Top Consensus Quarterback Sleepers (2020 Fantasy Football)
Every year, a late-round player breaks out and helps fantasy players win their championships. They’re called “sleepers.” Last year, quarterback Lamar Jackson was an elite sleeper candidate. He was going late in fantasy drafts at this time last year, yet he finished as the overall QB1 — offering his owners a far greater return on investment than what Patrick Mahomes did.
So who will be this year’s Lamar Jackson? Well, Kyler Murray would’ve been the best comparison due to his sophomore status, but his ADP is far too high for him to be a true “sleeper.”Although your late-round alternatives may not offer the same degree of upside, they still give you a shot to find QB1 value deep in drafts.
Who are the best quarterback sleepers? Well, FantasyPros polled experts for their picks, and I’m here to contextualize them — and to give you my take.
1. Cam Newton (NE)
ECR: QB15; ADP: QB17
Experts in Support: 12
Newton stands above his sleeper peers — he’s the only one of these options to have finished as the overall fantasy QB1 (2015). Since then, he has finished as the QB17 (2016), QB2 (2017), QB12 (2018), and QB52 (2019).
After a full offseason to get healthy, Newton enters an interesting situation in New England. On the one hand, Bill Belichick is one of the NFL’s best all-time coaches; on the other hand, Newton’s best receivers are Julian Edelman, James White, and, uh… who else?
As long as Newton can stay healthy, he’s a strong volume-based play. The Patriots consistently finish in the top half of the league in passing attempts, and they have finished top-10 in passing attempts three times in the last five years.
That said, while all reports out of camp suggest that Newton is putting in the work necessary to succeed, drafters should temper their expectations — his foot injuries may limit his rushing upside, and his shoulder injuries may cap his arm strength.
Newton can still finish as a QB1, but if he does, he’ll do so through efficient, short-yardage passes. He’s a good buy in the late rounds of your fantasy drafts, but pay too much of a premium for him because of name recognition.
2. Gardner Minshew (JAC)
ECR: QB21; ADP: QB26
Experts in Support: 14
You can currently get Minshew off waivers in most leagues. Even his ECR suggests that he’s a low-end QB2, but unlike the other guys in that range, Minshew has fringe QB1 upside — but not because the Jaguars will compete for wins.
Cut back to 2015. Back then, when Cam Newton put together an MVP season for the 15-1 Carolina Panthers, Blake Bortles also finished as the QB5 at the helm of the 5-11 Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles also finished as the QB9 in Jacksonville’s 3-13 season in 2016.
This year’s Jaguars compare well to those lineups. After the Yannick Ngakoue and Leonard Fournette departures, they lack sufficient talent to compete for many wins. They do, however, have enough talent at quarterback (Minshew) and wide receiver (D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault, and Chris Conley) to put up boatloads of garbage-time points.
The Jaguars do have a different head coach (Doug Marrone) and offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden) than they had in Bortles’ QB1 seasons. While Gruden’s offenses don’t usually finish in the league’s top half for passing attempts, he won’t be able to grind out his standard record of around .500 by running Ryquell Armstead and receiving back Chris Thompson into opposing defensive lines.
Garbage-time opportunity could vault Minshew into QB1 territory, but the inevitable losses could also cost him his starting job. That said, if you’re rostering Minshew, you’re probably not risking that much to acquire him, so he’s a safe depth option with upside. But if you can afford to get a higher-ranked quarterback than him a little bit earlier, do so — it’ll help lower your risk.
Oh, and despite what he tells you, don’t draft him in the first round.
I’ve been working hard to be your first pick in fantasy this year, and @BudLight is making your decision easier. When you pick me first, tweet a screenshot of your pick with #budlightminshewdraft and #sweepstakes and you could win a case worth of Bud Light! pic.twitter.com/eG1B0yyJOr
— Gardner Minshew (@GardnerMinshew5) August 25, 2020
3. Joe Burrow (CIN)
ECR: QB20; ADP: QB19
Experts in Support: 13
Burrow is another popular high-upside pick among experts. Unlike Newton or Minshew, however, he’s also a popular high-upside pick among the masses. Although his sub-QB15 ADP qualifies him for this list, note that most experts are lower on Burrow than your average fantasy drafter.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk upside. Burrow could easily finish as a QB1 next season — he’s got a formidable arsenal of weapons (Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, John Ross, and Joe Mixon) along with an offensive-minded head coach (Zac Taylor).
While Taylor couldn’t coach Andy Dalton past a QB25 finish or a QB20 pace in points per game, it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Taylor’s Bengals attempted 616 passes in 2019, good for the sixth-most in the league; Dalton just failed to capitalize.
Yes, Burrow technically qualifies as a sleeper. But sleepers are supposed to be low-risk, high-reward plays, and Burrow’s name recognition could cause him to go too early in drafts. You should let someone else reach for him as their QB1 — only take Burrow if he falls late enough in your draft to be worth the risk.
4. Jared Goff (LAR)
ECR: QB17; ADP: QB18
Experts in Support: 7
Seeing Goff on this list is a little weird for two reasons. One, he finished as the QB13 last season. Two, he’s the third former first-overall pick to make this list. Strange.
But back to his QB13 finish. Goff finished less than 10 points behind Tom Brady at QB12 and a handful above Jimmy Garappolo at QB14. Yes, Goff’s ranking drops considerably when you look at points per game instead (his 16.47 PPG earned him a QB21 ranking), but this pessimism is unjustified.
Goff plays for the team that attempted the third-most passes in 2019 (632). Yes, Sean McVay’s offenses fared better when they passed less frequently, but he no longer has Todd Gurley to bail him out. McVay will need to lean on Goff in 2020, and while his limitations as a passer cap his upside, he should be able to post low-end QB1 numbers in a pass-happy offense.
You can probably nab Goff in the last round of your fantasy drafts. He’s even going behind the higher-risk Baker Mayfield in most drafts, so you should capitalize on his discounted ADP while you can.
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