It doesnít take a degree in advanced
mathematics to choose a top NFL fantasy quarterback. It just takes
an early-round draft choice. The starters in a typical 12-team
league almost name themselves. Cam
Luck Ö we all know their names by heart.
But what if you donít want to use an early round draft pick
on an elite quarterback. What if you are willing to wait to draft
your signal-caller to significantly strengthen your other lineup
Would it be possible to find one quarterback or a two-quarterback
tandem deep in your fantasy draft who will produce enough to keep
your team competitive?
So how does one get to be ďfantasy-worthyĒ if they donít
own the pure talent of the top dozen quarterbacks?
There are three areas fantasy owners need to research if they want
to discover the wonders of a ďdiamond-in-the-roughĒ
quarterback. Since we arenít talking about an elite talent,
like Newton or Rodgers, these guys are going to need help.
They will need help from their coach.
The coach must believe in his quarterback. Really believe in him
Ö not lip service. Show me a quarterback averaging less than
30 passing attempts per game and Iíll show you a coach who
doesnít believe in his quarterback and/or his receivers.
They will need assistance from their offense.
Required by all fantasy-worthy quarterbacks are multiple top receivers.
One receiver is not enough. Two receivers or one and an elite tight
end is the minimum. And it helps if you have a running back that
can block blitzing linebackers or catch balls out of the backfield.
But having a great running back isnít good either. You arenít
going to produce big-time fantasy totals if you are just handing
the ball off to your elite running back. Teddy Bridgewater, for
example, will never be an elite fantasy option as long as Adrian
Peterson is in his backfield. He can be a winning quarterback, just
not a fantasy difference-maker.
They also will need help from their defense.
There are two ways a defense can help a quarterback. Stop the opposing
offense quickly and turn the ball over to the quarterback in scoring
position. Thatís the obvious way. Itís just as good
if they are one of the worst defenses in the league and canít
stop the local high school team. I won a league back in 1983 with
little-known Bill Kenney as my quarterback. There is nothing like
having your team down 14 points in the first quarter to get a coach
to start calling all passing plays. The Chiefs were 6-10 that season,
but Kenney led the league in passing attempts and completions while
throwing for 4,348 yards (this was in an era before all the rules
changes that helped the passing game and made 5,000 yards a common
So which quarterbacks and their teams have the qualifications to
make a difference for your fantasy team?
Iíve assembled five quarterbacks who have the necessary tools
to help fantasy owners this season.
Derek Carr will be a popular pick by fantasy
owners employing the "wait on a QB" draft strategy.
The return to prominence of Raiders football will be on the arm
of Derek Carr. He was aided last year by a surprise rebound season
from Michael Crabtree (85-922-9) and talented rookie Amari Cooper
(72-1,070-6). There are two more things Carr needs to jump up to
the elite fantasy status. The first is a pass-catching tight end
and they may already have one on their roster in second-year player
Clive Walford. Walford has the pedigree. He was the University of
Miamiís all-time leader among tight ends in catches, yards
and touchdowns and they have had some pretty good tight ends at
that school (Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen and Kellen
Winslow Jr.). Walford missed much of last seasonís training
camp and the early season due to a hamstring injury, but should
be an improved threat in 2016. The second is the continued high
level play of the offensive line. It was just three seasons ago,
in 2013, when Oaklandís line was a joke ranking 29th of 32
teams according to Pro Football Focus. In 2015 they improved to
The Redskins win when Cousins plays well. Itís that simple.
In their nine wins, Cousins averaged 288.4 ypg through the air with
22 touchdowns passes, five rushing TDs and just one INT). If I can
see this, surely Washington management could too. So they should
do everything you can to help Cousins on offense. The team did just
that at the draft, selecting TCU wideout Josh Doctson (78-1,326-14)
in the first round. His addition to the lineup alongside DeSean
Jackson and TE Jordan Reed should make for an elite passing game.
I admit I was not a Jameis Winston fan last preseason. He appeared
to have coasted through his last season at Florida State and I wasnít
sure he had the drive to be great. Winston quickly changed my mind
with a consistently good rookie season (4,042 passing yards, 22
TD passes, six rushing TDs, 15 INTs). He did it despite No. 1 wideout
Mike Evans have a case of the ďdropsĒ and No. 2 receiver
Vincent Jackson missing six games. He also dealt with a below-average
offensive line (ranked 23rd by PFF), but they should be better with
the maturation of their two rookie starters and the return to health
of RT Demar Dotson. The Buccaneers defense will still be a weakness
which means Winston and the offense will frequently be playing catch
Yes, Brock Osweiler. The Texans already have an elite defense and
in the offseason went ďall-inĒ on improving their offense. In 2015
under Bill OíBrienís offense, the team still threw 619 passes (ninth-best)
and that was with Brian
Yates and Brandon
Weeden taking turns at starting quarterback. Osweiler is better
than all four of those passers. In the draft, Houston moved up to
get Notre Dameís Will
Fuller. Fuller has DeSean
Jackson-type speed to stretch defenses (unfortunately he doesnít
have Jackson-type hands) but it should allow DeAndre
Shorts and rookie Braxton
Miller room to roam underneath. Then they signed Lamar
Miller who can not only run the ball, but he can catch passes
too (47-397-2 in 2015). So the offense should be ready to fly with
Osweiler ready to lead them.
Fitzpatrick, FA-New York Jets (ADP 161.9, Pick 14.06)
A willingness to throw, talented receivers and a cooperating defense.
The New York Jets check off all three boxes. So itís no wonder that
more than just the five boroughs of New York are interested in the
Ryan Fitzpatrick contract negotiations. The definition of a journeyman
quarterback, Fitzpatrick still threw 35.1 times a game last season
and connected for 31 touchdowns (tied for 10th with Aaron
Rodgers). He has two excellent outside receivers in Brandon
Marshall (109-1502-14) and Eric
Decker (80-1027-12) and the team added the best pass-catching
running back in the game, Matt
Forte, over the offseason. So Ryan, sign a deal and get into
camp. And hey, if you need help feeding your family on only $12
million this year I can give you my tuna noodle casserole recipe
or show you where the local Whole Foods sells the Ramen noodle soup.
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.