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“Big Rigg’s” Top Rookie Quarterbacks for 2018

Rookie quarterbacks rarely provide consistent fantasy production right out of the gate.  Normally, you care more about which rookie quarterbacks are playing so you can stream team defenses against them rather than consider which rookie quarterback to start in your lineup. In the recent past, a few rookies QB’s have come through for fantasy because they’ve been able to get the job done with the legs as well as their arm.  Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson come to mind, although Watson was injured last year after making just a few starts.  That being said, most of these quarterbacks are more viable dynasty/keeper picks than re-draft picks, especially if they offer little ability to move the ball on the ground, but they’re all worth monitoring during draft season because you simply never know if an injury will make one of these guys relevant in a hurry.  In most cases, the scheme and supporting cast around the QB is almost as important as the talent itself, as evidenced by Bill O’Brien scheming the Texans offense around Deshaun Watson’s skill set in 2017, allowing Watson to flourish in the process.

Sam Darnold – QB NY Jets – 6’3” 221 pounds – Sam Darnold’s grandfather was one of the original Marlboro men.  You may ask why that matters.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t, but it’s cool to say.  Darnold looks the part and has a big arm.  Josh McCown is the placeholder in New York but he will be 39 years old by the time the season starts and has never played 16 games in a season.  Darnold is an excellent dynasty QB and is a decent bet to get on the field this year given McCown’s injury history and age.  Darnold was criticized during the pre-draft process for being a little too aggressive with the ball and for throwing too many interceptions during his final year at USC.  As a coach, I’ve found it’s always easier to take an aggressive, risk taking player and discipline them to be smarter with their decisions rather than it is to take a risk averse, passive person and try to get them to come out of their shell.  That being said, if the Jets can tame Darnold’s gun slinging mentality and coach him up, he will be just fine in NY.  The Jets have Bilal Powell on the roster who catches the ball out of the backfield really well, and taller, lengthy pass catchers in ASJ, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor and Robby Anderson which should give Darnold some room for error.  In 2005 the NY Giants signed Plaxico Burress, a big bodied wide receiver with a big catch radius, in an effort to help Eli Manning early in his career and that worked out well.  Hopefully the same holds true for Sam Darnold.

Josh Rosen – QB Arizona Cardinals – 6’4” 226 pounds – Josh Rosen has experience playing under center and has tremendous accuracy, but he lacks zip on the deep ball, which hurts his deep ball accuracy.  This may seem like a red flag, but guys like Tom Brady and Joe Montana had similar concerns coming out of college and they ended up figuring it out once they got to the league.  I am not comparing Rosen to Brady or Montana, I am simply saying that the lack of a big time deep ball won’t necessarily bury him in the league.  The major red flag with Rosen throughout the pre-draft process was the perception that he’s not receptive to coaching and he was not well liked by his teammates.  With a veteran like Sam Bradford already on the Cardinals roster, we will find out really quickly if Rosen has the maturity to hack it in the NFL.  If Rosen doesn’t beat out Bradford initially and pouts as the backup, he may find himself in the doghouse with both coaches and teammates in a hurry.  When Rosen does play, however, he should perform just fine.  Rosen is the most NFL ready of all the rookie quarterbacks and he does have a decent supporting cast in Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson to distribute the ball to.  The Cardinals are a team to watch out for this year, because they have several intriguing young receivers on their roster in Chad Williams, Christian Kirk and Brice Butler.  If one of those receivers breaks out in 2018, points will be scored in Arizona.

Baker Mayfield – QB Cleveland Browns – 6’1” 215 pounds – Baker Mayfield may not have height on his side but forget that, he’s a competitor, this guy gets it and he’s not going to settle for anything less than being great.  Mayfield didn’t play from under center a lot in college but he was the most accurate passer in college football last year which is a big deal.  Often times, as discussed below with Josh Allen, you cannot fix accuracy.  I would take accuracy, intensity and competitiveness over height and experience playing under center every day of the week.  Tyrod Taylor is currently penciled as the starter in Cleveland, but who knows how long he’ll be able to hold that down.  Taylor has proven to be a winner, but he’s also a very mobile and injury prone QB which may give way to Mayfield sooner rather than later if he gets hurt while running.  The Browns have a stable of solid, young running backs in Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson who will be able to support Mayfield if he’s pressed into action, and I cannot think of a better WR corps in the league than that of Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry and Corey Coleman.  I didn’t even mention the fact that the Browns have 2nd year David Njoku, a freakish athlete, at tight end.  The Browns have a solid offensive line and solid play makers around Mayfield, so if he does play early, he has the support around him to succeed immediately.

