5 Quarterback Busts (2018 Fantasy Football)

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 10, 2018

Despite boasting an exciting skill set, Patrick Mahomes still carries a lot of risk

In today’s NFL game, you’re not going anywhere without a quality quarterback. The speed of today’s athletes, rule changes that favor offenses, and overall talent of college signal callers have helped make the current crop of QBs the deepest we’ve ever seen playing at any one time. While quarterbacks also tend to be the highest-scoring players in fantasy football, they’re not necessarily the most valuable, mainly due to the overwhelming number of quality options that basically assure every team has a legitimate shot at fielding excellent weekly scoring potential from as many as 20 fantasy QBs.

There may be a surfeit of available options that can lead to fantasy glory, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of risks involved with many passers, including plenty of mid-range options being lauded as the next up-and-coming MVP candidates. Here are some of those quarterbacks that appear to be potential championship-winning options, but come with enough concerns that they have the potential to wind up being dreaded fantasy football busts. The ADP data is as of August 8.

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Kirk Cousins (MIN) QB8
Cousins has been one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in fantasy football over the past three years, where he posted top-10 numbers each season with Washington. The Redskins never viewed Cousins as a long-term solution, which allowed him to cash in on a fully guaranteed deal with Minnesota.

While the Vikings have some intriguing offensive weapons in place, I don’t think Minnesota is a better fantasy landing spot for Cousins. Under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have built a dominant defense that will likely lead to fewer passing attempts for Cousins. In Zimmer’s four years at the helm, the Vikings have finished outside the top-10 in passing yards each season. The club came close in 2017 with Pat Shurmur running the offense, but with Shurmur’s departure to New York, John DeFilippo takes over as the play-caller. DeFilippo’s last stint as an offensive coordinator came in 2015, where the Browns finished 30th in points and 21st in passing yards.

With a healthy Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield, I think DeFilippo and Zimmer will rely more on the ground game and defense, leading to fewer opportunities for Cousins to remain a top-10 fantasy signal-caller. I feel like you can win with Cousins as your starter, but he’s more of a top-10 or top-12 guy, and there are other options like Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck that I feel more comfortable targeting.

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) QB9
The vast majority of fantasy football players tend to be reactive instead of proactive. As for Garoppolo, all anyone seems to be focusing on are those final five starts in which he went undefeated and averaged a healthy 308.4 passing yards per game, assuring that Garoppolo would enter 2018 sure to carry over that momentum in Kyle Shanahan’s system. While Garoppolo was undoubtedly putting up impressive yardage totals, he tossed just six touchdowns and five interceptions in those five starts. Average those numbers out over 16 games, and you get 4,934 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 13 INTs. Jimmy G’s 14.5 fantasy points per week total also ranked just 22nd among all quarterbacks last season.

He also benefitted from a gracious schedule to round out the season, which included wins over teams with weak secondaries, including bottom-10 units from Houston and Tennessee and a solid Rams defense that had nothing to play for in Week 17. 31 other NFL franchises now have a lot more film of Garoppolo available to dissect and the schedule appears to be much tougher. San Francisco’s 2018 fantasy strength of schedule ranks 25th, including a tough stretch during the fantasy playoffs facing the Broncos, Seahawks, and Bears from Weeks 14-16. Garoppolo’s current ADP is inside the top-10, ahead of multiple solid options who have an established track record of being dependable fantasy options. While the 26-year-old offers a ton of upside and appeal, he’s also a prime candidate to be overdrafted in 2018.

Patrick Mahomes (KC) QB16
Upside. Potential. Athleticism. Mahomes certainly checks a lot of boxes that would make him a highly coveted fantasy signal caller. And he will be. But in today’s NFL landscape where a savvy fantasy drafter could probably field a championship-caliber roster with any of 20 or more quarterbacks, the smart move seems to be to let somebody else gamble on those buzzwords.

