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Fantasy Football Quarterback Busts: Brock Purdy, Caleb Williams, Kirk Cousins (2024)

Writing about players to avoid/potential busts is one of my favorite annual topics in fantasy football. It’s far too easy to fall in love with every player, but realistically, you can’t afford to have equal exposure to every player, especially those high up on the draft board. You need to be more critical and sometimes bearish compared to the consensus on certain player average draft positions (ADPs).

Before the 2023 season, I published two pieces addressing this strategy: Fantasy Football Bust Guide: Draft Strategy & Advice (2023) and Players to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football). These articles significantly helped position me to sidestep potential pitfalls. In this comprehensive piece, we’ll integrate insights from both articles to help you construct your 2024 list of fantasy football fades.

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Fantasy Football Quarterback Busts

Brock Purdy (QB – SF)

I think my initial post-season analysis of Brock Purdy summarizes him perfectly.

“Back-to-back seasons where Purdy has posted a passing TD rate at 7% or higher. Most fantasy points scored ABOVE expectation in 2023. Nearly an average of 5 points or more scored over expectation. Tossed nearly 10 more TDS over expectation. QB33 in expected points per game. But with all that factored in. Still under 20 points per game at 19.2 (QB8). If you don’t draft Purdy, I don’t think it will kill your fantasy team. Everything has to remain perfect around him for him to be a top-8 fantasy QB, let alone top-5.”

We saw last season when Purdy lost a weapon or key offensive linemen, it was not a fun ride. Given that the 49ers are primed to experience a Super Bowl hangover – No.1 red-zone offense and No.2 healthiest offense – things might not be as smooth sailing for the third-year quarterback if the situation around him weakens.

Again, Purdy doesn’t offer the requisite rushing ability to mitigate any potential in passing TD efficiency.

I also don’t love the 49ers’ opening schedule. Home versus the Jets and then on the road versus the Vikings. New York still has one of the best defenses in the NFL. And the Vikings gave Purdy fits last season, holding him to under 13 fantasy points.

Kirk Cousins (QB – ATL)

Given the hype train surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, I expect Cousins’ ranking and average draft position (ADP) to rise. Especially given he has already been participating in the Falcons OTAs.

But I am not exactly sure that Atlanta is that much better for Cousins’ standalone fantasy value. Sure, the situation looks great… but we don’t have to imagine the impossible to see how this doesn’t pan out.

The elephant in the room revolves around Cousins’ injury and how the Achilles will impact his play in 2024. The main narrative around this is he will be fine and there’s nothing to worry about. Ok. Maybe there is nothing to worry about. Again, he’s already practicing at OTAs.

But if everybody is not considering there’s no chance his Achilles injury hinders him in production… well, it’s more advantageous to factor that into the equation and be lower on Cousins than consensus.

Second, is the brand-new situation. Zac Robinson’s system should be familiar for Cousins (stemming from the Sean McVay tree) but he is a first-time OC and play-caller. Even as great as Bobby Slowik was for Houston as a first-time OC and play-caller…he had his lumps. The Texans had the 7th-lowest early down pass play rate.

Slowik also had a historically great rookie QB that likely masked parts of the offense.

Third is chasing last year’s touchdown numbers. Cousins led the NFL in TD passes (18) before his injury. He was the fantasy QB6 overall, averaging just under 20 points per game. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing as we project into next season. As I have reviewed quarterbacks that bust are often the passers who experience TD regression the following season.

And we can’t fail to mention the selection of first-round pick, Michael Penix Jr., perhaps a slight jab at the ex-Vikings QB to put up or shut up.

The injury, a brand-new situation, zero rushing upside, a high TD rate from 2023 and selection of Penix as a top-10 pick are all red flags indicating Cousins will likely be more fantasy bust than fantasy stud in 2024. Injuries, new coaches/receivers, lack of rushing upside, TD regression, etc.

He’s also no longer throwing to Justin Jefferson, the best WR in the NFL. We can also expect the Falcons to get hit with more injuries to both their OL and top pass-catchers given how healthy they were in 2023 (No.1 between OL, WR and TE).

