Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): For many years, the league’s quarterback hierarchy has been dominated by four players: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. You could even throw Ben Roethlisberger into the mix. But maybe we should be thinking younger. I think it’s safe to say rookies Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have exceeded our expectations while Blake Bortles and Derek Carr have both made huge strides in year two. And if you look past all the off-field turmoil, even Johnny Manziel has proven he can play in this league.
Obviously if you’re in the fantasy playoffs, it’s probably too late in the game to think about switching quarterbacks. But the field is wide open in DFS and many of the players I just mentioned would make for solid plays in two-quarterback leagues.
Of all the first and second-year signal callers in the league right now, which one do you think has the brightest future? I’m not sure Blake Bortles is as talented as Winston or Mariota but he certainly has the best weapons around him with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. In fact, I’d have no problem rolling him out as a QB1 right now. Thoughts?
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): If we are talking about right now, Blake Bortles is the answer. After not scoring 21 fantasy points in any game last season, Bortles has 21-plus in half his games as a sophomore. He threw as many touchdowns against Tennessee last week as he did over the final eight games of his rookie campaign. He continues to make mistakes, but Bortles takes point-scoring chances downfield and has a stellar young playmaker in Allen Robinson who can make those risks pay off. If Allen Hurns can figure out how to stay on the field and Julius Thomas can get on the same page, this offense with an impressive young runner and an improving offensive line has the opportunity to become one of the best in the league. Bortles is the QB6 already this season, and he should carry yearly top-five upside. I like Derek Carr as well, but I think Bortles' aggressiveness gives him a higher ceiling.
I assume Jameis Winston will be asked to do more moving forward, but his volume is a fantasy concern right now. That said, he played one of the best games I have seen from a quarterback this season last week against Atlanta. He made several spectacular anticipation and tight-window throws, and his 20-yard scramble to pick up a 3rd-and-19 was the play of the week. He is showing a lot more with his legs than I expected, and his throwing ability is unquestioned. If the shackles are taken off next season, he has as much upside as anyone.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): I'm with both of you on Bortles for the remainder of this season (and he still plays New Orleans) as he has shown a high fantasy ceiling with as many top-12 scoring weeks as Cam Newton and more than Carson Palmer. But he feels like a fugazi for any long-term success. He's mostly lived on volume and has been terribly inefficient while having a crazy light schedule. He also has a really sketchy adjust yards per attempt mark for so many touchdown passes. To tack on, the Jaguars have 27 passing touchdowns to just two rushing touchdowns, a ratio that surely won't rollover year to year. But he does have Allen Robinson, who is the complete package, so even if he ends up having an Eli Manning-esque fantasy career, that's still usable.
For long term, I'm still in on Mariota being the best fantasy option. He's already averaging 18.8 points per game. That average is inflated by some huge games against Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Jacksonville so you can take that with a chunk of salt, but I still see him having that type of large output when things align. Winston's five-touchdown game would be Mariota’s third best fantasy game this season. He's also done this through injury, a coaching change, and a receiving unit that is run through a 31-year old tight end (no offense, Delanie, you're the man).
Mariota was one of the cleanest quarterback prospects to ever come through my prospect model and although predicting any quarterback's transition and progression is the hardest thing to do as an analyst, I believe he's that damn good and he just turned 22 in October.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): I like Ray's thought on the aggressiveness of Bortles, given his big targets and the development of Allen Robinson, who is going to shred this league for years. This sets up nicely for Bortles' fantasy future, given the relative lack of penalty for throwing interceptions in most fantasy leagues. We also know that volume will be there for Bortles, as he is fourth in the league in attempts so far this season.
Long term, I would rank them Mariota, Winston, Bortles, Carr, with the two rookies a slight notch above the sophomores. I leaned Winston's way prior to the season, but I have to admit that Mariota has looked fantastic and watching him burn down the field on that 87-yard touchdown run last week was seriously impressive. It will be exciting to watch these youngsters take over while the old-timers at the position begin to decline and I think we will really start to see that shift in redraft ADP starting next summer.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): There are reasons to be bullish on all four, but I've been most impressed with Derek Carr. He's so calm in the pocket, and is comfortable making any throw. His lack of weapons as a rookie made him tough to evaluate, but he got some as a sophomore, and immediately knew what to do with them. I'm actually sort of stunned Carr hasn't gotten more attention this season. He’s in the top 10 in basically every meaningful category, including tied for fourth in touchdowns. Bortles is making plays at a similar rate, but also way more mistakes.
Pantuosco: One player we haven’t brought up is Teddy Bridgewater. Last year I thought he was the most impressive rookie starter, well ahead of Bortles and Carr. I wouldn’t say he’s taken a step back but he certainly hasn’t progressed the way the others have. Even Thursday night in what might have been his best game of the season, Bridgewater left us all with a bad taste in our mouths by fumbling on the last play.
Bridgewater actually doesn’t make many mistakes—he’s only been intercepted eight times—but he has a relatively weak arm and all he’s really done this year is hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson. It’s true Bridgewater doesn’t have much to work with—Stefon Diggs is still pretty raw while Mike Wallace has mostly been a non-factor. But in year two, we’re starting to see that he has real limitations as a passer. At the very least, Bridgewater is a better real-life quarterback than in fantasy.
Hribar: Bridgewater is essentially Minnesota Alex Smith. People may take that as a slam, but you forget that Smith had legit pedigree entering the NFL and is also a fine starting quarterback in both real and fantasy football. Is he an alpha option at the position? No. But I still believe Teddy will still be a fine floor type for his career if Mike Zimmer ever wakes up.
The ironic thing is how much Adrian Peterson’s return has set back Teddy and this offense compared to last year when Bridgewater closed the season averaging 17 fantasy points per game over his final six weeks.
It ties into their head coach's "old football" mentality. They have zero offensive creativity (they run 63 percent of the time on first down when the league average is 50 percent) despite having a lot of unique pieces that should aid an offense in being functionally creative. Even Peterson could be a lot more effective and efficient if they weren't stuck in this brand of football.
The Vikings bricked the Mike Wallace fit for sure, they get no opportunities for Stefon Diggs and they don't use Jerick McKinnon at all. I'm not saying these guys are world-beaters, but they have physical specimens outside of those two in Charles Johnson, MyCole Pruitt and Cordarrelle Patterson who they can't even seem to find ancillary use for. And it’s all because they'd rather play an ancient style of football that only Jeff Fisher sits at home and watches on the edge of his seat.
Teddy Bridgewater is a "chauffeur" type of quarterback and they currently have him driving a lemon offense.