The daily fantasy sports site DRAFT now offers the popular season-long best ball format. Optimal quarterback strategy in said format tends to adopt the well-established late round quarterback strategy with a total of two quarterbacks, but there remains value in other average draft position (ADP) ranges as well. In this article, I give my top five quarterback values in the DRAFT best ball format.
Andy Dalton (116.5 ADP)
Player perception in the fantasy community plays a large role in ADP. There are the Christine Michaels of the world, who are given too much respect, and there are the Andy Daltons, who are never given enough.
Dalton has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In his two non-QB1 seasons, he suffered a season-ending injury or had fewer passing opportunities (but above-average efficiency numbers). Given his unexpected average of 54 rushing attempts per season since 2012 and an abundance of offensive weapons in A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, and new additions Josh Ross and Joe Mixon, Dalton looks poised to return value as the 17th quarterback off the board at an average 10th-round draft position.
Russell Wilson (68.1 ADP)
On the surface, Russell Wilson does not appear to pose significant value relative to his sixth-round ADP. Wilson, however, has a wholly feasible opportunity path to No. 1 overall quarterback numbers in 2017.
Since entering the league in 2012, Wilson has gradually increased his total pass attempts every season, culminating in 546 pass attempts last year. Up until 2016, he averaged 102 rushing attempts per season. Last year, though, he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and an MCL sprain in Week 3, resulting in only 76 rushes at 3.6 yards per attempt, significantly down from his previous career average of 5.9 yards per attempt. Additionally, his adjusted passing yards per attempt (AYA) dropped to 7.6, down from his previous career average of 8.4.
Even being hampered by these significant injuries, Wilson still finished as the 10th quarterback overall in fantasy scoring (per our NFL Trends tool). With Wilson healthy, expect his passing and rushing efficiency to regress positively toward his career averages. If he returns to his normal rushing volume and continues his career-long trend of increasing the number of his pass attempts, Wilson has a good chance to return great value at his mid-round ADP.
Dalton is one of the quarterbacks to target in Matthew Freedman’s Top 100 NFL Players.
Blake Bortles (136.6 ADP)
Blake Bortles is the type of quarterback who will almost never stand out in our Models, but he’s not a total disaster as a fantasy quarterback. While Bortles may not be a quality NFL quarterback, he still offers decent value for your fantasy team.
Over the last two seasons, Bortles has finished as no worse than the ninth overall quarterback, primarily due to volume. While possessing one of the league’s lowest completion percentages and highest interception rates, he has averaged over 600 pass attempts and 50 rushes per season in both years, leading to an abundance of highly inefficient but voluminous stat accumulation. The addition of rookie running back Leonard Fournette to the Jaguars is a point of concern, but with Vegas giving the team an over/under of only six games and the lingering offensive line concerns the Jaguars will likely still need to lean on Bortles to throw the ball a lot in catch-up mode.
While he comes with concerns, Bortles is being taken as the 21st quarterback off the board. Given that volatility is a virtue in best ball, Bortles is ideal for the format, as he possesses a high ceiling in any given game. He’s a fantastic second quarterback to have on your DRAFT team.
Philip Rivers (111.1 ADP)
When selecting quarterbacks in best ball, drafters often overlook easy value in favor of the tempting passer who possesses a perceived higher fantasy ceiling. High-floor players are often under-drafted given the value they represent, and Philip Rivers is a prime example of that.
Over the last four seasons, Rivers has finished fifth, 11th, 11th, and eighth in total fantasy points at the position. He has averaged 4,485 yards and 31 touchdowns passing per season with an approximate standard deviation of 218 yards and 1.7 TDs. The Chargers have made significant additions to the offensive line by drafting five linemen over the last two drafts and bolstering the receiving core with the additions of Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Travis Benjamin.
Most importantly, Rivers is currently being drafted as the 14th quarterback off the board in the 10th round. Rivers is a fantastic late-round quarterback to pair with another late-round quarterback in a committee approach.
Cam Newton (85.5 ADP)
Cam Newton is a polarizing player in fantasy football, both in reputation and end-of-season rankings. In his six NFL seasons, Newton has finished fourth, fourth, sixth, 17th, first, and 17th in total quarterback fantasy points.
Newton has never been a prolific passer. In his six-year NFL career, he has thrown over 500 pass attempts only twice and over 4,000 passing yards just once. Newton’s only efficient passing season came in 2015, when he threw for 35 touchdowns (13 above his career seasonal average), achieved an AYA of 8.3 (1.1 above his career average), and had a touchdown per pass rate of 7.1 percent (2.5 percentage points above his career average). He’s typically relied upon rushing yards and touchdowns to elevate his fantasy totals.
Why am I bringing all this up? Every top quarterback season features a jump in efficiency. In the one season in which Newton was a hyper-efficient player, he finished as the No. 1 overall quarterback in fantasy. His seasonal average of 114 rushes, 594 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns provides such an incredible fantasy floor that if he enjoys a jump in efficiency he will immediately contend to be the top fantasy quarterback once more. He’s a strong quarterback to pair with a high-floor QB2. He offers regular week-winning upside with an eighth-round pick.