And the fact that Cousins was still under 20 points per game even after leading the league in TD passes in 2023, suggests his production can be found elsewhere at a fraction of the cost.

Caleb Williams (QB – CHI)

I like Caleb Williams as a late-round QB. Here’s what I wrote about him after he was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

“It’s hard to argue against Caleb Williams’ great landing spot in Chicago with the veteran weapons he has at his disposal, including D.J. Moore, D’Andre Swift, Keenan Allen, and Cole Kmet. The Bears were not finished improving Williams’ first-year potential with the selection of Washington WR Rome Odunze as the ninth overall selection.

The USC product’s off-script playmaking ability is apparent, and that makes him deadly when paired with his elite production from a clean pocket. This past season, Williams posted PFF’s highest grade operating from a clean pocket.

No Bears QB has ever thrown for 4,000 yards or 30 TDs. I hardly think it’s a stretch to see Williams hit the 4K passing yards mark in Year 1. As for fantasy football specifically, I’d be excited about Williams and his upside with rushing TDs.

He is a deadly threat near the goal line. The No. 1 overall pick scored 27 rushing TDs in 2.5 seasons as a starter at the college level. He also added 44 rushing yards per game.

Given Swift’s lack of – less call it – “red zone reliability” we could see the Bears rookie QB get credited for a lot of TDs in year 1. His passing TD-INT ratio in the red zone was 46-1 during his college tenure.

The Bears have the third-easiest schedule, and they draw the Titans at home to start the season.

They follow it up versus the Houston Texans on the road (SNF), then draw the Colts, Rams, Panthers and Jaguars in London before a Week 7 bye. Williams is one of my favorite late-round QBs, and the favorable schedule bolsters the case for drafting him to use him as your starter from the get-go. Per Sharp Football, the Bears have the easiest schedule over the first 10 weeks of the season.”

There’s the bullish case for Williams as a late-round QB, despite the track record of non-rushing rookie QBs being super fantasy-relevant. Even though I think Williams will add some value with his legs, the vast array of weapons at his disposal suggests he will try to find a receiver before relying too much on his legs.

One of his biggest “flaws” in his college profile was holding onto the ball too long. Last three college football seasons, Williams had ranked 11th, 2nd and first in the nation in average time to throw averaging 3.27 seconds. The only other notable/recent college passers that posted similar time-to-throw stats include Malik Willis (3.2), Kenny Picket (3.07) and Anthony Richardson (3.16).

Williams holding the ball for too long has been a question raised during the Bears OTAs.

But I bring up these negative points because we have to poke holes when the price continues to rise. At this point – and with the Bears being the featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks – I am not so sure he’s going to end up being a late-round QB when the dust settles closer to draft day. The price has gone way up for a rookie QB to QB12 which is very much projection-driven. These are all new coaches, receivers, etc.

And consider me somewhat skeptical about Shane Waldron as the OC after he put together an uninspiring Seattle passing game that got worse from 2022 to 2023 after they lost Canales. He also brought with him from Seattle, Kerry Joseph as the new Bears QB coach. Chicago also hired Thomas Brown as the offensive passing game coordinator. He flamed out as Carolina’s OC in 2023 after spending 2020-2022 with the Rams. Do we love this offensive coaching staff?

Williams’ median projections have him slated much closer to the QB17 range closer to Herbert, Cousins, Mayfield and Geno Smith. Want a QB with 3 strong WRs? Draft Smith.

Overall, there are much safer options at better prices you can get later in the draft. I.e. Jayden Daniels. Bet on the rushing over projected passing efficiency, especially when it comes to a first-year QB. And if you are going to be on passing efficiency, it better be cheap.

I mentioned earlier that the Bears had one of the healthiest WR/TE rooms last season. Obviously If one of the big “three” were to miss time, it would make our lives for fantasy football so much easier. But it would also hurt Williams’ upside if the “situation” isn’t as desirable as it looks like on paper.

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