Draft Prep: Four Quarterback Sleepers in 2019

Labeling any fantasy player a sleeper in 2019 is a bit of a stretch. Fantasy football analysis is more expansive than ever, leaving no stone unturned while searching for the next breakout star. This is even truer at the quarterback position, as these players naturally draw the largest media spotlight due to the importance of their position in the NFL.

Coupled with the fact that there are only 32 starting quarterbacks to analyze, finding a true sleeper at the position is a bit of a stretch. However, the following players are still going off the board at a discount in drafts, and are my top quarterback sleepers for the 2019 fantasy football season. You can also check out my top 32 quarterback rankings to see my full list, complete with tiers and writeups on all 32 players.

 

Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)

 

While you’ve no doubt heard plenty of hype around Murray if you’ve already started your fantasy football research, his average draft position (ADP) surprisingly hasn’t taken off quite yet. Depending on where you look, Murray is being selected in the range of the QB9-QB14 taken in drafts, with an overall ADP in the pick 90-100 range. At this price, Murray’s upside is certainly worth chasing.

The breakout potential for Murray is obvious. Murray’s head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, is fresh out of running the air raid system in college and wants to play fast, throw the ball often, and run as many plays as possible. This gives Murray a rare passing volume upside for a mobile quarterback, as most settle into a game-manager role in the NFL.  And though Murray did not run a 40-yard dash at the combine, he is obviously as fast as any quarterback in the league, giving him rushing upside that fantasy owners dream about at the quarterback position.

 

 

While fantasy owners may be nervous about taking the plunge on Murray year one, his downside is already baked into his draft cost. If he flops, due to injury or sub-par offensive line play or the air raid offense failing as a whole, you simply can stream the quarterback position in one of the deepest years the position has ever seen from a fantasy football perspective. And there is a good reason to gamble on Murray in his first year; quite often mobile quarterbacks burst onto the scene year one to post one of the best fantasy seasons of their careers. Below are quarterbacks with similar speed to Murray, and how they fared in their first full year of starting in the NFL. The last column in the table shows where those fantasy points scored ranks among each quarterback’s best fantasy seasons of their career. Thanks to Pro Football Reference’s Play Index.

 

Player Year G Pass Yds Pass TD Int Rush Yds Rush TD Fantasy Pts F Pts Rank
Cam Newton 2011 16 4051 21 17 706 14 369.34 2
Robert Griffin 2012 15 3200 20 5 815 7 317.5 1
Michael Vick 2002 15 2936 16 8 777 8 282.74 2
Russell Wilson 2012 16 3118 26 10 489 4 275.62 5
Vince Young 2006 15 2199 12 13 552 7 201.16 1
Colin Kaepernick 2012 13 1814 10 3 415 5 174.16 4

 

Robert Griffin III and Vince Young, two mobile quarterbacks that flamed out early, still managed to have their best fantasy season year one, with Griffin developing into a fantasy force in his rookie year. Cam Newton posted his second-best fantasy season to date in his rookie year, as the Panthers rode his legs to 14 rushing touchdowns. With all of the promise surrounding Michael Vick, he posted his second-best fantasy point total in his first full year of starting for the Falcons. Russell Wilson was very impressive his rookie year as well, though he is the rare member of this list that went on to improve year after year. And Finally, Colin Kaepernick was obviously raw as a passer, delaying his breakout a few years into his career.

While Young and Kaepernick were not huge fantasy football factors year one, the rest of the list made an impact right out of the gate. Wilson’s 275 fantasy points would have ranked him as the QB15 last year, while Newton’s monster year would have placed him second to the once-a-decade type season that Patrick Mahomes recorded last season.

With a legitimate shot at high volume passing attempts, as well as game-breaking rushing ability, Murray is absolutely worth a shot at his current ADP. Don’t let Murray’s negatives scare you off; swing for the fences on a player and offense that could take the league by storm in 2019.

 

Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)

 

Jackson has been falling off of draft boards in the 11th or 12th rounds of 12 team leagues this year and is typically drafted as the QB18-22 in one quarterback leagues. At that price, Jackson is a worthy selection for late-round quarterback drafters, as well as for teams looking for a backup quarterback with upside.

In his limited starts in 2018, Jackson posted 18.6 fantasy points per game, a rate that would have ranked him as a fringe starting quarterback in 12 team leagues. Those numbers look even more encouraging considering that he took over an offense that was designed around former starter Joe Flacco, a quarterback who’s style couldn’t be more different from Jackson’s. Jackson managed to adapt and averaged a bell-cow running back workload with 17 rushes per game in his starts. Jackson’s fantasy scoring during his starts was even more impressive when considering how little value he added through the passing game.

 

G# Pass Yds Pass TD Int Rush Att Rush Yds Rush TD FantPt
10 150 0 1 26 119 0 15.9
11 178 1 2 11 71 1 20.22
12 125 0 0 17 75 1 16.5
13 147 2 0 14 67 0 18.58
14 131 1 0 18 95 0 16.74
15 204 1 0 13 39 0 16.06
16 179 0 0 20 90 2 26.16

 

Only surpassing 200 passing yards one time while averaging less than a passing touchdown per game, it was remarkable that Jackson managed to be a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback. While those running back workloads on the ground may come down a bit, that could easily be offset by a passing game that has been more tailored to Jackson’s style now that Flacco is in Denver.

