5 Quarterback Sleepers (2018 Fantasy Football)
No position in fantasy football is as deep as the quarterback, which also happens to be the highest-scoring slot on most rosters. This leads to decidedly different approaches to how to address the most important, but least valuable position of a fantasy lineup. Analysts and experts are far likelier to disregard a quarterback until well into the double-digit rounds than casual redraft players are. Most analysts and writers feel very comfortable with 20 or more signal-callers and will choose to address other positions that quite simply aren’t as deep. For everyday fantasy fans, name recognition is more prominent, and stars like Aaron Rodgers might be taken as early as the second or third round.
Regardless of what your approach might be, there is plenty of depth at the QB position, so the most advantageous method is to target value. Find the under-the-radar, sleeper quarterbacks that offer up plenty of scoring upside but come with a deeply discounted price. Here are some of my favorite underrated or sleeper quarterbacks to target in 2018 fantasy football drafts and auctions. The fantasy football ADP used is as of August 9.
Andrew Luck (IND) QB10
It has been a while since we’ve seen Luck on the field. Over 1,000 days, in fact. But all indications are that Luck is nearing a full recovery from the shoulder ailment that kept him out of the entire 2017 season. If Luck can regain his form, he’s going to be an elite weekly fantasy option with league-winning upside.
Since coming into the league, Luck has been a tremendous fantasy option when he’s been healthy. From 2012-2016, Luck’s 16-game averages are 4,301 passing yards, 30.2 touchdowns, and an additional 336.8 rushing yards annually. All five of those seasons, Luck was a top-10 fantasy QB, and he was top-five in four of the five. A lack of a quality supporting cast hasn’t seemed to bother Luck, either. With WR T.Y. Hilton, a pair of solid tight ends, and some intriguing young running backs, Luck should regain his vaunted status quickly in an offense spearheaded by Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni.
As the news of Luck’s recovery trends in the right direction, his ADP will continue to rise, but plenty of fantasy footballers who took a shot on him last season are shying away. Luck is almost always available late in drafts, well after 10 or more signal-callers have already been selected. It’s not without risk, but a healthy Andrew Luck has proven to be a superb weekly starter, and he offers enough scoring potential that I’m going out of my way to target him as much as I can.
Philip Rivers (LAC) QB15
In the fantasy football tale of the tortoise and the hare, Rivers plays the part of the under-appreciated reptile who might not offer a lot of speed or appeal, but whose consistent track record wins the championship race in the end. Rivers seems to make the list of underrated signal-callers annually, and 2018 appears to be no different with an ADP of QB15. One of the safest options in all of fantasy football, Rivers has made 192 consecutive starts, averaging 4,366 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes each season.
His final fantasy ranks over the past five years are seventh, sixth, 10th, ninth, and sixth, respectively. That’s five consecutive top-10 QB1 seasons for Rivers, who once again finds himself all but disregarded by the casual fantasy football player. Loading up on running backs and wide receivers and targeting Rivers late has been a tried and true formula for success over the past five years, and there’s no reason to shy away from it now.
Dak Prescott (DAL) QB17
Prescott isn’t as an accomplished a passer as Rivers, but he has opened his NFL career with consecutive top-10 seasons and has been relegated to also-ran status. A lot of this has to do with the loss of surrounding talent, but I think Prescott’s athleticism will keep him in the QB1 conversation. Prescott regressed a bit as a passer last season, dropping from 8.0 to 6.5 yards-per-attempt and jumping from four picks as a rookie to 13 last year. A lot of that dropoff can be attributed to the absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended for six games. In the 10 contests that Prescott had his star tailback behind him, Prescott averaged over 23 fantasy points per game, which would have been a top-five number in 2017.
The loss of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will hurt, but Prescott should be able to make up for that with his elite running ability. He averaged 6.7 yards per rush last year and has scored six rushing touchdowns in each of his two seasons. That kind of production is huge in fantasy football and helps Prescott separate himself from the group of signal-callers that are currently going in the QB12-QB18 range.
As for the supporting cast, I’m in the minority, but I think Dallas could be just fine. Allen Hurns is three years removed from a 1,000-yard season, and third-rounder Michael Gallup has a real shot at making some noise right away. If Scott Linehan can figure out how to use Tavon Austin creatively, Prescott will contend for top-10 numbers once again.
Marcus Mariota (TEN) QB19
Sadly, and predictably, Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” offensive approach wasn’t the best fit for Mariota’s modern skill set, and his numbers slumped across the board on his way to an injury-marred QB17 finish. Fortunately, Mularkey’s antiquated offensive philosophy is now in the past where it belongs, replaced by an aggressive, fast-paced approach championed by new play caller Matt LaFleur, whose offenses have led the NFL in scoring in each of the past two seasons. LaFleur will install a play-action, run/pass-option attack that is perfectly suited for Mariota’s dual-threat ability. Where Mularkey and Terry Robiskie tried to pigeon-hole Mariota into a conservative offense, LaFleur is an innovative game-planner who will build his offense around what Mariota does best.
Mariota also battled a hamstring ailment that limited his running ability last season. From Weeks 12-16, Mariota attempted three or fewer rushes before finally recovering and running for 106 yards in Tennessee’s final two contests. That rushing ability is going to be an intriguing ailment to the RPO offense that the Titans are cooking up for 2018. Surrounded by a pair of talented running backs and underrated pass catchers, Mariota is one of my favorite breakout candidates for this season.
Blake Bortles (JAC) QB28
Bortles also does a good job of supplementing his unimpressive passing numbers with solid rushing skills. He’s run for over 300 yards in each of his four pro seasons and chipped in seven touchdowns on the ground dating back to 2015. Thanks to the arrival of RB Leonard Fournette, Bortles wasn’t asked to throw as much in 2017, which led to a decline in passing yards and scores, but an increase in efficiency. Bortles also cut back on turnovers, tossing a career-low 13 interceptions last year and failing to be picked off in 11 of the club’s 19 total games, including the playoffs.
After consecutive top-10 fantasy seasons from 2015-2016, Bortles finished just outside QB1 range as the 13th-ranked signal-caller last season. The Jaguars will remain a run-first, defensive club, so his numbers aren’t going to take a significant leap, but Jacksonville has some talented young receivers, and Bortles is a solid bet to put up respectable fantasy numbers once again. With an ADP that is behind Jameis Winston, who is suspended for three weeks, and Baker Mayfield, who isn’t even expected to play any time soon, Bortles is also an excellent value as a QB2 or fantasy spot starter.