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The Quarterback Controversy – 2021 Edition

Few things in the NFL are as much fun as the annual quarterback controversies! My Nerd friends and I dive into the good ones here

Each spring the league bubbles with questions over roles and depth charts. Who wins the job? Where do the rookies land? Does this vet have one last hurrah in him, or is he going to be replaced mid-season? From breakouts to busts to the occasional redemption story, few things in the NFL are as much fun as the annual quarterback carousel and the controversy it brings.

This year I’ll be teaming up with some of my fellow Nerds to offer you our takes on the QB questions big and little.

Zareh Kantzabedian (@zkantz), Keith Ensminger (@thesmingdynasty), Doc Mitchell (@reflipewthenuz), and Woo Lee (@woolee_ffb) are here to tell you why I’m wrong and how the QB dominoes will fall this year!

Here we go!

The Washington Football Team

Mark Brown/Getty Images

Ryan Fitzmagic was signed this spring to bring his special brand of wizardry to Washington.  But he’s got a Heinicke nipping at his heels, as his young backup put up a stellar performance against Tampa Bay in the 2020 wild card round. 

Buy or sell:  Fitzmagic plays 17 games in 2021 and finishes as a top-10 fantasy QB? Or does Heinicke steal the job?

Zareh:Sell. Ron Rivera knows what he got himself into when he signed the wily veteran. The WFT defense should still be considered the backbone of this team and Fitzy has the tendency to play a bit “loose” at times. Rivera knows that they are contenders to win the division and he won’t hesitate to throw in young Heinicke if need be. While I love Fitz, there won’t be much room for his shenanigans in D.C.
Woo:
Buy. Fitzmagic is a journeyman QB that isn’t afraid to sling the football. Because of this gunslinger mentality, Fitzpatrick either wins you games or loses you games depending on his play that week. Looking at his past two seasons with Miami, he was actually a viable fantasy QB. In 2019, he averaged 16.1 points per game and 17 points per game in 2020. The WFT has an average Oline with an amazing weapon in McLaurin. The weapons that Washington has combined with being in the worst division in the entire NFL, there is optimism that Fitzpatrick can finish as a top-10 fantasy QB in 2021. Heinicke did show potential this past year, but Rivera wouldn’t have paid Fitzpatrick if he really believed Heinicke was the answer. There is always a possibility that Heinicke seizes the opportunity when given, but for now Fitzpatrick will be the starting QB. Without an injury or a catastrophic game, Fitzpatrick will be the starting QB under center for the WFT in 2021.
Doc:
Sell. Fitzmagic has already admitted that he was promised nothing when he signed on with WFT. I believe he will be the mentor to a rookie that is selected in the upcoming draft. Most likely the situation will mirror what he had with the Dolphins. I do not on the other hand believe Heinicke will threaten Fitz’s status as the week 1 starter.  

San Francisco

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF Times)

Last time I ran this article, the rumor was the Jimmy Handsome was going to be supplanted by Nick Mullens.  

We’re back to that same song again this year but with a probable top-5 NFL draft pick as the new Niner’s signal-caller.  But who will it be?  And will Garropolo play out the season or find himself shipped in a trade?

Buy or sell:  The 49ers draft Mac Jones at #3 and trade away Jimmy G- to whom? Or do they draft a different player?

Doc:Buy. The early indications are that San Francisco will select Mac Jones in the upcoming draft. I believe they are committed to allowing Jimmy to play this upcoming season. While they seem to have soured on his long-term value they are smart enough to know that they cannot win a Super Bowl with a rookie QB. By allowing their QB of the future to sit and learn they have the best of both worlds.  
Keith:Sell. I don’t think the NIners sold the farm trading up to three to get a player who likely would have fallen a bit further. I don’t know which quarterback they’re planning on taking, but I don’t believe that it is Mac Jones. I do believe they’re taking a quarterback for sure, however. I also believe they hang on to Garoppolo for the time being as insurance, not to mention the apparent lack of trading suitors.
Zareh:
Sell. The New York Jets are taking Justin Fields at #2. The Niners won’t be selecting a QB at #3 though. They’ll instead pivot and take best player available. That player being Kyle Pitts. It’s not completely irrational to envision the Niners offense being just as, or more dangerous, with two elite tight ends as it would be with any of the remaining QBs left on the board. 

