FANTASY FOOTBALL: Post-draft look at the QB-starter rankings for April/May

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Lions QB Matthew Stafford only logged eight games last year, due to injury. However, he was also on pace for a full campaign of 5,000 yards passing and 35-plus TDs.

BATSBY Sports offers an early rationale for separating the cluster of fantasy quarterbacks (read: presumed starters), as we remain optimistic about the NFL conducting a full 16-game campaign in 2020.

Now, will this season begin with customary training camps in July, preseason play in August and a full-scale launch during the second week of September?

Or will everything begin in earnest around early October?

For now, we’ll assume everything starts reasonably on time; and as such, we’ll presume that weather largely won’t be a factor with quarterbacks during the months of September, October and November.

QB-STARTER RANKINGS

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
  2. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
  3. Deshaun Watson, Texans
  4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
  5. Matthew Stafford, Lions
  6. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
  7. Drew Brees, Saints
  8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
  9. Josh Allen, Bills
  10. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
  11. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  12. Matt Ryan, Falcons
  13. Carson Wentz, Eagles
  14. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
  15. Jared Goff, Rams
  16. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
  17. Derek Carr, Raiders
  18. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
  19. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
  20. Philip Rivers, Colts
  21. Baker Mayfield, Browns
  22. Drew Lock, Broncos
  23. Daniel Jones, Giants
  24. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
  25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
  26. Joe Burrow, Bengals
  27. Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers
  28. Sam Darnold, Jets
  29. Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
  30. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
  31. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
  32. Jarrett Stidham, Patriots

BREAKDOWN

a) Yes, Mahomes finished sixth in fantasy points per game last year (behind Lamar Jackson, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson); but we’re also not prepared to minimize the awesomeness of his 2018 campaign of 5,097 yards passing and 52 total touchdowns.

What’s more, the Chiefs will encounter some of the NFL’s worst passing defenses from last season (Dolphins, Texans, Raiders, Buccaneers, Saints, Titans, Jets), which should offset the misery of potentially treacherous visits to Buffalo and Baltimore.

Bottom line: Mahomes has the skill set to flirt with 5,000 yards passing for the foreseeable future. Of equal importance, we’ll bet the proverbial farm on the kid eclipsing 30 touchdowns in 2020, assuming he logs the vast majority of starts (injury-free).

b) I genuinely want to be proven wrong with the following proclamation:

Lamar Jackson won’t exceed 1,000 rushing yards in 2020.

What’s the rationale behind such blasphemy, considering how Jackson easily rolled for 1,206 rushing yards and seven rushing scores in just 15 games last year?

It’s simple. The Ravens have likely done the math on quantifying the numbers of Jackson’s mega-extension in 2022, likely after Mahomes and Watson sign their massive new contracts; and when talking annual salaries north of $40 million, it’s imperative that Baltimore has Jackson available for 15-16 games, while chasing the franchise’s third run at the Lombardi Trophy.

The best way to ensure reasonable health every Sunday? Encouraging Jackson to modify his rushing prowess, as the Ravens’ cast of pass-catchers expands over time.

That’s not to say Jackson will have trouble hitting 35-plus touchdowns again. We’re merely skeptical about the overall rushing yards, especially with Ohio State tailback J.K. Dobbins fortifying an already-loaded backfield, via the draft.

c) Early on, we had zero interest in propping up 41-year-old Drew Brees’ preseason ranking, acknowledging that he’s likely not a threat for 5,000 yards passing.

However, Brees had the best finishing kick of any fantasy QB last season, averaging a staggering 297 yards passing and four touchdowns in his final four regular-season outings.

Throw in the addition of receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and 10 combined dates with NFC South and AFC West defenses … and this should be enough to clinch a top-8 ranking by season’s end.

d) The Murray ranking seems a tad high, at first blush; but it also matches our sky-high expectations for a breakout campaign, citing four factors:

**In Year 1, Murray accounted for nine outings of 300 yards passing and/or multiple touchdowns.

**Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk both notched 100-plus targets last season. For good measure, the wideouts each posted a catch-to-target rate above 62 percent.

**Tailback Kenyan Drake, who averaged 138 total yards and 2.3 TDs in his final three outings last year, has the capacity for 50 catches/70 targets in the explosive Arizona offense.

**DeAndre Hopkins’ arrival could be a real game-changer for the Cardinals, who now possess the requisite firepower to crack the top 5 in overall scoring (16th last year).

From 2017-19 with the Texans, Hopkins absurdly averaged 105 catches, 162 targets, 1,371 yards and 10.3 TDs.

e) Prescott’s ranking might be the most tenuous of the upper-crust quarterbacks, given the uncertainty of his contract situation beyond the 2020 season:

If Dak signs his franchise-tag tender before July 15, he’ll be a lock for a full training camp with the Cowboys.

However, if Prescott declines to sign, a lengthy holdout could become a thorny issue, in terms of developing more continuity with the Cowboys’ Big Three grouping of wideouts — Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and first-round rookie CeeDee Lamb.

As an aside, more highly touted quarterbacks should follow the Kirk Cousins model (citing his contentious days with the Redskins) of goading teams into accepting one or two franchise tags before free agency.

We’re talking about nearly $65 million in guaranteed salary over a two-year period, while still possessing the option to go elsewhere in your late 20s. It’s a win-win on the business front.

On the fantasy side, it’s great that Prescott achieved career highs in passing yards (4,902), passing touchdowns (30), total TDs (33) and yards per game (306) last year.

However, all four categories were seismic jumps in production, compared to the eminently consistent, but slightly under-whelming years of 2016-18.

f) Matthew Stafford’s midseason injury served as a death knell for the eminently flawed Lions, who went winless without their franchise signal-caller last season.

There were also fantasy consequences to swallow, since Stafford was on pace for 4,998 yards passing and 38 touchdowns … before going down with a serious-but-not-surgery-worthy back ailment.

Can Stafford produce another year of monster numbers?

**Unlike previous years, the Lions are blessed with high-upside playmakers at the tailback, receiver and tight end slots.

**The schedule-makers have apparently been very kind, since Detroit draws the vulnerable pass defenses from the AFC South (Texans, Colts, Jaguars) and NFC South (Bucs, Falcons, Saints).

**Stafford posted the third-highest average of points among quarterbacks last year (25.9 per game). The two passers ranked ahead? Lamar Jackson and Jameis Winston … currently Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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