By: Jackson Kane (Twitter: @TheJacksonKane)
Rankings Leapfrog: QB Edition
You would have been hard-pressed to find any sort of rankings prior to the 2016 season that had Dak Prescott as a QB1 in fantasy football. It’s not every day that a quarterback who was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, after seven other quarterbacks were taken off the board in front of him, finishes the season as the sixth-best QB in fantasy. Well, that’s exactly what Prescott succeeded in doing last season.
The point I’m trying to make is, nobody truly knows what’s going to happen. All you can do is analyze the evidence, evaluate the situation, and make an educated guess as to how a player will perform. These quarterbacks are guys that are ranked outside of the Top 12 at their position by FantasyPros.com that I believe could make the jump into QB1 territory in 2017. And with that move into the Top 12, that means somebody has to be “leapfrogged” out of the QB1 ranks. Let’s see what I came up with:
Matthew Stafford – QB14 on FantasyPros.com
The former Georgia Bulldog has finished each of the last two seasons inside the Top 10 in fantasy scoring, yet he’s still being overlooked as a legitimate fantasy option. He’s combined to throw 56 touchdowns to 23 interceptions over the last two seasons. One aspect of the Dallas native’s game that he has honed in on would be his turnovers; the ninth-year veteran has averaged just 11.6 interceptions per season over his latest three campaigns. In the three seasons prior, the gunslinging Lion was throwing it to his opponents 17.3 times per season. His 10 picks in 2016 is a new career-low in a season where he wasn’t injured.
It appears that Stafford has settled into a more tactical approach when picking apart defenses. The 6-foot-3 signal caller has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in each of the last two seasons. The erratic brand of ball he used to play, where he completed 60 percent or fewer of his attempts in five of his first six seasons, looks to be a thing of the past. A direct correlation could be made between his fewer attempts and his raised level of efficiency; Stafford has not touched 600-plus attempts in either of the past two seasons after eclipsing that mark in all other seasons where he suited up for all 16 games.
With the assumptive emergence of Ameer Abdullah, Detroit’s offensive leader surely won’t sniff anywhere near 600 attempts if everyone can stay healthy. Add in that Stafford has played in all 16 games for six straight seasons, and it’s hard to believe this guy is still so undervalued in fantasy. He’ll crack the Top 10 once again in 2017.
Eli Manning – QB16 on FantasyPros.com
Eli Manning has never been the most accurate of quarterbacks (63.1 percent is his career-high for completion percentage), but the Giants QB is always going to produce touchdowns for you. He’s produced at least 26 TD tosses in seven of the last eight seasons. He’s always had a tendency to turn the ball over (double-digit picks in 12 straight seasons), but with no risk comes no reward.
For how frail and wimpy the Ole Miss product can look at times, he’s actually quite tough and durable. Excluding his rookie season where he appeared in just nine games, Manning has laced them up for every game over the past 12 seasons. The additions of offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and blocking tight end Rhett Ellison will only increase the chances of Manning staying upright and healthy for the 13th straight season.
The additions of Brandon Marshall through free agency and Evan Engram via the Draft cannot be ignored. Many fantasy owners might remember Marshall’s three touchdowns and limited production in 2016 and say, “No way, Jose.” But if they took a closer look at his numbers in recent seasons, they would realize that they should actually target the talented wideout. Marshall scored a minimum of eight touchdowns in each of the four seasons prior to the disaster that was 2016, and put up at least 1,000 yards in eight of his past 10 campaigns.
The severing of ties with Rashad Jennings this offseason is another reason for optimism when analyzing Manning’s outlook. His 3.8 YPC average during his three seasons in New York was just not cutting it. The fresher, younger legs of Paul Perkins will only open up more possibilities for the 14th-year quarterback. Surrounded by weapons, I believe Manning is a lock for 30-plus touchdown tosses.
Tyrod Taylor – QB17 on FantasyPros.com
He’s not the sexiest pick in the world, but Tyrod Taylor gets it done from week to week in fantasy football. He finished eighth among QBs in 2016, and 14th in 2015. His career-high for touchdown passes in a season is 20, which he accomplished in 2015, but his rushing prowess is what makes him dangerous. The Virginia Tech product rushed for 568 yards in 2015, and 580 yards in 2016. He also found pay dirt a combined 10 times over those two seasons. So just how valuable is that production on the ground? Buffalo’s gunslinger finished 2016 with more individual rushing yards than Tevin Coleman, Derrick Henry and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Another underrated aspect of his game would be his decision-making. Taylor has thrown just 12 combined interceptions in 29 career games with the Bills. Let’s say your league subtracts two points every time your quarterback throws an interception. Over the course of the past two seasons, if you had Blake Bortles as your full-time fantasy quarterback, he would have lost your team 68 fantasy points just off of bad decisions. Taylor on the other hand? Just 24 points. That’s a difference of 44 fantasy points just because he knows how to take care of the rock.
With Sammy Watkins heading to the Rams, Jordan Matthews looks to make an impact. He has decent playmaking ability which could open up other options on that offense, such as tight end Charles Clay, rookie wideout Zay Jones and most importantly, LeSean “Shady” McCoy. If Taylor can produce 22 passing touchdowns along with five rushing TDs, that’s quite the bargain for a guy you can secure in the 12th round of your fantasy draft.
The Guy Getting “Leapfrogged” – Derek Carr – QB8 on FantasyPros.com
Derek Carr was marvelous in 2016 for the Oakland Raiders. He finished as the 10th-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy in 15 games. He’s improved every season during his three years in the NFL. But how much more can you improve upon a 28 touchdown, six interception season? It’s obvious that Carr is a prime candidate for regression in 2017, but will that assumption prove to be true?
According to FantasyPros, Carr will face the toughest schedule of any QB in 2017. His workhorse back from last season, Latavius Murray, was lost to the Vikings this offseason. Marshawn Lynch joined Oakland, but what can be expected from the 31-year old? Nobody truly knows. I’m not saying that Carr isn’t going to put up good numbers in 2017, but I just don’t believe he will be as efficient.
Whenever Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are on the other end of your throws, you’ve got a chance to make some plays. However, six interceptions in his third NFL season seems like an anomaly to me. Especially after Carr threw 25 picks over the course of his first two seasons. We shall see if the fourth-year signal caller can prove me wrong. Personally, I’m waiting until later in my drafts to snag one of the guys listed above.