NFL Fantasy Football: How last-minute quarterback decisions might affect fantasy drafts

The Browns, Jaguars, and Jets finally decided on starting quarterbacks. What do those decisions mean for the other players on their rosters?

For the most part, teams that wait until after the third preseason game to name their starting quarterback have already given up on providing the most important thing fans are looking for. That’s right… fantasy QB points. I mean, it’s not like they have Drew Brees competing with Aaron Rodgers for the job. 

You are not likely to see any of these quarterbacks gracing fantasy rosters, but their presence impacts the fantasy-worthiness of those around them. Experience, accuracy, and weaknesses can make us think twice about potential sleeper and cusp-players. Favorite targets of years past can find themselves playing second fiddle to backup receivers the new guy practiced with all preseason. 

Let’s look at the situations and see what there is to think about.

Cleveland Browns: DeShone Kizer over Brock Osweiler (and Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan)

DeShone Kizer connected on 33% of his passes for under a hundred yards and no scores in his audition start last week. Most folks in Ohio agree that is better than what they expect from Brock Osweiler. 

Kizer brings a stronger arm and more poise than the others, but Cleveland is not about to morph into a high-powered passing offense. Running back Isaiah Crowell’s status as a potential RB1 is not changed. The third-down back Duke Johnson’s stock rose a bit as his role could increase. Johnson caught the second-most passes from the backfield last season. If Kizer can’t make quick-enough decisions as he figures things out, look for him to use his outlet. Currently drafting at RB46, Johnson is a possible sleeper candidate worth a slight reach into the upper 30s. 

Kizer also warrants some thoughts about the receivers. Veteran wideout Kenny Britt and practically-a-rookie Corey Coleman have been mentioned in sleeper discussions. But Coleman’s stock is rising while Britt’s is tailing off with Kizer at the helm. Coleman’s four impressive catches for 56 yards in the last preseason game are as much to blame as Britt’s under-utilization. Coleman is worth his ADP WR40. He could end up in the mid-30s. Britt is relegated to a late round stash. 

The other favorite target of Kizer is fellow rookie David Njoku. The pair just missed a few deep throws in the preseason. The timing will come. Njoku is worth a stash if you can carry a second tight end. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles over Chad Henne… for now

Bortles has been a top-ten fantasy quarterback for the past couple of seasons. How could there be a debate between him and a conservative, veteran who hasn’t throw a pass in two years? Because Bortles’s fantasy points are disproportionately scored in fourth-quarter comeback attempts. Jacksonville wants to avoid those situations from now on. 

The Jaguars’ plan includes running a lot. Despite a suspect offensive line, the thought is that rookie Leonard Fournette will poke through the carnage and be a fantasy breakout in his first year. With Bortles, some mistakenly believe the Jags will pass more than with Henne. I don’t think so. I was not a believer in Fournette. I still have reservations about a potential running back-by-committee and the Jags’ run blocking. But volume and the situation makes Fournette a worthy RB2 pick and potential RB1. I also rank Chris Ivory as a sleeper at RB 50 as his physical running style will be used to give Fournette some rest and wear down defenses. Ivory was a fantasy up-and-comer before last year’s disappointment. He looks closer to the 2015 version of Ivory so far in camp. 

Allen Robinson is the loser in this situation. Bortles can hit him deep, but with less accuracy and probably less frequency. He will be hard-pressed to match last year’s WR28 finish despite his talent. I would take him around WR40, even as the only real option in the Jacksonville passing game. 

Jacksonville has a plan and I do not think it will change much with their quarterback. I am not worried about a possible switch back to Henne should Bortles falter. 

New York Jets: Josh McCown over Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg

Josh McCown’s one series of work in three preseason games probably didn’t matter as much as the debacle that was Christian Hackenberg’s performance and Bryce Petty’s unfortunate injury in the final minutes of the game against the Giants. 

For all his faults and recent won-lost record, McCown will help Jets receivers get back into sleeper discussions. He can still throw and will be a calming voice in the huddle when his young receivers make mistakes.

Robbie Anderson and Charone Peake will open the season as the top two receivers. Both are fast, but Anderson is super-fast. It is interesting to note that McCown’s preseason work ended with a nice 53-yard fly pattern to Anderson. Peake played well in preseason and in his limited role last year. The most exciting receiver is rookie ArDarius Stewart. His downfield blocking and impressive yards after the catch will get him into games. Fellow rookie Chad Hansen runs better routes and shows good hands. He could take the primary slot receiver role. 

But as far as fantasy points go, I think Anderson is worth a late round bench spot, but the whole passing corps warrants monitoring, especially since McCown hasn’t worked much with any of them. 

There was thought the Jets would rely on the running of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. That was before the Jets started shopping around Forte this week.  If the Jets jettison Forte, Powell becomes the Jets’ Fournette. He should easily be an RB2 without Forte and has a shot at breakout player of the year. 

Those earlier decisions – Trevor Siemian, Mike Glennon, and Tom Savage

The Broncos, Bears, and Texans made their quarterback decisions earlier. In an effort to win now, they each chose the more conservative option in their mix. The fantasy implications of less-exciting quarterbacks are generally offset by the improved game-managing ability of the victors. In each case, receivers will see more accurate passes even if they are fewer in number and shorter. 

All three teams have good running games. The Broncos and Texans have some veteran receivers in place. We already had a couple of games to see what their decisions will look like, so thank you to the GMs and coaches for that.

Stick with us at RealSport for updates and advice up to the last drafting day and right through the season.

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Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.