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 ESPN Insider NFL: Late-round fantasy QBs with top-10 upside in 2018

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PostSubject: ESPN Insider NFL: Late-round fantasy QBs with top-10 upside in 2018   ESPN Insider NFL: Late-round fantasy QBs with top-10 upside in 2018 EmptySat Jul 28, 2018 8:13 pm

Late-round fantasy QBs with top-10 upside in 2018
Jared Goff broke out in his sophomore season, but is still outside of the top 15 at the position in ADP. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 18, 2018

KC JoynerESPN Insider

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Last season, 12 quarterbacks posted 250 or more fantasy points. That may seem like a large number of high-scoring field generals, yet it was actually the lowest volume of 250-point quarterbacks since 2012 and ended a six-year streak of an increase in 250-point quarterbacks. In 2008, there were just six, with the number growing each season until there were 18 in 2016.

Considering the overpowering upward historical trend, it would seem logical to predict that there will be more than 12 250-point passers in 2018. Given that the average value of the No. 10 scoring quarterback (the entry level to QB1 status in 10-team leagues) over the past five seasons is 269.7 points, landing a quarterback who will score 250 or more points gives a fantasy manager a very good chance having a low-tier starting-caliber fantasy quarterback.

The value proposition to this development is to identify passers who have the combination of 250-point-or-higher potential and a relatively low average draft position. Using that mindset, I've identified four quarterbacks who have that upside to go along with QB2-caliber ADP.
Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
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Washington coach Jay Gruden has a proven track record of operating a vertically-inclined pass offense. Over the past two seasons, the Redskins rank tied for second in vertical touchdown passes (29 scoring aerials traveling 11 or more yards downfield), fourth in vertical yards per attempt (12.7) and eighth in vertical passing yards (4,136). These numbers were major factors in Washington placing fifth in quarterback fantasy points during that time frame (577.9).

Smith's reputation as a dink-and-dunk game manager is perhaps misplaced, as last season he ranked first in vertical YPA (14.7) and seventh in vertical passing yards (1,993). This helped Smith rate fifth in fantasy points scored on passing plays (253.7) despite ranking 21st in vertical pass dropbacks (136).

Gruden's playcalling history says he did not bring Smith to Washington to operate a play-it-safe offense. Add that combination to Smith's downfield passing prowess and elite rushing skills, and it should equal another QB1 fantasy campaign.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

What will it take for Goff to get more fantasy managers to believe in him? Last season, Goff racked up 22 short-pass touchdowns (pay-dirt plays that were thrown 10 or fewer yards downfield), a mark that placed first and was five touchdown passes ahead of Tom Brady's second-place finish in that category. Goff ranked second only to Brady in short-pass fantasy points (166.6).

A repeat of that alone could allow Goff to meet his No. 12 ranking in quarterback fantasy points of last season, but the Rams decided to give him some much needed vertical-pass help via the addition of Brandin Cooks. Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and Julio Jones are the only wide receivers to score more vertical fantasy points than Cooks over the past two seasons (266.6).

Goff has already shown an ability to connect on long aerials, as he placed fifth in vertical YPA last season, but Cooks should help Goff improve tremendously upon his six vertical scoring throws, a total that rated tied for 29th.

All of those talents should come in handy against a schedule that includes potential high-scoring battles against the Seattle Seahawks (twice), San Francisco 49ers (twice), the Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Rivers' inconsistent history of reaching QB1 status is probably why fantasy managers are hesitant to consider him at that level following his No. 8 ranking in quarterback fantasy points last season, but there are many factors pointing towards Rivers being able to replicate his 2017 numbers.

The Chargers operate one of the most aggressive passing schemes in the league. Rivers placed fourth in vertical pass attempts (207) and sixth in stretch vertical pass attempts (70 throws traveling 20 or more yards downfield). Those elements were key to Rivers ranking second last season in fantasy points scored on passing plays (270.6).

Quality pass blocking is one of the reasons the Chargers can rely so heavily on this approach. Last season, the Chargers were the best in the league in sacks allowed (18) and their 11.7 percent rate of allowing impact pass rush pressure rated 11th best. Those numbers could improve if Forrest Lamp, an offensive guard taken in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, is able to return from an ACL injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie campaign.

For those concerned about the impact Hunter Henry's season-ending ACL injury could have on Rivers performance, it's worth noting that the Chargers ranked tied for fourth in vertical passing yards to wide receivers last season (1,647). With Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams returning to the lineup in 2018, the Chargers should be able to utilize more three-wide receiver sets to offset Henry's loss and keep Rivers in strong QB1 contention.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott dropped from sixth in quarterback fantasy points in 2016 to 11th in 2017. Fantasy managers seem to be expecting a similar decline this season, as Prescott's ADP has now dropped to mid-tier QB2 status.

Before relegating Prescott to that territory, one should take into account how bad luck affected Prescott's 2017 decline. According to a study I did on the 2017 season, Prescott lost an estimated 27.3 fantasy points because of errors such as dropped passes or inaccurate throws to wide-open receivers. That was the seventh-largest total among quarterbacks last season. A very high percentage of those errors were on passes to Dez Bryant, who ranked second among wide receivers in lost points, so losing Bryant this offseason may actually be a positive for Prescott's fantasy prospects.

Prescott should also benefit from having Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup for an entire season. Elliott's absence for six games last season is part of why Prescott ranked 32nd in fantasy points gained on defensive coverage errors (15.1). Having Elliott in the backfield for a 16-game slate should force defenses out of position on play-action fakes much more frequently and greatly increase Prescott's ranking here in 2018. Add this factor to the potential reduction in offensive errors, and it could result in Prescott's return to QB1 status.
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ESPN Insider NFL: Late-round fantasy QBs with top-10 upside in 2018

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