This off-season we saw a number of NFL franchises make a change at the quarterback position.
Nick Foles replaced the much-maligned Blake Bortles in Jacksonville.
Kyler Murray stepped into the void created by the Cardinals draft-day trade of Josh Rosen.
These moves were expected. But, in the past few weeks, we’re also starting to hear some buzz about brewing quarterback controversies on teams that seemingly had their man in place.
Are we buying these controversies, or are they much ado about nothing? And what would it mean for these teams to make a preseason swap at signal-caller?
My friends Mike (@MiKeMeUpP), Samuel (@Samuel_DFF), and Angelo (@angelo_fantasy) are here to help us sort it all out.
Former #2 overall pick Marcus Mariota spends 2019 playing second fiddle to Dolphins cast off Ryan Tannehill. Buy or Sell?
BUY, but it’s about money as much as it is talent. Mariota’s career statistics show him as the superior passer, just by a hair, though Tannehill has certainly looked better this summer.
I think this staff knows what they have in Mariota, and I don’t think they want to pay him the kind of money that even a bottom-tier NFL starter will make. Blake Bortles received a 54m contract from the Jaguars about 18 months ago; Mariota would certainly command more than that, probably closer to 27m / year. Dak was offered 30m and turned it down.
They would rather make a run at one of the talented QBs coming in the 2020 NFL draft, sit the rookie behind Tannehill, and build a contender around that cheap rookie contract.
Ryan Tannehill is just the milquetoast game manager to keep the Titans afloat until they find the real face of the franchise. Also, he has soundly outplayed Mariota in the 2019 preseason, for what that’s worth. The Titans will be looking for an excuse to make a switch, and Tannehill takes over the first time Mariota gets banged up.
SELL. I’m all about zigging when others zag and in the case of Mariota, the public has zagged so far I’d posture they no longer know what zigging even looks like anymore. Here’s Mariota’s ADP since he entered the league in 2015: QB22, QB18, QB7, QB18, QB23.
Is the dropoff from 2018-19 warranted? The dude was forced to play in an injury-plagued season where he lost feeling in his throwing hand. I’m no expert, but I think that’s a pretty crucial function to have as an NFL QB. We’ve seen him perform at a high level in his sophomore campaign with 3.4K yards passing, 26 TDs to only 9 INTs on top of another 300+ yards rushing. The Titans have added one of my favorite rookie receivers in AJ Brown on top of the talented Corey Davis. When healthy, I think Mariota can be a decent QB2 option in SF formats with his rushing floor. Is he a health risk? Sure, but let’s not pretend like Tannehill is the picture of health himself. I got Mariota recently in the 14th round of a SF startup and that just shouldn’t ever happen. Go buy him now on this recent “Tannehill as a potential starter” news.
SELL that Tannehill takes the starting job from Mariota this year. I do think that Tannehill is likely the most qualified backup, or at least in consideration for that title, in the league, but Mariota should be given one more year (pending his health) to showcase that he truly can be a starting QB in the NFL. However, I do see a scenario where the Titans realize their season is lost midway through the year, and elect to ride out Mariota to the end and then draft a QB in 2020.
BUY. 2019 is Mariota’s audition for another NFL organization. Tannehill is by no means the answer to the Titans long-term solution at the position, but he is an adequate placeholder who will take Mariota’s job if given the opportunity.
This is also the best supporting cast Tennessee has had in quite some time. A healthy Delanie Walker and the additions of A. J. Brown & Adam Humphries to their receiving core could propel Tannehill to relevance if/when Mariota is forced from the action.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Brady protege Jimmy Garoppolo finds his handsome self on the chopping block after an ugly five consecutive interceptions during practice and going 0/6 in preseason week two. Nick Mullens steals his job & his girl.
Buy or sell?
SELL. While the Mullen truthers will point to the stat comparison between Jimmy G and Mullens last year as being almost identical, Jimmy G is the more talented of the two and it isn’t really all that close in my opinion. Jimmy certainly did not look good in his first action in the preseason this year, but I will also not be screaming to sell him after a single outing. Fantasy football fans are quick to judge after limited action. When Kyler Murray struggled in his first start, the general reaction was, “Give him time to get adjusted to the game and get comfortable; he’s too talented not to be good!” After Jimmy G struggled in his first game back, people were quick to point to the success that Mullens had last year and are already fading on Jimmy. I am sticking with Jimmy G and his handsome face; I believe the talent is there.
