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Dynasty Quarterback Sleepers (2020 Fantasy Football)

May 27, 2020

Jameis Winston could once again become a premier fantasy quarterback by taking over for Drew Brees in New Orleans.

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Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. It is extremely difficult to build a Super Bowl contender without a franchise quarterback, but fantasy football is different. A good fantasy football owner is going to concentrate on running back and wide receiver before figuring out a quarterback.

In redraft leagues, a second or third-string NFL quarterback is not going to have much value. The bench spot would be better served on depth, and there is no need to hang onto a prospect who will not contribute that season. Dynasty leagues, however, are different. Depending on how many roster spots and keepers your league allows, it may make a lot of sense to have a solid veteran backup quarterback and/or a young quarterback tucked away on the bench for the future.

Now that the NFL Draft concluded a month ago, we can see how the projected quarterback depth charts look for all 32 teams. Here are some names to keep an eye on in your fantasy drafts who are not projected to start in 2020.

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Veteran Quarterbacks

Jameis Winston (NO)
Winston is not a traditional sleeper quarterback, but he still needs attention in dynasty leagues. Most quarterbacks who throw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns get a $100 million contract extension. Due to his 30 interceptions last year, Winston will not even have a chance to duplicate those numbers with the Buccaneers.

That is very unusual. Of the seven other quarterbacks in NFL history who threw for 5,000 yards or more in a season, only Tom Brady ever switched teams after that campaign. And that was eight years later.

Quarterback Team  5,000-YD Season Yards Last Season w/ Team
Peyton Manning DEN 2013 5,477 2015
Drew Brees* NO 2011 5,476 Still with Team
Tom Brady NE 2011 5,235 2019
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 2018 5,129 Still with Team
Jameis Winston TB 2019 5,109 2019
Patrick Mahomes KC 2018 5097 Still with Team
Dan Marino MIA 1984 5084 1999
Matthew Stafford DET 2011 5038 Still with Team

 
*Brees also eclipsed 5,000 yards passing in 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2016.

Winston not only switched teams, but settled for a one-year deal for only $1.1 million to back up 41-year-old Drew Brees, another member of the 5,000-yard passing club. If Brees stays healthy this year, Winston will not see the field. If Brees suffers an injury, Winston would be thrust into one of the NFL’s best offenses and have significant fantasy value.

Winston is going to pose an interesting situation for dynasty owners. Although he was the fourth-ranked fantasy player last year, most dynasty leagues have a limitation on how many players you can protect. Many leagues allow you to protect a limited number of top players to keep the draft pool stocked for future years. Unless your league allows you to keep as many players as you want — and there is no draft-pick penalty for keeping a top-scoring player — Winston will be put back into the draft pool. Nobody is going to pay a premium to keep a backup quarterback and lose an elite starter in the process.

Not many backups have thrown for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns before joining one of the best offenses in the NFL. If the Saints can help Winston eliminate the interceptions, he could be a starter there for the next decade. Brees does not have many seasons left, which makes Winston a fascinating fantasy investment.

Andy Dalton (DAL)
Dalton is also not a typical fantasy sleeper, but he has been an NFL starter since 2011 and had many solid fantasy seasons. His play has tailed off over the last couple of seasons, so the Bengals released him after drafting Joe Burrow with the first pick. Dalton joins the Dallas Cowboys, who are in a contract standoff with Dak Prescott. Because of the offense’s strong line and set of skill position players, Dalton becomes an interesting flier.

If anything happens to Prescott either due to injury or his contract dispute, Dalton would take over one of the best situations in the NFL. The problem is that Prescott, unlike Brees, is entering the prime of his career. He has also started all 64 games in four NFL seasons. Anybody can get injured on any play, but Prescott has been durable thus far, which does not lend a ton of upside to Dalton unless a holdout spills into the regular season. Even if that happens, it is not likely to last the entire year, which means there is no real long-term value to Dalton as the Dallas starter.

Jarrett Stidham (NE)
We now move into some of the lesser-known veterans. The Patriots surprised the world by not adding a quarterback in the NFL Draft. As a result, if the season were to start today, Stidham would likely be their starter. Not likely to be on most fantasy rosters, last year’s fourth-round pick threw four passes backing up Brady in 2019. I’d lean away from adding Stidham in redraft leagues. The Patriots have ranked third and ninth in rushing attempts the last two years, so expect a ground-and-pound offense that does not take a ton of chances downfield in 2020.

In dynasty leagues, Stidhman has a lot more appeal because the Patriots are likely to have $100 million in cap space in 2021. If Stidham plays well this year, the Patriots will have the spending power to add talent at the skill positions, which could make him an intriguing fantasy option.

Jeff Driskel (DEN)
The Broncos have one of the best skill position units in the NFL. Along with Melvin GordonPhillip Lindsay, and Royce Freeman at running back, they will have Courtland SuttonJerry JeudyKJ Hamler, and DaeSean Hamilton at wide receiver with Noah Fant at tight end. The Broncos will entrust this offense to second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who threw 156 passes in his rookie year. If he struggles or suffers an injury, Driskel would take over an offense loaded with talent. He is worth a flier if you are looking to stash a deep sleeper.

Joshua Dobbs (JAC)
Doug Marrone is probably in a must-win situation this year, and Gardner Minshew is going to begin the season as his starting quarterback. If Minshew plays bad and the team struggles again, Marrone could be fired midseason, potentially opening the door for Dobbs to see snaps in 2020.

