Who Is the QB3? (2022 Fantasy Football)
Rarely does the fantasy football community agree on anything. However, almost everyone agrees Josh Allen is the QB1 this year. While it’s not as unanimous, most agree that Justin Herbert is QB2. But who should be the third quarterback off the board?
In short, this answer could differ depending on your league’s scoring. For example, in four points per passing touchdown scoring leagues, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts have a case for the title of QB3. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have an argument to be the QB3 in a points-per-completion scoring system like the Scott Fish Bowl. However, most have argued that Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow should be the QB3, but which one is the question.
*All stats used in this article are based on PPR and six points per passing touchdown scoring.
Both teams underwent massive changes this offseason. The Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, while Darrel Williams signed with the Arizona Cardinals. To help replace Hill, the Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency and spent a second-round pick on Skyy Moore. They also signed Ronald Jones to replace Williams in the backfield.
Meanwhile, the Bengals had a quieter offseason but still made impactful moves. They added three new starters on the offensive line: Ted Karras, Alex Kappa, and La’el Collins. In addition, the Bengals signed Hayden Hurst after C.J. Uzomah signed with New York Jets, while Auden Tate signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Without a doubt, Burrow had a better offseason than Mahomes. Instead of losing his No. 1 wide receiver, Burrow got three new starters on his shaky offensive line. However, the Chiefs did an excellent job replacing Hill with their new additions at wide receiver.
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The Argument for Patrick Mahomes
Since taking over as the starter in Kansas City, Mahomes has never finished lower than QB6 any year. He has scored at least 24.2 fantasy points per game in every year of his career as the starter, including 30 or more per game twice. Last year Mahomes was the QB4, averaging 25.6 fantasy points per game.
Despite a couple of poor performances in the middle of the season, Mahomes had 10 QB1 finishes last year. He was a top-12 quarterback in 62.5% of the game during the fantasy season. Furthermore, he averaged 0.66 fantasy points per pass attempt despite only a 5.6% passing touchdown rate.
Kansas City’s passing attack has leaned on Hill and Travis Kelce since Mahomes took over as the starter. Last year, no other player on the team had a target share above 13.5% or averaged more than 8.5 fantasy points per game. So while losing Tyreek isn’t ideal, it’s not terrible news for Mahomes’ fantasy value.
The former MVP has played well without Hill in the lineup. Last year, Hill left the Week 18 matchup after playing only 14 snaps. Mahomes had 270 passing yards, two touchdowns and 30.2 fantasy points in that game.
In 2019, Hill missed four games with an injury. Yet, Mahomes played better without Hill in the lineup. He completed 63.6% of his passes for 363.3 yards, two touchdowns and scored 28 fantasy points per game in those four contests without Hill. By comparison, Mahomes completed 66.2% of his passes for 278 yards, 1.9 touchdowns and scored 24.2 fantasy points per game in the nine healthy games he played with Tyreek. It’s a small sample size, but it suggests Mahomes can produce at an elite fantasy level without his former No. 1 wide receiver.
Furthermore, Smith-Schuster has been a top-20 wide receiver three times in his five-year career. The two other years were the season when Ben Roethlisberger missed 14.5 games with an elbow injury and last season when JuJu missed 12 games with a shoulder injury. With three potentially reliable wide receivers plus Kelce, Mahomes might have the best overall receiving core of his career.
The Argument for Joe Burrow
Burrow’s NFL career got off to a hot start. After scoring only 16.3 fantasy points in his first career game, Burrow had back-to-back 24 fantasy points or higher scoring games. However, he hit a cold patch after that, scoring under 17.5 fantasy points in five of the seven games before suffering a torn ACL in Week 11.
Everyone was anxious to see Burrow in the preseason coming off the torn ACL. However, he played one game and threw one screen pass for zero yards. Yet, the lack of snaps and rust from the injury didn’t impact Burrow’s play early in the season. He had at least two passing touchdowns in his first eight games, scoring over 22 fantasy points in all but one contest.
Unfortunately, Burrow hit a rough patch in Weeks 9-13. He averaged only 14.1 fantasy points per game and scored under 19 fantasy points in every game. At the same time, Ja’Marr Chase hit the rookie wall. He was the WR41 and averaged only 9.8 fantasy points per game during that span. Thankfully, Chase and Burrow got on track and finished the year strong.
More importantly, the Bengals put more on Burrow’s plate as the season progressed. Over the first eight games of the year, Burrow averaged 30.8 pass attempts per game. He never had more than 38 pass attempts in any contest as the Bengals wanted to limit his exposure to injury coming off the torn ACL.
However, things changed over the final eight games of the season. Burrow averaged 34.3 pass attempts per game over the last eight games, throwing 40 or more times three times. That was a 10.2% increase from his first eight games of the year. He then averaged 35.5 pass attempts per game during the playoffs, throwing at least 33 times in every game.
Who Should be the QB3?
Fantasy players should feel great about drafting either quarterback this year. However, there has to be a winner to this debate.
Mahomes is the safer option. Fantasy players should feel confident he will still produce elite numbers without Hill. After averaging 28 fantasy points per game in four 2019 games, throwing to Kelce and a bunch of below-average receivers, Mahomes will be fine with his current receiving core.
Burrow has more potential upside than Mahomes. Last season, he had a higher touchdown rate (6.5% to 5.6%). Burrow also had only 228 fewer passing yards despite 138 fewer passing attempts than Mahomes. More importantly, he has arguably the best pair of young wide receivers in the NFL with Chase and Tee Higgins. Plus, Tyler Boyd and Hurst are very reliable third and fourth options.
However, the one thing to worry about with Burrow is his end to the 2021 season. He had back-to-back 40 or more fantasy point games during the fantasy playoffs. Those two games accounted for 23.3% of his fantasy point total for the year. If you remove those two games, Burrow averaged 21 fantasy points per game last season and would have been the QB12 over the 16-game pace he played.
Depending on how you build your fantasy team, either quarterback is worthy of a top-60 pick. I will draft Burrow over Mahomes and take the upside in single quarterback leagues. However, I will draft Mahomes over Burrow in Superflex leagues and take the safer floor.
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