SELL. Don’t think this one is up for much debate. As impressive as Mullens was in his debut, his shortcomings came through in the end with the 49ers putting up a 4-12 finish on the season. With the unwarranted Mullens hype and the Jimmy G hate for throwing 5 interceptions in practice driving his price down, I think Jimmy G is actually a clear buy right now. Wasn’t too long ago that people were taking this guy as a top 12 QB. I was out at that price but at his current ADP of QB18, I’m buying and selling this take that Mullens is somehow relevant without another season-ending injury to Jimmy GQ.
SELL. Zero chance Mullens steals his job outright. Jimmy G will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal and will surpass expectations in 2019, despite some pre-season struggles.
Mullens is one of the better back-ups in the league, but make no mistake this is Garoppolo’s offense and I expect it to be for the foreseeable future.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Fantasy Analysts, Giants fans, and football-watchers everywhere finally get their wish as Eli Manning is supplanted by his understudy and TV-stand in Daniel Jones. Buy or sell?
SELL. Daniel Jones would be starting from Game 1 if I got my wish….but that’s not going to happen. Jones will sit behind Manning for 2019, with no guarantee of being the opening day starter in 2020. For Jones to become a fantasy asset in the future they will need to improve at wide receiver and show that building an offense that can compete in the NFC East is a priority.
What we have seen in the pre-season has been encouraging from Jones, but now is not the time for him to shine in the Big Apple.
BUY: Daniel Jones, rookie mistakes and all, is a better quarterback than the 2019 ghost of Eli Manning. He’s lost some fumbles in the preseason, but he’s also thrown some darts that display his capacity to make reads and deliver the ball.
While Eli might play adequately behind Saquon Barkley and an improved O-line, that defense isn’t going to do him any favors. With a losing record at the bye, John Mara finally gives Shurmur the go-ahead to start his QB1.
BUY. In the first-ever #NerdHerdMailbag article, I had Daniel Jones as my pick for the rookie QB to contribute the most to your team outside of Kyler Murray- and that was before he lit up the preseason in back to back games. I’ll just reiterate what I said there: DJ checks the boxes in terms of key factors I look for in QBs to succeed from a fantasy perspective: 1) Opportunity, 2) Surrounding Talent and 3) Rushing Upside. I feel like DJ has all 3 and most importantly has the rushing upside. Based on the preseason, he places the ball a lot better than I would’ve thought, which is an added bonus. With Barkley, Engram and Sterling Shepard at his disposal, I think DJ can be a contributor in year one for your fantasy team. I would be looking to trade for him in all Superflex formats before his price goes up even more upon being confirmed as the starter later on this season.
While John Elway maintains his “elite-level” starter, Joe Flacco is the Broncos QB of the present and the future, he can’t hold down the rocket-armed Drew Lock. Buy or sell?
SELL. I wasn’t a big fan of Lock coming out of college. Sure, the dude has an absolute cannon for an arm, but playing QB in the NFL is about the ability to process reads and ball placement, which he lacks. Watching Drew Lock play under pressure is quite worrisome. I will say he made a few throws during the preseason which surprised me, but I think he still has a long way to go. Also, Elway’s history of scouting and drafting QBs is atrocious, which is embarrassing in its own right and does not inspire confidence.
I’m not a fan of Flacco as he’s probably the most overpaid QB of the past 2 decades, but at least we’ve seen him have some success in the NFL when given weapons. Emmanuel “Wolverine” Sanders looks great in preseason and, with Sutton and Hamilton in waiting, this might be the most talent Flacco has had at WR for a while. Broncos will probably be an average team that is in the playoff hunt. I don’t see them throwing that away to play Lock.
SELL. Lock is far from being a starting NFL quarterback, and Elway knows this. Flacco will do enough to start opening day 2020. Even though Lock has flashed his arm talent and the improvisational ability we saw at Missouri, he has made simple mistakes and does not look comfortable under center, yet.
Can Lock be a starting quarterback in the NFL?
