2018 Dynasty Quarterback Sleepers (Fantasy Football)
I like to play fantasy football the way Maverick flies Tomcats…Unsafe. Dangerous. Writing checks my body can’t cash. Sure, that attitude will occasionally steer you into a jet stream that ends with your plane wrecked and best friend dead, but upside is a hell of a drug…except at quarterback
At quarterback, I’m Iceman. And it sucks because, let’s be honest, Iceman’s the worst. No one likes that guy.
Unfortunately, I think it’s the right way to approach quarterback, especially in dynasty leagues. There isn’t a ton of upside to be had at the position anyway, so, for the most part, you have to play it by the book.
That’s the common thread running through my dynasty sleeper quarterbacks. They’re mostly below average, boring players. No one you’re excited to roster. But for various reasons these guys have a shot nagging.
Everyone has their own definition of sleeper. For the purposes of this column, I’m going to rule out anyone inside the top 25 of our dynasty ECR. Sorry, Mitch Trubisky. I’m intrigued by what you might look like in a re-tooled, John Fox-less offense, but so is everyone else.
So with that, let’s get to it.
Andy Dalton (CIN)
It’s hard to remember now, but Dalton finished as the QB5 back in 2013 and was putting together another monster season in 2015 before getting hurt late in the season. Putting aside what you think of the player, he’s been a top fantasy asset in the past. So what happened to him the last two years?
In 2016, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert played only 18 games combined. With Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones gone, that left Brandon LaFell (107 targets) and Tyler Boyd (81 targets) as Dalton’s weapons for much of the year. Despite limited support and an abnormally low 3.2% touchdown rate, he still managed a decent year, finishing as QB12.
In 2017, Green was back, but Eifert wasn’t, and the rest of the Bengals’ passing corps remained uninspiring (LaFell, Tyler Kroft, and Giovani Bernard were the only players with at least 60 targets). Throw in one of the league’s worst offensive lines and a near-mutiny over OC Ken Zampese (literally), and you can see why Dalton had another down year.
If it sounds like I’m making a lot of excuses for Dalton…I am. If he was just good in his own right, he wouldn’t be a sleeper. The point is, when the stars align for Dalton, he’s shown the ability to produce top fantasy numbers.
The stars may be aligning again in 2018. None of this may hold, but currently:
- A.J. Green is still one of the best receivers in the league.
- Tyler Eifert is healthy.
- John Ross, a field-stretching burner good enough to be drafted top 10 just a season ago, may get to do more than fumble once and disappear to the bench.
- The Bengals used two first round picks to shore up the offensive line, trading for Cordy Glenn and drafting Billy Price.
- The only possible QB competition (A.J. McCarron) left town.
- Bill Lazor, who once coaxed an 11th ranked offense out of Ryan Tannehill, appears to be an improvement at offensive coordinator.
Understandably, no one is excited to have Andy Dalton rostered in any league, let alone in a dynasty league where you own him in perpetuity. But sometimes the smart play isn’t the fun one. Dalton has shown QB1 upside in the past, and has, in theory, a good supporting cast. He’s never finished lower than QB18 in any year of his career, and now his dynasty ECR is QB31? Dalton is undervalued as a fantasy asset.
Eli Manning (NYG)
Count me among those who think Manning is cooked. As with Dalton, it doesn’t matter.
Since Odell Beckham Jr. entered the league, Manning has scored almost 22 points per game with him in the lineup (h/t Rotoviz Game Splits). That number has plummeted when OBJ misses time (16 points per game), but this year the receiving corps looks deeper than years’ past. Brandon Marshall was AARP’d out, leaving Sterling Shepard (12.4 yards per reception on 70.2% catch rate last season), Evan Engram (second most receiving yards for a rookie tight end since 2000) and Saquon Barkley (102 receptions, 11.7 yards per reception in college) to round out the receiving corps.
That is a lot of mismatches and easy completions behind Beckham. On top of that, getting rid of Ben McAdoo for the “Guy Who Made Case Keenum Look Good “(Pat Shurmer’s actual name) should provide an upgrade in scheme.
