By Jordan Cohn
Every year, the quarterback remains the deepest position in fantasy. Tom Brady, who finished as the No. 14 quarterback in the 2018 season, averaged two points less per week than the No. 6 quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Is the differential between those two totals really worth an early-round reach?
Here are five bounce-back quarterbacks to wait on and snag in later rounds after their underwhelming 2018 performances.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo
In 2017, when Garoppolo was made his first start as a 49er, the team was 1-10. At the end of the season, the 49ers were 6-10. Over that span, they scored more points per drive than any other team in the NFL. Thus, coming into 2018, Jimmy G was supposed to officially begin a new era for San Francisco, but that all came to a crashing halt after he tore his ACL in Week 3.
This season, barring injury, will be the first time in the young signal caller’s career that he leads a team from start to finish. He’s surrounded by viable options, including record-setting tight end George Kittle (his 1,377 yards in 2018 is the single-season record at his position), wide receivers Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin, and dual-threat running back Tevin Coleman (44 receptions). He’s on track to return from his injury in time to start the season, and the city is depending on him to shake up the NFC West. Draft him as a high-end backup, and don’t be surprised if he eventually surpasses your starter.
4. Matt Stafford
Stafford is a trooper. He’s started in every single game over the past eight seasons, and this stat becomes even more impressive when you consider that he was playing through broken bones in his back last year. Perhaps we can give him a pass, then, for recording less than 4,000 yards through the air in 2018 and ending a streak that started in 2011.
A healthy Matt Stafford is a dangerous presence at quarterback, and he’s surrounded by talent that he hasn’t seen in some time. Kenny Golloday is one of the brightest young stars in the league, and Marvin Jones will be healthy to start the year. Kerryon Johnson will attract a lot of attention from the defense, balancing the offense and easing the pressure off Stafford. The Lions selected TJ Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in the draft, making him just the fourth tight end drafted in the top ten since 2000, and Hockenson joins the Detroit offense with Gronk-like expectations. It would be very surprising if Stafford doesn’t reach the 4000 yard mark again, and with red zone threats like Jones and Hockenson, Stafford’s TD total should be in the 25-30 range.
3. Derek Carr
The Raiders’ offense was abysmal last year. The 1-2 WR combo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree from years past quickly turned into Seth Roberts and an older, slower Jordy Nelson. The offensive line allowed the fifth-most sacks in football. Marshawn Lynch’s injury gave way to an ineffective running game. It only makes sense that Derek Carr would struggle. However, Carr was still able to put up 4,000 yards and set a career-high completion percentage (68.9%), and this year, the Raiders offense looks brand-new.
The Raiders signed a pretty good player named Antonio Brown to lead the receiving corps. His counterpart is former 1,000-yard receiver Tyrell Williams, who has thrived as the second option in the past. First round pick Josh Jacobs looks to ignite the running game and he will attempt to do so behind a revamped offensive line that added guard Richie Incognito and Super Bowl champion tackle Trent Brown. Unfortunately for Oakland fans, the defense is still as bad as ever, but that just means more and more opportunities for Carr to throw the ball and rack up points. He could easily put up top-12 numbers this season.
2. Jameis Winston
Fitzmagic took over Tampa Bay last season, but Jameis Winston is the real franchise quarterback. The 2019 season will be the year to prove himself, and if he begins to play effectively in the NFL, then his already-strong fantasy totals should shoot through the roof. Despite compiling an 18-27 record for the Bucs between 2015 and 2017, he averaged 4,137 yards and 25 touchdowns per 16 games, which is near constant top-12 fantasy production. In 2018, his stats were down as he split time with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the two of them combined to rank first in the NFL in net passing yards.
With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Winston has two of the best young receivers in football. OJ Howard quietly developed into a star tight end last season, and will only continue to strengthen his rapport with Winston. The solution to Winston’s struggles, however, could come down to new head coach Bruce Arians. Noted for his offensive success, Arians has commented on troubleshooting Winston’s mechanics, and the explosive aerial attack in Tampa Bay should only get better with the creative head coach running the show. 5,000 yards is achievable from Winston, and with the lack of a good ground game and a lousy defense, the Buccaneers will primarily get their points through the air.
1. Carson Wentz
In Carson they trust. The young quarterback has broken his ribs and his wrist, dealt with lingering back spasms, and torn his ACL and LCL. But the Philly faithful still believe in their franchise quarterback, and they showed it in a big way. The Eagles signed Wentz to a massive deal this offseason and let Nick Foles go, effectively making 2019 a make-or-break year for not only Wentz, but the whole franchise.
In Wentz’s 2017 breakout season, the MVP candidate finished fifth in fantasy scoring despite missing the last three games of the season. With big expectations for 2018, Wentz wasn’t particularly effective for the Birds, and before too long his back problems forced him out for the remainder of the year. His fantasy numbers were solid, though. Through 11 games, he registered 3,074 yards and posted a 21:7 touchdown to interception ratio.
2019 looks to be a whole different animal for Wentz. The front office worked to build him as strong a supporting cast as possible, and the Eagles boast one of the most intimidating offenses in the league as a result. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are joined by rookie red zone presence JJ Arcega-Whiteside and veteran speedster DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles’ tandem of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert offers two of the best pass-catching TEs in the game. Jordan Howard should not only open up the running game but also help through the air, and rookie Miles Sanders and Corey Clement give Wentz two more dangerous targets in the open field.
The sky’s the limit for Wentz and the Eagles. If Wentz stays healthy, he very well may be the highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy football. You won’t be able to wait on him too long, but he should likely surpass his draft value.