By: Sean Headley (Twitter: @CPGMHeadley)
Year 2 Outlook: Quarterbacks
Jared Goff – L.A Rams
What Happened – 8 games, 112/205, 54.6% completion, 1089 yards, 5 Touchdowns 7 Interceptions
We can start with Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff as they failed in developing the rookie out of Cal having the NFL’s 32nd ranked scoring offense and yards. Goff came from the Air-Raid offense which led him to sit for half of the season in order to learn the complexities of an NFL offense. Add a dearth of receiving threats in the offense where Kenny Britt led the team in receiving, a bad offensive line and no running game despite having one of the best backs in the league in Todd Gurley and you have yourself a lost season.
What Changed – An entirely new coaching staff led by the 31-year-old Sean McVay who departed from his offensive coordinator position over the last 3 years under Jay Gruden and the Washington Redskins. With new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur who was the quarterbacks coach for the high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense, the Rams finally have a staff that will help the growth and maturation of Goff. The Rams lost their de-facto number 1 receiver Britt but added Robert Woods in the offseason while drafting receivers Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds and tight end Gerald Everett. Also a sneaky offseason addition was the signing of Andrew Whitworth to help stabilize the run game and protect Goff’s blindside.
What to Expect – Although the Rams made an attempt to place more offensive weapons around Goff and brought in coaches that are coming from quarterback friendly offensive systems, I don’t expect much fantasy success from the second year QB. Don’t get me wrong, Goff will be vastly improved with McVay calling the shots but to expect big offensive output from a team who still lacks outside weapons is asinine. The Rams will continue to feed Gurley and set up a quick throwing rhythm passing offense attacking the short to intermediate game. Once NFL defenses catch on to the rhythm of the Rams’ offense it will force Goff to try and take shots down the field. Unless Reynolds turns into a big time playmaker down the field in year 1, it will be slim pickings for Goff and the Rams offensively this season.
Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
What Happened – 16 games, 379/607, 62.4% completion, 3782 yards, 16 Touchdowns 14 Interceptions
Wentz started the year sizzling hot in the first 5 weeks of the season causing many fans to crown the number 2 pick in the draft prematurely. In his first 4 games the Eagles were 3-1 with Wentz throwing 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception. After defenses adjusted to Doug Pederson’s dink and dunk offense they forced the Eagles and Wentz to beat them vertically and at this point Wentz started to struggle in his rookie season. Add the loss of right tackle Lane Johnson to suspension and the Eagles offense fell off in the second half of last season. All in all it was an encouraging first year for the young QB out of North Dakota State as he felt adversity and got his feet wet in the NFL.
What Changed – The Eagles’ off-season showed they had one major goal in mind; putting offensive weapons around the face of the franchise. The collective weapons are night and day from last year as they ran out with the likes of Josh Huff, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews last season to now having Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and the aforementioned Matthews. Oh yea and they added the NFL leader in rushing touchdowns LeGarrette Blount to go along with the speedy Donnel Pumphrey who is a Darren Sproles like playmaker in the backfield. With the excess of talent on the Eagles offense to go along with Wentz working diligently on his mechanics with 3DQB gurus Adam Dedeaux and Tom House in the spring, the second year QB is looking to have success for the entire season.
What to Expect – The addition of Jeffery will impact Wentz a lot more than folks believe. He gets to have a big body receiver who can go up and snag 50/50 balls with the best of them. Wentz doesn’t have to be perfect when targeting Jeffery, just throw the ball in his vicinity and he will make you look good. Jeffery is a WR1 if he stays on the field for 16 games. Add a consistent running game with a healthy offensive line that is one of the best units in football and you have a quarterback that will be playing with command and little to no pressure. As far as fantasy football, I expect 4000+ yards and around 25 touchdowns. He will be a great QB2 for your roster in his sophomore season with great dynasty/keeper upside playing under former QBs Pederson and Frank Reich.
Paxton Lynch – Denver Broncos
What Happened – 3 games, 49/83, 59% completion, 497 yards, 2 Touchdowns 1 Interception
The last quarterback drafted in the first round Lynch pretty much had a redshirt campaign behind starting quarterback Trevor Siemian. From early on in the pre-season you could tell Siemian was the better of the two and would start the season as the starter. What I didn’t expect was for Siemian to start and finish the season wire to wire as the only time we saw Lynch on the field was when Siemian got hurt in weeks 4 and 12 of the season. Lynch got 2 starts last season, the first against the Falcons in which he played horribly as he demonstrated that he wasn’t ready for the bright lights and in Week 13 against the Jaguars where although the Broncos won the game, he was relegated to handoff duty.
What Changed – As of right now not very much has changed in terms of Lynch earning the starting position. The Broncos did get a new head coach Vance Joseph with the retirement of Gary Kubiak, however Joseph is a more defensive minded head coach. This brings me to new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who has been a part of some pretty good offenses led by Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning. It is still an open QB competition in Denver with some conflicting reports some of which suggesting that the Broncos are concerned with Lynch’s work ethic and study habits.