By passing on a quarterback in a loaded class, the Giants told you they
are idiots think Manning has another two-to-three years left. A 37 year old quarterback on the downside of his career is not a sexy dynasty asset, but long-term prospects can be overrated in dynasty leagues anyway, especially at quarterback. Manning’s supporting cast can elevate him to solid production this year, with potentially another one or two fantasy-relevant seasons to follow. He’s only 28th in dynasty ECR, but I think his teammates can carry him to fringe QB1 numbers this season.
Tyrod Taylor (CLE)
Taylor’s prospects look shakier after the Browns selected pro-ready Baker Mayfield – rather than a project like Sam Darnold or Josh Allen- with the first overall pick. But Hue Jackson has already come out and said Taylor is the starter, and when has Jackson ever lied about his quarterbacks? Oh, that’s right…always.
Regardless, Taylor starts with the lead and the Browns did trade a relatively high draft pick (65th overall) to get him. If Taylor makes it to Week 1, has a good chance to keep the job. Taylor wasted last season with a coaching staff that didn’t like him, an offense that didn’t suit him, and one of the worst receiving corps in the league.
In Cleveland, Taylor will have much better weapons (Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Duke Johnson, and potential breakouts in Corey Coleman and David Njoku) and an OC not afraid to throw deep (Taylor’s strong suit as a passer). Add in the rushing ability, and I like Taylor’s chances to return to QB1 territory, where he finished on a per game basis in 2015 and 2016.
Of course, there’s a very real chance Taylor gets passed by Mayfield at some point this season, maybe even for Week 1. That’s okay – at QB33, that risk is already priced in. Plus, he’ll be a free agent in 2019 and has enough good tape at this point to land a starting gig elsewhere, so you have an out even if his short-term value takes a hit. Basically, I see a player who’s very cheap to acquire, has QB1 upside for 2018, and a Plan B if things go wrong.
Jacoby Brissett (IND)
The Colts’ constant reassurance that Andrew Luck doesn’t need another surgery makes me think they’re at least considering whether he needs another surgery. Something feels off about this whole situation.
So, Brissett? He fared well last year in a terrible situation, coming to the Colts just before the start of the season and being thrown into the mix in Week 2 after Scott Tolzien made Colts fans long for the days of Curtis Painter. Despite a subpar line and one of the thinnest receiving corps in the league, Brissett looked pretty good at times.
He scored 15 fantasy points in one-third of his starts, finishing as QB20 on the season. Nothing special, but just repeating last season would provide value in deeper leagues.
The receiving corps still isn’t very good behind T.Y. Hilton, but the Colts have invested heavily in their offensive line, and new head coach Frank Reich has done more (win a Super Bowl) with less (Nick Foles). With a year of experience and an entire offseason, not a week, to learn the system, Brissett is an interesting option if Luck can’t go.
Chad Kelly (DEN)
The Vikings refused to commit to Case Keenum even while he was crushing it last year, and could not have been less interested in trying to retain him this offseason. They told us exactly what they think of Keenum: he was merely a product of their offensive system and stellar receiving corps.
Maybe Keenum keeps it going in Denver. The Broncos do have a pretty good set of receivers themselves, and would it surprise anyone if Keenum’s prior seasons under Jeff Fisher was not indicative of his true talent?
On the other hand, no one goes broke betting against John Elway. If Keenum’s 2017 really was a mirage, all that’s left on the depth chart behind him is Chad Kelly.
In two years at Ole Miss, Kelly averaged 8.5 yards per attempt while completing 63.9% of his passes and throwing 50 touchdowns. Character concerns dropped Kelly from a mid-round pick to Mr. Irrelevant in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the talent is there. If he gets the call, he’ll have a good (albeit aging) receiving corps flanked by a trio of intriguing young prospects and a much improved offensive line. He’s a good stash candidate, especially in two-quarterback leagues.
Mason Rudolph (PIT)
You can thank Ben Roethlisberger’s pettiness for pushing Rudolph’s price down. As soon as Rudolph was drafted, Roethlisberger started talking about playing another three years. Last year he was talking about retirement. I wouldn’t put too much stock in either. What I care about is that Roethlisberger’s style of play and nagging injuries don’t suggest an extended twilight to his career.
The Big 12 didn’t necessarily offer much resistance, but Rudolph crushed it there: 9.9 adjusted yards per attempt and a 92/26 touchdown/interception ratio — elite numbers. There’s a reason he was just a third-round pick, but with Pittsburgh’s receiving corps he would be very intriguing if he stepped into the starting job in Pittsburgh.