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Fantasy Football Sleepers: Quarterbacks (2021)

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Aug 16, 2021

Allow me to start on my soapbox. I am talking to those who play in a 10 or 12 team league that starts one quarterback and has a short bench (approximately five spots): if you draft an elite quarterback, do not roster a backup. There is one caveat, which we will get to shortly. But if you roster one of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, or Lamar Jackson, the instances of needing to use a player like Matt Ryan are exactly one bye week. The reality is those quarterbacks required high draft capital, and the flex positions sacrificed to procure them require dart throws from the bench. The lack of bench optimization is a common roster management mistake and an accessible improvement area.

Now to the caveat. There are a handful of currently drafted backups with the ability to ascend into weekly starts. Essentially players in the backup pool fall into two camps, proven veterans who provide reliability like Kirk Cousins or Ben Roethlisberger. These players should be left on waivers and treated as an emergency play or potentially stream into matchups in aggressive management that resembles DFS. Then there are the mystery boxes. The unique situations or unproven status creates pockets of value. These players can ascend into weekly starters, replace low-end QB1s, or be used as trade pieces to improve rosters. They are the QB Sleepers.

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The “Rookie” Sleepers

Justin Herbert exploded from nowhere to finish QB8 on a per-game basis his rookie year. Murray finished QB12 in his rookie season in 2019. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes became immediate fantasy difference makers. Recent history has come to show QBs can make immediate impacts.

All three of these players possess the rushing upside fantasy owners have come to crave at the position. All three have landed in talented offenses with supporting casts capable of propelling them to fantasy relevance.  

Lawrence was drafted first and labeled a “can’t miss” talent. His ADP reflects his immediate path to a starting job. His best season at Clemson saw him rush for under 40 yards per game, and Urban Meyer is no stranger to running his quarterbacks. Lawrence’s ADP makes him ideal for pairing him with a later QB1 selection like Tom Brady or Jalen Hurts.

Fields is drawing rave reviews, but Andy Dalton is still the projected starter. We have seen this movie before, even with Herbert last season. Fields’ talent and upside are undeniable relative to Dalton. It is only a matter of time before he seizes the job. His upside in fantasy may be even higher than Lawrence’s; in his best rushing season, he came in just under 50 yards per game. His situation with Dalton is a factor in his depressed ADP, making him worth grabbing as a high upside backup.

Lance faces the cloudiest situation. Kyle Shanahan has continually reiterated his intention to start Jimmy Garoppolo. Unlike Dalton in Chicago, there is a proven track record of success with Garoppolo, and it is the 49ers’ best interest to preserve any trade value that may be left. Lance presents every bit of the upside as the other two. Play him similar to Fields, as a high upside second QB for any team in the league.

The “One Last Ride” Sleeper

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – WAS) QB24, ADP 161
Fitzmagic! Fitzpatrick is now in his best position since his run as the Jets QB five years ago. There is plenty of reason for optimism as he ranked QB11 through the first six weeks of the season as the Dolphins’ starting QB.  

Washington offers him an opportunity to play with exciting fantasy pieces like Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. His price could not be more appealing as he will go undrafted in most single quarterback formats. Fitzpatrick is a case of ADP simply being off. When given the opportunity, he has produced it for fantasy purposes. He will be an excellent candidate for someone streaming the position and to monitor as the season continues. His potential fantasy playoff schedule is exciting, ending the season with two matchups against the Cowboys and against the Eagles, both teams who should struggle defensively.

The “Now Or Never” Sleeper

Daniel Jones (QB – NYG) QB27, ADP 193
The Giants have pushed all-in behind their young QB. The return of Saquon Barkley and the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney shows the team is eliminating excuses. It’s now or never time for Jones.

The likely reality is he falls short, and no one will be out a draft pick. But if he hits, lookout. He’s averaged well over six ypc in his career, and his 423 rushing yards were on par with Deshaun Watson and Allen. If he were to put it all together, he has the tools and weapons to become a difference-making fantasy QB.

Check out our expert consensus 2021 sleeper rankings >>

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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to a more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.

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