“It is more difficult to stay on top than to get there.”-Mia Hamm
With enough pomp and circumstance to rival any game, the NFL Draft has evolved into three days of sports theater. Millions tune in, as the nation’s most talented collegiate athletes huddle with family in anticipation of a lifechanging call.
As dynasty enthusiasts, we are particularly drawn to the spectacle. Where will our favorite prospects end up? And how long until this influx of talent finds its way to the stat sheet feeding the eternal quest for fantasy glory?
However, we must remember that the impact of the draft is felt well beyond the incoming rookie class. These fresh faced prospects must establish roles and vie for playing time in order to live up to their potential. With NFL jobs in extremely limited supply, this insurgence often comes at the expense of established veterans. Players who, due to advanced age or poor performance, find themselves fighting to stay relevant.
Often regarded as the face of a franchise, the quarterback is no stranger to scrutiny. Accordingly, he is likely to be the most threatened by drafted competition. Dynasty owners, particularly those from the superflex format, are similarly sensitive to instability atop quarterback depth charts.
So with the 2021 NFL Draft firmly in the rearview, which quarterbacks have temporarily survived the specter of pro football’s hallmark job turnover? What are the circumstances that lend a touch of highly coveted security to these players? And why should they be on your radar? Let’s have a look.
The Hurts hype train has continuously been building momentum. Since Carson Wentz was moved to the Indianapolis Colts in mid February, analysts everywhere have been in a lather. However, the Eagles organization has been oddly reluctant to publicly acknowledge Hurts as the anointed offensive leader.
As recently as his pre-draft presser, head coach Nick Sirianni was cagey and refused to name a starting quarterback. Naturally, this led to speculation and conjecture. With only the long-in-the-tooth Joe Flacco in town to compete, would the Eagles again invest high draft capital in a quarterback? It was, after all, a class teaming with talent at the position. Plus, insiders have made it clear that the organization never envisioned Hurts as the long-term solution at quarterback when he was selected in the 2nd round of 2020’s draft.
Earlier this offseason, reports emerged that Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, had offered an organizational directive to afford Hurts a 2021 season to prove his worth. Looking back, it’s now clear that there was truth to these reports. When the Eagles traded up in the first round from 12 to 10, high profile quarterback prospect, Justin Fields, was still on the board. Despite Fields’ upside and the scarcity of true franchise quarterbacks in the league, the Eagles instead opted for wide receiver DeVonta Smith with their pick. Regardless of any PR double speak about an open competition, this move should be viewed as a clear vote of confidence in Jalen Hurts.
Hurts’ fantasy value has been well documented at this point. Propelled by the lofty floor that his impressive rushing talents afford, the biggest question mark remains his throwing ability. If Hurts can improve on his abysmal 52% completion rate, he could have immense potential. From a weapons standpoint, Hurts is now reunited with former Clemson Tide wideout, the aforementioned DeVonta Smith. Coupled with the improved protection courtesy of a rebounding offensive line group previously decimated by injuries, there is every reason to believe that a Hurts breakout is in the wings.
Things were looking bleak for Sam Darnold, to say the least. Cast into the intense Big Apple spotlight as a former high draft selection himself, Darnold was well aware of the pressures to succeed. In his brief career as a Jet, Sam had unfortunately not lived up to the lofty projections that made him 2018’s third overall selection. The administration responsible for drafting him had long left town, leaving him at the mercy of their respective replacements. To make matters worse, the Jets’ failures had afforded them the second overall choice in a 2021 draft class rich with quarterback talent.
Then, just 24 days before the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets agreed to trade Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. In return, the Jets received a package of draft picks consisting of a 2021 6th rounder along with Carolina’s 2nd and 4th round selections in 2022. Darnold had received an immediate reprieve from his deteriorating foothold on a job in New York. However, Sam was not quite out of the woods. With the Panthers still holding the 8th overall selection in 2021, many wondered if the moderate price they’d paid for Darnold would be prohibitive to the selection of a rookie signal caller.
With the draft come and gone, we now know that Carolina showed serious commitment to their investment in Darnold. Through 7 rounds, they did not select a single quarterback prospect to threaten the top spot on the depth chart. Instead, they added a host of offensive weapons to an already ascending cast. Terrace Marshall Jr., Tommy Tremble, and Chuba Hubbard are sure to provide a boost to a team already armed with impressive wideout, D.J. Moore, and all-world running back, Christian McCaffrey.
Darnold appears to have found a firm footing in Carolina to rebound from a lackluster first act. The Panthers have agreed to pick up the 5th year option in his rookie contract, further signaling that he is indeed entrenched in their plans through at least 2022.
Admittedly, the mile high footing is not quite as firm for the third quarterback of this write up. That being said, Drew Lock undeniably escaped the NFL Draft unscathed. Despite some contrary rumors, the Broncos did not add any rookies to their uninspiring quarterback room.
This means that the most significant threat to Lock’s status as Denver’s starter is the recently acquired Teddy Bridgewater. Obtained for the grand sum of a 6th round pick after a single lackluster season as a Panther, Bridgewater is certainly not an insurmountable obstacle. After investing 2nd round draft capital in Lock at the 2019 draft, it seems the Broncos plan to challenge their investment without abandoning hope.
Lock came into the NFL boasting promising traits including an impressive arm, decent size, and good pocket mobility. Noted scout, Daniel Jeremiah, once even went so far as to compare Drew to the NFL’s gold standard, Patrick Mahomes.
However, Lock was unimpressive in 2020, his first full season as the team’s starter. Much like the previously mentioned Jalen Hurts, Lock’s 57.3% completion rate was simply not good enough. Additionally, he often put his defense at a disadvantage by leading the league in interceptions with 15.
These troubling statistics often fueled the speculation that Lock’s reign as the club’s starter may be short lived. However, with the benefit of draft hindsight, is Lock actually a sneaky buy in the dynasty market?
If Drew fails, it will certainly not be for a lacking supporting cast. Denver offers an incredibly deep roster of skill position players. Surrounded by weapons like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, and the recently acquired Javonte Williams, the Broncos are rich with youthful, talented offensive options. As evidence of their potential, consider that a disgruntled Aaron Rodgers reportedly has placed Denver on his shortlist of approved trade destinations.
Assuming that Rodgers does not make a mile high leap, Drew Lock looks to have a bead on an attractive starting job this season. His weak 2020 should drive down his price considerably, making him a very attractive investment opportunity for savvy dynasty owners.
All players have risks, and those mentioned in this article are certainly no exception. However, the common thread of these three quarterbacks is that they all successfully navigated the gauntlet of the NFL Draft without encountering a significant threat to job security.
Dynasty ownership is all about learning to read the tea leaves. In the case of Hurts, Darnold, and Lock, their respective NFL franchises have confirmed through their actions that the trio is very much a part of the immediate plan.
There are likely to be those in your leagues that feel dubious to this assessment. These are precisely the league mates that should be your trade targets. Find an owner with a disproportionate value on one of these three quarterbacks, and invest in a survivor!
I thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this piece, and would love to continue the conversation on survival quarterbacks. Please feel free to comment below or contact me @Spydes78 on Twitter. And also, stay tuned to @DynastyNerds for a steady pipeline of content from our eminently qualified staff. Nerds staff members are standing by to carry you through your offseason. Enjoy the grind!