QB Rags to Riches

published 08/06/19 10:56:52 AM EDT
by Tom Brolley

Every summer, I look to the past and I look to the future to see if I’m missing any players that I should be targeting in my drafts. In my last series, I looked back at 2018 ADP to see if I could find “Post-Hype Candidates” who could rebound to the top this season. Those post-hype candidates fell out of favor in 2019 but they were once top-of-the-line fantasy options back in 2018.

Now it’s time for me to look into the future to figure out who could be next season’s studs if things break right in 2019. For the QB position, I’m looking at players being drafted outside of the top 100 who have enough ceiling potential to dramatically rise up draftboards in a year’s time.

I’ve always taken the approach that drafting a player a year before I think they’ll break out is a better approach than being a year late and drafting a player after they’ve already broken out. I took that approach last season when I made Patrick Mahomes my most drafted fantasy QB last summer. I wrote last summer that Mahomes’ breakout was likely to come in 2019 but I still drafted him a ton because he was in a great spot to succeed right away if everything broke right.

Mahomes (2018 QB14), George Kittle (TE13), James Conner (RB56), and Tyler Lockett (WR53) were just a few of the players who went from “Rags to Riches” last season. Below are my top QB candidates to go from “Rags to Riches” this season.


Note: Quarterbacks being drafted outside of the top 100 who have enough ceiling potential to dramatically rise up draft boards in a year’s time.

Cam Newton (ADP QB11)

  • Why he has ceiling potential: I came up with eight rags-to-riches QBs, and Cam’s inclusion in the group sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s the only player who’s in his 30s and he’s already been at the top of the heap at his position. He’s being discounted because of two shoulder injuries in the last three years, but he has massive upside as we saw last year when he was a top-3 QB option for much of the first three months of 2018.

  • Path to the top: Cam is clearly being underappreciated this summer despite his top-5 potential at the position. The Panthers have ditched big, lumbering receivers Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin in favor of playmaking dynamos Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel, which should lead to more fireworks in the passing game. Cam’s completion percentage had fallen below 60% in four straight seasons and his previous career-high was at 61.7% before completing 67.9% of his passes last season. I do worry about OC Norv Turner scaling back Cam’s running a bit, but he should still get enough red-zone rushing chances to go along with his passing game upside.

Dak Prescott (ADP QB17)

  • Why he has ceiling potential: Prescott has been amazingly consistent through three seasons, throwing for either 22 or 23 TDs and running for exactly 6 TDs each season. Most QBs need running ability to threaten the top of the position for fantasy, and Dak is arguably the most dangerous red-zone QB in the league. He’s the only QB with 18 combined rushing TDs over the last three seasons and only 13 RBs have 18+ rushing TDs from 2016-18. Dak finished as the QB10 last season, but he ranked as the QB6 after the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. If Michael Gallup takes another step forward as he did at the end of 2018, Prescott will be surrounded by his best cast of receivers to date.

  • Path to the top: Dak has been incredibly consistent, giving him a nice built-in floor, but I think he has some real upside potential this season. As I noted earlier, he ranked as the QB6 with Cooper last season and those two will obviously have a full off-season to improve their chemistry. More importantly, the offense started to shift in Dak’s favor in the second half of the year with Cooper in the fold. The Cowboys finished in the bottom half of the league in plays per game since Dak arrived, but they finished 12th in plays per game (63.6) last season after picking up the pace with Cooper in the lineup. The Cowboys also parted ways with the stale Scott Linehan, elevating Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. Moore, who is 30 years old, is younger than about half of the league’s starting QBs, and he should bring some fresh concepts to potentially reinvigorate this offense.

Jared Goff (ADP QB12)

  • Why he has ceiling potential: Goff has finished as a top-12 QB in each of his first two seasons with Sean McVay, and Goff had a chance to finish as the QB1 through the first 10 games of the season before Cooper Kupp tore his ACL. Goff averaged 9.4 YPA and 313.4 passing yards per game with a TD rate of 6.6% in the first 10 games. His averages dip to 6.8 YPA and 259.0 Y/G with a TD rate of 4.4% in the final six games without Kupp.
  • Path to the top: Kupp avoided the PUP list to start training camp and he looks on his way to being ready for Week 1. Goff will have his full arsenal of receiving weapons at his disposal, and the offense could be on his shoulders a little more this season with so much uncertainty surrounding Todd Gurley and his arthritic knee. Gurley easily led the league with 64 red-zone carries, and Goff has a touch more TD potential if Gurley’s RZ opportunities dip. Goff could also make a jump this year if he just improves his play away from the Los Angeles Coliseum. He averaged 342.1 passing yards per game with a 22-3 TD-to-INT ratio in Los Angeles while he averaged just 243.9 Y/G with a 10-9 TD-to-INT ratio on the road.