Lamar Jackson – QB Baltimore Ravens – 6’2” 216 pounds – During the pre-draft process, Lamar Jackson drew comparisons to Michael Vick.  Jackson is a little taller than Vick was, but his arm is a little better overall.  That being said, Jackson’s slight frame makes him an injury risk should he take off running.  Unlike Cam Newton who is the same size as most NFL linebackers, Jackson is not quite there yet and we simply won’t know if he can hold up against NFL size linebackers until the bullets start flying for real.  After seeing Deshaun Watson burst onto the scene in 2017, you need to consider Jackson a viable fantasy option from the start if he’s able to beat out Joe Flacco because of the damage he can do with his legs.  Jackson is a must own in keeper and dynasty formats and if Flacco goes down in the pre-season, he may end up a high end QB2.  However, it is unlikely that Jackson beats out Flacco this year, so he may not pay dividends until the 2019 season.

Josh Allen – QB Buffalo Bills – 6’5” 237 pounds – When I look at Josh Allen, I cannot help but think of Jeff George and Kyle Boller, both of which were big armed NFL busts.  It’s well publicized that Allen has major accuracy issues and QB’s who struggle with accuracy in college rarely improve that trait once they enter the NFL.  However, Allen’s QB coach during the pre-draft process, Jordan Palmer, blamed much of Allen’s accuracy issues on poor footwork.  If Palmer is indeed correct, then the Buffalo Bills just drafted lightning in a bottle and have their first franchise QB on the roster since Jim Kelly retired.  If Palmer is not correct, and Allen simply isn’t an accurate thrower, then the Bills just drafted JP Losman all over again, ugh that would be terrible.  The Bills have big targets in the passing game in Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay who should help Allen if he does indeed struggle with accuracy, and having LeSean McCoy as a check down option will not hurt either.  AJ McCarron is currently listed as the Bills starting quarterback, but at $5M a year, the Bills are hardly committed to him long term, meaning Allen should get on the field as soon as he’s ready.

Mason Rudolph – QB Pittsburgh Steelers – 6’5” 235 pounds – Out of all the rookie QB’s from the 2018 draft class, Mason Rudolph could be one of the biggest surprises at the quarterback position if Big Ben gets hurt because of the supporting cast around him in Pittsburgh.  Rudolph has a big arm but doesn’t have the best accuracy or decision making ability.  That being said, having Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster as skill players may be a good deodorant for his deficiencies should he get forced into action.  Mason Rudolph is more of a late round dynasty pick than a re-draft pick for the 2018 season.  However, if Big Ben goes down, Rudolph is worth monitoring in all formats.

Kyle Lauletta – QB NY Giants – 6’3” 222 pounds – Kyle Lauletta is more of a dynasty league prospect than somebody you want to target in re-draft leagues.  Actually, unless Eli Manning goes down and Lauletta lights it up in the preseason, I wouldn’t even touch him in re-draft leagues this year.  Eli Manning still has a few years left in him and should retain the job for at least the near future barring injury.  Lauletta is a project, he doesn’t have the best arm, he doesn’t always make full progressions either, but he does have Pat Shurmur who was able to scheme success for Case Keenum in 2017.  Lauletta will have an opportunity to learn behind Eli Manning, and if he’s forced into action, you need to hope that Pat Shurmur can scheme things up for him…especially if you are a Saquon Barkley or Odell Beckham Jr. owner.

“Big Rigg” Wrap Up

Heading into the 2018 season, the quarterback position is already deep even without these rookies.  Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jameis Winston, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Kurt Cousins and Big Ben are all fantasy relevant this year.  I just named 12 fantasy relevant quarterbacks off the top of my head, and I didn’t even mention the likes of Derek Carr, Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning or Patrick Mahomes.  When evaluating whether you’re going to draft these rookie QB’s, you need to ask yourself if you would rather have a guy like Derek Carr on your roster, or take a chance on a guy like Josh Allen.  To me, I would feel alright drafting Derek Carr as my QB1 if I decide to wait until late in the draft to take a QB, or as my QB2 any day of the week in re-draft leagues over any of these rookies.  You need to temper your expectations with these guys in re-draft leagues, but in dynasty leagues, all of these quarterbacks are really intriguing.  Consider this, guys like Big Ben, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning are not getting any younger, and a changing of the guard may be coming.

 


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