Top-five fantasy passers late-round/2QB crowd should target

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor talks to teammates during an NFL football practice in Orchard Park, N.Y., Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Football in the early 20th-centry, an era that featured no professional game, was gladiatorial in nature, a barbaric, teeth-gnashing exhibition dominated by bone-crushing runs, gruesome injuries and, in some instances, death. In 1905 alone, 19 players were killed.

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Many at the time called for its banishment.

In order for the sport to survive and advance, President Theodore Roosevelt, a prolific reformer and long-standing supporter of “rough games,” employed a forceful hand to enact necessary changes. Starting with a rules overhaul in 1906, including legalization of the much-debated forward pass, and subsequent alterations, the game eventually prospered into the multi-billion-dollar entity it is today.

Thanks Bull Moose.

When St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson completed the first legal forward pass over a century ago no one in a leather helmet could’ve imagined its evolution.

Nearly 110 years later, quarterbacks are the centerpieces of every organization. They earn exorbitant salaries, are handled with tremendous care and, often times, shoulder the weight of an entire franchise. The pass, after all, is no longer the controversial abnormality it was in the Progressive Era, but rather it’s the foundation of prolific, complicated offensive schemes seen today.

As a result, we’re living in the Golden Age of passing production.

Every year from 2009-2015 ranks top-eight all-time in per team per year passing yards per game. Last fall teams combined for an astounding 243.9 yards per game, up 7.0 ypg from the season before and, get this, 32.5 ypg higher than 2008. No wonder Tom Brady’s cookbook is fetching $200 a pop.

Unsurprisingly, fantasy numbers at the QB position have also skyrocketed. In 2010, eight signal callers averaged 17.0 fantasy points per game in standard Yahoo leagues. A season ago, that total was a never-before-seen 22. Posteriorly, owners are avoiding QBs like the plague in drafts, waiting in many cases until the double-digit rounds before investing.

Though compared to RBs (’14: -6.8 fantasy pts/g), ’15: -4.3) and WRs (-5.2, -3.4) the tier-to-tier drop off among QB1s has widened in recent seasons (-5.1, -6.1), most believe a late-round QB strategy is sage, especially in shallow formats where plentiful options are available on waivers. ‘Streaming’ based on favorable matchups can and often does reap major benefits for its subscribers. The professional imbecile who inked this article, for example, won a prestigious ‘experts’ league last year largely because of free agent add Kirk Cousins.

Damn right, I "liked that."

So, if you’re the wait-on-a-QB type, what slinger should you target after pick 100? Here are my top-five:

Tyrod Taylor, Buf
ADP: 129.5, QB18
For the second-straight season, Tyrod is a Rodney Dangerfield All-Star. The disrespected passer has tumbled down early draft boards due in large part to Sammy Watkins’ broken foot. That injury obviously complicates matters, but indications suggest the wideout will recover in time for Week 1. Assuming that scenario plays out, Taylor is criminally undervalued. His scoring duality (40.4 rush yds/g, 4 total rush TDs) and general efficiency (20:6 TD:INT split) were the primary reasons for his QB8 final 2015 rank. Even when Watkins was sidelined, he remained productive averaging just over 18 fantasy points per game in two starts. According to Pro Football Focus his 0.59 fantasy points per dropback trailed only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. And that was accomplished with him averaging a reprehensible 2.4 red-zone pass attempts per game. Throw in top-10 marks in passer rating (99.4), yards per attempt (8.0) and air yards per attempt (5.0) and it’s understandable why he wants an extension. With expectations the Bills offense will “grow” under Greg Roman in Year 2, he should finish well above the current asking price.

Fearless Forecast: 3,513 passing yards, 25 passing TDs, 9 interceptions, 618 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs

A bulked up Mariota is slated to run more for Tennessee. (AP)
A bulked up Mariota is slated to run more for Tennessee. (AP)

Marcus Mariota, Ten


ADP: 123.0, QB16
Though he attracted little press, Mariota pieced together an awfully good rookie season. He displayed considerable pocket poise (No. 8 in under-pressure accuracy percentage), excelled on play action and occasionally tallied starter-level production for fantasy purposes. In fact his 0.51 fantasy points per dropback, according to Pro Football Focus, was the eighth-best mark at the position. Despite his struggles with the deep ball, largely due to constant duress, the youngster surpassed the 20 fantasy-point mark in eight of 12 games. His 204.0 total fantasy points was the ninth-best output ever by a rookie QB. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. An upgraded ground game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, improved offensive line and addition of sticky-fingered WR Rishard Matthews to an already laudable arsenal (Dorial Green-Beckham, Delanie Walker, Kendall Wright) all point the arrow up. Mike Mularkey’s reported desire to ratchet up Mariota’s use as a runner and given the Titans’ shortcomings on defense only increases the QB’s breakout potential. If it all comes together, a top-10 campaign is on the horizon.