Jameis Winston (ADP QB13)

  • Why he has ceiling potential: You’d need to be a total pessimist about Winston to not see his fantasy potential in a make-or-break, contract season. The Buccaneers brought in Bruce Arians to mentor Winston, and he’s been one of the best offensive pass callers over the last decade. Arians got the best out of the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer in that span and Winston is his next project. Even without Arians last season, Winston showed legit weekly QB1 upside when he started last season. In just eight starts, he topped 300+ yards five times and he threw for multiple TDs on five occasions. He also ran for a career-high 281 yards last season, and he’s averaged 7.9 YPA in each of his last two seasons.
  • Path to the top: Arians will want to attack downfield, which fits perfectly with Winston’s playing style — he finished behind only Josh Allen in average intended air yards at 10.8 (per NFL NextGen). Winston also has three stud receivers being taken inside the top 60 of fantasy drafts this summer in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard. Arians’ biggest task this season will be reining in Winston’s aggressive nature just a bit to cut down on Jameis’ turnovers, as he did with Carson Palmer back in Arizona. For his career, Winston is averaging 1.4 turnovers per game — 58 INTs and 18 fumbles lost — in 56 career contests. Even if Winston is slightly less aggressive, the Bucs are still going to be playing in a ton of shootouts this season because their defense is still bad — they allowed 29.0 points per game in 2018 (2nd-most). Winston might have the largest gap between his ceiling (legit QB1 potential) and his floor (death by strangulation from Arians) this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo (ADP QB18)

  • Why he has ceiling potential: Jimmy G joins Cam Newton as QBs who are both Post-Hype and Rags-to-Riches Candidates. Garoppolo generated a ton of buzz last off-season, but his momentum quickly came to a halt after he tore his ACL in Week 3. The masses have quickly moved on from Jimmy G this off-season, but he’s still just 27 years old and owns a career 8.2 YPA on 361 attempts, including an 8.5 average with Shanahan in San Fran.
  • Path to the top: A bet on Jimmy G is a bet on Shanahan, which this fantasy analyst believes is a wise move. UDFA rookie Nick Friggin’ Mullens averaged 8.3 YPA under Shanahan last season while Matt Ryan won an MVP and averaged 8.4 YPA in two seasons under Shanahan (2015-16). Jimmy G is actually in a much better situation than he was last season when he was being selected as the QB10. George Kittle has quickly established himself as an elite TE. The 49ers also spent second-round picks on WRs Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel in consecutive years, and each player is poised to make some noise. We’re obviously dealing with a small career sample size when it comes to Jimmy G, and he’s also coming off a major knee injury. Still, I’m willing to bet on a talented QB with a playcaller I have complete trust in. Under Shanahan, the 49ers have still finished in the top half of league in total yards the last two seasons despite their messes at QB, and they’ve finished

Lamar Jackson (QB19)/Mitch Trubisky (QB21)/Josh Allen (QB22)

  • Why they have ceiling potential: LEGS. All three young QBs finished in the top five at the position in rushing yards last season, and they all should be near the top once again in 2019. Rushing production isn’t an absolute must to be among the elite fantasy QBs each year, but it typically goes a long way to elevating some lesser passers into the upper echelon.
  • Paths to the top: I lumped these three youngsters together because they bring an added dimension to fantasy with their rushing production but they are each miles away from being refined passers, which is obviously the most important factor for fantasy QB success. When it comes to PFF’s adjusted completion percentage, Allen finished dead last (64.7%), Jackson ranked 38th out of 39 QBs (66.7%), and Trubisky finished 34th (71.4%). These three QBs are never going to rank up with Drew Brees or Kirk Cousins in terms of passing accuracy, but they could make huge fantasy gains this season if they just threaten the middle of the pack. Or these QBs could simply just get more passing volume to offset some of their accuracy issues. Trubisky averaged just 31.0 attempts per game while Allen (27.7) and Jackson (22.6) finished south of 30 attempts/game in their starts. It could be a lot to ask for these young QBs to take major steps forward as passers but even incremental growth could result in some top-five potential because of their rushing ability.

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Tom Brolley
Tom Brolley


Tom Brolley is the better half of The Fantasy Free Agents Podcast with his partner Joe Dolan. Brolley owned a 53.8% winning percentage picking every game against the spread for his old site over the last two seasons.