As we gear up for fantasy draft season, here are a couple of quarterbacks who are overrated, and two more who are underrated. Those determinations are being made from a fantasy perspective, not a real-life perspective, and are taking into account factors such as positional ranks and, in particular, average draft position.
I’ll use ADP from Fantasy Pros, which aggregates from ESPN and Fantasy Football Calculator.
For more advice on drafting fantasy QBs this year, listen to the quarterbacks episode of the Fantasy Football Beat podcast by visiting our landing page or clicking the link below.
Matt Ryan, Falcons (4th among QBs; ADP: 50)
Ryan was drafted by the Falcons in 2008, and here are his positional finishes among QBs since 2010: 8, 8, 7, 15, 7, 19, 2. So it’s safe to say that his huge season last year came as a major surprise.
It’s also probably safe to say that 2016’s second-place finish was an aberration, and to a certain degree, that’s been baked into his No. 4 ranking. But with the top-tier QBs all getting drafted earlier than I’d advise, Ryan’s ADP of 50 pops out. That’s ahead of more than a few players at other positions I’d rather have, including running backs Ty Montgomery, C.J. Anderson and Mark Ingram, and wide receiver Golden Tate.
Just a quick glance at Ryan’s career statistics reveals what an outlier his 2016 campaign was. He had a touchdown percentage of 7.1, far beyond his career mark of 4.7, and his yards per attempt, 9.3, dwarfed his career mark of 7.4 (and that’s with the career numbers rising after last season).
As Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar pointed out, Atlanta’s offense was vastly more efficient overall than it had ever been under Ryan, in a way that history tells us is unlikely to repeat. In addition, offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan has left the team to become the 49ers’ head coach, getting replaced by Steve Sarkisian, whose NFL experience consists of a 2004 stint as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (10th, 88)
Andy Clayton-King, The Associated Press
In this Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. The Cowboys have everything in front of them, and one little nagging thing behind them, the New York Giants.
Sure, Prescott finished sixth in fantasy scoring among QBs last year, but in terms of per-game scoring, he was tied for 10th (okay, that’s still very impressive for a fourth-round rookie). As with Ryan, some regression is being accounted for in his rank, it’s just that he doesn’t appear to have the upside of other QBs going just after him, such as Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston and a pair of guys we’ll get to in just a moment.
Prescott’s scoring was boosted by his six rushing touchdowns, a number that seems ripe to drop. On the other hand, it’s hard to see his low-ish passing numbers (3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns) growing considerably, considering how efficient he already was (8.6 adjusted yards per attempt, third-best in the NFL) and how much the Cowboys want to run a controlled, clock-chewing offense.
It’s also entirely possible that Dallas’s vaunted offensive line, which underwent some personnel changes in the offseason, won’t play as well as it did last season. Another concern is Prescott’s relative lack of receiving weapons; after Dez Bryant, the team is relying on the underwhelming likes of Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (13th, 110)
Mark Zaleski, The Associated Press
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota rolls out against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.
Mariota is recovering from a broken leg, but that’s the “good” kind of serious injury a player can have (i.e., nothing to do with joints/ligaments), and he’s expected to be ready for training camp. Despite breaking that leg midway through the Titans’ Week 15 game, he finished 12th in fantasy scoring, but what really has people like me excited is the stretch Mariota put together from Week 5 through Week 12.
Per Pro Football Focus, he threw for a position-high 21 touchdowns during that span, with just three interceptions, while adding 242 yards and two scores on the ground. From Mariota’s first to second seasons, he made noticeable improvements in categories such as touchdown percentage (5.1 to 5.8), interception percentage (2.7 to 2.0) and adjusted yards per attempt (7.4 to 7.9), and those passing skills, especially coming from a spread offense in college, bode well for continued growth.
As with Dallas, Tennessee wants to keep the ball on the ground, but unlike the Cowboys, the Titans made major upgrades to their receiving corps, adding Eric Decker in free agency while drafting highly regarded Corey Davis fifth overall. The team also drafted another receiver, Taywan Taylor, in the third round, while keeping steady veterans Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker, giving Mariota a bevy of options.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (15th, 123)
Streeter Lecka, Getty Images
Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers yells to the sideline against the Carolina Panthers in the 4th quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 11, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C.
Did someone say “bevy of options”? The Chargers also spent a high draft pick on a wide receiver, Mike Williams at No. 7, which left some scratching their heads because the team already appeared to be in pretty good shape at that position.
Of course, it will help if Keenan Allen actually stays healthy for a change, but San Diego is also bringing back Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman, not to mention arguably the NFL’s best TE duo in Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. Oh, and running back Melvin Gordon is around to catch swing passes, as well.
Meanwhile, Rivers has finished outside the top 12 of fantasy QB scoring just twice since 2008, albeit including last year, when he was 14th. However, he also had a career-high 21 interceptions, a number that figures to drop, while throwing for at least 4,200 yards for the fourth straight year, and seventh in his past eight seasons.