mind, he accomplished this feat as a rookie, and with top playmakers Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram missing a combined 19 games.

Second, Jones has understated upside as a runner. Jones averaged 44.6 rushing yards per game in his final season at Duke, which compares favorably to Deshaun Watson (47.2) and Josh Allen (31.4). The Konami Code is real, and it cannot be underestimated. It also should be noted that from Week 8 until the end of the season, Jones ranked fifth among all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (21.2).

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

ADP: Late (QB17)

During the regular season, Tannehill led all quarterbacks in PFF grade (92.5) and passer rating (117.5), while ranking behind only Lamar Jackson in fantasy points per start (22.5) and fantasy points per dropback (0.70).

Uhhhhhh, yeah. What’s his upside? I guess somewhere around the 22.5 fantasy points per start he averaged last year. What’s the risk? Basically, nothing at this price-tag. Why is he priced so low? I have no idea.

Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints

ADP: Super Late (QB38)

Hill isn’t a draft-day target by any stretch of the imagination, but he is an ideal target for dynasty Superflex leagues, and a name to keep an eye on if Drew Brees suffers an injury.

According to Jay Glazer, the Saints “are all about Hill after Brees retires,” viewing him as their “franchise quarterback” of the future. And last week, Sean Payton essentially confirmed that report, saying “[Hill] is transitioning into quarterback-only… We think he’s going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback.”

Hill flashed in the preseason last year, ranking fifth of 84 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grade. And, over the last two preseasons, he’s averaged 0.67 fantasy points per dropback. For perspective, Mahomes averages 0.65 fantasy points per dropback across his full career.

Again, don’t underestimate the power of the Konami Code. When a rushing touchdown is worth 1.5X a passing touchdown and a rushing yard is worth 2.5X a passing yard, mobile quarterbacks really are a fantasy cheat code. Of course, we saw that from Lamar Jackson last year, but even Tim Tebow and Mitch Trubisky have ended seasons as a fantasy QB1.

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as Fantasy Points’ Chief Executive Officer.