How to Navigate Teams with Rookie QBs in Fantasy Football for 2020
Each offseason, the NFL Draft brings excitement around the rookies. They’re the shiny new toy, and let’s be honest, fantasy football owners can’t help themselves with the excitement of getting the next great NFL superstar. In dynasty, this concept is much more prevalent, and building around youth is much more advantageous. But, should you be targeting rookies in redraft leagues? Running backs like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor are likely to be fantasy relevant, but what about the quarterbacks? Since the year 2000, a total of 54 QBs have been selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Of that sample size, 1st round QBs play 9.4 games on average. Bottom line – the QBs discussed in this article are going to see the field, so we’ll need to know how it affects our fantasy rosters.
Below, I’ll highlight the rookie quarterbacks taken in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft and project their 2020 season. Stay away from these players? Or sneaky value in fantasy football?
Quick note: Be sure to check out Kyle Borgognoni‘s article, which answers the question: Can Rookie QBs Sustain WR Production?
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
The future is now for the Cincinnati Bengals. After releasing veteran Andy Dalton, the Bengals selected Joe Burrow #1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow put up prolific numbers in college, throwing for 60 TD passes in his final season at LSU. He’s widely considered as the most “pro-ready” QB prospect since Andrew Luck. His draft capital and the lack of an incumbent starter on the depth chart suggests we’ll see Joe Burrow play all 16 games in his rookie year.
Burrow has the weapons to produce right away in Cincy. The team will certainly need to improve their offensive line, but they will be getting 2019 1st round pick, Jonah Williams, back from injury to help protect the new franchise QB. Burrow’s got A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Joe Mixon at his disposal, and the team selected rookie Tee Higgins out of Clemson with the 1st pick in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft. Look for Burrow to surprise fantasy owners in 2020 and actually outproduce his current QB20 ADP.
Why is there a reason for hope? In 2017 and 2018, the Bengals finished dead last and 31st in terms of offensive plays per game. Last season with Zac Taylor taking over at head coach, the team finished 9th in the league in plays per game. The Bengals’ defense continues to be projected as a bottom-10 unit, suggesting there could be plenty of shootout potential for Burrow and the Bengals’ offense in 2020. Worth noting, Joe Burrow comes from an offensive system in college that ran almost 72 plays per game. He’s familiar with a fast-paced offense.
Fantasy Advice: Look for Burrow to be a QB streaming candidate throughout the season. He’s a cheap QB2 in Superflex or 2QB leagues who could post top-15 production come season’s end.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
With the 5th pick in the NFL Draft, the Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa out of Alabama. Make no mistake about it, Tua would have gone even higher in the draft had he not suffered a dislocated hip in November of 2019. As of now, Tua’s recovery appears to be going well, and while there are long term concerns, it appears he will be able to have a productive NFL career, at least in the short term.
Incumbent starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is at the back end of his career at age 37. However, he was extremely important for fantasy last year. Fitzpatrick turned in seven top-10 fantasy finishes in 2019 and helped make DeVante Parker the overall WR7 in fantasy football. When Fitz is on the field, the passing attack benefits. However, based on the fact that the vast majority of top 10 NFL Draft picks start multiple games in year one, it’s unlikely that Fitzpatrick starts 16 games.
When Tua does eventually take the field, the passing attack is likely to take a step backward for fantasy. This doesn’t mean that the Dolphins will be worse, but Tua is likely to take less risky throws than Fitzpatrick, and we know how good that is for our WRs in fantasy…Exhibit A: Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans. In 2019, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 8.9 air yards per attempt ranked 8th among all passers.
Fantasy Advice: For fantasy purposes in 2020, the veteran is probably who we want starting if you’re rostering Mike Gesicki, Preston Williams, or DeVante Parker. Assuming Tua starts at least a handful of games, 2020 projections for these players needs to be reduced given that rookie QBs are less likely to support fantasy assets.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers took their QB of the future in Justin Herbert out of Oregon with the 6th overall pick. He’s got a rocket arm and is mobile enough to add rushing yards, but there are some significant concerns with Herbert’s accuracy and his pocket presence. L.A. has been vocal all offseason that they plan to start their 2020 season with Tyrod Taylor under center after parting ways with Philip Rivers. Taylor figures to start the first month of the season at a minimum, but as stated previously, top-10 NFL Draft picks typically get playing time in year one. If the Chargers being losing some games, look for Herbert to get his shot.
In Taylor’s career, he’s only posted one QB1 season, and that came in 2016 on the back of 580 rushing yards and six rushing TDs. Taylor’s rushing ability is vastly different compared to pocket QB, Philip Rivers. In fantasy, that projects for reduced passing volume for pass-catchers like Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler. Taylor has never thrown for more than 3,100 yards or 20 TDs.
Fantasy Advice: When you combine Tyrod Taylor’s inability to support fantasy pass catchers and the fact that rookie QB, Justin Herbert, should start at least a handful of games, it appears this Chargers offense might be a complete fade for fantasy in 2020.
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
The Packers surprised everyone by trading up to take Jordan Love out of Utah State with the 24th overall pick in the NFL Draft. We can keep this quick. Barring injury, Jordan Love won’t see the field in 2020 with Aaron Rodgers still in-house. Rodgers may play in 2020 with a certain swagger after the Packers selected his likely heir apparent, but he lacks established playmakers outside of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Additionally, the Packers’ front office and coaching staff have been vocal about wanting to lean on the run game and bring in more backs to compliment Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. They put their money where their mouth is by selecting A.J. Dillon out of Boston College with the 62nd overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Fantasy Advice: The days of the Aaron Rodgers being a top-5 fantasy QB appear to be over. This offense projects to lean on the ground game in 2020.