New England

Credit: NYTimes.com

Patriots fans had high hopes for Cameron Newton after his all-star performance against SEA in week 2 of 2020.  Unfortunately, that star fell hard, as he would only throw for 300 yards one other time all year, and only threw 6 more TDs over 14 more games.  Was it just COVID and a lack of WR help, or is Cam washed?

Buy or sell:  Cam puts it all together, returns to form, and finishes as a top 10 fantasy QB? Or does Cam get replaced during the season?

Woo:Sell. Cam Newton will have a bounce-back season, but a top 10 fantasy QB is a bit too optimistic given his situation and skill set. I expect him to bounce back into the top 15 QB range. The Patriots have loaded up on weapons this year, but it won’t be any use if Cam Newton can’t make the throws. There have been too many times where he just flat-out misses receivers and it’s because we are starting to see a Cam Newton without athleticism. I do not think he will get replaced during the season because the Patriots simply do not have any other viable options at the QB position. 
Keith:
Buy. It pleases me to be the only one in the group so far saying to buy Cam. People forget that pre-COVID, he scored 23.8 points per game. He was QB7 by average! The Patriots made numerous moves to improve their offensive skill positions this year, signing multiple players which match Newton’s targeting preferences. Now back to full health, and with a full year in New England, I think Cam rebounds in 2021.
Doc:
Sell. This one was a tough call. I do believe that Cam gets things turned around this season. However, i think he finishes somewhere in the 11-15 range. He had zero help last season and was still a QB2 despite all the difficulties he endured. The Pats will certainly search for a long term answer but Cam will resurrect his career IMO. Sneaky SF buy.

New Orleans

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The controversy has been looming down in New Orleans for the past few years as Drew Brees’s retirement loomed.  With the legend finally hanging up the cleats, who will take over the helm for the Saints?  Will it be Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, or a player who’s not yet on the roster?  

Buy or sell:  Jameis Winston cleans up the INTs- the Lasik worked!- and rehabs his career as the new face of New Orleans football. Or is it Taysom, or neither, for 2022?

Doc: Sell. This has the look of an extremely sticky situation. Jameis is likely damaged goods at this point in my humble opinion. In college he managed to get by with superior physical tools. In the NFL this simply will not pass muster. He reminds me very much of Jeff George. All the talent in the world but just not a great QB. Hill will likely provide the best chance of winning games with his legs. However, coming into the season at 31 Taysom Hill isn’t the long term answer either. We will surely see both of these QB’s on the field in 2021.
Woo:
Buy. People are quick to forget Jameis threw for 33 TDs and 5109 yards in 2019. He did throw for 30 INTs which is something that should not be ignored, but 30+ TDs and 5000+ passing yards still indicates he has potential. This also shows that Jameis is not afraid to sling the football down field which will help the Saints stretch the field better than when Drew Bree played. With the excellent coaching in Sean Payton and Jameis’s potential upside, I believe Winston will resurrect his career in NO. If Sean Payton can help that TD/INT ratio, we will be here in 2022 talking about a superstar QB.
Zareh:Sell. Taysom Hill takes over the starting QB position. Hill went 3-1 as the Saints starter in 2020. He often operated efficiently and his pocket mechanics mirrored those of Drew Brees. Hill was efficient with short and intermediate throws while leaving a bit to be desired on his deeper passes. While he did throw two INT’s in his 4 starts, He isn’t as reckless as Winston is. 
So it took Winston 5 years, playing under a professional football team, to finally realize he needed eye surgery? That was the problem? 
Winston is seemingly one egregious error fix from becoming a great QB. But he has arguably put his team in more holes than any QB in recent memory and in no time in the years prior has that shown any sign of being resolved. If it truly is a vision issue, fine, I will take the L. In fact I’d be happy to. I want to see him succeed.

Carolina

Sam Darnold (Clutch Points)

The Carolina Panthers mades waves (and raised some eyebrows) by trading a handful of picks for 23-year-old NYJ QB Sam Darnold, the #3 overall pick in 2018.  Many see the young gunslinger as a bust, while others point to flashes of brilliance, an excellent profile, and Adam Gase as reasons for optimism.

Buy or sell:  Darnold turns it around, becoming the franchise QB for Carolina and a top fantasy asset.  Or is he one and done as a Panther?

