“Sleeper” is a seducing fantasy term with multiple definitions. For the purposes of this column and clarity’s sake, we’re featuring undervalued players largely available outside the overall top-60. To ensure full accountability, we also included our big hits/misses from 2016. Tuesday’s topic: Quarterbacks.
Philip Rivers, LAC (116.9 ADP, QB15)
Producing QB1 numbers nine of the last eleven seasons, Rivers has been one of the most consistent and underrated gunslingers in the league. Closing out last season among the top-eleven fantasy producers at the position, the veteran signal caller passed for 33 TDs, which was the fourth most among QBs. He also averaged nearly 5 deep ball attempts per contest, fearlessly testing defenses with a cadre of unproven tyros. Considering the carnage that the Chargers’ offense suffered last year, the numbers that Rivers was able to put up was nothing short of heroic. Hotter than a bolo tie at a square dancing convention, Rivers is the best value at the position heading into the fall. For more on Rivers and rest of the Chargers’ fantasy future check out Pressing Questions. (Liz Loza)
Liz’s big QB hit in ’16: Matt Ryan; Big whiff: Eli Manning
Andy Dalton, Cin (124.5 ADP, QB16)
Dalton is an absolute gift at his Yahoo ADP (128.0). It was just, like, 20 months ago that we were discussing Dalton as a plausible Player of the Year candidate. He already has a 33-touchdown season and a pair of 4200-yard campaigns on his resume, and he’s set up for success in 2017. In fact, it can be easily argued that no player gained more value than Dalton during the offseason, following the additions of Joe Mixon and John Ross. He gets a healthy A.J. Green and a second-year Tyler Boyd, too. No one should be surprised by a career year (4400-35) from the Rifle. (Andy Behrens)
Andy’s big QB hit in ’16: Philip Rivers; Big whiff: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Dak Prescott, Dal (113.4 ADP, QB13)
After Tony Romo went down with an injury, Prescott took over and never looked back, quickly going from fourth-round pick to winning Rookie of the Year. He became just the third rookie quarterback ever to finish with an 8.0 YPA or better while producing a 23:4 TD:INT ratio (and adding 282 yards with six scores on the ground as well). It’s a safe bet his 0.90 INT% regresses some, but Prescott is clearly the real deal, and he has a ton of fantasy upside entering his sophomore campaign. Imagine if he gets a full healthy year out of Dez Bryant, and with all of Ezekiel Elliott’s off-field problems, it’s entirely possible Dallas will throw much more in 2017. Prescott is ready for the challenge and should comfortably finish as a top-10 fantasy QB. (Dalton Del Don)
Dalton’s big QB hit in ’16: Kirk Cousins; Big whiff: Blake Bortles
Marcus Mariota, Ten (95.2 ADP, QB8)
Aloha au ia ‘oe. English translation: I want to frolic hand-in-hand on a sunset-lit beach with the native Hawaiian. Recall in 2016 he was the third-most valuable fantasy passer Weeks 5-12 (67.4 cmp% 259.1 pypg, 29.8 rypg, 25:3 TD:INT). In general, his red-zone and deep-ball tosses were stunningly accurate. Yes, he often bombed after halftime (87.5 QB rating) and struggled in losses (80.1 QB rating, 6.7 YPA), but inconsistency is typical with any developing star.
Well-protected, flanked by a pair of stud running backs and likely to operate in more three-WR sets with Corey Davis and Eric Decker on roster, Mariota has all the ingredients needed to plate delicious numbers in 2017. If he experiences no setbacks in his broken leg recovery, investors are looking at a top-five passer (FF: 4,000 pyds, 300 ryds, 31-33 total TDs). Roster him, and celebratory Mai Tais flow. (Brad Evans)
Brad’s big QB hit in ’16: Dak Prescott; Big whiff: RGIII
Matthew Stafford, Det (115 ADP, QB15)
The quarterback board is like the best donut shop in the city. The amount of delicious options at every price point is tantalizing, to the point that it’s even a little anxiety-inducing. Paradox of Choice is a real thing, amigos.
Stafford should be a name brand and a fully-vested guy, but for some reason he isn’t. I suppose it’s the leaguewide depth talking. Here’s his standard scoring finish the last six years: 5th, 11th, 7th, 15th, 9th, 7th. Last year’s haul came without Calvin Johnson; no Megatron, no problem. Stafford had a silly injury-prone tag tied to him early in his career, but he hasn’t missed a game since 2010 — and he’s played through some significant maladies. He’s one of my favorite value picks in the middle of the draft — you’re getting him at his floor, but there’s still upside present. (Scott Pianowski)
(I had the last pick in this thing. I could have easily endorsed any of the fine picks my colleagues selected. It’s a buyer’s market! It’s a perfect year to be agnostic.)
Scott’s big QB hit in ’16: Philip Rivers; Big whiff: Blake Bortles