But, I don’t think Lock or Flacco will be Elway’s future quarterback. One of the main issues is that they don’t project to be bad enough in the next couple of seasons to warrant the capital needed to select a top tier talent at the position. Elway is running out of time here and doesn’t have the greatest track record when evaluating talent.
SELL, but only because of injury. Drew Lock isn’t ready. Flacco is a better QB. I’d like to see Lock sit the whole season, but I didn’t see that playing out. Now it looks like he’ll start the season on IR.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Joe Cool can stay healthy, either.
Whatever his shortcomings, it’s inarguable that Flacco is tough as nails, and he’s certainly shown quality QB play at times, including the beginning of 2018. He’ll play through injury- the back in 2017, the hip last year- but he won’t play at his highest levels.
There’s still a world where Lock is activated before Flacco starts to wear down, but, without those all-important reps he’s missing right now, I don’t see Vic Fangio or Elway perceiving him as ready.
If Flacco gets dinged we will probably see Kevin Hogan or Brett Rypien before we see Lock, and the kid is worlds better off for it, though it will make for a rough year for Broncos fans.
Josh Rosen gets his revenge on the Cardinals by ousting journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and setting the NFL on fire. Buy or sell?
SELL. Rosen gets the start, but he will not be startable in any format in fantasy football this year. I heard a great thought after Fitzmagic was signed that essentially said the Dolphins were already planning on #TankingForTua this year by signing Fitz, but that they were going to have a ton of fun on their way to an early 2020 draft pick. We all saw Fitz air it out and put up some insane passing numbers last year, but he could not maintain a starting job in Tampa Bay. The Dolphins have to at least see what they have in Rosen, so I am buying the fact that he will earn the starting job, but I do predict the Fins will draft a QB in 2020.
SELL. I’m buying Josh Rosen but I don’t think he’ll be setting the NFL on fire by any means. It just doesn’t make sense for the Fins to start Fitz in the long term and not even try and see what they have in Rosen. They need to figure out whether or not they need to draft a QB next year. As much as we love Fitz for fantasy, we know what he is at this point. He’s a career journeyman and backup QB that once in a while puts on a little magic show. Eventually, Rosen has to get the start because, at the end of the day, he’s a more talented QB. But I wouldn’t expect too much production given Rosen can’t run and his most talented WRs are a hurt Albert Wilson and a UDFA in Preston Williams. That’s not a recipe for success.
SELL: Fitzpatrick isn’t the quarterback of the future, but I see little doubts that he doesn’t start and finish 2019 as the starter. I am not high on Rosen as a talent and believe the Dolphins need to vastly upgrade their offensive line before he’s ready to be under center.
I agree with Samuel, and would not be surprised if we see Miami take a quarterback next spring with a presumed top 3 selection.
Case Keenum defies the expectations of analysts and football fans everywhere by recreating his Minnesota glory days and staving off rookie Dwayne Haskins. He carries the ‘Skins to a winning record and saves Jay Gruden’s job. Buy or sell?
SELL. I’m a big believer in Haskin’s talent and I’m buying him in dynasty. I do think that Keenum will get the start initially and I hope he holds on to the job longer so that Haskins isn’t thrown to the wolves on a talentless roster.
In terms of production, we’ve seen what Keenum is in the NFL. He’s a career journeyman that had one blip highlight season with the Vikings while passing to the league’s best WR duo. He crashed back down to reality in spectacular fashion in his brief stint with the Broncos, who had more talent on the roster than do the Redskins. Resurrecting his career in Washington is not in the cards.
SELL. In recent history, only Patrick Mahomes has been drafted in the first round and then sat the entire season (until a meaningless week 17 where starters were rested). Even Paxton Lynch had the chance to display his wares by week 4, though it came via Trevor Siemian’s sprained shoulder.
Keenum will start the season, and rightfully so. Haskins has a lot of work to do before he’s an NFL starter- and that Washington team has a lot of work to do to be an NFL team. Without Trent Williams, the o-line is even more of a mess; the most talented pass-catcher just got his 7th concussion; the running game is led by a 34-year-old, two rookies coming off of knee surgeries, and a scat back that’s only played 16 games once.
Keenum isn’t bad, but there’s not much to work with this year in Washington, and it’s going to be tough to keep the rookie off the field as the team piles up losses. Look for Haskins to start after the week 10 bye; a home match up against the Jets should give him a soft landing.
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