The cherry on top for fantasy owners that wait on Jackson as a late-round quarterback is his early-season schedule. The Ravens begin the season by traveling to Miami to face what may be the worst team in the NFL, followed by a home game against the shootout-waiting-to-happen Arizona Cardinals, with Week 3 offering up a road game against the high powered Kansas City Chiefs offense and lackluster defense. Even after the first three weeks, Jackson gets to face the Browns, Steelers, and Bengals, all of which could be fantasy friendly matchups. If you’re unsure about Jackson, you’ll get a favorable early-season schedule, and if he disappoints in those first three games you can move on to the waiver wire.

 

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

 

After the long offseason, it’s easy to forget the exact rankings at an individual position, so a refresher is often needed when prepping for the next year’s draft. It came as a surprise for me to see Roethlisberger as the QB3 in overall points and points per game at the quarterback position last year, and the rest of the fantasy community seems to have forgotten as well. Roethlisberger is often drafted as the QB13 or later in drafts so far this offseason, and often can be drafted after drafts hit the double-digit rounds. Roethlisberger goes late enough that some teams have even drafted a backup quarterback before he goes off the board, making him an appealing late-round target.

Roethlisberger’s 21.37 fantasy points per game in 2018 is nothing to gloss over, as only seven quarterbacks have topped that per game average over the past three years. Roethlisberger’s huge fantasy year was certainly driven by volume as he threw 675 passes last season, good enough to lead second place in the league (Andrew Luck) by 36 attempts. While expecting Roethlisberger to lead the league in passing attempts yet again in his age 37 season is unwise, that expectation is already baked into Roethlisberger’s price. Even if you completely throw out his 21.37 points per game performance from last year, Roethlisberger’s second-best point per game total over the last three years of 18.01 would have ranked him as the QB13 last year, ahead of Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, and Jameis Winston to name a few.

While many drafters are obviously worried about the departure of star wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers still have options on offense in bonafide number one wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, versatile running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels that can contribute in the passing game, pass-catching tight end in Vance McDonald, and secondary options at wide receiver like 2018 second-round pick James Washington and 2019 third-round pick Diontae Johnson, as well as newly acquired veteran wideout Donte Moncrief. Coupled with Roethlisberger’s mastery of the offense and an offensive line ranked third best in the league by Pro Football Focus, and I expect Roethlisberger to at least pay off on his ADP, with the potential to blow past it for the second straight year.

 

Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears)

 

The sneakiest member of the Konami Code club for quarterbacks that possess the fantasy cheat code that is rushing ability, Trubisky is an outrageous value in drafts for the 2019 season. Trubisky can be had as the 18th to 22nd quarterback drafted in most leagues, while lasting until the 11th round or later, even going undrafted in some formats. Trubisky’s cost in drafts is practically begging you to take on the late-round quarterback approach this year.

While our own Jeff Berckes has already covered Trubisky better than I ever can in a few paragraphs, I’ll give it a shot. Trubisky finished as the QB11 on a point per game basis in 2018, already making him a value on that number alone. Trubisky put himself in exclusive company with his rushing performance last year, as only seven quarterbacks have recorded a single-season averaging more than 30 yards rushing per game over the past three years.

 

Player Year GS Rush Att Rush Yds Y/A TD Y/G
Josh Allen 2018 11 89 631 7.09 8 52.6
Cam Newton 2017 16 139 754 5.42 6 47.1
Colin Kaepernick 2016 11 69 468 6.78 2 39
Tyrod Taylor 2016 15 95 580 6.11 6 38.7
Russell Wilson 2017 16 95 586 6.17 3 36.6
Cam Newton 2018 14 101 488 4.83 4 34.9
Deshaun Watson 2018 16 99 551 5.57 5 34.4
Mitchell Trubisky 2018 14 68 421 6.19 3 30.1

Those extra three points per game from rushing yardage may not seem like much, but last year 3 points per game separated Deshaun Watson, the QB4, from Kirk Cousins, the QB16. Trubisky even has room for improvement in the rushing department, as after returning from a shoulder injury late in the year in 2018 he only averaged 14.5 rushing yards per game over his last four games.

While Trubisky is a limited passer, I prefer him over Josh Allen, another talented rushing quarterback from last year, due to Trubisky’s superior situation. Coach and play-caller Matt Nagy has shown the ability to scheme a creative and successful offense, and the Bears continue to add playmakers to the offense in an attempt to boost the offense. With a full complement of playmakers, a solid play-caller, and proven rushing ability, Trubisky is a steal at his late ADP and could push his way into the top ten quarterbacks in 2019 if he continues to develop.

 

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Erik Smith

Editor-in-Chief of QB List. Writer at numberFire and Pitcher List. Ohio University graduate. Now lives in Asheville, NC, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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