Early Quarterback Sleepers (2019 Fantasy Football)
Even with free agency right around the corner and the NFL Draft two months away, it is never too early to begin preparing for the upcoming season. The aforementioned events along with training camp and the preseason will undoubtedly impact ADP, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a head start on the competition and pinpoint some players that may be significant values this season.
Given that the late-round QB strategy has really taken over fantasy football, labeling a QB as a “sleeper” in single QB leagues depends a lot on your definition of the term. Is a sleeper a player that goes late in drafts? Or late at his position? With that in mind, I will also identify a couple two QB/Superflex guys that require digging a bit deeper to acquire.
Jameis Winston (QB – TB)
Much like Jimmy Garoppolo in 2018, I expect Jameis Winston to not remain a true sleeper for very long. ADP right now is largely meaningless, but Winston is trending as a mid QB2 heading off the board in about the 12th round. Nothing short of a true renaissance season will convince me Winston is actually good at football, but in the fantasy world, as we’ve seen countless times throughout the years, a player doesn’t have to be real life good to be fantasy good. Winston is on an offense loaded with aerial weapons while lacking any semblance of a running game and with a bad defense. He also now has Bruce Arians calling plays. It is a perfect storm of conditions that leads to a high-volume passing attack. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are undoubtedly a top 10 duo at WR and O.J. Howard is already a top five TE. Winston is going to take shots downfield and that’s what we want for fantasy production. The trade off between 50-yard completions and interceptions is fine in the fake world so we can look past Winston’s dreadful 67.8 true completion percentage (28th last season) and focus more on his 5.6 air yards per attempt, which ranked second in the league. With a wealth of fun toys at his disposal, Winston could be in line for a truly fascinating year where he solidifies himself as not the future at QB for Tampa while simultaneously posting a top eight fantasy performance.
Ben Roethlisberger (QB – PIT)
It feels dirty to even call Ben Roethlisberger a sleeper coming off an overall QB2 finish where he averaged 21.8 fantasy points per game. Perhaps it’s his age. Or the retirement talks. Or the prospect of Antonio Brown leaving. I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s suppressing Roethlisberger’s ADP. How last year’s second-best fantasy QB has an opening ADP outside the top 12 is beyond me. Here are things I know for sure: Big Ben is not retiring. Since 2012, he’s posted a top 12 finish every season (using average ppg amongst qualified starters). Here are things I am very confident in: the Steelers will once again have one of the league’s best offenses. Without Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers will continue to be a pass-heavy offense.
Basically, Roethlisberger not going as a top 12 QB makes no sense. It’s so early in the process so this may very well change considerably, but just be sure not to dismiss the old guy.
Mitch Trubisky (QB – CHI)
I guess Trubisky qualifies as a two QB/superflex sleeper as well given his ridiculous current ADP of outside the top 24. This one just doesn’t make any sense. We have a third-year starter on a young team with ascending talent and the reigning coach of the year. They just made the playoffs. There are a lot of things to like about the Bears and Trubisky is leading the charge. Why is last year’s QB10 by average PPG trending outside the top 24? From Weeks 4-10, Trubisky was the best QB in fantasy football. That stretch included weekly finishes of QB1, QB5, QB2, QB8, QB21, and QB2. No other QB had a run as good as that other than Patrick Mahomes. Trubisky finished the season with a whimper and that likely resonates more strongly in people’s minds, but this is an extremely physically gifted athlete who will now have another full offseason to work within Matt Nagy’s offense. And let’s not discount the extra three fantasy points per game that Trubisky offers on the ground. In four point passing touchdown leagues, he’s giving fantasy owners 75% of a touchdown via rushing. I don’t think it’s a very bold statement to guarantee that Trubisky is at least a top 24 QB this season. If his ADP doesn’t correct itself, he might be the prime late-round QB target.
Josh Rosen (QB – ARI)
I don’t think you need me to tell you how terrible Josh Rosen was as a rookie in 2018. His best metric saw him finish 22nd in pressured completion percentage. In many efficiency metrics, Rosen was somehow outside the top 32. Rosen is also just 22 years old and was playing in one of the least creative offenses in modern history. I have no idea if Kliff Kingsbury is going to be a good NFL coach. What I do know with absolute certainty is that he cannot possibly be worse than the combination of Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy. It’s entirely possible that Rosen is just awful. But let’s not write off a first-round QB as a bust until we see him in a real offense.
Kingsbury doesn’t have to be the second coming of Sean McVay to turn Rosen into a useful fantasy QB, especially in leagues that allow you to start two QBs. As long as he brings components of the air raid offense, Rosen can put up numbers. Larry Fitzgerald is back as a safety blanket and Christian Kirk has all the tools to breakout in his second year. Kingsbury will be sure to utilize David Johnson more in the passing game to help out Rosen (and also because DJ is the best passing-catching RB in the league). At a current price of free, Rosen can be had for a near last-round pick, going outside the top 24 QBs. I’m not suggesting he even has QB1 upside just yet, but Rosen can be a mid QB2, which would still be tremendous value relative to cost.