What to Expect – To me it is quite disappointing that Lynch in his second year has still not outright beat out a below caliber backup talent quarterback Siemian. There is belief around the league that John Elway who traded up to select Lynch will try and make sure the new coaching staff gets Lynch ready to begin the season as the starter. Pre-season games will tell the story if Lynch will be ready for the gig but in terms of fantasy you can pass on him until further notice.
Cody Kessler – Cleveland Browns
What Happened – 9 games, 128/195, 65.6% completion, 1380 yards, 6 Touchdowns 2 Interceptions
The Browns went from a 3 win team in 2015 to only 1 win last season as they epitomized a quarterback carousel. Five different quarterbacks took a snap from under center which doesn’t include the QB turned WR Terrelle Pryor. Robert Griffin, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Charlie Whitehurst all got their opportunity at quarterback but it was the third round draft pick out of USC Kessler who left a lasting impression. He went 0-8 as a starter but he showed flashes of poise, command and accuracy working through his progressions. The biggest knock on Kessler throughout the draft process reared its ugly head though as his arm strength has always been a question mark. Can he make NFL type throws into small windows?
What Changed – The biggest change from last year to this year for Kessler is that he comes into training camp as the QB1 instead of the QB3. First team reps will be big for the sophomore quarterback’s development. Kessler will get to show off if he improved his arm strength from last season as he made a concerted effort putting up substantial reps in the weight room. Getting bigger and stronger will be very important in trying to command Hue Jackson’s offense as the head coach wants to improve the teams’ down field passing game. As far as weapons, the Browns no longer have their leading receiver Pryor, Andrew Hawkins or starting tight end Gary Barnidge but the additions of Kenny Britt from L.A, an upgrade with TE David Njoku and a healthy Corey Coleman should be an improvement from last season.
What to Expect – I expect Kessler to begin the season as the starting quarterback for the Browns but I don’t expect him to start all the games this season. 2017 will be yet another quarterback carousel with Brock Osweiler getting some reps and the second round draft pick DeShone Kizer being groomed to be the future. Kessler has a nice feel for the game and understands where the ball should go within the offense but his physical limitations coupled with the big QBs on their roster should keep Kessler on a short leash in 2017. If you are a fantasy owner that is satisfied with average production for 8 starts at the most then Kessler is your guy but to be honest he has no short term or long term value in Cleveland.
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
What Happened – 16 games, 311/459, 67.8% completion, 3667 yards, 23 Touchdowns 4 Interceptions
I guess we have to go all the way back to 2016 Senior Bowl week as the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff got the opportunity to work with a spread based quarterback whose college system at Mississippi State allowed him to run the football 370 times in his final 2 seasons. The Cowboys liked what they saw from Prescott selecting him in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL draft after a failed attempt to trade up for Paxton Lynch on Day 1 of the draft (and Connor Cook on Day 3 allegedly).
Prescott was set up to be a developmental project behind starter Tony Romo and second string QB Kellen Moore. Then came the dress rehearsal third preseason game that would change the destiny of the Cowboys’ future as franchise quarterback Romo went down with a back injury from a tackle by the Seahawks’ Cliff Avril. Enter Prescott who performed remarkably against a first team Seahawks defense that was considered to be the best in the league. Sixteen regular season games later and you have yourself the phenomenon that is Prescott who exceeded everyone’s expectation and put the Cowboys on his back to a 13 win rookie of the year season. The most impressive trait from Prescott is his willingness to take what the defense gives him by not forcing passes into coverage and driving the ball methodically down the field with rare poise that you would see from a ten year pro.
What Changed – The glaring change this season is the level of expectation. As mentioned above Prescott was pegged early on to hold the clipboard and learn the offense behind Romo. When you are not the man you sometimes sneak up on teams as the pressure dwindles a bit but now with a whole offseason to watch the tape and the bulls eye on your back the pressure intensifies exponentially. Prescott will need to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. As far as the roster goes, the Cowboys got weaker along the offensive line with the retirement of right tackle Doug Free and loss of guard Ronald Leary in free agency. This might not seem big to some of you but the Cowboys offensive line was the best unit in football last season and is the key reason for Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott’s success. The receivers are pretty much the same with the lone addition of slot receiver Ryan Switzer in the draft who I believe fits Prescott’s skillset. All in all it’s pretty much status quo for the Boys on offense.
What to Expect – I expect a strong fantasy season for Prescott despite playing a first place schedule and question marks along the offensive line. Prescott’s makeup reminds me of a young Russell Wilson that is poised to put in the required work and then some. He strikes me as a guy who will just become better as a passer as his career goes along and not rest on his laurels. The completion percentage might take a bit of a drop and the interceptions more than likely will go up due to NFL teams having the book on the second year pro, however I expect Prescott to have 35 total touchdowns through the air and the ground making him a QB1 that you can acquire later in your drafts.