There is not much appeal beyond that scenario. Would a new head coach keep going with Minshew in 2021? Will a new coach want to go with Dobbs, or try out rookie Jake Luton? Perhaps the Jaguars scrap all of their quarterbacks and start over by picking a new one in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The lack of stability makes it hard to invest in backup quarterbacks that probably will not fit into a new head coach’s plans. Both Dobbs and Luton are players to monitor rather than own. If Marrone does not survive the season, chances are those two quarterbacks will be looking for a new home in 2021.

Rookie Quarterbacks

Jordan Love (GB)
As a first-round pick, Love is not a traditional sleeper. However, he joins a team with a future Hall of Famer who led the way to 13 wins and an NFC Championship Game appearance. Love will not play early on unless Aaron Rodgers suffers a serious injury. While Rodgers has had some injury issues, he has been relatively healthy the last two seasons.

Assuming Love is the real deal and impresses the Packers organization, he is still probably not going to be the starter for at least three seasons. Trading Rodgers this year would result in $51 million of dead money, per Spotrac. If they trade him in 2021, it would still lead to $31 million in dead money.

Season Cap Hit Dead Money
2020 $21,642,000 $51,148,000
2021 $36,352,000 $31,556,000
2022 $39,852,000 $17,204,000
2023 $28,352,000 $2,852,000

 
The only reason to add Love at this point is to stash him with the hope that Rodgers becomes like Tony Romo at the end of his career and can’t stay healthy through a season. That will only make sense if you have a lot of open roster spots. The salary cap impacts roster decisions, and the Packers cannot afford to move on from Rodgers anytime soon. That hinders Love’s upside as a dynasty sleeper for two to three seasons.

Jalen Hurts (PHI)
This is very similar to the Green Bay situation. Carson Wentz is going to start for the foreseeable future for the same reason that Rodgers will start in Green Bay. Wentz has $77 million in dead money this year, $59 million in 2021, $24 million in 2022, and $15 million in 2023. The Eagles won’t be able to afford to trade Wentz until 2022, no matter how good Hurts looks in camp. Unlike Love, Hurts should have some value as a receiver and running back playing a Taysom Hill role, but that probably will not be enough to start him in fantasy football. Where Hurts could have value is if Wentz suffers injuries as he did in 2017 and 2018. That could open the door for Hurts to be fantasy relevant on a very creative offense. If Hurts is a star when he receives his chance, all bets are off when it comes to the Eagles’ quarterback situation.

Jacob Eason (IND)
Eason is probably one of the best sleeper quarterbacks in the NFL this year. He definitely is not going to start for the Colts, who have Philip Rivers under contract this year. They also have Jacoby Brissett as the backup who’d likely step in if Rivers misses any time. Eason, however, has a chance to shine in 2021. Rivers is a free agent after this year, and Brissett is not viewed as a long-term fix, or else they would not have signed Rivers in the first place. That gives Eason a chance to win the job in 2021, which would give him an opportunity to be an impact fantasy player.

James Morgan (NYJ)
The Jets do not have a good enough offense yet to invest in one of their backup quarterbacks, but this is a big year for Sam Darnold. If this offense does not produce in his third season, the Jets may look to go in another direction. The problem is, Darnold going south probably leads to head coach Adam Gase getting fired, and a new head coach is likely not going to want to roll with Morgan. Also, the signing of Joe Flacco makes it even less likely Morgan sees the field this year. Flacco, who hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2014, is not worth owning. With two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, Morgan is more of a player to monitor at this point.

Nate Stanley (MIN)
Stanley is also not a great fit for a short-term dynasty sleeper. Kirk Cousins has $62 million in dead money this year and $41 million next year, so the Vikings will have to stick with him in both 2020 and 2021. Is it worth owning a sleeper quarterback who would only see the field due to injury for a team that ranked 30th in passing attempts last year and whose quarterback played 79 consecutive games from 2015 to 2019? I would not count on Stanley ever playing for more than a spot start or two.

Cole McDonald (TEN)
Ryan Tannehill has an injury history, but the Titans were 31st in pass attempts last year. Tannehill also signed a new contract with $62 million and $39.5 million in dead money for the next two years. Even though they have some good young receivers, McDonald supplanting him in 2020 or 2021 seems unlikely. He also would hand the ball off a ton, which is not helpful to investors looking for a quarterback to score fantasy points.

Jake Fromm (BUF)
The downside to the Bills is their offensive style. In Sean McDermott’s three years with the Bills, they have ranked 31st, 31st, and 26th in passing yards. They have finished sixth, ninth, and eighth in rushing yards. Josh Allen has not set the world on fire as a passer, but his running makes him a solid fantasy quarterback. His running style could lead to an injury, but if Fromm were to see the field, his go-to play would be a handoff. That is not really going to translate into solid fantasy production.

Free Agent Quarterbacks

Cam Newton
Newton has some upside as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, but he has been outside the top 10 in quarterback fantasy points three of the last four years since his 2015 MVP season. Until we know how his new team matches his skill set, there is not a lot of reward in drafting a 31-year-old quarterback who has not been healthy as of late. Newton is a little different than Winston because he played so few games last year and can likely be held onto for cheap in dynasty leagues. It may make sense to keep him if your league has a lot of roster spots and the price is inexpensive. He is too accomplished not to receive another chance as a starter, but Newton’s health remains uncertain at this point.

Blake Bortles
Bortles only lasted a year as the Rams’ backup quarterback. He may find work in the fall if a team has an injury at quarterback, but he probably is not looking at a starting role anymore. There is little chance he is ever fantasy relevant again, so he should not be stashed in dynasty leagues. Bortles, however, should be monitored in case he becomes a last-second option for a desperate team following a training-camp injury.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.

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