Mahomes takes over a fantastic situation in an Andy Reid-coached offense that is loaded with talent. In his solo start to close out the 2017 regular season, Mahomes fared well, completing 22-of-35 passes for 284 yards and a pick. Mahomes passed his audition as Reid made him the club’s starter by shipping Alex Smith off to Washington.

At Texas Tech, Mahomes flashed plenty of that intriguing skill set that caused the Chiefs to trade up to select him at No. 10 despite having Smith in the fold. But the defenders in the NFL are far superior to anything Mahomes faced in the Big 12, and there are going to be growing pains. In fact, Mahomes has been plagued by interceptions in training camp. While this isn’t a massive concern in August, it could foreshadow that gunslinger mentality that Mahomes has is going to lead to a lot more turnovers than what the Chiefs had with the cautious Smith under center.

Overall, I like Mahomes as a pro prospect, but think that he could be wildly inconsistent. There will be huge games where he’ll make big plays with his arm and legs, and games where nothing seems to go right, which is quite typical for a young signal-caller. Let someone else take a gamble on that upside and happily take Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers as your starter.

Alex Smith (WAS) QB18
The man that Washington chose as the heir apparent to Kirk Cousins is coming off of the finest campaign of his career. Smith set career-best marks in almost every passing category last season. As he enters Jay Gruden’s system, Smith seems to be poised to put up another strong year with a talented Washington offense. Now entering his 14th season, 2017 sticks out as classic “career year” for Smith. After averaging a mediocre 17.25 touchdowns from 2009-2016, Smith exploded up to a career-high 26 TD tosses last season, which was a 66-percent leap over the norm he’d established in the prior eight seasons.

Smith, who made his mark as a safe passer and rarely challenged defenders deep, actually led the NFL in deep-ball passing and averaged a league-leading 8.6 average yards-per-attempt after putting up a modest 7.0 figure from 2009-2016. Throughout his career, Smith has excelled at avoiding interceptions by allowing his receivers to get open and not trying to get the ball into tight windows. Outside of WR Jamison Crowder, the Redskins don’t have a lot of offensive pieces that excelled at creating space and getting open. Washington also doesn’t have a tight end that is in the same class as Travis Kelce, which takes away a favorite safety valve.

Smith’s ADP is actually quite low, so it seems like analysts and experts are much lower on his potential than the general public is likely to be. He’s far more likely to revert to his stable, but underwhelming stats than he is to repeat 2017’s stellar numbers. Smith is a decent streamer or QB2, but not somebody I’d want to count on as my weekly go-to starter.

Eli Manning (NYG) QB27
It’s fair to assume that Eli Manning will rebound after a disastrous 2017 season that culminated in the unceremonious end to his start streak, but Manning is a declining player who shouldn’t be targeted as anything more than a bye-week replacement or weekly streamer. Manning’s yards, touchdowns, and fantasy effectiveness have been in decline for three years, and the hiring of Mike Shula to serve as the club’s offensive coordinator doesn’t bode well for New York’s passing offense.

Year Team Pass Yds Rank TD INT
1996 TB 2727 29 12 20
1997 TB 2442 30 21 12
1998 TB 2606 27 21 18
1999 TB 2478 30 18 16
2013 CAR 3043 29 24 13
2014 CAR 3511 19 23 12
2015 CAR 3589 24 35 10
2016 CAR 3685 21 21 19
2017 CAR 3077 28 22 16

 
A Mike Shula-coached team has never finished higher than 19th in passing yards during his nine seasons as an offensive coordinator. Shula has enjoyed much more success building his team around the ground game. The past eight teams he’s coached have finished above league average in rushing yards, and four of them have been top-10 rushing attacks. This bodes well for No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley, who should be the focal point of the Giants’ offense. At 37, Manning is unlikely to see a significant resurgence, and while New York boasts some interesting pass-catching weapons, Manning’s days of posting QB1 seasons are likely over.

12 Fantasy Football Busts for 2018
3 Tight End Busts

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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

 

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