Fearless Forecast: 3,968 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 534 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs

Kirk Cousins, Was
ADP: 111.1, QB14
Due in large part to Cousins’ December to remember, yours truly jubilantly crushed multiple umbrella drinks in his honor on Waikiki. Gracias, ‘Captain.’ After a come-from-behind victory in Tampa Week 7, a game that spawned this never dull clip, the former backup was nothing short of brilliant. Including that performance (317-3-0, 15-1), he ranked No. 4 among passers with 22.7 fantasy points per game. Equally spectacular over the entire year, he posted top-10 numbers in completion percentage (69.8), passer rating (101.6), yards per attempt (7.7), air yards per attempt (4.2) and fantasy points per dropback (0.53). Yes, some of his production was fueled by five fluky rushing touchdowns, but he finished as QB12 in points per game. Operating behind an offensive line that ranked No. 10 in pass protection according to Football Outsiders and with the addition of leaper Josh Doctson, it would be no shock to see Cousins crank out QB1 lines consistently this fall. Keep in mind his weapons outside Doctson (Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson) are quite good. Also the defense, even with Josh Norman, remains exploitable. Don’t expect a drastic regression.

Fearless Forecast: 555 pass attempts, 4,216 pass yards, 31 pass TDs, 13 interceptions, 39 rush yards, 3 rush TDs

Jameis Winston, TB
ADP: 132.6, QB19
Drafting Winston is akin to rocking a fanny pack, not so trendy. However, he was certainly useful on numerous occasions his rookie season eclipsing 18 fantasy points in a contest eight times. Overall, thanks to Winston’s opportunistic wheels (six TDs) and 4,000-plus pass yards, he cracked the QB top-15 in per game average. And that was achieved with his top receivers, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, totaling a wretched six scores. Tampa OC Dirk Koetter simplified the playbook last fall to increase Winston’s chances for initial success. Expected to remove the reigns, the coach plans to award his QB more freedom at the line. That independence should allow Winston to progress as a passer and fantasy producer. He'll be hard-pressed to match last year’s ground contributions, but if he can land in the 60-63 completion-percentage range, an achievable outcome, he may deliver QB1 numbers in 12-team leagues. Recall he ranked top-seven in deep-ball and red-zone pass attempts a season ago. And Tampa’s overly generous defense (No. 26 in pts/game allowed in ’15) has miles to go to earn respectability, likely pumping his per game volume. Bank on a long step forward.

Fearless Forecast: 4,289 pass yards, 29 pass TDs, 16 interceptions, 195 rushing yards, 4 rush TDs

Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ?
ADP: 157.6, QB23
The Jets and Fitzpatrick are the Rachel and Ross of the NFL. With all QB-needy teams no longer in the market for a veteran arm and considering Geno Smith is the only passer with starting experience on roster, it only makes sense for the on-again, off-again couple to reconcile their differences, sign a deal and make magic. A Geno/Christian Hackenberg/Bryce Petty three-headed ferret would destroy the values of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Matt Forte. Inevitably, one side will cave. When that happens, it’s important to weigh Fitz’s upside, which is substantial. Whether examining productivity or efficiency, yes, the well-traveled QB was largely underwhelming last year. He ranked outside the top-20 in passer rating, yards per attempt, deep-ball percentage and completion percentage. In other words, if not for Marshall and Decker’s dynamite red-zone production and the QB’s opportunistic legs, he would’ve been an albatross. Still his admirable 19.0 points per game average finished No. 15 at the position. Behind a rock solid pass-blocking line and given his lengthy arsenal, he should duplicate 2015’s 30-plus total touchdowns.

Fearless Forecast: 3,823 pass yards, 28 pass TDs, 14 interceptions, 203 rushing yards, 3 rush TDs

Others to consider: Jay Cutler, Chi (162.1 ADP, QB25), Matthew Stafford, Det (137.0, QB20), Ryan Tannehill, Mia (146.7, QB21)

***Note: Eli Manning (98.2 ADP) and Derek Carr (98.8) did not qualify since they generally fall inside the top-100 overall in average drafts.  

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