Doc:
Buy.
Sam has always had the physical talent to be a franchise QB. He is an athletic, charismatic, and humble leader. Despite all the issues he had to endure in NYC he never once threw his Coach, Team, or Organization under the bus. In Carolina he will have the talent around him to finally justify his draft stock. 
Zareh:Buy. I had to watch a Sam Darnold highlight reel before I could muster up the confidence to say that but I’ve been a closet Darnold fan. I know that Darnold is a superior QB to Bridgewater and am confident that Matt Rhule can push Darnold to find more success than Teddy B ever did
Keith:

Sell. Sorry, guys. Lifelong Jets fan here. Darnold just doesn’t have it. Was Gase a terrible coach? Yes. Did the Jets have a terrible roster? Yes. Those facts cannot also excuse Darnold for being mostly a bad quarterback for much of the past three seasons. He cannot read defenses. He doesn’t see open receivers. He overthrows receivers. Those are not the coach’s fault. They just aren’t. 
I also would disagree with Doc when he says Darnold is a leader. I saw the exact opposite. He has been too laid back, too lackadaisical. Everyone cites his age as why you should buy him, but what if he came into the league too young? What if he is still seeing ghosts, so to speak? It is hard to quantify, but I just don’t see that he has the “it” factor so many quarterbacks have at the NFL level. Even if he improves from where he is, how good does he get? Instead of the 33rd ranked quarterback, does he become the 20th ranked? The 15th ranked? Are you paying a big contract for that? 
If – and I think it is a big if – he succeeds in Carolina, it will be on the backs of the skills of McCaffrey, Moore, and Anderson, not because of any sort of elite talent from Darnold.

Detroit

Jared Goff (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Up north, the Lions have a QB question of their own after trading beloved vet Matthew Stafford for underperforming #1 pick Jared Goff.  King Goffrey has flashed at times but struggles with consistency, and was often pointed to as the anchor holding back the LA Rams franchise.  Does Goff’s best football lie ahead, or will he go down as a bust?

Buy or sell:  The Lions got a steal on a young franchise QB, and Goff will succeed in Detroit, starting well into his 30s.  Or is he just a bridge QB?

Zareh:Sell. The Lions sacrificed $33 million in cap space for two firsts and a 3rd round pick. Let the tanking begin. Goff had 1 great year with the Rams when they went to the Super Bowl. That flame died quickly though as Goff started his descent into mediocrity in the years to follow. While he possesses veteran savvy, Goff is a far cry from becoming the Lions’ future franchise QB. It also doesn’t help that the Lions are going to be somewhat ill equipped to bolster Goff’s talents considering how barren they are at the wide receiver position. If Goff couldn’t do it under the brilliance of Sean Mckvay, it’s unlikely he gets it done anywhere else. 
Doc:Buy. Goff became the whipping boy for McVay’s failures over the last couple of seasons with the Rams. Following the downfall of Todd Gurley, McVay seemed at a loss as to how to morph his offensive team. The Rams have repeatedly spent like drunken sailors on veterans all while neglecting their future by repeatedly trading away early picks. All the while their offensive line has deteriorated. True, Goff is not Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen. He is not likely to succeed when facing massive pressure. However, if surrounded with the right pieces he can still deliver accurate passes and display the talent that made him the no.1 overall pick. The Lions are in for a long rebuild but Goff is just the type of QB to lead them through the doldrums and back to the playoffs. His new staff will lean on the running game and highlight his strength with the play-action.
Woo:

Sell. Goff is an average QB that shines when everything is going well and loses you games when the game is not going smoothly. Last season he regressed heavily. Goff did however only play 7 games last season due to injury, but had a QBR of 18.3. He threw for 5 TDs and 7 INTs. The Rams were in a much better situation than the Lions are in now and Goff just could not get it done. The Detroit Lions are in an even worse situation for Goff and will lose a lot of games. Lions as an organization are in shambles and without much stability or draft capital to work with. Jared Goff needs to be able to help minimize the mistakes and inability to stop anyone on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, Jared Goff is not that guy. 

Texas

Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

Down in Texas, there’s a different kind of controversy.  We’ll stay out of that, but just ask the question- who’s the starting QB for the 2021 Texans?

Buy or sell:  Deshaun Watson plays 17 games this season- all for Houston.  If not Watson, who starts?

