2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Quarterback No. 1 contenders include Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson
There are so many strong quarterback options that the patient will be rewarded. Here are five who can deliver No. 1 QB upside.
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If you're smart, you're waiting to take a quarterback. It's not because Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, et al aren't good — they're great! But the chance to get an elite running back or wide receiver just isn't worth passing over to get a slight edge at quarterback.
So, if you are smart, and you are waiting on quarterback, you need some targets. But you don't need safe, boring choices. You really can get an edge with the right quarterback, so you should be aiming for upside no matter who you take. In continuing our "No. 1 Contenders" series, we're looking at five high-upside quarterbacks with the potential to finish in the top tier of Fantasy quarterbacks this season, being drafted outside the top 10 at the position.
What we're looking for are quarterbacks in offenses with a ton of potential to put up points, or the potential for elite rushing production. Or, in the case of the first option, both:
Murray checks one of the boxes for sure, having rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns in his lone season as the starter for Oklahoma. He was an unusually smart runner, showing a knack for getting out of bounds or sliding to avoid big hits, which is going to be a key given his lack of size. He figures to be a weapon in the running game from day one, which helps establish a solid floor.
The question about ceiling comes with the passing. We expect this Cardinals' offense to be pass-heavy and fast-paced, which should lead to plenty of opportunities for big numbers. The question is whether he's ready to carry and NFL offense, especially one built around so many undersized, young receivers. The potential upside here is huge — the 4,000-passing, 1,000-rushing yard season he had in college isn't quite what we're looking at, but it gives you an idea of the possibilities.
The only problem? You're not getting Murray cheap. The upside and path to a top-three finish at the position is obvious, but he's not exactly an obvious value at this point.
Winston won't run as much as anyone else on this list, but the potential for gigantic passing production is obvious. His 16-game pace in nine starts last season was 4,707 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and even 458 rushing yards and a couple of scores. If he actually did that over 16 games, he would have finished sixth in Fantasy scoring last season even with his copious turnovers. Combine Winston and 2018 teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick's production, and it would have been good for the No. 2 QB overall.
So, that's the case, right? Well, it could be even better in 2019, believe it or not. Bruce Arians taking over as head coach should lead to better things for Winston, who fits the mold of what Arians wants from a QB. Let's not forget, Arians got a top-five season out of Carson Palmer, another notoriously pick-happy passer, in 2015. If the running game remains unsettled, it's not out of the question we see a 5,000-yard, 35-touchdown season from Winston.
Jackson is a controversial figure in Fantasy circles, but one thing nobody can disagree with: He has more rushing upside than any quarterback in Fantasy. In his seven starts last season, Jackson averaged 79.4 rushing yards per game, so 1,000 is entirely within the realm of possibility, even if he rushes less than he did in 2018. If he ends up with, say, 900 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, that's a pretty good start.
The question, and it's a big one, is whether he can pass well enough to make it count. Reports out of training camp have been mostly positive, and it's starting to look like he'll have both Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin ready for Week 1, along with a cadre of solid-or-better tight ends. He'll never light teams up with routine 300-yard passing performances, but Jackson won't need to thanks to his rushing ability. If he can even get to 3,200 yards passing — 21st in the NFL in 2018 — and 20 touchdowns — 20 had more — you're in top-five territory. If he emerges as even an average passer or pushes for 1,000 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns, top three is within reach.
I'm not particularly convinced Trubisky is an above-average quarterback, but there's plenty to like about his Fantasy profile starting, like most of the others on this list, with his rushing ability. He doesn't get the headlines the rest of the group will, but Trubisky was on pace for nearly 500 yards on the ground for the season, and even more before his injury. In the first 10 games of the season, Trubisky was on pace for 3,950 passing yards, 581 rushing yards and 37 total touchdowns -- enough to put him in contention for a top-three spot.
Now, some caveats apply, most notably that 22.2% of his touchdowns for the season came in one six-touchdown effort. Second, his rushing wasn't quite consistent; he had fewer than 30 rushing yards in nine of 15 games, including the playoffs, as well as seven of 12 games as a rookie. If 500 yards isn't in reach, Trubisky's arm will have to carry the load, and I'm not sure he can do that.
In Allen's case, I'm fairly certain the arm can't carry the load, though it isn't for lack of strength. Allen is one of the strongest-armed quarterbacks in the NFL — if not the — but he too often just doesn't know where it's going. There's a chance for improvement, however his performance in the first preseason game didn't exactly engender confidence.
However, based on what he showed as a rookie, Allen has as much rushing upside as anyone this side of Jackson. Upon returning from an injury in Week 12, Allen racked up 476 rushing yards and five touchdowns, absolutely torching defenses with his ability to scramble. His path to a top-five finish is similar to Jackson's, though because he'll take on fewer designed runs, the path could be less consistent. But if he finds a way to be more consistent as a thrower, he could be one of the highest upside players at the position.
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