Zareh:Hard Sell. As it stands today, not only is Watsons 2021 season in doubt, but his career all together. If you have him in dynasty, like I do, I would start making other plans. As it stands, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley are the only other QB’s in Houston. Taylor is the only respectable option at the position and the remaining QBs in free agency aren’t any better. 
Woo:
Sell. The sheer amount of cases that have been filed against Deshuan Watson is a lot to overcome for himself and especially in such a short period of time. Unfortunately this may take a year for Watson to settle and will most likely be placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list. Watson also pledged to sit out if he was eligible to play for his camp and his agent. Watson will not play another snap unless it is for a team other than the Houston Texans this year.
Keith:
Sell
. I think Watson is 100% a hold, if not even a buy himself, but if the question here is does Watson play 17 games in the 2021 season? No, I can’t in good faith say that would be the case. Whether through injury, suspension, or trade, the probability of him playing all 17 games is extremely low.
I have no idea what the Texans are doing with their team, so it’s hard to say what they’ll be going with at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor, I suppose? Yikes.

Philadelphia

NFL.com

The City of Brotherly Love has a QB conundrum of their own.  Do they build around dual-threat Jalen Hurts, or bring in some competition at pick 12 or in the form of a verteran?  Will Hurts make an impact in his first season as the starter, or will he find himself back to backing up in 2022?

Buy or sell:  Jalen Hurts thrives in the Eagles offense, finishes as a top-10 fantasy QB, and keeps the job for ‘22

Zareh:Buy. Hurts shows promise as a passer but what fantasy gamers want is that sweet rushing upside. In 4 games last year, Hurts rushed for 272 yards and 3 TD’s. While it will take time for Hurts to develop, like Josh Allen, I think we’ll see plenty of rushing to make up for the lack in the passing game. What that does for his receivers is another conversation. 
Keith:Sell. Hurts burst onto the fantasy scene last year, but to expect him to continue those numbers is unrealistic. Defenses will have tape on him going into this season, and they will figure him out. Look no further than the final game of the season against Washington to see how limited he is as a passer.
Between his limited skill set and the Eagles’ cap and roster woes, Hurts is one of my biggest sells of the offseason. It may not be apparent the first few weeks, but I assure you by the end of the season, you’ll wish you had traded him when you could.
Doc:
Sell.
Jalen Hurts will be far better for your fantasy teams than for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is limited as a passer and there is only so much his natural rushing ability will cover for. Unlike similar athletes such as Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, and Mike Vick, Hurts doesn’t have the arm talent. Look no further than Alabama. When the team needed to pass the ball to come back in the National Championship and open up the offense they turned to Tua. The Eagles reportedly made an effort to trade up this year to select a new QB. If you can get top 10 value for Hurts I would cash out on that while the iron is still hot. He could very well have a nice fantasy season but his long term value is questionable for me.  

Seattle and Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
Keith:Sell. It’s a long offseason, isn’t it? How often do we do this dance? Every offseason – big trades, three team trades, twenty teams with new quarterbacks! The NFL isn’t fantasy football or Madden. Things like marketing and jersey sales play a part in moves like these. Before Wilson, the Seahawks franchise was a complete afterthought for years and years. The Packers would fade back into their 1970s and 1980s “remember when” obscurity if they let go of Rodgers. No, they’ll still be with their teams in 2022.
Woo:Buy. I think both QBs are in a situation where they are not satisfied with the teams they are playing for. I believe something can be worked out between Wilson and Carrol, but Aaron Rodgers is a completely different story. The Green Bay Packers seem to be building for a future that does not include Rodgers. Selecting Love in the first round and then AJ Dillon in the second indicates that Green Bay has no intention of trying to win with A-Rodg. It seems like the Packers are keeping Rodgers around out of sheer respect.
Zareh:
Sell for Rodgers. I hate to be the wet blanket, but these are generational QB’s. I don’t see the Packers finding success with another QB anytime soon or will one become available to them. Unless he falls off the cliff athletically, he stays in Green Bay.
Buy for Wilson. I think Wilson’s cries have been heard from the higher ups. Unfortunately, little has been done about it. Per Pro Football Reference, Wilson was top 5 in pressure, hits and sacks. If Wilson remains there, he will have played his last game for the Seahawks in 2020 and leave the building with an Earl Thomas Esque hand gesture. 

Alright folks! That’s it for this one. Hope you had as much fun reading as we did writing this piece.

Where were the guys right? Where were they wrong? Which QBs did we miss? Let me know at @ekballer on Twitter!

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